UConn’s game at Hartford Saturday afternoon will be its first at the homey Chase Arena at Reich Family Pavilion (capacity 4,017). And Auriemma says his program is looking forward to it.
“Shea Ralph and I were saying that it will be like it was when we played at Holy Cross,” Auriemma said. “The place was sold out, the students were right on top of you. It’s totally different than what they [his players] experience [at UConn].
“It brings back memories of playing in a huge game in the state tournament in a big gym, not an arena. I think the kids are going to love it. They are going to have a great time. The fans are going to love it. And I am kind of excited about it, too.”
UConn and Hartford have played 12 times, the Huskies winning each. They haven’t played since the 2011 NCAA Tournament and not in the regular season since 2009, which was the last on a six-year series.
“With Jen [and Hartford] it may be different [because of their relationship]. With other programs you can probably say ‘Take it or leave it. Do you want to play or not? This is the way it’s going to be.’
“But I told Jen from the start, whenever you want to play let me know. And whenever you don’t to play, let me know that, too. It’s up to you. We took a couple of years off, but when she suggested that we should play again, I said sure. But she said, ‘I want you to play at our place.’
“I said, ‘Why not.’ It’s hard for Hartford to get any of the Top 5 programs in the nation to play her there. Now, she can say it has and their fans and players can experience what it will feel like.
“Jen is a smart, tough kid. She wants to get some things on her side. She figures we’ve already played at Gampel and the Civic Center. I just want to get a shot at our place [Chase].
“So two Italians came to a good deal; once at their place, once at XL Center and 72 times at Gampel Pavilion.”