After 16 games, the Hall of Fame coach has a pretty good idea about how his players are performing, how his team is melding. It provides a clue about the future, although as they say in the trade, past performance is not an indication of future growth.
In the moments following Tuesday's 72-58 win over No. 15 Louisville, Auriemma announced that all seems well with his 15-1 team, ranked No. 3 in the nation.
"Our defense was as good as it's been all year," Auriemma said. "We've become a pretty good defensive team. We've been good all year, but there are things about our defense that are getting better."
The Huskies held the Cardinals (14-4) to 34.3 percent shooting. Shoni Schimmel, one of the better three-point shooters in the nation, was 2 of 7, and her team finished 4 of 19.
This growth, Auriemma said, is consistent with his experience when January prepares to turn to February.
"It's that time now when [upperclassmen] know what's at stake," Auriemma said. "They understand what's going on and it's their turn now to make sure it gets done. That's the way it is supposed to be."
Auriemma was referring to his veteran troika, guards Kelly Faris and Bria Hartley and center Stefanie Dolson. All played well Tuesday, even though Hartley was 3 of 11 from three and Faris, the nation's assist/turnover leader, matched assists (seven) with turnovers.
"[Kelly needs to understand] that if that pass isn't going to work the first time, it's not going to work the second or third time, either," Auriemma said. "What that does is prevent you from getting a quality shot every time down the floor. … Shea Ralph [the UConn assistant] made a good point. She said, 'They are doing what they want to happen, instead of what actually is going on.'"
"Here's how I explain it to the players: We had 64 shots. If we cut our 18 turnovers in half, or even down to 10, that means eight other times we didn't get a shot. If during those eight possessions, we make three three-pointers, well, that's nine more points, a huge difference in a game. And that's one of those things that catches up to you later on."
Breanna Stewart did not play for the second straight game because of her sprained left ankle, injured when she landed on Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' ankle last Friday in practice.
Stewart had the ankle braced and warmed up. Auriemma said that if an emergency developed, she could have played. Auriemma expects her to play Saturday at the XL Center against Syracuse.
"I think she's come along a lot faster than we initially thought when she first got hurt,'' Auriemma said. "Dr. [Tom] Trojian said that she might not be able to play until Monday [Duke], unless [athletic trainer] Rosemary [Ragle] can do what she normally does and fix these guys a lot sooner than everybody thinks. And I think that's what's happened. She looks good."
"So I'm expecting her fully to be ready to go on Saturday. But she'll screw up our rotation so I might not play her, anyway.''
Hartley's left ankle has been a problem since the summer when she sprained it playing for USA Basketball in Greece. The injury forced her to miss the first two games of the season and had something of a lasting impact all season.
Then in the opening minutes against Marquette on Saturday, Hartley aggravated the ankle injury and played only five minutes.
But once again, Ragle got her ready quickly and Hartley played 33 minutes on Tuesday. She didn't shoot especially well (6 of 15), but she was moving fine and scored 16 points, her most since getting 21 against Oakland on Dec. 19. She also had a season-high seven rebounds.
"If you stand around, it kind of gets stiff so it was better that I was out there running around," Hartley said. "I did a good job during the warmup getting myself ready."
Ragle has been one of UConn's MVPs this season. She has done a remarkable job helping rehabilitate the Huskies' injured players.
"Right after I got hurt at Marquette, [Ragle] made sure it didn't swell up and actually had me ice the ankle two or three times," Hartley said. "She did a lot of mobility things for the ankle so that it could get used to that function again. She had me on the treadmill and elliptical in practice on Monday. It's all designed to get you moving. It's all about how much pain you can tolerate. If whatever you are doing doesn't bother you, you just try to do a little bit more."