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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Jim Clark’s Husky Report: No. 1 UConn 70 v. No. 4 Notre Dame 46

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By Jim Clark

ESPN Gameday, January 16, 2010, 9 p.m. Eastern. Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut sold out—10,167 fans.

National TV is on hand for the first ESPN Basketball Gameday to be broadcast for a womens’ game.

Dick Vitale is calling his first womens’ game.

Other teams may be envious, but there are three reasons the game is at Connecticut:

1. ESPN wanted UConn v. Tennessee, but Pat Summitt is still pouting over Maya Moore choosing UConn, and refuses to schedule the Huskies. Well, Pat, here’s some payback from ESPN (although Tennessee is scheduled on ESPN2 many times this season).

2. Connecticut is, after all the National Champion, the best team in the country, and playing the No. 4 team (No. 3 in the AP/USA Today polls). Connecticut has the two best players in the country, and is on a 55-game win streak. Who else would you feature?

3. Gampel Pavilion is only 45 miles from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT.

Good for Dickie V: He admitted that, while a fan, he did not know enough about women’s basketball to do the color alone, so he insisted that Doris Burke join him on the main broadcast (she had suggested that she could do the sidelines). At 70, Dick Vitale does not need to project his vanity. Way to go, baby!

So, can Notre Dame beat UConn? Probably not. The starting lineup has four guards and a forward, none over 6’1” tall (Rebecca Bruszewski). UConn’s defenders are quicker than Notre Dame’s guards, except possibly for freshman Skylar Diggins, so the four-guard lineup will not have that advantage. Charles will be stopped only by a triple team, and in the context of this season and Charles’s play, maybe even that will not work. Maya Moore had the worst game of her career on Wednesday. Who thinks she will come back strong in this game?

On the other hand, this is essentially the same Notre Dame team that lost by just ten points to the Huskies last season, the closest anyone has been in the last 55 games. They have added the very talented Skylar Diggins to the lineup this year. They have very evenly balanced scoring, with three players averaging double figures, and two more just under that. Head Coach Muffet McGraw knows how to defend UConn better than any other coach. UConn has stunk it up from beyond the arc regularly, and Notre Dame’s zone is better than any they have faced. The Irish have five players, including three starters, shooting well from outside, and UConn has had some trouble defending the three this year. Maya Moore had the worst game of her career on Wednesday.

So, let’s see what’s up for the Big East’s “Big Two.” If UConn hits a reasonable number of threes, they win. If the available Irish centers are brought in (usually they don’t play very many minutes), and if they can slow Charles down, and if Notre Dame shoots really well, they have a chance. If Charles plays like she has in all the big games since last March, the Irish will be in trouble. But there’s always the chance she will find herself in foul trouble, which would help the Irish fortunes.


But for a late UConn turnover leading to an Ashley Barlow three (and Notre Dame’s first assist), Tina Charles would have singlehandedly outscored the Irish in the first period. Score at halftime: UConn 42, Notre Dame 19.

And at that, UConn’s offense is ineffective for the last 10 minutes. Notre Dame has no answer for UConn’s defense, which is nearly flawless for 20 minutes. As every other team has learned, you cannot plan for the quickness of the Husky defenders. After five blocks and six steals, the Irish have rushed the few open shots they have been able to find. The Irish shoot 23 percent for the first stanza. UConn shoots 43 percent for the half, down from 68 percent during their first 10 minutes. The teams combine for 2-19 from beyond the arc, a function of Connecticut’s continued woes from that range and the Irish having very few open shots (and apparently being so rattled that they are unable to net the ones they did have).

UConn has 12 assists on 18 hoops, but turns the ball over six times in the last five minutes of the half, allowing the Irish to (relatively) hang on. But a 23-point differential is hard to overcome for anyone.

The officials certainly are letting them play. Great crew: Dee Kantner, Denise Brooks, Maj Forsberg (a relative newbie, clearly intimidated by her sterling crew-mates). Example: At 16:20, double whistle: Kantner has a charge, Brooks a block. Consultation: Traveling call, a clear compromise that protects the players on each team. Excellent job. And any Notre Dame hopes to place the Huskies at a disadvantage foul-wise have come to naught.  Notre Dame has been flopping all game. Officials have ignored it. Tina Charles has just one foul, Maya Moore none in the first half. One wonders who will get the benefit of those calls with a different crew in South Bend on March 1.

Second Half

Connecticut is out of sync offensively in the second half. Maya Moore is thinking about every shot, and therefore not in the flow of the game. I call it her “sophomore slump, one year late.” She seems to have lost offensive confidence.

The Irish have improved their defense at the break, forcing UConn into several rushed shots late in the shot clock. Geno takes a time out at 11:43 to right the ship. Connecticut’s marksmanship is down to 48 percent, Notre Dame’s has risen to 25 percent. The score, however, stands at 55-30, meaning that UConn has outscored the Irish by just two points thus far in the half.

It ain’t pretty either way, but the Irish cannot catch up—until the Huskies give up two consecutive threes to Skylar Diggins, one of them unguarded. With the Huskies just one-of-13 from three-point range, Notre Dame has packed the middle. This failure from outside is going to cost them, maybe, perhaps…. But the Huskies are so much better than the opposition that they can shoot three-for-20 from the arc against No. 2 Stanford and still win by 12, and two-of-18 (11.1 percent) against No. 4 Notre Dame and win by 24. But, really, deep into the tournament, could this be their downfall? Can’t see anything else doing it, except foul trouble.

With 7:20 left, Notre Dame is figuring it out, and with decent passing and dribble penetration, are getting the ball to their forwards for easier hoops. Connecticut is not getting the ball inside, and Maya Moore is even missing 12-footers. At 5:25, she finally hits a three, and is now 1-7 on the day from three, though she now has18 points!

Another reason why UConn wins: Up 21, three UConn players (and two Irish) hit the floor to recover a loose ball. Way too late, Notre Dame is getting more aggressive on drives, and drawing fouls. But they are missing forty percent of their their free throws.

Connecticut has turned the ball over 16 times to Notre Dame’s 18. Moore and Charles sit at 2:30. Score: 68-44.

All Notre Dame starters remain.

All Connecticut starters are out by 1:35. Notre Dame’s are now out, too, except for Diggins.

In an apparent act of frustration, Diggins attempts to knock the ball away as UConn dribbles out the final seconds of the game. The crowd comes to their feet to condemn the perceived poor sportsmanship with Bronx cheers.

Final: 70-46, a 24 point win over the No. 4 team in the nation.

UConn won the first half by 23, the second half by a single point. Connecticut played stunningly well for 10 minutes, but just okay for the next 30. Still, it was more than enough.

Charles finishes with 23 points plus 13 boards to lead all players in both departments. Moore adds 20 points, plus 11 boards and three assists (but five turnovers); she ends just one-of-seven from three-point range. Kalana Greene also ends in double digits with 13 points and four boards, plus two assists—one of them a precision back-door pass to Charles for a layup.

Only two Irish players pass the 10-point mark: Deveraux Peters leads her team with 12 points, plus eight boards, off the bench. Barlow adds 10. Lindsay Schrader leads the effort on the glass with nine rebounds, but manages just eight points. (The Huskies control the boards 45-39).

It has been repeated by nearly every opposing coach and many players all season: Connecticut’s secret is its intensity. Skylar Diggins: “We just wanted to match their intensity, and we couldn’t.”

The gap between UConn and everyone else, said Muffett McGraw, “is huge. They are on a mission to prove that gap is wider in every game. They have just owned the top 10, even Stanford.”

“Once we threw the first couple of punches,” Kalana Greene explained, “we sucked the life out of them and we had control after that.”

Irish guard Ashley Barlow’s take was the flip side of Greene’s. The thing that bothered the Irish most in the first half was Connecticut’s “pressure. . . . One through five they were out there pressuring the ball. They were rebounding and doing the things that they do. We just didn’t handle their pressure very well.”

“That first 15 minutes of basketball was pretty amazing,” Geno Auriemma marveled. “That’s as good a game of basketball as you could hope to play on an occasion like this,” he continued. “We can make a really good team look really bad for long stretches. . . . In that second half we didn’t do that as well, and they took advantage.”

The UConn defense is the best it has ever been. As to why other teams seem back on their heels against the Huskies, Auriemma explained, “I’ll bet you that in the other 15 games they didn’t have to deal with that kind of pressure. Notre Dame passes the ball really well. We never let them get into their kind of rhythm. . . . When you can stop all the things they like to do, they have to improvise and try to do something different,” he continued.  “If you never had to do that before, it can be really hard.”

A final word on intensity. “I don’t think Caroline Doty is any better an athlete than they have. Not better than Diggins, or Barlow,” Auriemma explained. “I just think that the intensity you have, matters. You just don’t see that much any more. Look around the country. It’s more, ‘You can get yours and I’ll get mine, and it’s OK.’ We don’t play like that much of the time. . . But then there are stretches of four or five minutes,” he added, never fully satisfied, “when I wonder if it’s the same team out there.”

Next Up: The Huskies take to the road Monday against No. 6 Duke. In the past, Auriemma has presaged the Duke games with some challenge to take the pressure off his team. (Example: The famous, “Just as many Duke grads are waiting tables as UConn grads.”) This year, maybe not. “I have no plans for the Duke fans. I’m just not getting any vibes,” he said. “We’ll see what happens when I get down there. I’m too old for that now. I was a lot younger then.” But it may be that his attitude only reflects his extreme confidence in this particular UConn squad. “If we go down to Cameron and there’s 8000 people there, that’s easy,” he continued. “Our kids really love those kind of environments. That brings out the best in [them].”

Notre Dame visits Louisville Tuesday.

Stat of the day: UConn has now gone 594 games without losing back to back contests.

Originally published Sat, January 16, 2010

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.