Women's Basketball: No. 1 UConn heads to Temple to finish season series
Angie Wallace and the Huskies host North Dakota this weekend. Stefanie Sharkey
It's almost that time when teams will start to distinguish themselves from being mediocre or strong competition when the time comes in March, however the No. 1 women's basketball team has yet to stray from the path leading to Nashville.
"Anybody can play good in the months of December and January, but when February comes around we start to find out who is going to be serious in March and who is not," head coach Geno Auriemma said.
Despite their shortcomings with injuries and sickness, UConn has remained determined to play their best in each game including their latest matchup against the Temple Owls. The Huskies and Owls matched up a little over two weeks ago, when UConn beat Temple 80-36. However, with the loss of Brianna Banks due to an ankle injury, as well as Morgan Tuck's season-ending knee surgery and Saniya Chong not feeling well, the dynamic of the team has changed.
"It's kind of like how it was in the beginning of the season," Breanna Stewart said. "When we were down however many players we were down and everybody needed to step up and take on another role and I think that its kind of a similar situation again."
With the loss of UConn players, the Owls will be chomping at the bit for payback. In the teams' last matchup, UConn faltered in a key component of the game, as Temple out-rebounded the Huskies 42-39. Auriemma recognized that despite their size, some of the players are lackluster when it comes to rebounding and they have to become better.
"There's a lot of times when the ball is up there on the rim we go after it, they go after it, and our guards are already gone trying to get out in transition," Auriemma said. "There's a lot of loose balls to be had and they become the other team's rebounds. And at the other end, the problem we have is that every time we shoot we think it's going in so no one goes to offensive rebound."
Although the Huskies aren't in the most ideal situation, they know how to handle the adversity and realize that they must take on as many roles as they are capable of. Auriemma believes that while this setback changes everything, in the short term it will help them out.
"Our half-court defense has to get better, our half-court offense has to get better which kind of puts you in position for postseason anyway because when postseason comes that's all that is, you know," Auriemma said. "Postseason is all about half court stuff, offense and defense. It's not the way we want to play but it's the way we are going to have to play."
After Sunday's 3-point frenzy against USF, Temple will have to play their best defense against UConn. The Huskies were 14 of 25 behind the arc, and Bria Hartley scored 6 of 7 shots from the 3-point range and Brianna Stewart was 5-for-9. Both Hartley and Stewart said that their confidence was high and USF was clogging up the lane so they shot from outside. They both also admitted that the team got "3-point happy" and realized they needed to even their shooting out.
"I think you need to find the right balance of [shooting] the ball inside and outside," Harley said. "I mean you always go through streaks of shooting. Some games you shoot really well, then other games you won't so you need to be able to do things other than shots as well."
With the Hartley-Stewart duo on offense and Jefferson emerging as a defensive key, this team is well equipped.
"When they play like they played [against USF] we are a really hard team to play against," Auriemma said.
UConn travels to Philadelphia to play Temple on Tuesday, tipoff will be at 7p.m. and can be watched on SNY or ESPN3.
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