The fact that UConn committed 35 turnovers in a 96-87 loss in triple overtime at Notre Dame Monday was a topic of discussion following practice at Gampel Pavilion Thursday. It was the first time that the Huskies had to face the media since suffering their third loss of the season.
Here is what UConn coach Geno Auriemma had to say about the turnovers after having a couple of days to assess what went down at Purcell Pavilion …
“If we would’ve had 34 turnovers we might have won the game,’’ Auriemma said. “As a matter of fact we could’ve had 37 and still won the game the way the game played out the last (minute) of regulation and the first overtime and the second overtime. If we would’ve made one more free throw we wouldn’t be talking about the 35 turnovers.’’
Auriemma once again made a point to publicly address how difficult it is to be a part of this program, especially in the wake of a loss.
“The great thing about coaching at Connecticut is that we’re used to winning every game and we’re used to winning games that go down to the wire,’’ Auriemma said. “And we’ve not done that in some instances lately. And the bad thing about coaching at Connecticut is that the other team’s never allowed to win because the only time the other team’s allowed to win is because we played bad. I’ve never been asked questions or I’ve never seen people talk to me after a loss where they said, `You know what? Those guys were really good, man.’ I don’t think that’s ever happened in the last 15 years at Connecticut.
“When you look at how we played defensively for the whole game (Monday) and how many shots their two leading scorers had to take (Skylar Diggins took 31; Kayla McBride took 28) … Again I go back, if we make one more free throw nobody’s asking me these questions,’’ Auriemma said. “But if you’re a player at Connecticut or you’re a coach at Connecticut that’s the world we live in. We’re not allowed to lose. The other teams are not allowed to win. Because if the other team wins it must be because Connecticut sucked. I don’t think people have any understanding of what that does to a player, what that does to their psyche. You think about that. This is the only place in America where you’re not allowed to lose any games. Ever. Not even to the top two teams in the country in triple overtime or by one at home or to the defending national champions by six. That’s just unacceptable. Again, I’m not complaining. I’m just stating fact that that’s the world that we’ve created here. I don’t know what I can do about it, but it is what it is.’’
The Huskies seem to moved forward following the loss. Auriemma provided a stern challenge at practice Thursday. And the players responded.
UConn spent a great deal of time working on its halfcourt defense in a 5-on-4 drill. Auriemma’s charge centered on being both aggressive and assertive.
“I feel like (Thursday) was a big step forward for our team,’’ sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. “Everybody came out with a different mentality. There was a lot of positive energy out there. Coach has been trying to push us to our limits and I feel like (Thursday) when he pushed a little bit we actually pushed back and we fought him.’’
“We embraced the challenges he put out there for us,’’ junior Bria Hartley said. “You could tell we were all together and talking and making sure everyone is on the same page. When one person messed up, we all messed up. We all took credit for it and we just made sure we went out there and got a stop the next time.’’
The Huskies will open play in the Big East tournament Sunday in the quarterfinals against either DePaul, Marquette or Pittsburgh. They are seeking their sixth straight tournament championship and their 19th overall.