And now, something completely different for the No. 1 UConn women.
After beating Stanford, Maryland and Penn State – three Top 13 teams – last week, the Huskies begin a stretch against four unranked teams this week with Wednesday’s game Wednesday against Oregon (2-1) at the XL Center.
“We were just saying that playing a team like this at this point is not exactly ideal for us,” said Geno Auriemma. “But it is what it is. Stanford played one way. Maryland played one way. Penn State played another way.
“But Oregon plays completely different.”
These Ducks, coached by Paul Westhead, previously tenured in the NBA, men’s college basketball and WNBA , do not believe in playing the game timidly.
In fact, they have shown two major personality traits in their first three games – the willingness to shoot and the ability to score.
They have attempted 266 shots and 109 three-pointers this season. They have averaged 109.7 points.
Let’s put it in a way fans of the old Big East can relate to: They are Villanova on a sugar rush.
“I don’t know,” said UConn freshman Saniya Chong. “I guess we’ll just guard [the perimeter] as hard as we can and keep our hands up [on defense]. The coaches are always on us about that; get around the screens, get out to the ball and put your hands up.”
In Sunday’s loss to Sacramento State in Eugene, Ore., the teams combined for 182 field goal attempts and 86 three-point tries, an NCAA Division I women’s basketball record.
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to rest up,” said Bria Hartley, the American Athletic Conference’s reining Player of the Week. “I know we have only nine players, but that can’t be a factor. We have to have a tough mindset.”
It is very doubtful, perhaps even illogical, to believe Oregon will be able to operate the way it likes against UConn’s state-of-the art defense.
The Ducks have five players averaging double-figures in points, led by freshman Chrishae Rowe (25.7), the Pac-10’s Rookie of the Week. But UConn is holding teams to 33 percent shooting from the field and 27.5 from three-point range.
“UConn is just a good defensive team … a good, solid defensive team,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said Sunday after the Huskies held the Lady Lions to 18 field goals.
They held Penn State’s Maggie Lucas to just one field goal in the first half before she finally warmed up in the second.
“UConn is a very smart team, the best team in the nation,” said Lucas.
Making matters potential worse for the Ducks is an injury to their best player, sophomore center Jillian Alleyne, one of the nation’s top rebounders.
She left Sunday’s game with six minutes to play in the first half with a high ankle sprain. She did not return and is listed as doubtful. Her loss would be devastating, considering Oregon will also play without 6-4 post Megan Carpenter.
“Jillian’s a very big piece to our puzzle; she’s a double-double, easy, every night,” Oregon’s Ariel Thomas said Sunday. “But, if you worry about losing Jillian you’re not going to play well … We just had to keep moving on and try to play for her.”
Westhead, who has coached Magic Johnson [the Lakers], Hank Gathers [Loyola Marymount] and Diana Taurasi [the Phoenix Mercury] in his career knows how difficult Wedneaday’s game will be even if the Ducks were full-strength.
“The timing is never good to play Connecticut,” said Westhead on Sunday. “Maybe this [the loss to Sacramento State] is what we needed to have an edge. I’ll tell you what, we better not play scared.”
The Ducks scored 131 points in their opener against Bakersfield, shooting 43 of 101 from the field, 20 of 42 from three. And they scored 67 points in the first half.
Those stats don’t phase Auriemma, who believes his team’s execution is more important than anything an opponent tries or does.
“But we don’t take anything for granted and we don’t disrespect any team,” said Auriemma.
Mosqueda-Lewis out 3-to-5 weeks
The program received excellent news Monday about the progress of junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ injured elbow. After examination by Dr. Robert Joyce, it was determined the compressed ulnar nerve is repairing itself so well that athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle projects she could return in as soon as three weeks.
“The only important thing is that she is making progress,” said Auriemma. “The timetable will take care of itself.”
Mosqueda-Lewis’ right arm is no longer in a sling; Tuesday it was dangling by her side. Had there not been a lot of progress, the possibility of surgery to relieve the pressure in the elbow likely would have still be on the table.