UConn Women: Franklin Pierce Takes Preseason Pounding
UConn's Lorin Dixon hit the floor hard after getting tripped in the second half. Dixon had 11 pts.The UConn women's basketball team opened its season with a preseason win against Franklin Pierce College on Nov. 4. (STEPHEN DUNN, HARTFORD COURANT / November 4, 2010)
No more Tina Charles or Kalana Greene, remember.
But before the Huskies could think about extending their 78-game winning streak, there were two preseason games to play. And this first one, against Division II Franklin Pierce, gave the coaches and the fan base their first chance to see the five new freshmen in a competitive situation.
November 4, 2010
By JOHN ALTAVILLA email@example.com
STORRS -- They were wearing the same uniforms, playing for the same coaching staff, gearing up for the same championship run as they did back in the day.
But you really needed a program Thursday night to tell this UConn women's team apart from the one that preceded it.
Five freshmen made their debuts on a team of 10 in the preseason opener against Franklin Pierce at Gampel Pavilion. That's a lot for any team, especially one that has gone undefeated in winning back-to-back national championships.
For the record, the Huskies handled their business easily, beating one of the nation's top Division II programs 112-41 before 6,071.
"It was an exhibition and aptly named," Geno Auriemma said. "It was a chance for some of the players to find their way before it really means something. It's not about winning or losing. It's about the way you play and approach the game and how hard you compete."
Six UConn players scored in double figures, led by junior Tiffany Hayes (25 points) and senior All-American Maya Moore (24). Moore was 11-for-20 in 23 minutes and had seven assists and four steals.
"To tell you the truth, I paid no attention to anything Maya or Tiffany did tonight," Auriemma said.
That's because there was so much more to see, all of which contributed to UConn shooting 61.5 percent (48 of 78), outrebounding its opponent 48-19 and assisting on 28 hoops.
"We came out with a lot of energy," Moore said. "That's good for the first time out. We shared the ball well, had a lot of assists and that made the game fun to watch."
Freshmen Bria Hartley (14) and Samarie Walker (10 points, nine rebounds) made big contributions, as did sophomore Kelly Faris (11 points, six assists, five steals) and senior Lorin Dixon (11 points).
"I know, for myself, that I was a little nervous," Walker said. "You question yourself; am I good enough to measure up?"
Franklin Pierce played in last year's Division II Final Four and will begin the season ranked 14th in the WBCA Division II poll.
But it was without its top two players, likely lost for the season. And its best from last year's team, All-American Johannah Leedham, was a third-round draft pick of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun after leading Division II in scoring (26.9).
But in many fundamental ways, the result was similar to the carnage that has characterized the 78-game winning streak UConn will carry into the season.
UConn raced ahead 11-3 before the first three minutes were done. And as the scrimmage continued, the lead slowly extended until it rested at 37 (55-18) at halftime.
Still, this wasn't about the result as much as the process, as Auriemma said. He may know these players, but there is still much to learn about how they will work together when the season starts.
Auriemma started freshman center Stefanie Dolson (wearing Tina Charles' No. 31), Moore and three guards, Hayes, Faris and and Dixon.
"History is gone," Moore said. "This is what we have."
And when he dipped to his bench for Hartley and Walker, and finally for sophomore Heather Buck, neither the production nor the transition attack abated.
"I just wanted to come out with a lot of confidence and energy," Hartley said. "It was great to get used to the atmosphere."
Everything and everyone was in sync, especially the offense -- which often was a blur. The Huskies also used their post players to execute an effective inside-out attack and shot the ball surprisingly well for an exhibition opener.
But the biggest surprise all of may have been Walker. She broke from the gate with seven first-half rebounds in 10 minutes, making all three of her shots.
Recovering from a preseason hamstring injury and a knee that troubled her late in her senior season in high school, she was exceptional on the boards, especially on the offensive end.