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Women's Basketball Notebook: UConn destroys UC Davis in transition game

Associate Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 5, 2013 23:12

HARTFORD – Back and forth they went, almost like there was a friendly wager on who could manage the higher tally. Brianna Banks, Bria Hartley and Moriah Jefferson were relentless, swiping at the ball and taking it the other way in transition almost at will.

The guards finished with three, three and four steals, respectively, a large chunk of UConn’s 15 takeaways.

“I think we’re really dangerous,” Bria Hartley said. “I think Moriah does the best job of all in getting in passing lanes, disturbing the ball-handler and getting steals. So any time we can get out in transition we want to get out there and get an easy bucket.”

Not only are those layups on the fast break easier than running half-court sets, but they can be emotionally draining for an opposing team as well, Hartley said.

“Especially the steals that you get probably near half-court,” Hartley said. “Those are pretty much going to be two points every time. Those are like killers. Coach always tells us, if you’re going to turn the ball over, turn it over where the other team can’t get a wide open basket.”

Geno Auriemma lauded his players after Thursday night’s game for tipping passes at an extraordinarily high rate – higher than at any point before this season, he said. And if you ask him, the volume of steals comes in large part from one simple, fundamental tweak to the Huskies’ defense: consistently keeping their hands up.

“That’s part of the game that we have to take advantage of,” Auriemma said. “And we do it and we don’t, we do it and we don’t. It takes a lot of effort.”

Stewart hitting the glass
Breanna Stewart is naturally great at two things: scoring the basketball and blocking it.

For Auriemma, those two pieces of the game are rarely a concern when it comes to Stewart. Instead, the energy and the teaching tend to focus on other areas, namely, rebounding.

“I think I’ve improved a good amount,” Stewart said. “Obviously there’s a lot more room for improvement, but you know, rebounding is something I’ve been trying to focus on a lot in practice – obviously defense, and making sure I block the person out and go get the rebound.”

On Thursday night, the long, 6-foot-4 forward tied a career-high with 13 boards.

While rebounding can at times be an inherent, instinctive skill, there are certain aspects of it that can be worked on and improved. For Stewart, it’s been a matter of reading how shots will come off the rim, Stefanie Dolson said.

“She’s just gotten so much better at following the ball and finding it and then using her length – like her arms, half the rebounds she gets are out here,” Dolson said, stretching her arms behind her head. “She’s gotten a lot better.”

While there was some satisfaction in the performance for Auriemma, there are loftier goals set for Stewart in his mind.

“The fact that she went hard to the offensive boards,” Auriemma said. “That’s an area of the game very few people pay a lot of attention to. She’s very difficult to box out and she’s very difficult to keep away from the basket – Stewie should have a double-double every night in my mind.”

Chong playing careful, considered
Ten games into her freshman season, Saniya Chong has turned the ball over just eight times. Two of those miscues came on Thursday night, which tied a career-high – although that number is anything from high.

“That’s awesome because it’s way better than me as a freshman,” Hartley said. “I think it’s awesome. She’s always been a really good ball-handler. Like I said, her basketball instincts are great. She has a really good basketball IQ and she just knows how to make the right decisions at the right time.”

Equally as impressive as Chong’s ability to stay away from possession-costing mistakes has been her ability to do it while still staying relaxed and productive on the court.

Rather than adopting an attitude that shies away from errors at the expense of success, like some freshman might, Chong has managed to average 7.9 points and two assists per game.

“I feel like she has that personality where she’s pretty loose,” Hartley said. “She just looks like she’s not worried about anything at all, so I think that really helps her on the court where she’s able to just play and not worry about any pressures on her or anything like that.”


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