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UConn Huskies: Make Short Work of FDU But Struggle to Get Much Done

UConn coach Geno Auriemma couldn't find anything to be happy about after the UConn - FDU game including the consistent play of his 3 freshmen.

<em>Photo by Jessica Hill</em>
UConn coach Geno Auriemma couldn't find anything to be happy about after the UConn - FDU game including the consistent play of his 3 freshmen. Photo by Jessica Hill

It's easy to look at a 44-5 halftime score and think that when the Connecticut Huskies were playing Fairleigh Dickinson Knights that it was an offensive and defensive clinic by the Huskies.  

In reality, it was an overmatched team squaring off against a team that would have won this game even if they were playing with the last 2 off their bench and those students during time outs that shoot nothing but air balls when they try to win prizes.

Ultimately, UConn showed that they are not only young but also as immature as the UConn coaching staff has said that they were all season in their 74-28 victory over FDU.

"I thought it was the worst exhibition of basketball I've ever seen by two teams in the 27 years that I've been at Connecticut," Auriemma said. "We should give everybody a refund. It was an embarrassment. It was just two bad teams playing bad basketball."

Some of you thought that I was being overly critical when I said that this team had some serious flaws to work out prior to March and NCAA Tournament time. But you need to look no further than this game as to see why I feel that way.

There is a huge difference between this Fairleigh Dickinson game and the Pacific game.  A huge disparity between the play in the Holy Cross game and the Stanford game. What made the win against the Cardinal so impressive, is exactly what made the FDU win so unimpressive. But it's bound to happen because that's what happened for a team that is still trying to find who they are.

"You just want your team to play some semblance of good basketball and I didn't really see any of that,'' Auriemma said. "We're a very immature bunch. We have too many players who are not quite ready yet to put together the consistent kind of games that you would like to see."

I sat in on UConn's practice the day before the Stanford game and saw a determined and focused group, a group so determined to prove all of the critics wrong. Those that say they are too young, not disciplined enough, don't have a big enough post presence or have guards that can control the ball. Those critics like me. I watched them listen intently to their coaching staff, taking everything they have to say in.

I then watched a great group of kids who were even better on Monday night - when under the bright lights of a national televised game that those young pups turned it on. Every instruction that they were given on the defensive end the day before was followed. They came down and doubled to perfection. They ran circles around the Stanford defense and got every shot they wanted on the offensive end.

You could live the fact that they happened to only shoot 35.7% because they left nothing on the court that day and executed. They did what they wanted against the game of basketball. Win or lose you could have lived with the results of that game.

On Friday, they played a team that was 1-3 coming into the game with loses to Army and Yale of all teams, a team that was without their point guard and center. And UConn, rather than worrying about themselves, looked like they were more worried about the leftovers that were in their dorms. They looked like they had no interest in playing a basketball game that day.

UConn, in their defense, had some strong defensive possessions in the first half. Any time you hold a team to a school record for the least points scored in a half, you have something to say about it. But FDU did not do themselves any favors in the first half. The Knights were 0-for-8 from 3 in the first half and at least half of those were taken from the Student Union across the street. They also missed a number of lay ups in anticipation that Kiah Stokes or Heather Buck were waiting around. Interestingly enough, FDU seemed to have less of a problem breaking UConn's pressure than the 3rd ranked Cardinal did on Monday night. It is after they broke the press that the Knights forgot to run an offense.

What is more concerning for UConn are the dry spells on offense. The offense was impressive during their win against Pacific and the Cardinal, like I previously mentioned. This game was more like the Holy Cross redux where there was more 1-on-1 and hoping and praying on offense. That pretty 4 out, 1 in offense that resulted in back door plays and easy baskets against Stanford resulted in missed layup, offensive rebound, missed layup, offensive rebound, missed layup. Those are concentration errors. Nothing more. Connecticut basketball is better than that. These drought conditions might not hurt you against a team that shoots 16.4% for the game but might against a Baylor or Texas A&M or a Stanford if they meet again. That is the concern.

UConn would probably prefer not to play these games. It's hard to get people to come into Storrs, never mind on a Thanksgiving Weekend, where most teams that are playing this weekend are in some tropical destination like the Bahamas or Cancun.

"You'd have to ask the people at the Basketball Travelers Inc. because they're the ones that threw this thing together," Auriemma said. "It gets harder and harder to make a field because everyone wants to make sure that they can win a game or two. So, it's hard to match up teams so they can give everyone a chance to win at least once or twice. Supposedly, that's the thought going into it."

But the schedule was made whether the Huskies like it or not. It is up to UConn to use these match ups to get better and not just a chance to put on their uniform and play against someone other than themselves. It's a chance to represent their school, their program and define who they are going to be as a team. You can't play down to the level of competition, because that is how the Virginias of the worlds beat the Tennessees.

Are you going to be the team that brings consistency every night or are you going to try and use a toggle switch to determine your intensity and play as to who is in the opposing jersey? Are you going to be a team that can complete an entry pass to the post or a team that 75% of your center's points are going to be scored on offensive rebounds? Are you going to be a team that can run plays and execute in the half court or are you just able to score in the full court? Are you going to out work every team or are you going to rely on your talent?

It's not the end of the world to have these questions in November. It's better now than to have these same questions come March. UConn gets a chance to search for some answers when they face Buffalo in Game 2, in the second day of action in the World Vision Classic (7:30 PM, CPTV)

"We said in the locker room, ‘Listen, we have to fix it by tomorrow,' said Huskies junior Caroline Doty.  "We are lucky we have another game and we don't have all week to be run into the ground about it.  We need to turn around and show that things happen and we just have to come back and respond.  You are going to make mistakes. It is how you respond that is the important thing."

From the Box:

- UConn were again led by their freshmen. Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis was the first player to break into double figures with 8:31 left in the game. She ended with 11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals. Brianna Banks led all scorers with 17 points, 3 steals, 2 assists and 2 turnovers. Kiah Stokes followed up her solid defensive performance against Stanford with another one against Fairleigh Dickenson. Stokes had 9 points (all in the first half), 11 rebounds, 5 blocks.

- For the 2nd game in a row, UConn only had 7 turnovers.

- UConn had as many fast break points, as FDU had total points, 28.

- The 5 points, in the 1st half, that UConn held FDU to were the fewest in school history. Prior to Friday night, UConn held Providence to 6 points on Feb 5, 2005, when they led 40-6 at the half.

- Junior Kelly Faris was 4-4 against Pacific scoring 11 points. She is 0-16 against the Huskies other 3 opponents scoring 2 points on the season.