Initially, it appeared that Tiffany Hayes’ shooting woes would continue. She was mired in a 15-for-38 shooting slump in the previous three games. This included a 1-for-14 effort from 3-point range.
Hayes missed her first three shots – two 3-pointers – in the first half Saturday against Lehigh. But she finally made a 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining in the half to cap 13-0 run by the Huskies. There was an expression of sheer relief on her face after the ball went through the net. This was something she had desperately been waiting for.
“I was talking to Lorin (Dixon) and I was like, `All I need is one to drop and I’ll be good,’’’ Hayes said. “Once that one fell in, my confidence just shot up. And I just knew all the rest of them were going to drop. I missed one, but other than that the rest of my shots were falling. So all I needed was one to boost my confidence a little bit.’’
Hayes made four of her final six shots in the game, finishing with 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds in 31 minutes.
“Eventually, yeah. You knew she was going to have to make some,’’ Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said. “And again, that’s all part of what we have to keep working on and keep getting better at. Staying aggressive. Tiffany, the same thing. She can’t just stand there and jack up 30-footers. She’s got to get in the lane, pull-up jump shots, get to the free throw line. She did a great job rebounding the ball (Saturday). Everybody’s had to take on a whole lot more. We lost a lot of rebounds and a lot of points to graduation last year. And somebody’s going to have to do more than they did last year to fill in that gap. Actually, a lot of people have to do it.’’
What bothered Auriemma was that Hayes has not been as aggressive in the past few games when it has come to taking shots. She had no problem with this when she was scoring a school-record 30 points on 11-of-13 shooting in the first half against Holy Cross in the season opener Nov. 14.
The Huskies need significant offensive production from Hayes in every game. She cannot allow a few missed shots to affect her play. She fought through a slow start Saturday and the results were impressive.
“How do you explain that? You make every shot and then you make no shots,’’ Auriemma said. “I can’t explain that. I just think that the really great players, they have a certain confidence level that they can’t wait to shoot open shots. But what happens to Tiffany sometimes is when she misses shots she loses her aggressiveness.
“You’re freaking 82-0. Why would you be hesitating to shoot the ball? What are you worried about? The last time I missed a couple of these we lost.’ Really? How could you remember that far back? What are you worried about? Shoot it. And if it doesn’t go in, who cares. Why would you be afraid to shoot it? What are you thinking about? `When I was in high school I missed one of these. It cost us the game.’ What? Come on. If you’re open shoot it.’ I don’t want these guys to be timid or shy or should I, shouldn’t I. I don’t think you stumble into wins. I don’t think you accidentally happen upon 82, 83, 103, 200 in a row like everybody thinks we’re going to win.’’
It took a bit for freshman Samarie Walker to get in her comfort zone against Lehigh. She was making her first career start for the Huskies, and she was fighting with some nervousness.
But once Walker came to the realization that she had started a ton of games during an outstanding career at Chaminade Julienne High in Dayton, Ohio any nervousness disappeared. She might be competing at a different level right now, but it is the same concept … Go out and make plays.
Walker made plenty of plays, finishing with 11 points (5-of-7 FG), seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal in 25 minutes. It was yet another sign that she is catching on at a quick pace.
“I feel like I am (making progress),’’ Walker said. “My teammates are always on me about, especially, my energy level and my communicating and stuff. So that’s the first thing I try to do, and, as always, rebounding. But I feel like I’m starting to get everything and everything’s starting to click.’’