UConn Women's Notebook: Bridgeport rocks, Baylor and more
BRIDGEPORT - It didn't take long, not even til the opening tip for coach Geno Auriemma and the UConn women's basketball team to feel warmly welcomed at Webster Bank Arena.
The Huskies routed Temple, 80-36, on Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 9,274. That crowd tied the record for a sporting event at the arena, which opened in 2001, set by the UConn men in a December matchup against Eastern Washington.
UConn has played in Bridgeport before but this was the first regular season game in the arena and the first regular-season home game not played in Storrs or Hartford in Auriemma's 29 years at the school.
If this game was any indication, it won't be the last time the Huskies visit.
"The atmosphere here was really cool," Auriemma said. "You could feel it before the game, during warmups, the excitement and enthusiasm. The fans gave it a big game feel even though you wouldn't have looked at the schedule and said this is a big game."
While nothing is set in stone regarding a return by the Huskies, Auriemma is all for giving fans in the southern part of the state a chance to see his team in action.
"I have to tell Warde (UConn AD Warde Manuel) that we need to do this more often, Auriemma said. "It was a great environment to play in and it's a great building."
DIFFERENT STOKES: With Morgan Tuck still out nursing a knee injury and Breanna Stewart and Stefanie Dolson in foul trouble, UConn needed a lift in the post against Temple and got one from Kiah Stokes.
Stokes played 28 minutes off the bench and was a force, pulling down 18 rebounds and blocking three shots to go along with six points. It was a career high in rebounds for Stokes, who had seven of the Huskies' 12 offensive boards.
"I got my chance and I knew I had to make an impact," Stokes said.
Making an impact is what Auriemma is looking for. On Saturday she got extended minutes to do so. That might not always be the case so the next step is for Stokes to ramp up the aggresiveness she shows on the boards and put it to use on offense.
"If Kiah can use that aggressiveness on offense we will really have something," Auriemma said. "When she rebounds well and blocks shots well, that never surprises me."
BIG GAME AGAINST BAYLOR: Auriemma was asked if he liked having a matchup like he does Monday night in Texas against a ranked Baylor squad and he answered the question while tweaking Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.
Mulkey has gone on record, last year and this season as well, trying to downplay the importance of the high-profile non-conference matchup and she has complained about its place in the schedule. Mulkey sees it as a disruption in pursuit of a conference title, Auriemma sees it as a test and likes it.
"I always like these games," Auriemma said. "I like getting away from the league and I like the challenge and bigness of it. I wish we could do one every couple weeks but we can't. I like it, I really do. I think all coaches do, some just complain a lot."