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Takeaways from UConn women’s basketball vs. Trevecca Nazarene

What we learned after the Huskies’ second exhibition game.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball wrapped up its preseason on Wednesday night with an ugly 99-54 win over Division II Trevecca Nazarene.

Here’s what we’ve seen through the two exhibition games:

Using the exhibition

The second half was a practice in patience for the Huskies. After dropping 74 points in the first half, UConn only scored 25 points in the final two quarters and tied the visitors over the final 20 minutes. Geno Auriemma said he wanted to work on the team’s half-court sets.

“We made a conscious effort not to run up and down the court in the second half,” he said. “What would be the point of winning 140-50 and score 70 more points? So we said let’s try to get better at some things that we’re going to need. Mixed reviews. Some okay, some not so okay, some terrible.”

Safe to say the Huskies will be playing to their strengths on Sunday instead of working on their weaknesses.

Dangerfield and Walker are the core

Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker have showed that they’re ready to take on the responsibility of leading this team.

In two exhibition games, Walker scored 56 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and missed just six shots total. Dangerfield racked up 23 points, 11 assists and nine steals. Walker looks like UConn’s go-to player. Dangerfield continues to show why she’s one of the best point guards in the country.

“I know they’re only exhibition games, but it’s a lot of that in practice too against way better players,” Auriemma said. “With Crystal and Megan, we have two really good players. And I expect we’re going to have to see that every night from them.”

Uncertainty on the bench

While UConn’s starting lineup seems set for the time being considering the same five players started both exhibitions, the Huskies seem to have a good idea about what to expect from them. As for the bench, UConn has a lot of questions.

Molly Bent handled backup point guard duties but continued to show the inconsistency that’s marked her career. Evelyn Adebayo played the fewest minutes of any UConn player in both games, and her defense needs work. Kyla Irwin has been decent but still has a long way to go to being a dependable bench option.

From what we’ve seen through the preseason, Aubrey Griffin looks the most ready to contribute off the bench. After shaking off the nerves from the first game, Griffin quickly made a difference against Trevecca. She showed off her athleticism with explosive drives to the basket, scoring 12 points and hitting all five of her shots.

Defense needs work

Despite holding Jefferson and Trevecca to relatively low point totals, UConn’s defense needs to get stronger. The Huskies allowed too many quality looks, had too many lapses and struggled to box out. Despite Trevecca having just two players over six feet, UConn only held a 43-33 rebounding margin and allowed 12 offensive rebounds.

While Olivia Nelson-Ododa certainly helps as an elite shot-blocker on the inside, the Huskies don’t have another low-post defender. Nelson-Ododa also can’t be too aggressive defensively because UConn doesn’t have anyone on the bench that could step in if she gets into early foul trouble.

Auriemma doesn’t expect this to be an elite defense, “I’ve had some of those, this ain’t one of them,” he said, but it needs to be better than it was through two preseason games.

UConn opens the season against Cal on Sunday, November 10 at 1 p.m. in Gampel Pavilion. The game will be televised on SNY and ESPN3. The Huskies also recently added a mid-season exhibition to their schedule, against Team USA in a game that will take place on Monday, January 27th at the XL Center.