UConn women continue to be plagued by inconsistent scoring

Published on Wednesday, 12 February 2020 22:01
Written by Carl Adamec

Journal Inquirer

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The UConn women’s basketball team held the nation’s No. 5 scoring offense to 11 first-quarter points Monday night.

And the Huskies entered the second quarter trailing by nine.

It’s been the trend for UConn when facing the top teams in the country the past five weeks. The Huskies held Baylor, the No. 3 scoring offense, 10 points under its average in a Jan. 9 loss at the XL Center. They held Oregon, the nation’s top-scoring team, 12 points under its average in a Feb. 3 loss at Gampel Pavilion. South Carolina finished 14 points under its scoring average Monday night but still had few problems in beating the Huskies 70-52 at Colonial Life Arena.

UConn (20-3) is averaging 55.3 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the floor (31.9 percent from 3-point land) in its losses to the top three teams in the Associated Press poll. But can the Huskies get to a point where they can score enough points to make a run at the best teams if they run into them again in late March?

“We’re not. Simple answer, we’re not,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We’re going to get the shots that we get and if they go in we’ll get 70. If they don’t, we get 52. It’s not that complicated.”

The Huskies scored two points - a Megan Walker layup with 3:54 gone - in the first quarter against the Gamecocks, and finished the period 1-for-16 from the floor with five turnovers.

On Jan. 30, South Carolina (23-1) held Ole Miss scoreless for the first 19 minutes and to a NCAA record-tying two points in the first half. But the Rebels don’t have the talent the Huskies have, though it might have been tough to tell for 10 minutes.

“The first quarter just got a little too fast for us, it got sped up,” Auriemma said. “Some shots were maybe a little bit rushed, some things were forced, some were easy that didn’t go in. Defensively I thought they were really, really good and they put a lot of pressure on our perimeter game. They were not that concerned about how much we would get inside. They were adamant about not giving us the threes we normally get. When we didn’t make any in the first quarter it put us in a hole that we couldn’t get out of.”

Maybe the tone was set when South Carolina freshman center Aliyah Boston attempted her first 3-pointer of the season and her college career in the first quarter and found nothing but net.

UConn trailed by double figures for the final 24:31, though it did have a couple of opportunities to put some pressure on the Gamecocks. The Huskies did shoot 46.7 percent - right near their season average - over the final three quarters. But when they needed a score to apply heat they didn’t get it and then there were just not enough stops at the defensive end.

“After the first quarter, yeah, we got a lot of good shots,” Auriemma said. “And there were a bunch we didn’t take. It drives me crazy why young players after they miss a bunch of shots refuse to shoot the ball. How are you going to win the game without putting the ball in the basket? It’s better to miss than not take the shot at all, but young players don’t understand that. It doesn’t bother Crystal (Dangerfield). She just keeps shooting whether they go in or not. She’s a senior. What is she going to do, save them for next year? These other guys miss a couple of shots and they don’t want to shoot anymore.”

Dangerfield finished with a career high of 28 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Her teammates went 12-for-42 for 24 points including Christyn Williams’ 1-for-11 and Anna Makurat’s 0-for-5.

UConn could have used some Williams magic like she had in South Bend 14 months ago. It’s been that kind of year for the sophomore, though.

“We’re not able to win these kind of games with one player playing great,” Auriemma said. “Crystal did her part, more than her part. We didn’t get enough from the rest of our team. I’m not surprised that Crystal played pretty well down here. She’s a senior and been through a lot of these games, played 40 minutes in these games. She almost won the UCLA game single-handedly last year in the NCAA Tournament. She has a history of, ‘I can do this.’ Nobody on this team has a history of doing it in a big road game or a game that means everything. So if things don’t go right early on, it is hard to right that ship. As they get older and they get more experience, that will change. Right now we are where we are.”

UConn did out-rebound South Carolina 40-38 as Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 10 points and nine rebounds. The sophomore did foul out with 1:15 to go but the outcome was decided by then.

“You saw her last week and you saw her today. She’s a lot better player than she was last Monday,” Auriemma said. “That’s the point of all this. I would have been disappointed if Liv had played as bad or worse than she did last Monday. I thought she was great for long, long stretches and she didn’t get a lot of help underneath.”

But there was no questioning the Huskies’ toughness and no one said that they were embarrassed, though no one will want to look at a first-quarter replay anytime soon.

So there was some improvement from the loss to Oregon a week earlier.

“It could have been easy to lay down after the first quarter,” Dangerfield said. “Most kids around the country they put up two points in the first quarter they’d get demoralized. We didn’t do that. We fought back.”

But after outscoring Baylor in the first quarter of their game in Hartford, the Huskies were outscored by the combination of the Bears, Ducks, and Gamecocks the next 11 quarters.

Monday night’s loss marked the first time in 20 years UConn lost two out of three games during a season. The Huskies will try to keep their 27-year-old streak of not losing back-to-back games alive on Sunday when they visit South Florida in Tampa.

UConn fell to 7-7 when facing the top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll.

“We played the No. 1 team and we battled them,” Auriemma said. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to make. Maybe we’re just not good enough to make those plays.

“The object is to get through the season and get to the NCAA Tournament, this year. Some years we’re going to be the No. 1 seed and win the whole thing. This year, it’s get through the season, get to the NCAA Tournament, and see what happens. This year we’re like every other team in the country, God forbid.”

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Wednesday, 12 February 2020 22:01. Updated: Wednesday, 12 February 2020 22:03.