Friday kicks off the World Vision Classic in Storrs and Hartford. It's not quite the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, but it's another test for the UConn women, who are fresh off their 10-point victory over No. 5 Stanford.
Next up: Farleigh Dickinson comes to Gampel at 7:30 Friday in a game that won't have quite the NCAA Tournament atmosphere of the Cardinal matchup, but will provide the Huskies an opportunity to improve on an underwhelming offensive effort against Stanford.
Save freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and sophomore Bria Hartley, who combined for 65 percent of UConn's points, there wasn't much in the way of scoring from the rest of a team quite capable of putting points on the board in bunches.
But coach Geno Auriemma considers it an opportunity to learn and grow, especially since the Huskies managed to win in the process.
“The key is, how do you beat a really good team when those [shots] don’t go in?” Auriemma said earlier in the week, according to the Hartford Courant. “And that’s what we did. We didn’t win because we made every shot. It’s easy to do that. I think you feel better when you win games when shots don’t go in.”
It wasn't the usually high-powered offense; instead it was a reinforcement of the old cliche: defense wins championships. Or in this case: defense wins tough games against quality opponents.
“We talked about that afterwards in the locker room. It was a win for us and I don’t mean on the scoreboard,’’ Auriemma said. “Even if we had not won the game on the scoreboard, I think it was a win in a lot of ways because we won at a lot of the things that I wanted us to win at.
“We out-rebounded them by one. I think the way we competed [was great]. We probably tipped more passes than we had at any time since practice started. So a lot of the things that we’ve been stressing we accomplished (Monday). To also be able to win is a huge accomplishment for this group because I’m sure there was a lot of uncertainty on their part.”
In general, moral victories have no place in big-time college athletics, especially among the elite programs. But there's also something to take away from a game like UConn-Stanford. They're two evenly matched teams and it's reasonable to think that if they faced each other 10 times, they'd each win five.
The takeaway: sometimes the outcome is out of your control. Sometimes luck plays a prominent role. All you can do is play your game, whether that's scoring, defense or just hustling after loose balls. Last week, the Huskies prevailed. And even if they hadn't, it wouldn't have taken away from their effort, which will serve them well as the season unfolds.
Also serving them well: the contributions from center Stefanie Dolson, who scored nine points and nine rebounds against the Cardinal.
“She’s such a big presence for us down low,’’ former Huskies great Maya Moore said recently. “Last year, she was huge as well, just being an offensive threat and being consistent. I think she’s going to have to be one of the more consistent players for the team as the starting center.
“I have all the confidence in the world that she’s going to do that. So it’s an exciting time for her. All of our freshmen didn’t really get much of a chance to kind of just sit back last season. They kind of had to be thrown into the fire. So I think it’s going to pay off for them in this season as well. So I’m excited to see how she’s grown, as well as all the other underclassmen.”