Geno Auriemma's Huskies begin their NCAA title defense Saturday with an easy 89-34 win over Hartford and Jen Rizzotti, who played for Auriemma in the 1990s. UConn ran its record to 25-4 in regular-season openers and Auriemma is now 39-0 against former players or assistants.
Four players scored in double-figures, led by Moriah Jefferson's 17 points and Stefanie Dolson's 16 points and team-high six rebounds. UConn held Hartford to 27 percent shooting for the game while they converted 60 percent of their looks. Afterwards, spoke about the progress of his players but the conversation had already turned to Monday night's matchup against No.3 Stanford.
“I remember when winning these games meant everybody in the country would say…wow, look at Connecticut, they are really good…where did they come from?" Auriemma said Saturday. "If we win Monday night, everybody goes 'big deal…they are supposed to win.' You really don’t know what is the absolute best approach to take.
"I think, the approach that has helped us the most in the last ten years is one of…it’s November, we are home, we are playing a really good team, its national television, we want to go out and play great. ... I think what happens after Monday’s game is always bigger than what happens in Monday’s game. When we played Stanford last year, and we did that, we came home and the next five days in practice weren’t great, then we didn’t play great versus Notre Dame. I think the way you respond to tomorrow, obviously is important because you want to win, but what you do Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday is going to be a lot more important than what happens Monday night.”
Last December, the Huskies dominated the Stanford, 61-35. Auriemma was asked how that win set the tone for UConn's championship run.
“I think when you have a lot of players back, which they do, you work pretty hard not to bring up what happened last year," he said. "That certainly doesn’t happen very often, certainly not on their own court. It is certainly nothing that I foresaw happening when we went out there. They’ve done just that to a lot of other people, on trips to other people’s gyms. I think when you are a proud program like they are, when you have accomplished what they have accomplished over the years, I am sure that it didn’t go over very well. I’m sure that will be mentioned a few times before Monday night.”
When the two teams take the court in Gampel Pavilion Monday, Stanford coach Tara Van Derveer said “We will find off right off the bat what we need to work on, what we need to improve on.”
Meanwhile, Dolson knows that what happened last year doesn't mean much once the game starts.
“Any loss you suffer is a motivator,” Dolson said, via the Hartford Courant. “Losing by one point can be just as bad. So in that way, a loss is a loss. But I am sure they will come here fighting, ready to us their best. “We know expect that from anyone we play.”