Geno Auriemma is taking one for the team - his UConn womenâs basketball team.
Trying to explain why the Huskies couldnât make a 3-point or midrange shot to save their lives or made 19 often-mindless turnovers in their disheartening 72-59 loss to Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene Monday, the Hall of Fame coach pointed a finger at himself.
âItâs been a real struggle to get some of these guys to understand how to take care of the ball, how to make better decisions,â said Auriemma, whose already-shorthanded team was without Christyn Williams, who was out due to COVID protocols. âFrom a coaching standpoint, itâs been (lousy) coaching by far, the worst itâs ever been. It shows up.â
What would have helped is if his players other than senior Olivia Nelson-Ododa and freshman Caroline Ducharme showed up against the Ducks (10-5), who got healthy at the right time to face the Huskies (9-4).
Ducharme finished with 22 points but was only 1 for 8 from behind the arc (9 for 13 inside). Nelson-Ododa was UConnâs best player with 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting, eight rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots, and two steals.
The other four who played - Nika Muhl, Evina Westbrook, Dorka Juhasz, and lone substitute Aaliyah Edwards - made 7 of 27 shots and committed 12 turnovers in their combined 127 minutes on the floor.
Auriemma canât shoot, pass, catch, defend, and rebound for them, right?
âWe ran a play where we threw it to Aaliyah and Liv cut, and we threw it to Liv and got a layup and a foul,â Auriemma said. âThere was a time out and we came out and said âWeâre going to do that again, and I think weâre going to get a 3 this time. Just come down and do the exact same thing. They think weâre going to score that way. Throw it to Aailiyah. Aaliyah, find Liv cutting to the basket. Liv when you catch it, Caroline or somebody will be in the corner for a wide open 3.
âThe guard with the ball throws it to Liv instead of Aaliyah so Livâs not ready for it and the ball goes out of bounds. So what am I not happy about? I donât know what language to speak to get my point across.
âThatâs just one small part of it. My communication skills, I think, are not very good anymore. Like when I say trap the ball screen, I have to figure out a different way to say it. Just simple things like that Iâm not happy about.â
Muhl played 40 minutes in her fourth game back and her only hoop was a 3-pointer with the game long decided. Sheâs not much of a scorer anyway, but she committed four turnovers and wasnât disruptive on the defensive end where she needs to make a difference. Juhasz took a step back over the holiday weekend after a stretch of looking like the two-time all-Big Ten player she was at Ohio State.
But Westbrook has been a non-factor for a month and Edwards has only on rare occasions flashed the form that made her a key contributor as a freshman.
But with three No. 1 high school recruits on the roster, the Huskies could overcome some adversity. They headed to Oregon knowing injured Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd wouldnât play, but then learned Sunday that Williams would sit out as well.
âAfter the first injury we had with Paige, it took us a little bit of time to regroup,â Auriemma said. âWe started hitting our stride and we could see a little bit of light.
âHaving those four games canceled I think really set us back. It took us awhile to catch up. Just when we thought we were catching up, we have this thing with Christyn. Iâm holding up OK. I have a pretty good idea of whatâs going on, what we can do, canât do, who can do what and who canât do what.â
The Huskies took a 10-0 lead Monday only to be outscored 39-14 for the rest of the first half. The Ducks were up by as many as 24 in the second half.
Itâs the second time this season (South Carolina on Nov. 22) UConn has lost a game by double figures that it once led by double figures. Before this year, it had not happened since the 2001 NCAA Final Four semifinals in St. Louis.
âOne of the issues we have is the players are on a roller coaster,â Auriemma said. âThereâs the first part of the game when we are on a high, and then when it goes the other way we donât have the ability out on the floor for people to make a big play, make a shot, get a rebound, get fouled make to free throws, get a steal and a transition basket.
âEverything is really, really, really hard. Couple that with you canât really go to the bench much, and I think that mentally itâs easy to wear down. Our job as coaches is to try to keep up mentally and physically at the same time until hopefully we will get more people back.â
Williamsâ status for Fridayâs home game with Seton Hall is unknown. Fudd and Bueckers are making strides in rehab but their return to action is unknown.
Thereâs only so much that Auriemma can do. Itâs time for each player to look in the mirror and decide they need to do more.