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Auriemma: UConn missteps are 'self-inflicted,' 'fixable' as Huskies face Seton Hall

UConn coach Geno Auriemma's most recent analogy when it comes to explaining how badly his team needs to make a few shots is to compare the shot-making to cooking.

"You're not going to shoot the ball great all the time but shooting does make everything else look better," Auriemma said Thursday. "Shooting's like the extra virgin olive oil in cooking. You put that on shoes and shoes'll taste good. You make enough shots, your team's going to look good; it doesn't matter how bad it is. We just gotta make some shots.

"Right now we just need a little more confidence or a little more of we got to find a week where we consistently make some shots and go on a little bit of a roll."

In the midst of what Auriemma called a "weird, weird, weird situation that we're in," the ninth-ranked UConn women's basketball team will take on Big East Conference opponent Seton Hall at 7 Friday night at Gampel Pavilion (SNY). UConn (9-4, 4-0) is coming off a 72-59 loss Monday at Oregon in which the Huskies had eight players available and used just six with the loss of senior guard Christyn Williams (COVID-19 protocols) the day before.

UConn seemed to finally adjust to the loss of national player of the year Paige Bueckers (left tibial plateau), freshman guard Azzi Fudd (right foot), sophomore guard Nika Muhl (right foot) and junior forward Aubrey Griffin (back, out for the season), with back-to-back blowouts of Butler (92-47) and Xavier (78-41) in the Big East.

But just as Muhl returned on a limited basis, with less strain on the rotation of guards, Williams, who had 19 points, seven rebounds and seven steals against Butler, exited.

UConn turned the ball over 19 times, resulting in 21 points for Oregon. Muhl played 40 minutes, which Auriemma admits shouldn't have happened with her coming off an injury.

Auriemma said Williams won't be available against Seton Hall or in Sunday's game at St. John's, nor is Fudd yet ready to return, meaning the same lineup that squared off against Oregon will need to find its way. UConn has not suffered consecutive losses in 1,036 games dating back to the 1993 season.

The good news? Auriemma said most of UConn's missteps against Oregon were self-inflicted, things he feels are fixable.

"It would be different if we would say there's things happening to us that can't be fixed; well now we've got some serious, serious problems," he said in Thursday's Zoom conference with the media. "But all these things are things that are within our ability to fix them. Whether they will get fixed or not, that's a separate question.

"This team that we're dealing with right now as a group, we have to stay strong mentally. That's where the mistakes come from. Right now, it's more a mental toughness thing than it is a physical toughness thing. There's no easy way out of this."

Auriemma said that due to the limited personnel "we've never been in this situation in the 37 years I've been here."

He said the team has to stay in the present, not looking ahead to the near future when Williams, Fudd and Bueckers may trickle back into the lineup and make things much easier.

"You say, 'Well, what can this team do to get back on track?'" Auriemma said. "You mean the track to win a national championship? That's not even in our plans. Right now the only track I'm looking forward to is winning a game against Seton Hall Friday night and trying to figure out what we have to do to win the game."

"Right now there's so much adversity going on, we just have to stay present," graduate forward Dorka Juhasz said. "It's very early to think about what's going to be in March ... what's important is how we can stand up from this loss, this previous loss, play a game tomorrow, be our best version and keep improving and work on that team chemistry."

UConn freshman Caroline Ducharme had 22 points against Oregon and senior Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 17 points and eight rebounds.

Seton Hall (8-7, 3-4) is coming off an 84-79 victory over St. John's on Wednesday, in which Lauren Park-Lane (31) and Andra Espinoza-Hunter (25) each had season highs in the win. UConn beat Seton Hall 74-49 on Dec. 3 at Seton Hall.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

 

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