Maryland gives UConn a tough test, Huskies overcome Terps in physical Jimmy V Classic 63-48
HARTFORD, Conn. — In the aftermath of the Connecticut’s 63-48 victory over an undermanned Maryland team in the Jimmy V Classic last night, one coach was smiling broader than the other, and it was not who you might expect.
“How many of you didn’t think we had a chance in this game tonight,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese to begin her postgame comments. “I’m really, really proud of how we battled. Obviously a hard environment to come in, it was electric, but I love the fact there is no quit in this team.”
While Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma was not totally thrilled with his team’s struggle with the Maryland size, he was happy to get the win, and continue to move forward.
“It’s always good to win a game when you don’t shoot the ball very well and your struggling offensively and some of the younger guys are struggling a little bit,” Auriemma explained.
Despite losing their starting backcourt of Brene Moseley and Laurin Mincy to ACL injuries, the Terps battled with only seven players and no true point guard, giving the second-ranked Huskies their hardest test of the young season. An uptempo, potential Final Four candidate with Moseley and Mincy, Maryland is now in the position of having to become more of an aggressive, physical team dominated by their front line of Tianna Hawkins and Alicia DeVaughn. The duo combined for 22 of the team’s 48 points last night, and 19 rebounds.
Freshman Chloe Pavlech will have to handle the bulk of the ball handling for Maryland now, and she responded in her first big test, playing a team high 38 minutes and only committing four turnovers against the vaunted Husky pressure defense. She contributed 10 points as well.
However, All-American Alyssa Thomas has the toughest adjustment in the new lineup, taking on guard responsibilities and being the player the Terps look to for leadership and play making even more so than previously. The defense of Connecticut frustrated Thomas, holding her to only six points on 2-for-12 shooting. Thomas also committed eight turnovers.
A good amount of those turnovers came at the hands of Husky senior Kelly Faris. Faris, long known by Husky fans as the glue of their teams, a player that fills the stat sheet in virtually every phase with positive numbers, has not drawn the attention nationally due to the more spectacular talents of teammates like Maya Moore and Tina Charles. However with the improvement in her offensive game this year and an aggressiveness that has gotten even stronger as a senior, Faris is finally getting her due.
On national television last night Faris “only” scored eight points, pulled in seven rebounds (three offensive rebounds), dished seven assists and had eight steals, while committing zero turnovers. Faris admitted she loves the big games.
“I just wanted to be out there the whole time! Until I got really, really tired,” she laughed. “This is my last year, this is my last go around, so tonight I was like, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. But, I have to be careful not to get ahead of myself because that can happen too. It’s exciting, there’s pushing and shoving, we’ve got people down on the floor every single play. It gets you excited.”
When Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was unable to play in the second half with an injured leg, sophomore guard Brianna Banks continued her drive for an even bigger role, hitting three three-pointers in the second half to finish with 11 points in 19 minutes. Auriemma commented that Banks is already ahead of where the coaches expected her to be this season; they thought by mid-season she would be playing with confidence, but he said there is no hesitation to play Banks in any situation now.
Stefanie Dolson continued her fine play for the Huskies, leading the team in scoring with 14 points and eight rebounds. However, it was her massive block on Hawkins and a rare stare down from Dolson that had people talking.
“I don’t do it often, so when I get a block like that, it’s like an out-of-body experience. I just got really excited,” she said with a big grin. She did admit that most likely she and Hawkins will not be exchanging Christmas cards after this one.
Freshman standout Breanna Stewart scored 13 points, but struggled for the first time, making only four of 12 shots and committing five turnovers. Faris discussed the changes that a freshman at UConn faces as the weather gets colder and the calendar turns to December.
“From this point on there’s not going to be an easy game,” she said. “All the easy stuff is out of the way, and the rest of our season is something we’re going to have to work really, really hard for. I’m hoping she understands that now, and it’s not easy as a freshman, when you come in and the first few games you’re winning by whatever the margin was, you kind of think ‘oh, this is nice.’ Then you get your first challenge and you’ve got to step it up, and work a lot harder for it. She’s a smart kid, she’s a smart player. She’ll figure it out.”
Stewart will get the chance almost immediately, as Penn State comes to Storrs on Thursday night, hoping to avenge their loss in the NCAA tournament at the hands of the Huskies. Also on Thursday, Maryland will open their ACC conference season with rival Virginia coming to College Park.