UConn women work on smoothing offense
Updated 1:27 pm, Tuesday, February 12, 2013
STORRS -- The game was out of character for the UConn women. The offense lacked flow at St. John's on Feb. 2; it lacked execution. And the result was a 71-point effort and a season-low six-point win.
In the steady flow of routs produced by the third-ranked Huskies, these are the types of things that can get overlooked. But after witnessing how dysfunctional they were offensively against the Red Storm, which saw them fail to reach the 80-point mark for a season-high fourth straight game, UConn coach Geno Auriemma, his staff and players themselves took a long look at the offense.
Changes were made. And entering tonight's game at Providence (7, SNY), UConn has rediscovered its deft offensive precision in scoring a combined 185 points over the last two games.
"I really believe that when you see yourself struggle like that, as an individual, or you see yourself struggle like that as a team, you get a little wake-up call," Auriemma said. "I think the coaches and players just had a real difficult time with that. We came back and we addressed it and spent some time on some things that we thought would make us better. And it has."
The Huskies (22-1 overall, 8-1 Big East) shot 45.1 percent from the field against St. John's. They had just seven fast-break points and scored 26 points in the paint.
However, UConn has since scored at least 90 points in back-to-back games for the third time this season and the first time since scoring 97 against Oakland on Dec. 19 and 102 at Hartford Dec. 22. They are also shooting a combined 55.6 percent from the field and have 37 fast-break points and 56 points in the paint in wins over Marquette on Feb. 5 and DePaul Sunday.
In the first half alone, the Huskies are averaging 57.0 points and shooting 60.3 percent from the field in the last two games.
"Just knowing that we can come out and make clean passes, run offense ... It's really good to see at this time of the year," junior Stefanie Dolson said.
The return of Dolson, who did not play against St. John's due to illness, has proven to be a catalyst for the Huskies. She is averaging 19.0 points (12-of-16 FG) and 4.0 assists in the last two games. But arguably the greatest impact has come from the resurgence of junior All-American Bria Hartley.
Hartley, who said the Villanova game Jan. 29 was the last time she felt any pain in her troublesome left ankle, finished with 10 points in 34 minutes against St. John's. But she was 3-of-13 from the field and missed all seven of her 3-point attempts.
Hartley has responded by averaging 19.0 points (14-of-23 FG) and 3.5 assists over the last two games.
"It definitely builds my confidence a little bit, Hartley said. "But you don't want to get carried away. You've got to still continue to do that each game."
With seven games remaining in the regular season, UConn is seemingly in a sound position. There has been plenty of balance offensively of late with six players scoring in double figures for the third time this season against Marquette and nine players finishing with at least five points against DePaul.
The Huskies have made a concerted effort to eliminate some warts that existed offensively.
And they continue to lead the nation in scoring (82.9) and assists (21.2) and are second in field goal percentage (.498), third in made 3-pointers per game (9.0) and seventh in 3-point shooting percentage (.379).
"I think we're comfortable," Hartley said. "We have Stef, who is a great post presence, and then we have people on the outside like me, Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis), Caroline (Doty) and Kelly (Faris), who can all hit 3-point shots. So we have a good mixture of shots, so it's hard for teams to defend that because you don't know where points are going to come from."
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