Historically compensated for his stellar career earlier this week, Geno Auriemma knows what he does and how he quickly he does it at UConn will be watched with even more intensity than ever before.
His new five-year, $10.86 million contract doesn’t buy Huskies’ fans what they want.The only currency that does that is minted in metal and crystal.
Call it the cost of success and fame.
Saturday against Maryland, which gave the Huskies one of their toughest tussles this season in December, UConn’s pursuit of an eighth national championship continues in their Sweet 16 game at the Webster Bank Arena.
And if the Huskies win – and they’ve won this game 17 of the last 19 years – they will face an opponent in the Elite Eight with a player who has shunned them; either Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne or Kentucky’s Samarie Walker.
Either way, the theatre will be fabulous, the stakes enormous.
But UConn doesn’t seem concerned. They have played at maximum force since losing to Notre Dame for the third time this season in the Big East championship game on March 12.
The Huskies have won their first two NCAA games by a total 112 points, a fresh reminder of how good things can get for a team with a 33.4 advantage in scoring margin this season.
Sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has scored 22 points in each of the two victories and her supporting cast has filled in the thin cracks with flair.
But in Maryland, the task will literally be tough. Its loss to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinal on March 9 has been followed by nice wins over Quinnipiac and Michigan State.
Turtle power has been provided by one of the top – and tallest – front courts in the game, 6-3 senior forward Tianna Hawkins, 6-2 ACC Player of the Year Alyssa Thomas, 6-4 junior center Alicia DeVaughn and 6-4 freshman center Malina Howard.
In UConn’s 63-48 win at the XL Center, the Terrapins out-rebounded UConn, 39-35, and held UConn scoreless for a stretch of just under six minutes. Maryland has 471 more rebounds than their opponents this season, a margin (14.3) that is second-best in the nation. Accenting that is offensive rebounding that has provided a second chance on 48.8 percent or their misses.
But the Huskies compensated by forcing 29 turnovers and holding Thomas to 2-of-12 from the floor in 36 minutes. And if UConn holds an advantage it will be at guard where Maryland has been without Laurin Mincy since she injured her ACL on Nov. 28.