It all began today as a rebuilding process.
In front of 6,000 fans in Gampel Pavillion, the UConn Huskies made a statement showing those that thought of their demise were mistaken, winning 112 -41 over Franklin Pierce University.
Half of the Huskies had never laced up their sneakers for a real game in National Flag blue and white, but there is never an excuse when you play for UConn. So play on.
No one thought Franklin Pierce had a chance going in and 2 minutes into the game that was evident but the Huskies effort and desire never wavered. That effort and desire went well noticed by Franklin Pierce University head coach, Steve Hancock who said, "They are obviously better, bigger, stronger in most positions. They play hard. You can see the difference in how hard they run, how hard they play every possession. They are really aggressive."
If the exhibition is any indication, this UConn team will be a strong defensive bunch and extremely balanced offensively. They got out in passing lanes, denied entry into the lane and forced 31 turnovers. The offensive load was balanced with all 10 players scoring and 6 players in double figures. Eight players saw action for more than 13 minutes.
"I thought we came out with a lot of energy. Which was good. We had a very good effort the entire game. We shared the ball well and had a lot of assists," said senior Maya Moore.
Things went as expected with the heavy offensive weight being carried by returning players Tiffany Hayes scoring 25 and Moore scoring 24.
The Huskies scored easily at times against the young, under-sized, over-matched, and under-manned Ravens. Franklin Pierce were without the services of arguably their 2 best players in senior point guard Cynthia Gaudet and senior center Tori Aherns. Like UConn, FPU has five freshman to incorporate into the new year and are experiencing some growing pains.
"We're scrambling right now. Trying to find an identity right now. For five of these players their first time walking on a court since high school. It was quite an experience for them," added Coach Hancock. FPU, which did not have a single player in double figures were led in scoring by sophomore guard Tiffany Johnson with 8 points and freshman forward Marielle Giroud with 7 points.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma, working with a different caliber of player, showed great patience even when his young Huskies made mistakes, often directing and redirecting them into where players should be on the floor and what he wanted to see. His heaviest critiques from the sidelines were often saved for his senior star Maya Moore.
"Coach has patience with still learning what to do as a group, is there. He has little patience for lack of effort, not paying attention, [you have to bring] energy and something to the team," said Moore.
As great as the Huskies looked at times, the nerves were still there. Freshman Samarie Walker said, "I know for myself, I was a little nervous. Coming to a program like UConn and with players like Maya, you are always going to question, am I good enough to live up to the other teams of the past? But they have been helping us a lot to get here."
Freshman guard Bria Hartley added, "You want to play well your first game. It’s great to play in this atmosphere."
The UConn Huskies still have work to do.
There are still questions concerning their post game and whether they can get offensive production out of that position. UConn coach Geno Auriemma addressed it, "We have trouble scoring in the post. I know that. At times we can be a great 3 point shooting team. We foul too much. We give up too many 3’s. They do that in practice every day. I learn everything during exhibitions that I already know, but it gives my players a chance to see what I have been saying since October 16th."