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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Defending DePaul presents a unique challenge for UConn

Perhaps the most intriguing part of tonight's game against DePaul to me is how the UConn coaching staff opts to handle things defensively when Azura' Stevens and Megan Walker are in the game together.

Typically UConn goes to zone immediately once Walker enters the game especially if Stevens is already on the floor because UConn coach Geno Auriemma doesn't have a ton of confidence in the ability of either Stevens or Walker to guard people in man to man defense or woman to woman defense if you prefer.

However, playing a zone against a DePaul team leading all Division I women's basketball teams with an average of 13.6 made 3-pointers per game and 37.4 3-pointers attempted could be a dangerous way to proceed.

"We have to go out and make sure we manage the game the way we want the game to go and not get caught up in the craziness that is going to happen," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We have been out there where we handle them easily, we have been out there when we struggled. We have taken care of it easily at home sometimes like last year, some years not. They are going to play the way they are going to play and all you can do is make sure you don't get caught up in the craziness of it. They can go from up 20 to down 20 and vice versa in no time."

There have been 13 women's Division I games this season when a team attempted at least 42 3-pointers and DePaul has three of them including the single-game high of 53 against Delaware State on Nov. 17.

In last season's game against UConn, DePaul attempted 40 3-pointers (making just seven of them) so the returning UConn players know what they are getting into tonight.

"Their ability to pull out your defense," UConn senior guard Kia Nurse said. "You think in terms of their defensive pressure, sometimes they wreak havoc. For us it is a matter of maintaining our composure and finding the open man and getting up the floor in the most quick way."

Gabby Williams also weighed in on the unique way that DePaul plays.

"As you are playing defense, you are like, 'oh no, they aren't going to shoot that' but they do," Williams said. "The pace they play at, they are a really competitive team especially when they are home so they are a tough team to play against. You don't really believe it until you see it and then you understand what kind of team they are."

Auriemma said Stevens has made impressive strides defensively since she arrived and this will certainly be a different challenge since the top six players on the DePaul roster in terms of minutes played all have at least 10 made 3-pointers this season. Stevens knows that she will need to be alert and when the player she is assigned to floats out to the perimeter, she needs to follow.

"Some post players can shoot 3s so I think it will be a different look but we want to use our length to make sure we contest their shots," Stevens said.

It will be interesting to see how Walker responds to the defensive challenge awaiting her and the rest of the Huskies tonight.

"They beat Oklahoma and it was a 100-point game so they are putting up points so we have to get out on their shooters," Walker said.  and

Walker admitted that her experience playing zone defense in high school or AAU is somewhat limited so she has some catching up to do.

"I feel like I am improving a lot, just from practices knowing the right footwork, when to take two steps, when to be in the right position rebounding, boxing out and things I really didn't do in high school but now I don't have a choice," Walker said.

DePaul's current average of made 3-pointers per game would set the NCAA Division I women's basketball single-season record so it is not just a case of taking a lot of 3-pointers but making more than its share.

Speaking of 3-pointers, Nurse is three shy of 200 in her career. If she gets there tonight, she would become the 12th UConn player to hit that milestone (Katie Lou Samuelson became the 11th in Sunday's win over Notre Dame). How rare is it for UConn to have two players with at least 200 3-pointers on one team? Well, it has only happened once as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Bria Hartley each had surpassed the 200 mark when they were teammates during the 2013-14 season.

After tonight's game, the attention shifts to final exam week as the Huskies don't play again until meeting Oklahoma on Dec. 19 at Mohegan Sun Arena. This will be the eighth game of the season in the sixth different state and seven different course as the Maryland and Notre Dame games were both played at the XL Center.

"We are just trying to get through the DePaul game and we will have a bunch of time between DePaul and Oklahoma, once that happens we will have a long home stand and we actually come in here and practice the same place for 10 days in a row," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. We haven't done that since October and that will help us."


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