Here is my wrap-up story [a neat industry term] that will appear in Tuesday’s Hartford Courant, the longest continuously published newspaper in the United States:
On Saturday night, prior to the four games that ended the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, Mass., on Sunday, the eight participating programs attended a banquet in their honor.
The event was held at the Hall of Fame. And in the course of touring the facility, anyone interested could have noticed the plaque commemorating the still-unfinished career of one of college basketball’s iconic coaches.
In fact, one of the teams in the tournament is still coached by the guy.
“I asked how many [of the players] had never been in the building before,” Geno Auriemma said. “Many of them, among all eight teams, have never been [to the Hall of Fame]. So it was neat because they are basketball players. And all of a sudden they are in the sport’s Hall of Fame.
“So I took everyone up to where my picture was and then I told them they could go home.”
Auriemma was laughing when he said it. But you get the point. UConn has him and no one else does. And until that changes, days, weeks, months, years and decades will continue to evolve just like this season has begun.
The world is chasing his program. Again.
No. 1 UConn improved to 9-0 with a functional 70-49 win over Ohio State before a paltry crowd of 1,134, well spread out inside one of the meccas of the American Hockey League.
It wasn’t a perfect game, by UConn standards. The Huskies shot 44.4 percent and committed 16 turnovers, two more than the Buckeyes. And eight of the mistakes belonged to the normally unbendable senior Stefanie Dolson, who also had 15 points and 13 rebounds.
“I told the team at half, ‘Guys, I might have half of our turnovers by the end, and I had exactly that. We’ll work on that,” Dolson said.
Still, who’s counting: Consider that Dolson had just 14 turnovers in 249 minutes coming into the game.
Auriemma attributed some of the malaise to Ohio State’s patiently executed offense. The Buckeyes, coached by one-time Notre Dame assistant – and Xavier and Washington coach – Kevin McGuff, used most of the play clock before many of their 62 shots.
“Ohio State is going to hold the ball for 30 seconds every possession so they are going to make it that kind of game,” Auriemma said. “It wasn’t going to be a 100-85 kind of game for sure, so part of it is the style of opponent. There were just enough times during the game when we got out and did what we wanted to do.”
And Breanna Stewart, the team’s leading scorer, had just eight points in 32 minutes, shooting 3-for-11 with just one assist and no three-point attempts. She also had six blocks and nine rebounds.
“That just tells you that Breanna wasn’t touching the ball enough,” Auriemma said.
Still, there were highlights: Bria Hartley scored 17 points with four steals and four assists in 37 minutes. And Brianna Banks, who started again, scored 12 points with a career-high seven rebounds,
“Basketball is a funny game, we have five guys, three of them are doing one thing and two of them are doing something different and it looks lousy,” Auriemma said. “We really did a poor job today of playing 5 on 5.
“Usually, when we move without the ball it is real intelligent and [Sunday] it wasn’t real intelligent. We usually cut pretty hard, that opens up a lot of things and in that first half we didn’t do that.”
Next for UConn is Thursday’s game at the XL Center against UC-Davis (2-4), the first of a home-and-home that will end in California November 2014 during Stanford week.
“You have to learn to play in games that mean something other than just a ‘W’. Thursday night when we play UC-Davis, it is a game where you are playing for a W on your record,” Auriemma said. “There are times when it isn’t [going to be for] a national championship, ACC or AAC, Big 12, whatever league you are in you are in.
“You have to recognize that and treat it a little bit differently. But when there are trophies, you want to be there standing in line getting them.”
Meanwhile, the Huskies can bask in their present, their 53rd straight victory in an in-season tournament and 18th consecutive title.
Auriemma remembers little about the last time UConn lost in one of these events; he was thrown out of a 57-37 loss to Vanderbilt in the 1992 Hilton Head Super Shootout.
That was before the eight national championships, before Auriemma became plaque-worthy. But a lot has changed since then.