DOMINATING THE BLUE DEMONS
Huskies defeat DePaul to advance to semifinals
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 10, 2013 22:03
HARTFORD – The last time the UConn women’s basketball team and DePaul faced off, a massive winter storm gave the Blue Demons travel nightmares and forced them to show up just an hour before their 47-point loss.
The circumstances were far different Sunday night, but the result was much the same. Balanced scoring and shared minutes ruled the day en route to a 91-64 UConn win.
One very UConn-esque run is where the game began to get away from the Blue Demons.
The run began with 14:33 remaining in the first half with the score 14-11. Within a matter of 47 seconds, the Huskies had hit two threes and scored on a Kelly Faris putback - an 8-0 swing before DePaul could even so much as blink.
“When they’re focused and really guarding you, they are really, really good defensively,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said about UConn’s explosiveness. “So it’s not that easy to get good looks and then you start taking some shots that don’t have a chance to go in…and that’s the same as a turnover.
“So you start feeding into it and it becomes ‘give it up on one end and give it back on the other end.’ You’re giving it up on two ends and that takes the score in an opposite direction real fast.”
From that point on, UConn held the Blue Demons to just 12 points in the remainder of the half and went into the break with a 49-23 lead.
The second half was much of the same, as the Huskies were able to dominate the glass and the paint throughout the night.
Just a few days after a practice that Coach Geno Auriemma called the best of Kiah Stokes’ career, the sophomore center provided a spark off the bench to contribute five rebounds – four of which came on the offensive glass - and Auriemma made sure to credit her for a well played game in his press conference.
“The first half I think I did pretty well,” Stokes said. “Rebounding is one of my strengths and I think I did that pretty well. Second half, a little shaky, coach pointed it out. I need more consistency throughout the game – not just the beginning.”
Freshman Breanna Stewart and junior Bria Hartley - two Huskies who have been struggling in recent weeks and will be key to a successful postseason run - both fared well during the game.
Stewart provided 21 points and six rebounds, but most importantly looked less tentative than she did during the height of her struggles.
“I had an inkling that Stewie would play better today than she has in a while,” Auriemma said, “because she’s practiced a lot better this week than she’s practiced in a while. So I saw today some of the same things that I saw on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and it carried into today and that’s a good sign.”
Those changes in practice, Stewart said, were a result of a changed mindset from earlier in the season.
“When I was unsure about a situation, I would second-guess myself,” Stewart said, “and I’m really trying not to second-guess myself and just go out and make an aggressive decision and do it.”
Hartley has been in the midst of a terrible shooting slump, and her poor performances had made her hesitant to shoot the ball. But against the Blue Demons, she looked to be more confident - she took 14 shots and accounted for 12 of the Huskies points.
The usual suspects also produced for UConn, as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stefanie Dolson scored 16 points each.
Auriemma made good on his midweek statements and did a good deal of minute-sharing, as nine Huskies played at least 11 minutes on the night. Freshman Moriah Jefferson started, supplanting redshirt senior Caroline Doty as the second-choice point guard and playing 23 minutes.
“Why did I start her? Part of it was that I thought it was a good matchup…that was the easy answer – she can put pressure on the ball,” Auriemma said. “The hard answer is at some point she’s going to have to play and she’s going to have to play well.”
And Auriemma thought her 12 points and three assists were a job well done to seize the opportunity.
“The first couple minutes – eh, okay,” Auriemma said of her play. “Then after that, really good, really good.”