• December 6, 2021

West Virginia to UConn: Let’s get physical!

Whenever a team plays against Mike Carey’s West Virginia Mountaineers teams, the opponent knows what it is in for, a physically demanding, hard fought, usually ugly and low-scoring game. This year’s squad is younger and a little less talented than some of his previously successful squads, but definitely just as physical.

Going into their last game prior to the matchup in South Bend versus third-ranked Notre Dame, UConn needed to fine tune and build upon the successes started last week in their game against Fairfield. The last thing they needed was to be pushed around, shoved to the ground, and generally out of sync in almost every aspect of the game, which of course is exactly what West Virginia did to them last night. The score may have shown a 79-60 victory for the Huskies, but it was not a game they will be bragging about anytime soon.

“It was a frustrating game. It was one of those games where we walk away and it’s a win, but it’s not very satisfying,” voiced Kelly Faris, who played one of her typically strong all around the games, scoring a season high 14 points, to go with five rebounds, five assists and six steals.

Leading scorer Bria Hartley (18 points) echoed the thoughts of Faris.

“It took a lot to pull out a win and still play hard and to keep trying and working hard out there.”

UConn’s Stefanie Dolson, called the second best center in the country earlier in the year by head coach Geno Auriemma, was overwhelmed inside, and dominated by the more aggressive Asya Bussie, who simply pushed, shoved and boxed out Dolson, while scoring 19 points herself. Dolson was 1 of 6 shooting, with a few of those misses coming from the foul line area, as Bussie backed off the bigger Husky, and dared her to shoot the jump shot. Dolson declined several times to take the shot when it was open, and missed when it was.

The problem of post help off the bench remains for UConn, as Heather Buck rested her injured wrist last night, and Kiah Stokes was trusted with only ten minutes. Stokes did a much better job offensively than she has of late, scoring eight points, including two on a beautiful give-and-go drive down the lane.

Senior Tiffany Hayes commented that the Huskies are even working without a post on the court in practice at times.

“We work on things like that, when Stefanie is not in practice. We go with five guards and practice with the big guys like that.  It will definitely help if she’s in the game but if not we will find a way to work around it.”

To Carey, however, the difference in the game was his team’s 29 turnovers.

“I guess I have to do a better job of teaching our kids how to take the ball out of bounds because we just kept passing it to the other team,” he joked. “I don’t understand that. This will be great film for tomorrow. I can’t wait to get to film, and I’m sure they can’t either.”

There were certainly plenty of positives for West Virginia to take from the game however, as they outrebounded the Huskies and shot a higher field goal percentage for the game. In addition to Bussie’s 19, Cristal Caldwell contributed 17 points and seven rebounds for the Mountaineers.

Auriemma put the game in perspective, however, as both teams continue with their in conference schedules.

“When you go through the league season there are going to be a lot of [games like this] where it is not just pass and cut.  We got a lot of open shots in the first half that didn’t go in. We’ve got to be able to win even when we don’t make shots.”

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