It is not often that UConn plays an opponent for the first time. When you spend 31 seasons in one conference these kinds of opportunities are limited.
But the dawn of The American has brought some newness back to the Huskies’ schedule. They played at Central Florida for the first time Wednesday. They played at Memphis for the first time Saturday at the FedEx Forum.
“We haven’t had a chance to do that in a long time,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Everybody that we’ve played recently have been people that we’ve already played. There hasn’t been anybody new, and now it seems like at Central Florida and here and when we go to Houston and we go to SMU and we go to Temple. So it’s going to be places that haven’t seen us on a regular basis or ever in this case. And I enjoy that. I’ve always enjoyed it. I talked to the team about it. This is the first time that a lot of these people, who may be UConn fans, who may not be, have ever seen us play in person.
“It works both ways. We probably made some new fans (Saturday) that became UConn fans and Memphis probably made a few fans (Saturday). People in the stands that saw them play and said, `Hey, they’re pretty good. I might come back.’ So I think it works both ways. I think it helps us. It helps the other team. And certainly Memphis can make like a 10-minute highlight film and show how many times they kicked our butt and looked pretty good. So I enjoy it and I hope they get a big crowd next time they play.’’
Memphis drew 6,783, the largest crowd during six-year tenure of Coach Melissa McFerrin. The Lady Tigers had drawn a combined 5,286 in their first seven home games this season.
And Saturday’s attendance could have been more. The Memphis-Cincinnati men’s game drew 17,191 in advance of the UConn-Memphis women’s game.
“I think just makes you appreciate UConn more,’’ sophomore Morgan Tuck said. “I think that’s a big reason why a lot of us came was because of the fan support for women’s basketball. And then when we go around to other places like here you realize women’s basketball isn’t that big of a deal in a lot of places. We’re used to having a packed gym every time we play. It doesn’t matter who we play. And I think it just makes us appreciate our fans because my sister (Taylor), she plays at Illinois and when I would go to her games it’s no where near the amount of fans that we have at every one of our games. So it does makes us appreciate it.’’