No. 1 UConn women hit the road again

There’s no truth to the rumor that as the UConn women’s basketball team passed Gampel Pavilion en route to yet another trip to Bradley International Airport, some of the freshmen asked, “What’s that building used for?”

Since the regular season began, the Huskies have played all of one game inside UConn’s on-campus arena. There have been three trips to the XL Center in Hartford, one to Mohegan Sun Arena as well as games in Ohio, California, Oregon, Nevada and Illinois in addition to a trip out of the country so senior guard Kia Nurse could play a game in her native Ontario.

The well-traveled Huskies are back on the road playing at East Carolina on Wednesday (2 p.m., SNY) followed by a trip to meet South Florida on Saturday. Wednesday’s game, originally a 7 p.m. start, was moved up five hours because of an expected snowstorm.

When the nation’s top-ranked team returns to campus after the USF game, they will have traveled more than 14,000 miles this season.

“It seems like we can’t be any kind of homestand going and these two are not exactly short trips and the next two are Houston and Texas (after a Jan. 9 home game against UCF), so you can’t get much further than that in our league,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Hopefully, all that travel in November, we understand this is what we have to do, this is what it entails ... when we get back to school at the end of January we will have a lot of home games because the schedule hasn’t been kind to us up to this point, but it will be worth it when February comes around.”

The squad got used to travel during a tour of Italy in August.

“We traveled quite a bit with this team, but I think we do a good job of trying to maintain our focus,” Nurse said. “We read a lot of books, we do a lot of games with CD (associate coach Chris Dailey) and enjoy each other’s company. It is a lot more fun when you have people around you that you get to experience this with. It is a bit of a transition. There is a lot with becoming accountable, becoming mature, you are on your own for the first time and you are always on these plane rides. I think they (the freshmen) are doing a great job. They ask questions when they have to and as the season goes on, it gets easier.”

With the spring semester not starting until Jan. 16, there will be no studying on upcoming road games against East Carolina, USF, Houston and Texas.

“Now we have winter break so this is the time when we enjoy playing basketball and this is almost what you came for, just to have practices and games,” UConn junior guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson said. “This year more than ever, I had to write more papers on planes than I ever wanted to. I remember my freshman year having to wake myself up at 6 a.m. just to write it. When you get older you learn it is better to write it after the game on the plane because that is a quiet opportunity for you. I think as you get older, you just figure things out.”

“You don’t want your academics to affect your on-court (performance) because if you aren’t going to take care of what you need to in the classroom, you aren’t going to get on the court.”

The freshmen learned that the hard way. Mikayla Coombs and Lexi Gordon didn’t make the trip to Chicago for the DePaul game so they could get ready for the upcoming final exams. Andra Espinoza-Hunter wasn’t with the team when the Huskies rolled past Memphis in Sunday’s American Athletic Conference opener for personal reasons, according to Auriemma.

“It is something we have never experienced before so it is a lot on us,” UConn freshman forward Megan Walker said. “I feel like we are working through it and finally coming out on the bright side.”

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