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UConn's rotation rumblings

POSTED December 30, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


                                               UConn's rotation rumblings


            STORRS – Geno’s got a problem. Well, maybe not exactly a problem. Let’s call it a concern. On third thought, it’s not quite a concern. Let’s just say he has to figure something out and leave it at that.

            What on earth could gnawing at UConn coach Geno Auriemma? Note – even gnawing may be too strong of a term here. The Huskies are undefeated at 13-0 and No. 1 in the country. They don’t just win, they administer equal opportunity poundings to the good and not so good, winning their games by an average of 37 points. Heck opposing fans start doing the cha-cha when their teams cut the UConn lead to 16 or 18 points.

            Early season injuries to Morgan Tuck and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis have healed. There is nothing here that should move a hair out on place Auriemma’s well-manicured head. Ahh, there is no such thing as perfect though is there?

            The Huskies jumped out to a 16-0 lead and dusted a great part of the UConn past, coach Jamelle Elliot and her Cincinnati Bearcats, 67-34, Sunday afternoon at Gampel Pavilion. Business as usual in result but an uneven performance on the offensive end couldn’t be hidden. Even in a 33-point victory.  

            Now Geno won’t tell you he has too many good players. But, trying to fit them all in? Well, that’s another story. With all hands on board now, the rotation hit nine players against the Bearcats and it didn’t exactly work to perfection.

            Finding the right combinations was difficult and any kind of flow was erratic at best.

            “That second group really had a couple great days of practice so I thought I’d try a New Year’s resolution and try and play all those guys a lot more minutes and obviously that’s not going to happen again,” said Auriemma. “That kind of got us away from what we were doing and then we kind of got stuck.”

            The Huskies had balance but no explosion. Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Brian Hartley all had 12 points and 10 players scored but there was an inconsistency throughout. Stewart shot 4-of-15 and the Huskies shot 41 percent (25-for-61). For the first time since the peach basket was being used there were more turnovers than assists, 11-10.

            After the 16-point run to start the game, the rest of the first half was even with UConn leading, 33-20, at the break. In the second half, the Huskies defense ruled the day, limiting Cincinnati to just 14 points.

            Mosqueda-Lewis, Stewart, Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson and Moriah Jefferson are going to play. Morgan Tuck, Saniya Chong, Brianna Banks and Kiah Stokes are going to fight for the sixth and seventh positions, but don’t expect that nine-man rotation any more.  That’s done. Dead.

            “This having nine guys available now that’s like all great, lovey-dovey and everything but it’s going to take a while getting used to after we’ve played with six or seven most of the time,” said Auriemma.  “I have to do a better job of figuring who should be in with who and who plays well with who so it doesn’t end up being stand around and watch.”

            Eight players on this night played 12 minutes or more with as many as three being subbed in at one time. Dolson was the only player over 30 minutes, logging 35 minutes.

            “The thing I keep going back to is that if I only played six players whatever you saw that wasn’t really great would have never happened,” said Auriemma. But when you are trying to play nine players it is going to look ugly at times. Because not everybody fits with everybody else and not everybody is in tune with what we are trying to do and when we are trying to do it.”

            Nine may play, but they won’t all play in the same game or the same minutes. It will depend on what the Huskies’ need and who can provide it.

            Auriemma understands that is a double-edged sword. Every program in the country would like to have to figure this one out. They would also like the luxury of sorting while beating teams by double digits and more on a nightly basis.

            “The more players you play the longer it takes to get that kind of offensive chemistry. It’s not easy,” said Auriemma. “I would have rather have that problem than some other people’s problems who only have six players and three of them aren’t worth anything. I take my problems rather than anybody else’s.”

            It is all about balance and combinations in the long run.

            “The hard part is trying to find a good balance between the things you need on the floor.  What’s the best combinations out there and sometimes the combinations just don’t work. Finding that right combination and right rotation is one of the hardest thing for coaches to figure out. That’s why I never worry when we only have six or seven players it makes my job easier. “That’s why players love it they know they’re never coming out.”

            Okay so maybe you say what’s the big problem. The offense was a little off but they won by 33. Is it nitpicking?” Not really, it is why UConn wins national championships. They never rest on the result. It’s always about getting better. And who is better than the Huskies?  

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