Posted by: kevinfortruth | March 8, 2013

How UCONN Women can assure a victory (or 2) next time against Notre Dame.


There are several givens regarding the rivalry between UCONN and Notre Dame.

  1. UCONN seldom has a problem building up a  comfortable lead – especially near the end of games.
  2. After building up a lead, UCONN seems to always feel the need to pick up the pace – like they are running a hundred yard dash.  That increases the likelihood of either making bad passes, travelling with the ball, or charging into a ND player when going in for a layup.  Look at the stats – every UCONN player made miscues (Dolson(11), Stewart(5), Faris(4), Hartley(4), KML(4), Tuck(3), Doty(2), and Jefferson(1), On a side note, I watched the game film over and over and I believe Dolson was charged with three turnovers that should have been charged to someone else (KML and Tuck) – I am only saying that because Dolson is taking a lot of heat because of the 11 chargeable turnovers attributed to her.
  3. After going at such a fast pace, UCONN’s free throw shooting percentage goes down from seasonal averages – individually and collectively as a team.

So, what is the remedy?  What logical strategy or strategies  can be employed to insure a victory?  Before I go into that, here are my observations about the triple overtime UCONN loss.  I am careful to not call it a Notre Dame victory because UCONN had three solid opportunities to win the game.

Geno himself said that when you have the opportunity to win the game, you need to do so, because, if not, your chance to win will diminish and Notre Dame will get their act together and eventually beat you.

Anyone who says that Notre Dame wanted the victory more is mistaken.  Both teams equally wanted the victory.  UCONN, in the second half and the first two overtime periods showed that they were working diligently on winning the game but in the process they made some strategic errors that eventually allowed Notre Dame to play their kind of game that resulted in the victory.

Okay, so here is the simple strategy that if followed, will insure a victory at the Big East Tournament and well as a victory, if and when, they meet again in the Final Four.

This strategy is based on the assumption that UCONN has made their patented run and has built up a reasonable lead.  Whatever game plan UCONN had to that point will eventually work against them – so they need to shift gears to take firm control of the ball and use the clock to their best advantage. 

Like in regulation and the first two overtimes, UCONN had leads of 3 points, 6 points, and 5 points with roughly 2 minutes left.

Instead of simply doing what they were doing, UCONN chose to pick up the pace and that resulted in dumb mistakes, charges, turnovers, bad passes, double dribbles, and working smartly for the best shots.

Instead, they need to do what is done in the NFL, totally go into an entirely different mode,  a mode that is totally the reverse of what teams do in the NFL. 

In the NFL, the team that is behind tries to run plays quickly – running plays to gain yards in chunks and trying to run out of bounds to stop the clock.  They are also obsessed with scoring as many points as necessary to tie or win the game.

Instead, UCONN needs to run their two minute drill called,  “Ball control, score if an ideal opportunity exists, protect the lead, and run the clock down” (BSPR) strategy.

Because UCONN has taller players, players who are significantly taller than their ND counterparts, i.e. Stewart, Dolson, Tuck, Buck, and Stokes, Geno might consider bringing in a little extra height to play tall defense anytime ND gets the ball and wants to run a fast break in hopes of making layups.

  1. That done, slow the jets down to prevent dumb mistakes. Use a guard to inbound ball and use bigs as targets to receive ball. Use four corners up the court and keep passing because it runs down the clock and encourages ND to make fouls.  UCONN players with lowest free throw percentages should keep the ball moving toward better free throw shooters.
  2. When on defense, use taller players (Dolson and Stewart and Tuck or Buck to fill up the free throw lane.  Anyone coming in for a layup – make sure UCONN defenders focus on the ball and do anything to block the ball, tie up the ball, steel the ball, or redirect the shot.  Make sure ball will come nowhere near the rim – by that I mean make a foul that will guarantee ball will not get near the rim at all. In effect, play the ball and only the ball.  Don’t worry about all the gyrations the offensive player might go through, the ball is the key.
  3. When UCONN is in possession of the ball, in addition to playing four corner ball control and slowing down the ball, when going anywhere near the basket, stop at a reasonable distance and take a short jumper – unless you can make an uncontested layup.  Don’t risk being called for a charging foul.  ND is great at quickly positioning to take a charge – especially if UCONN is going toward the basket at top speed – so fast they cannot react to someone setting up to take a charge.  If a short jump shot won’t work, briskly pass the ball to a teammate who might be free to take a better shot.
  4. Again, if you have the lead and you are already down the court, run the four corners with brisk passes.  If you are far enough apart, keep an eye on your teammate with the ball – keep moving and if ND tries to run a trap, be ready to receive a pass.  Play slow, pass smart – no bounce passes – and make sure you do not initiate any moving picks or screens (Dolson, they will be looking for you specifically because you are big and strong and well-conditioned AND you are not one of the “little darlings” like Diggins).  Keep in mind that if you are doing things deliberately and smartly they will not get steals and make fast breaks – they will have to foul you and give opportunities at the free throw line.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if UCONN is slowing it down they are not getting exhausted – too exhausted to shoot accurate free throws. Remember how they missed numerous “one and one’s” that would have sealed the victory – simply because they were exhausted from running at warp speed?

Albert Einstein is rumored to have said the following: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So UCONN, do something even a little different – implement some of all of the two minute strategies above and you will win the game.

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Responses

  1. I tend to agree with your comment that UCONN plays too fast [warp speed]and have made this same comment several times on JA’s Blog. This works well against weak teams but not against the better teams. The same can be said about pressure defenses…you can gamble against poor teams but good teams can actually thrive under this situation and find easy, open shots. There’s that old adage that teams who press don’t like to be pressed. That sure holds true for ND and Baylor because when Diggins and Sims doubled the ball, UCONN fell apart.

    I honestly feel that playing too fast is at the heart of many of UCONN’s problems, which is what you also stated. It contributes to careless passes, charging fouls, blocking fouls, and poor shot selection. For the past two weeks I’ve commented in JA’s Blog about too many turnovers and how that could be UCONN’s undoing. It certainly was against ND. Stated again, you can commit 15+ turnovers against poor teams and still win by 20, but you can’t do that against the better teams and still expect to win. One last comment…hindsight is great, but in that situation where Geno opted not to foul when they were up by 3 in OT and McBride hit the tying bucket, he should have considered having his tallest players [including Stokes] out in the front of a zone to contest any 3-point shots. Instead McBride was essentially left alone and she beat the odds with an uncontested shot.

    I enjoy reading your comments on JA’s Blog however it’s unfortunate that there are too many idiots…or a few idiots using multiple names….who comment only to get a rise out of the rest of us. From my point of view, they ruin the enjoyment for everyone else.

    • Hi Mike; Nice hearing from a fellow Irishman – or so it appears.

      Seems like we are on the same page. The strategy I proposed are for the same “power” teams that you mentioned. There is no need to imploy anything like that against weaker teams because they are already down 30 + points or more.

      Also, regarding putting the “talls” or “bigs” out on the perimeter, I proposed an alternative strategy, especially to the Diggins and Sims and a few others. If you have the bigs in the lane, then the high performance guards will not be able to dominate running their wiggle worm routines trying to draw a foul while scoring the basket.

      A couple of the bigs, trained like K-9’s you are teasing with a ball, will focus on the ball and not the shorter acrobat trying to score. Obviously one does not want Dolson or even Tuck fouling out, so it works to use the expendables like Stokes and Buck sacrificing their bodies to insure Diggins absolutely not make a two and then to supplement it with the 3rd point. Focusing on the ball, they will insure the first two points are not made. Then you have someone shooting two free throws with no chance of a three point play.

      Plus if they are confronted by a big body willing to take the hit, it might result in a charge and nothing is scored and Diggins is assessed a foul herself.

      I believe Diggins is not stupid enough to crash into a brick wall a few times.

      If memory serves me correctly, I believe ND shot 0 for 18 outside – I know that is unusual, but a tight defense kept successful outside shooting in check.

      Also, the clock is critical and so is sharp, crisp passing. Also, if UCONN knows that ND is going to trap the Doty’s and the Jefferson’s, they will be prepared to free themselves up to assist the guards.

      Smart conservative ball movement will result in fouls by ND and not turnovers that result in fast breaks and points.

      Notre Dame is EASILY beatible if coach Geno starts treating ND and Baylor differently than the gaggle of teams he rolled over with his pressure defense and his accelerated offense.

      Geno feels he is almost God-like and does not have to adapt to other good teams. Just tweaking his offense ever so slightly for 2 or 3 minutes could result in a few more undefeated seasons.

      I can’t believe his assistant coaches haven’t figured out that UCONN needs to play the clock instead of accelerating their speed, passing, and shooting when they have a lead.

      Everyone thought Stanford was going to roll over UCONN when UCONN went there but I was confident that UCONN would win.

      I also feel having two bigs in the game and rotating the pair every 8 – 10 minutes would result in UCONN beating Baylor. There is only one Griner, but if Dolson teamed up with Stokes and Tuck teamed up with Buck, they could double Griner – also, Stewart is ready for a breakout game. I cannot figure her out – she is overdue to give it her all. I think she has lost some confidence being a second stringer but if she plays more inside instead of trying to be Maggie Lucas or KML, she will be more effective with short jumpers, hook shots, and garnering offensive and defensive rebounds and passing the rebound out to the KML’s of the world.

      I know this all works on paper, but I believe it will work.

      Tina Charles and Dolson are as different as night and day (and I do not mean color). Tina played inside and LOVED it. She clicked with Maya Moore because she was outside and when Maya shot, her and Tina and Faris were there for the rebounds

      Unfortunately, for UCONN, when Stewart is trying to be successful with three pointers, she seldoms rushes in to get her own rebound. Her height is best utilized inside – sure she could step outside on defense to block a three point shooter, but her value is inside, inside, inside.

      The mantra for a restaurant is location, location, location – and for Stewart it is inside, inside, and inside.

      Whew, I am glad I got that off my chest. Thanks for stopping by Mike.

      • Lastly, I am not a coach and do not pretend that I am. I respect Geno and have the greatest admiration for him. That said, I only differ with his strategy when UCONN plays those few teams who can give UCONN a run for the money.

        Take the top 25 teams in womens basketball. UCONN being one of them, that leaves 24 teams. Many people think that on any given day, anyone can beat anyone else – that could not be further from the truth.

        Sure, I think St.Johns got up on one day and beat UCONN, but the collective losses by Baylor, Stanford, UCONN, and Notre Dame can be counted on one hand – by that I mean any of them getting beat by someone other than them.

        So, UCONN plays 32 or so games a year and 4 of those games are challenges, so 40 minutes a game times 28 games, is approximately 1120 minutes. I disagree with Geno on about a strategy that could be used for 2 – 3 minutes a game for 4 or 5 games a year. That means approximately 1 percent of the time I disagree with Geno.

        • I’m only half-Irish but I guess that’s enough to qualify. I did coach a prep team in Westbrook for a few years and officiated HS games in the New Haven area for 10 years but that certainly doesn’t qualify me as an expert of any kind. I lived in IN for 10 years while in college so like most Hoosiers, B-Ball is in my blood. Kelly is a typical IN kid [as is Skyler] and also had her Dad as her coach and critic. If other players like Stokes took Kelly as a role model, they might excel. I do think that KML does play a lot like Kelly and has mentioned that she admires her.

          I feel strongly that the up-tempo game that Geno admires has both positives and negatives and I suspect that Stewart is the kind of player who does not benefit from the pace because she hurries her shots and always looks somewhat frazzled. I find myself sitting in front of the TV and yelling at the screen when I see Hartley flying up the court with the ball against 2-3 defenders and no colleague in sight. More often than not, this does not bode well for her because rather than pulling up at the foul line for a “Sue Bird” 15′ jump shot, she takes it to the basket and either gets blasted or blocked. So I feel that speed has diminished her game also.

          Lastly, I question Geno’s game plan to press weak teams into submission until they’re down by 20-30 points before he backs-off. I’d rather see all of those players with potential on the bench get more quality time in the first half of games and not in the last 5 minutes. Then when they’re needed against “quality” teams, they’ll be better prepared to contribute.

          • Hi again Mike; I agree with all your comments – especially on Hartley and Stewie. Everytime I see a petite guard go like a bat out of hell toward the rim, I think of Japanese Kamikazi pilots who were hell bent on destruction.

            I am very upbeat on Stewie, however, because in my blood I see a diamond in the rough – she is just as good/bad as Dolson and Tina Charles were in their freshman years – but I see little glimmers of her future greatness. She is fast running up and down the court – just like Tina did. Also, when she does make a move from the outside to the rim, she is poetry in motion – doesnt happen much but when it is successful it is wonderful to see.

            Stewie doesnt have a lot of meat on her bones and I think a little padding might help her because womens basketball is getting ever so physical – just look at all the ACL injuries this year that took out great players – Whitney Hand of Okalahoma, chelsea gray of Duke (knee) and a few others.

            I like womens bb because it is a cleaner sport – but I have noticed this year that refs are turning a blind eye to the extreme shots being thrown under the hoop.

            I think there are a lot of 2nd tier teams who resent the recruiting of the top 4 – 5 teams and play them rougher to even level of play (“If I am not good enough to beat them, I am good enough to make them regret running up the score so much”)

          • We both concur that the woman’s game is a cleaner sport, just like the Celtics of old used to play truly as a team game…which is why I always admired them. I also agree regarding Stewie except I cringe every time she puts the ball on the floor. That’s one aspect of her game that she needs to improve…..Dolson is also not a good ball-handler. What makes Stewart such a great rebounder is not only that she has long arms but that she’s really quick off her feet, unlike Dolson who can barely get off of her feet. So I support your earlier comment that she needs to downplay her perimeter game and stay closer to the basket where she can utilize her athleticism. Of course there will be times when she can sneak into the corner and get an open three…..to keep the defense honest, but her greatest asset is to be around the basket.  

            Michael L. McManus Emeritus Scientist USDA Forest Service 89 Leonard Rd. Hamden, CT 06514 203-248-0121 mmcmanus0121@comcast.net

    • Hi Mike; I slept on the whole ND / UCONN issue and especially your frank comments on the Hartford Courant/JA blog and I was shocked to read about Kelly’s ankle. I remember the play and saw her go down, but because she is such a trooper and does everything to not draw attention to herself. She doesn’t like being in the limelight when kudos are being directed toward her but she is the first to speak up to take blame for a loss or results that are not to Geno’s liking. As a result, even after suffering the sprain, she tried to conceal it by jogging off to halftime.

      My honest opinion is that if you stand up all the past greats from UCONN that participated in the 7 (?) national championships – and ordered them in importance and contribution to the victories, Faris should be at or near the very top – because while others were scoring (Diana / Maya) or getting high rebounds (Tina), Faris was doing tons of other things – steals, assists, blocks, rebounds, and SOME scoring.

      My most radical statement on UCONN. During Kelly’s tenure, UCONN would not have been able to win the championships they did if Kelly did not participate – that is how much I value Faris as a Huskie.

      She is the Frank Ramsey or John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics – except Kelly is a starter verus coming off the bench.

      • Someone on JA’S blog yesterday suggested that Kelly should sit tomorrow. Actually, I think that’s a good idea despite what Kelly says. Unless she’s 100%, why risk re- aggravating or worsening her ankle in a game that means nothing when they really need her to be at full s trength in the final two games? Geno should make an “executive decision” and tell her to sit it o ut. Agree?

        Mike.

        Michael L. McManus Emeritus Scientist USDA Forest Service 89 Leonard Rd. Hamden, CT 06514 203-248-0121 mmcmanus0121@comcast.net

        • Hi Mike; Two comments about Kelly and her injuiry. The first is that although I love her attitude, her level of play and the low profile she keeps, I feel she might have done long term or even permanent harm by not taking herself out.

          She was not selfish, but instead, she was being a dedicated team player.

          All that said, I feel she should sit out. Her teammates owe it to her (first) and the team second to “cover” for her.

          This is where I believe Stewie and Stokes and Tuck and even Buck can fill in the gap. It will also get quality time for 2 or 3 of them.

          KML will do her part and then some. She is a blessing for UCONN. Although I miss Miss Maya, I believe KML fills the void quite well and will make up for Kelly’s absence under the basket with steals, assists, and rebounding.

          I believe Stokes is still having problems with her bruised leg(?) or maybe knee, but she can give quality minutes – also Tuck will step up to the plate. Buck is another solid tall bench player who wants to do what she can.

          Kevin

  2. Great compilation and I was exactly thinking the same that the strategy need to reverse once the lead is established to conserve energy and minimize the mistakes made (I like your BSPR strategy)

    • Hi UCONN, The thought hit me as the game was in OT. Pro football teams do their razzle dazzle in the last two minutes, so why not some two minute slow down and ball control in the last two minutes when you are ahead?

      Thanks for visiting and especially for commenting. If you care to, spread the link so other UCONN fans will see the strategy.

      Obviously, I am not a coach, and I applaud Geno for his years of success, but I truly wonder why he has not considered some kind of tight ball control near the end of games against the good one’s – i.e. Baylor, ND, Stanford, and a few others?


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