Impressive, even for UConn
UNCASVILLE – It took maybe five minutes for the slot machine to suck up my 20 bucks. Probably even less than that when you figure it took me a couple of minutes to get the rather distinguished one-armed bandit to accept my dirty, slightly crumpled money.
No sevens, no bars, no cherries, no other fruits or vegetables came up. Boom, a couple of pulls and bye-bye cash. A quick and efficient kill, no lingering death (okay, I understand that might be a little on the dramatic side when you’re talking about $20).
It was fast though, a Muhammad Ali left jab fast. Yet, it didn’t even compare with the speed UConn took out Rutgers at the Mohegan Casino Arena. I mean this one was over almost before they church choir finished the National Anthem.
Moriah Jefferson drive, Stephanie Dolson down low, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 3-pointer, Bria Hartley 10-footer, Lewis another 3-pointer. Less than three minutes into the game, 13-0 UConn.
Lights out, game over, start up the bus. Heck, it was hardly time to work a bad sweat forget about a good one. Geno’s hair hadn’t had time to move and the Rutgers’ fans, well, they could have gone shopping. The upset dream never even got started.
Just last week Rutgers’ coach C. Vivian Stringer had talked about the job of the rest of the country being to be more competitive with UConn after a 72-35 loss to the Huskies at Gampel Pavilion.
Okay you don’t expect that to happen overnight and it wasn’t meant to suggest that some teams can’t play with UConn but let’s just say that there is work to do.
The Huskies stormed through a first half that was close to perfection. The lead was 50-19 at the break. UConn shot 59 percent (20-of-34) from the floor. The 3-point line had near layup-line accuracy (9-of-13). Stewart had 15 points and Dolson 11.
The dense was almost as breath-taking creating nine turnovers while Stewart had the play of the game when she chased Betnijah Laney down from behind after a steal and swatted the ball away with a tremendous leap and a long arm that demanded and received a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd.
Superb performances are more the norm than the aberration for the No. 1 team in the country but even this 20 minute Picasso was off the charts. And it came in the semifinal of the AAC Tournament against a team that is 22-9, not 9-22.
Even Geno was impressed for a man that has seen more than his share of impressive.
“That first 20 minutes is probably as good as basketball I could hope for,” said Auriemma. “We came out aggressive, we got out in transition, we moved the ball great and got everybody involved. Today I don’t think there was anything Rutgers could do about it.”
The second half was a formality because the rules say you have to play 40 minutes and people pay their money. Can’t forget about TV either. In terms of outcome the final 20 minutes were irrelevant. Rutgers actually outscored the Huskies, 38-33, but even UConn famed for its focus can be forgiven here for losing a little mojo and Rutgers did play better.
So there is another meeting with Louisville Monday night against a very good team that the Huskies just beat, 68-48, on their home court in front of 22,000 fans. I’m thinking that three times may not be a charm this time around for coach Jeff Walz and his crew.
In the back of the mind is Notre Dame. Undefeated, the UConn nemesis that beat the Huskies three times last year before losing to Geno’s crew in the NCAA Tournament. You know Muffet and her team knows it can beat UConn. They have been pounding opponents with UConn-like power. There is no intimidation factor here.
But, know this. If UConn puts up a performance like it did in the first 20 minutes Sunday afternoon, the Irish can bring back Skylar Diggins and Ruth Riley if they want. It won’t matter.
There is nobody to slack off of especially with Moriah Jefferson hitting 3-pointers. There are skyscrapers along the front line. Good luck.
Louisville showed no team is invincible last season when it took down Brittany Griner and Baylor. Way back Villanova took down Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in what many called a perfect performance.
UConn is the favorite to bring home its ninth national title next month anyway. But, if the Huskies play like they did in the first 20 minutes Sunday you can send the nets and the plaque to Storrs now.
The Huskies are almost always good. Sunday they were scary good. Pretty darn close to perfect. Opponents watching would have done well to change the channel. Not exactly a confidence builder if you are on the other side.