UConn coach Geno Auriemma applauds Huskies’ focus, unselfishness

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Connecticut’s spring semester started Tuesday and the women’s basketball team boarded another plane, braced to live out of the suitcases that have served as the main fashion accessory in their lives the first two months of the season.

Off to Central Florida they went. And then, shortly after a 100-45 win Wednesday at CFE Arena, the team boarded another charter back to Connecticut so the players could attend class Thursday.

There’s more: After classes on Thursday and Friday, the team leaves for Cincinnati, where they play the Bearcats on Sunday afternoon.

“The older you get, the more mature you become, the better you learn how to best manage your homework and communicate with your teachers,” Moriah Jefferson said.

It can be hard, but that’s part of the life of a college athlete. … There’s a lot going on every day in their lives. If you are not disciplined and committed to the process then you are going to struggle.
— Geno Auriemma

Even for a team that prides itself on its focus, times like this can try patience. And the best way to tell if a basketball team is impatient, tired or simply frustrated is by charting the shortcuts it takes in games.

“It can be hard, but that’s part of the life of a college athlete,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “There’s classes, flights, hotel, study halls and shoot-arounds. There’s a lot going on every day in their lives. If you are not disciplined and committed to the process then you are going to struggle.”

The No. 2 Huskies did not struggle Wednesday. They took no shortcuts. Their movement was purposeful, their production, certainly in terms of passing and shooting, was exemplary.

“It’s something we stress every day, find the open man,” Auriemma said. “We want the players to be unselfish. We have a lot of very good offensive players on the team, a lot of guys who can make shots. So it’s very important to have players on the floor who are good passers. That’s one of the big reasons we are hard to play against. If you get open on our team, someone will find you and that’s not easy for a defense to deal with.”

The Huskies were 42-for-70 from the field (60 percent), 7-for-15 on 3-pointers. They assisted on 25 of the field goals, led by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who complemented her game-high 23 points with five assists.

“It’s a feel-good thing,” Mosqueda-Lewis said of the assists. “I love when I make a good pass. It builds confidence in yourself and your teammates.”

Mosqueda-Lewis needs eight points on Sunday to pass Svetlana Abrosimova (1,865) into 10th place all-time among UConn scorers.

The Huskies even made 9 of 12 free throws, the one area the team probably needs to improve most. But it was what happened when the action was flowing that impressed Auriemma.

“The only thing you have absolute control over as a team is your shot selection,” Auriemma said. “When you take good shots when you are open, take the shots you are supposed to take when you are supposed to take them, you will probably shoot a high percentage.

“It is something we’ve preached here every single day for the last 30 years.”

In their past five games, all conference wins, the Huskies have not shot less than 51.4 percent.

“We know just about [how] everyone on this team can score,” Jefferson said. “So we want to keep on moving the ball until we find someone who is wide open.”

The proficiency is coming from all areas, but none greater than point guard where Jefferson has made 13 consecutive shots through two games. Jefferson is shooting 58.1 percent even though 48 of her 146 shots have been 3-pointers.

“I hope she misses another one soon,” Mosqueda-Lewis joked. “She’s beating me in 3-point percentage.”

Jefferson is shooting 52.1 percent from 3. Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn’s greatest career 3-point producer (331), is at 50.9 percent.

“She is just going to make our team that much better,” Mosqueda-Lewis said.

The Huskies (17-1, 7-0) will take a 16-game winning streak to Cincinnati. They have won each of the 25 games they’ve played in AAC. This season, they have built a winning margin of 47.1 points in conference games.

“The challenge for us is to stay in that mode,” Auriemma said. “At the same time, we’re not really worried what the score is. I’m just concerned that the team doesn’t develop bad habits or gets sloppy. We want play the game the way we want to play it.”

This article was written by John Altavilla from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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