We have seen this scenario countless times before, haven’t we? Confronted with a big-time game in a big-time venue against a big-time opponent, not to mention a national television audience looking on, No. 1 UConn responds by delivering a big-time performance.
All-Americans played like All-Americans. The Huskies played like a team at both ends. They were unselfish. They were tough, mentally and physically. And they responded to every challenge No. 2 Duke threw at them Tuesday night in another convincing win.
Simply put, UConn was basically everything it expects from itself when it comes to playing in these types of games over the years.
“I think these are the reasons why we come to Connecticut is to play in the big games,’’ sophomore Breanna Stewart said. “Obviously, they don’t happen all the time. But we know that we have a huge target on our back and teams are always going to give us their best run. And that’s what you want to do. That’s fun. That’s competitive.’’
Here are some numbers that support UConn’s consistency against the nation’s top teams …
The Huskies are now 15-3 in games involving the top two ranked teams. They are 11-1 when ranked No. 1, losing only to Tennessee Jan. 10, 1999 in their first such game as the No. 1 team.
The Huskies are 49-28 (.636) against opponents ranked in the Top 5 in The Associated Press national poll, including 41-18 (.695) since the beginning of the 1999-00 season and 17-7 (.708) over their last 24 games.
The Huskies are 200-60 (.769) against Top 25 opponents.
The Huskies are to 48-23 (.676) on the road against Top 25 opponents.
“The kids sitting at home watching us play on television and they watch us play in these kind of games and they decide, `Hey I want to go to Connecticut,’ they can’t get here and then go, `Oh my God, it’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 at Cameron Indoor Stadium and I don’t know how I’m going to handle that,’’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I think the kind of kid that wants to come to Connecticut probably thinks that’s why I play basketball. I want to play in those kinds of games.’ And then it’s up to us as a coaching staff to set the right mindset for these kinds of games. I’ve been in these games when I wasn’t sure we had the better team, and I probably over coached it. You put so much into a gameplan that you could over coach it. And I think for the most part we try to under coach these kinds of games and just let the players decide for themselves what kind game it’s going to be.’’
Here is what Auriemma refers to as under coaching …
“You know what helps me a lot is we’ve got three coaches on our staff, Marisa (Moseley) not so much, but we’ve got two coaches on our staff, Chris Dailey and Shea Ralph, that I don’t know what the plans looked like for D-Day. I don’t know what General Eisenhower had planned for D-Day and what they looked like, but they weren’t as thorough as some of the stuff these guys bring to practice,’’ Auriemma said. “And I just look at them and I go, `You guys have got to be kidding me.’ They’ll come in, and they’ll tell you what Tricia Liston did for breakfast yesterday. And you can get so overloaded with information on what the other team’s going to do. What do we have to do? How are we going to guard this? How are we going to guard that? What are we going to do in this situation? What are we going to do in that situation? How are we going to guard when this kid has the ball vs. when this kid has the ball? And if you’re not careful, your players go into a game more overloaded with information about what we have to do to stop them as opposed to what we have to do to win the game? What do we have to do to be really good? Us. That’s what I mean by under coaching. Don’t get so caught up in what the game plan is as opposed to getting our minds right. Just get our minds right. And try to simplify it as much as possible. That’s what I mean by that.’’