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    Monday, April 15, 2024

    NCAA women’s notes: Geno rooting for UConn men, Hurley in ‘exciting time’ for Huskies

    UConn head coach Geno Auriemma reacts toward an official in the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Vermont in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Storrs. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    Storrs — In 2004, the UConn women’s basketball team, led by program great Diana Taurasi, lost to Boston College in the semifinals of the Big East Conference tournament championship before more than 10,000 fans at the XL Center.

    Then the Huskies won the national championship.

    Geno Auriemma, the longtime UConn coach, passed that tidbit along recently to Dan Hurley, coach of the UConn men’s program, after the men dropped a heartbreaker to Marquette in this year’s Big East tournament semis at Madison Square Garden.

    “I said, ‘Dude, don’t even show them the film,’” Auriemma said. “’Just get rid of it. Go on. Move on.’”

    Auriemma recounted the story of losing to BC 73-70 — its second straight loss in that tournament — then winning the national championship in New Orleans, the Huskies’ third straight national title.

    “So losing in that (Big East) tournament sucks because when you’re playing in the Big East, you want to win the Big East championship first and foremost. So I know how much it hurts to not win that tournament but at the same time there’s bigger goals out there.

    “They make a deep run, they go to the Final Four, no one will remember what happened in the Big East tournament.”

    The fourth-seeded UConn men (26-8) will play a second-round NCAA game against No. 5 Saint Mary’s at 6:10 p.m. Sunday in Albany, N.Y. The No. 2 women (30-5), with a 95-52 victory Saturday over Vermont, have a second-round matchup Monday against No. 7 Baylor in Storrs.

    “I think it’s an exciting time for UConn basketball and it’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Auriemma said. “I just think this weekend’s going to be awesome.”

    Picking up the ‘D’

    • On Selection Sunday, UConn point guard Nika Muhl said just how much having all 10 players on the roster available — for the first time in quite some time due to injuries — has helped the Huskies on defense.

    “I wouldn’t necessarily say that we wouldn’t allow ourselves to be aggressive,” said Muhl, the two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year. “I feel like overall we want to be aggressive no matter how many people we have.

    “But I told coach I want to play press. Let’s play more press. We haven’t played press all season because we didn’t have that many people. Now, obviously, I don’t have to watch whether I make a foul sometimes.”

    Auriemma said there were a few moments on defense that stood out to him in UConn’s win over Vermont, reminiscent of the defense he expected to see this season.

    “There were a couple,” Auriemma said. “There were a couple traps that we had that were really, really good and we had two of them in particular. Dorka (Juhasz) got in front of one and had a great steal. Azzi (Fudd) had a great one.

    “So we’re in a position where we can do that now and they enjoy it. So it’s not something that you can do all game, every game but it’s something certainly that we want to do.”

    Quotable

    • Auriemma on UConn’s lineup woes this season — the Huskies got Fudd, the sophomore sharpshooter, back from a right knee injury in time for the Big East tournament only to lose junior Aubrey Griffin to back spasms in the tournament final:

    “The last game of the tournament we lost Aubrey, so this year we can’t ever have it easy, you know. For everybody we add, we have to take one out. It’s like, you go buy a new sweater, you have to throw the other one out because you’re only allowed to have so many sweaters in your closet.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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