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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

UConn's Dailey impressed with play of improved Connecticut Sun squad

There may not be many people in the basketball world who can appreciate watching an unselfish brand of play more than UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey.

Beginning in the 1994-95 when the Huskies won their first national title, UConn led all Division I teams in scoring margin 14 times, topped the charts in field-goal percentage in 11 and was the national leader in assists 11 times.

Dailey was at Mohegan Sun Arena last night receiving the Margo Dydek Award as the Connecticut Sun's Woman of Inspiration for 2017. Before the game I asked for her thoughts on the job second-year coach Curt Miller and his staff has done with this year's Sun squad.

"I think Curt and his staff has done a great job," Dailey said. "I think their style of play is one that fans enjoy. I think the more people that come out and see it, they will come back again because they are used to seeing unselfish basketball and they enjoy that."

The numbers back up what Dailey is saying.

If the season ended today, the Connecticut Sun would set franchise marks for field goal percentage (45.7, topping the record of 45.2 percent set in 2005) and assist/turnover ratio of 1.47 which leads the WNBA this season and is ahead of the 1.42 ratio the Sun posted in 2006. Connecticut is also on pace for 619 assists which would be the second highest total in franchise history.

Last night's game certainly had a UConn feel to it.

The three UConn alums on the visiting Seattle Storm (Sue Bird, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart) combined for 46 of the Storm's 71 points but Morgan Tuck was part of the lineup when the Sun made its run at the start of the fourth quarter to shave an 11-point Seattle lead down to four as Connecticut rallied for the 84-71 victory.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma, assistant coaches Marisa Moseley and Shea Ralph, several members of UConn's support staff and the 2017-18 UConn team (other than Kia Nurse who is playing for Canada in the FIBA AmericaCup) were also at the game.

The former and current players would have received a chuckle at Dailey's response before the game when she was asked whether she'd prefer to sit down during the interview. I didn't transcribe that part of the interview but she referenced the fact that UConn players are required to stand up when they are being interviewed so obviously she would conduct the interview standing up.

Stewart's bid to set a WNBA record for most consecutive games with at least 20 points fell short. Stewart had 17 points when she missed a 3-pointer with just under a minute to play. About 20 seconds later she committed her sixth foul.

Before the game I asked Stewart about the key to her recent run of 20-point games as she tied the WNBA record set by fellow UConn legend Diana Taurasi.

"The beginning of the season started a little slow for me, reinjuring my knee a little bit and just getting to a position where I feel really good, really confident and we are trying to make the playoffs so we need to bring the level of our play up," Stewart said.

Bird chalks up Stewart's recent play as an incredibly talented player getting used to the speed and physicality of the WNBA game.

"More than anything she is starting to figure the pro game out and how she can apply that. What you are seeing is a much more confident player," Bird said. What affected her during her rookie year, the physicality, people trying to bump her off her spot ...

"In year one everything is so new but you are also new so they haven't quite figured it out yet where in that second year everybody kinds of understands the game."

Stewart agreed with Bird that learning how to play through contact is a process she is still dealing with.

"It definitely takes some getting used to," Stewart said. "It is like, 'all right I can expect this and I can have a counter to that, something else is going to happen and having a counter to that.' It's just being more comfortable with it."

A couple of other notes from the game.

First, Sue Bird set the WNBA record by making her 471st breaking Tina Thompson's mark ironically set during her final two WNBA seasons as Bird's teammate in Seattle. Also, the Connecticut Sun's record improved to 16-9 marking the first time the team has been seven games over .500 since the 2012 season.

Next up for the Sun will be Saturday's home game against Dallas but it's uncertain whether former UConn guard Saniya Chong will be at the game. She didn't play when Dallas topped defending WNBA champion Los Angeles on Sunday due to a concussion. If she is held out of tomorrow's home game against Phoenix, I wouldn't be surprised if they left her back in Dallas since flying is not exactly the best way to recover from a concussion.

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