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Irwin sparks UConn blowout of Virginia

POSTED November 19, 2019
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                HARTFORD –  There was a good old fashioned vintage UConn women’s basketball team performance at the XL Center Tuesday night from a team that is not expected to be of vintage caliber this season.

                The Huskies will be good this year but what that translates into will be a work in progress as the journey plays out. No automatics, no guaranteed Final Four, more mystery than ever to be honest. In the meantime there is still plenty of DNA here.

                The Huskies put a beat down on Virginia, 83-44 in front of 7,728 fans with their best performance of the young season replete with a touch of powerful past norms.

                There was balanced scoring with four double figure scorers led by Megan Walker with 19 points and Christyn Williams with 17. There was the crisp passing game with rapid movement and backdoor cuts that led to 21 assists on 30 baskets.  The Huskies controlled the boards with a 32-22 rebounding advantage.

                The defense was superb, helping hold the Cavaliers to 14-of-57 shooting (24.6 percent), included in the futility a drought of 9:55 without a basket in the first half which saw UConn go on a 28-1 run and turn a 9-5 deficit into a 33-10 lead.

                But the best part of the night as UConn looks down the road might have come from the bench in the form of Kayla Irwin. The senior forward racked up a career high 13 points and dished off five assists in almost 31 minutes of action.

                The bench was a weak and sore spot a year ago. Irwin’s performance followed up a big effort from freshman Aubrey Griffin against Temple (nine points, eight rebounds) and will be a needed punch this season.

                “Sunday Aubrey came off the bench and gave us some great minutes and impacted the game. And Today Kayla did that, come off the bench and impacted the game,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “Impacted the game offensively, defensively, getting loose balls. You want to feel that you have people coming off the bench that can contribute however much that is. Sometimes it is a little, sometimes it is a lot.

                I’m thrilled for (Kayla). She is in a really good place and she’s really comfortable with this is what I can do and this is what I can contribute. I’m thrilled for her.”

                Auriemma said that in the past Irwin has tried to do too much, things she may not be capable of doing. Irwin says this year is different.

                “Whenever I go out there I try to do whatever I know I can do,” said Irwin. “I don’t try to spread myself too thin and try to do too much. I try to go out and help in any way I possibly can. Whether that is a two minute break for someone or whatever it is, I just try to do what I can do.”

                With the Huskies taking care of business early the other highlight of the night was Anna Makurat’s first outside basket, a three-pointer in the second quarter, after going 1-for-13 in the first three games, the basket coming on a layup.

                Auriemma had chided Makurat with being 0-for-America after the Temple game and when the ball dropped through the hoop he held his hands up in a touchdown signal while doing a pirouette.

                “He was sarcastic about it, I finally (made one). Maybe he’s happy I don’t know,” laughed Makurat who finished with 10 points and five assists. “He’s been on me about it.”

                Auriemma still wouldn’t let is freshman from Poland off the hook.

                “Did she make one? I have to see it on film, I still don’t believe it,” cracked Auriemma. “I told her she passes to everybody but the net I told her favorite targets are her teammates and the rim.  But Anna knows how to impact the game whether she’s scoring or not. What did she have five assists again tonight. That’s three games in a row. “

                UConn rolled to a 42-17 halftime lead and cruised in the second half.

                ‘We’re getting better at sustaining things a little longer….we’re getting open shots and great opportunities,” said Auriemma. The Temple game gave them a pick-me-up and  it carried over into tonight’s game. Hopefully we can keep building from there.”

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