UConn women struggle in opener
STORRS – If you are a little nervous about what the UConn’s women basketball team is going to offer up this season, Sunday afternoon’s opener again Cal wasn’t exactly a calming couple of hours. You are still nervous and apprehensive. And, maybe a little scared.
Granted, it was Game I so don’t start looking for a panic button, but at best the 72-61 victory at Gampel Pavilion was uneven. At worst, well, there is much work to be done and early thoughts of Baylor, Oregon and the likes are cringe-worth.
“You win and you move on. As first games go, I’ve seen better and I ‘ve seen worst,” said Huskies coach Geno Auriemma.
In UConn’s world there is a transition year. Nepheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson, the bulk of the offense from years past, are now pleasant memories. Almost half the roster is newcomers. There are major adjustments to be made. The Huskies are still ranked No. 5 with a host of potential All-Americans but nothing is automatic anymore.
It was all evident against the Golden Bears. The offense never found any rhythm and started off 2-for-14 from the floor. The lead was just 13-10 at the end of the first quarter and 37-30 at the half. The scoring was bunched with four players scoring all but three of the points.
“I’m not sure about the slow start, I think the shots just weren’t falling, we got good looks but at halftime it was just trying to create more offense from our defense and get in the fast lane and get more steals, “ said Crystal Dangerfield. “We all know our offense wasn’t flowing today and we are going to go back into practice and try to figure that out.”
Christyn Williams led the Huskies with 24 points and seven assists while Megan Walker had 21 points and 10 rebounds followed by Dangerfield with 14 points and Olivia Nelson-Ododa with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Auriemma wasn’t concerned about the spread of the scoring but how the points were scored was a different story.
“It was a weird game, we looked like we couldn’t get any continuity on the offensive end,” said Auriemma. “It was kind of a mish-mash of things. I was really disappointed in that because we spent a lot of time on that. When you look at the way the offense was moving or not moving, lack of movement, there is not going to be a lot people touching the ball.
Normally there will be more opportunities for people. Today it just got stuck and we ended up going to a lot of one-on stuff, isolation stuff or simple one-on-one stuff. We’re not quite fluid on the offensive end yet.”
How discombobulated were the Huskies. Enough for this.
"When your point guard comes over and says, 'I don't think we should run anymore plays today,'I said, 'Really? How come?' She said, 'I don't think anybody knows them,' I said, 'OK, let'sjust you, Meg and Christyn kind of get the ball and do your thing,' " said Auriemma.
Fortunately for the Huskies, there is plenty of one-on-one talent to take over when the normally assist-dominated attack falters. Walker and Williams revved it up in the second half. Walker shook off a nondescript first half, scoring 16 points, including 14 in a torrid third period that saw the Huskies build the lead up to 61-47.
“Things happen like that you can’t control (first half) and I just wanted to play hard for my teammates.” said Walker.
Williams tallied 13 in the second half, with a variety of pull-up jump shots and a couple of 3-pointers.
“They both want to be counted on offensively and they are going to get better and better,” said Auriemma. “Christyn came over to me in the first half and said I’m not getting the ball. I said no you are not. Nobody is except the person that is catching it. The ball is not moving and we’re not moving. “
The lead hit a high of 65-47 in the fourth quarter and victory was never in doubt but Cal (0-2) refused to go away. Led by Sara Anastasieska who led all scorers with 25 points, including five 3-pointers, the Golden Bears pulled within, 69-57 with 3:49 to go but would get no closer.
Call the Huskies a work in progress after this one. They are on the road against Vanderbilt (Nov. 13) and Temple (Nov. 17) before returning home against Virginia at the XL Center Nov. 19. The offensive needs to find its synch and the fifth starter is still up in the air. Kayla Irwin got the call Sunday as Anna Makurat and Aubry Griffin look to find their way.
It’s a new season. These Huskies need time to grow.