Something has changed within the Huskies since their 71-65 win at St. John’s Feb. 2. It was another one of those wins that felt like a loss as they walked off the court at Carnesecca Arena. They were unhappy with their play, unhappy with the way they allowed the Red Storm to dictate the pace of the game for long stretches.
In the aftermath of that game, however, UConn collectively regrouped and charted a course for the rest of the season. Coach Geno Auriemma believes that it has been a change in his approach that has helped bring about change over the course of the last three games.
“I would say my attitude has been better,’’ Auriemma said. “My approach has been better. I just pretend now that everything’s OK. I spent like four months harping and (complaining) and moaning on doing every little thing right, and then I realized about two weeks ago, maybe it was just after the St. John’s game, that if I pretend that everything’s OK, these guys really like that. And then they just play. So like when we had three possessions (Tuesday at Providence) where we just threw it away, I just pretended they never happened. That’s what they want from me so I’m giving it to them. And that’s why we’re being so successful. You think I’m kidding, but it’s the honest to God truth. I’m not trying to be funny.
“This particular team does not respond very well to me putting like heavy demands on them of trying to be really, really good every possession. I tried that. It doesn’t work. There’s a reason all those shots are going in now. And you’d be surprised. Like with Kelly Faris you can do whatever you want. With Caroline Doty, you can do whatever you want. And Stefanie (Dolson), the same thing. But some of these others guys, you’ve got to pretend. And I’m doing a really good job of pretending. Other than Bradley Cooper, no one’s pretending to be something better than me. And we’re both from the same area.’’
The competition from Marquette, DePaul and Providence has obviously not been top notch during this current stretch. But, to its credit, UConn has not played down to the opposition.
The Huskies have played their way and have thrived, winning the last three games by a total of 160 points (53.3). And the overall statistics are just as extraordinary as the margin of victory.
They are averaging 96.7 points on 56.1 percent shooting from the field (49.2 3-pointers). They have 69 assists on 106 made field goals (65.1 percent). They have committed just 37 turnovers (12.3) and are averaging 14.3 offensive rebounds, 18.0 second-chance points and 18.0 fastbreak points during this span.
Five players are also averaging in double figures in scoring – Dolson (17.3), Bria Hartley (16.7), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (15.7), Faris (11.0) and Breanna Stewart (10.7).
Auriemma has his own opinion on what has prompted a change for UConn. But Faris and Mosqueda-Lewis also shared their thoughts.
“He said that (Tuesday),’’ Faris said about Auriemma’s new approach. “He said it on the bench. But he’s always just constantly trying to figure out what’s going to make us tick. He wants to find that point in each of us that’s going to make us think, `Gosh, forget you. And we’re going to figure it out.’ So that’s what he does. And he’s pretty good at it. He’s going to continue to do certain things like that and say stuff like that. We’ve just got to get to the point where we’re kind of like, `You know what? Forget it. We’re going to get this done. And we’re going to get it right.’’’
Said Mosqueda-Lewis: “He hasn’t been yelling about every single little thing. Every little thing, not every single thing. I feel our demeanor’s changed. Our confidence has gotten a little higher and I feel like we’re paying more attention to detail. Getting more offensive rebounds. We have goals now. Coach gave us a sheet and he’s like, `You guys have goals every game. I feel like if you guys are more goal-oriented you’ll have something to work toward every single game.’ So I think that’s been helping us a lot.
“There’s a lot that we still need to work on. There’s a lot of things that we need to be more consistent as in offensive rebounding. We need to make sure that there’s no drop-off when the second group comes in after the starters. But I think we’re on our way to being where we want to be coming into March.’’