The Huskies did not think enough on their feet in Monday’s loss to No. 1 Baylor.
They are willing to take as much direction as possible from UConn coach Geno Auriemma and the coaching staff. But they are not on the court with them in games. There are instances in every game where they need to make their own decisions. And thinking-on-your-feet was an important part of practice today.
“I was just explaining the best players that play and the best teams that play are teams that can always do two things very, very well,’’ Auriemma said. “They can take direction. They only have to see things once or twice and they’ve got it. And they can also think for themselves. And I think when you’ve got a bunch of young guys playing all they want is direction over and over and over and over again. And the problem is when you’re out there playing it’s not like football where there’s a stoppage of play after every possession so you can give them direction, direction, direction.
“So today’s practice was a little bit more about thinking on the fly and making decisions and making sure that we’re on board, that we’re all on the same page because there’s some stuff that happened Monday that I was scratching my head. So were the other coaches. Like, `Where the hell did this come from?’ And that’s kind of because no one wants to take some ownership out on the floor and say, `I got it. Let’s go.’ Little by little, hopefully.’’
Practice ended with Huskies running a play that they selected. It resulted in a made 3-pointer by Kelly Faris off of a quick ball reversal by Bria Hartley. Afterward, Auriemma praised them for the execution.
“It was kind of a collective thing,’’ Faris said. “That last group, I thought we did a pretty good job of bouncing back and we kept kind of calling different plays to try different stuff to see if we could get a basket inside-out. Then that last play, we had just run the play and I was open the time before, but we didn’t see it. And so we all kind of knew it, and we all said, `Let’s run it again,’ and we got it.
“That was key for us. I think we get too focused right now worrying about what Coach wants us to do. Do this and do that, and it’s so structured. That’s not what we’re supposed to be doing. Of course, we want to listen to Coach. But at the same time, we’re on the court so we know what’s going to work. We see different things. And the coaches can only do so much for us. A good team and good players are going to be able to think on their feet and think for themselves like Coach has been saying. I think we’ve got to get a lot better at that, and a lot more confident in that within each other. Like that last five minutes with that last group, you could tell we all felt it. Every time we came in the huddle we were like, `OK, let’s do this play, let’s do that,’ and we got something out of it.’’
Here is Faris’ take on the second half against Baylor when UConn was outscored 50-41 …
“Everybody got timid offensively and defensively,’’ Faris said. “We stopped trapping and then if we did trap we went with the wrong person and then we didn’t recover. We weren’t working as one whole unit. We were kind of just going timid this way, that way. And then offensively nobody was really shooting. We shot fake and we’d kind of stand because the play would just get dismissed and nothing really happened. I think a lot of it is just being timid and they adjusted and then we didn’t adjust. I think they made a good adjustment coming into the second half and then we kind of just played the same and then that’s when they kept getting layup, layup, layup. So that’s the kind of stuff that we have to be able to think for ourselves on. It was loud in there. The atmosphere was loud. The coaches can’t tell us every single thing. And that’s where we need to say, `OK, this person needs to go trap.’ And we’ve got to recover. And just little stuff like that we have to be able to pick that up on our own.
“I don’t think we’re scared. But we kind of got to the point where we didn’t want to make a mistake. And I think when we start playing like that we’re our own worst enemy. We turn the ball over. We run the shot clock down. We don’t get a good shot. We stand. We stare. So we had a ton of turnovers and then it was like we just waited for a ball screen. We didn’t dive into them. Just different little stuff. We didn’t make things happen. We kind of stood around waiting for something to happen instead of making it happen.’’