This is the time of the year when UConn coach Geno Auriemma begins to see if there’s light at the end of the tournament tunnels.
After 16 games, the Hall of Famer coach has a pretty idea about how his players are performing, how his team in melding. It provides a hunch about the future, although as they say in the trade, past performance is not an indication of future growth.
In the moments following Tuesday’s 72-58 win over Louisville, Auriemma announced that all seems well with his 15-1 team, ranked No. 3 in the nation.
“Our defense was as good as it’s been all year,” Auriemma said. “We’ve become a pretty good defensive team. We’ve been good all year, but there are things about our defensive that are getting better.”
The Huskies held the Cardinals (14-4) to a shooting percentage of 34.3. Shoni Schimmel, one of the better three-point shooters in the nation, was 2 of 7 and her team finished 4 of 19.
This growth, Auriemma says, is consistent with his experience when January prepares to turn to February.
“It’s that time now when the [upperclassmen] know what’s at stake,” Auriemma said. “They understand what’s going on and it’s their turn now to make sure it gets done.. That’s the way it is supposed to be.”
Auriemma was referring particular to his veteran troika, guards Kelly Faris and Bria Hartley and center Stefanie Dolson. They all played well Tuesday, even though Hartley was 3 of 11 from three and Faris, the nation’s assist/turnover leader, matched assists (seven) with bobbles.
“[Kelly needs to understand] that if that pass isn’t going to work the first time, it’s not going to work the second or third time, either,” Auriemma said. “What that does is prevent you from getting a quality shot every time down the floor. … Shea Ralph [the UConn assistant] made a good point. She said, ‘They [the players] are doing what they want to happen, instead of what actually is going on.’
“Here’s how I explain it to the players: We had 64 shots [Tuesday]. If we cut our 18 turnovers in half, or even down to 10, that means eight other times we didn’t get a shot. If during those eight possessions, we make three three-pointers, well that’s nine more points, a huge difference in a game. And that’s one of those things that catches up to you later on.”