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UConn WBB Weekly: Geno’s thoughts on the Huskies ahead of the regular season

The coach discussed Azzi Fudd’s potential, whether or not the timing of Paige Bueckers’ injury is beneficial compared to last season and more.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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Geno’s thoughts on the team ahead of the regular season

UConn women’s basketball begins the regular season in earnest on Thursday when it welcomes the Northeastern Huskies to Gampel Pavilion. In reality, the game will essentially serve as a second exhibition for the Huskies from Connecticut, since Northeastern will be heavily outmatched. Still, it’s another opportunity to see UConn play live and will provide the team with an additional tune-up ahead of a big showdown with No. 3 Texas on Monday.

On the eve of the regular season, Geno Auriemma joined 97.9 ESPN for his first coaches’ show of the season and spoke about some of the biggest storylines about the team.

Azzi Fudd

In the exhibition, Fudd dropped 29 points courtesy of nine 3-pointers — which would’ve been one off the program’s single-game record if it happened during the regular season. As impressive as she was, Auriemma still found a way to critique the performance.

“She missed a lot of threes the other day,” he said. “She was 9-for-16. She scored 27 points on threes. I mean, you know how many she missed? She could’ve had 70 points. So what’s the next thing for Azzi? ‘Look, if we get you 16 threes, you better make 15 of them and one of them needs to be in and out.’ That’s my goal for her.”

Despite the sarcasm, the coach did want to see her improve on a couple aspects of her game from the exhibition. Namely, he wants her to take charge from the opening tip.

“I told Azzi, ‘Azzi, I thought I told you that every time you touch the ball, I want you to shoot it. I don’t care where you are on the floor.’ The first half, she’d catch it, then she’d dribble twice,” Auriemma said. “So she went out in the second half, she made nine threes. She shot every time she touched it. At one point, we were up 100, I said, ‘I hope she doesn’t shoot this.’ Bang. She makes another one. So I’m hoping that that carries over tomorrow and certainly next week.”

While Fudd’s shooting ability remains the most dangerous part of her game, Auriemma made sure to mention it’s not the only part of her game.

“She’s gonna fool a lot of people this year because she’s more than just a shooter,” he said.

Lou Lopez Sénéchal

After transferring in from Fairfield, Lopez Sénéchal impressed in the exhibition with a 22-point effort. Her performance simply showed everyone else what the team already knew.

“She’s been really, really well coached and she’s a scorer — plain and simple. So when people say, ‘What is she really good at?’ She’s really good at putting the ball in the basket and she’s really good about being mature. She’s 24 years old,” Auriemma said.

“She’s played a lot of basketball and you can see,” he added later. “There’s no wasted motion by her. When she gets the ball, there’s no, ‘What should I do?’ She knows exactly what she wants to do because she has that scorer’s mentality. Given what’s happening — Caroline being out, Paige being out — I mean, we were really, really lucky to get Lou. Really lucky.”

The timing of Paige Bueckers’ injury

As devastating as Paige Bueckers’ injury in August was, at least it happened early enough so UConn had the entire preseason to prepare for life without the superstar instead of losing her in the middle of the season as it did last year. That’s better, right? Right?

Auriemma’s not so sure.

“I would equate it like this. What’s worse? You’re walking down the street and you get hit by a car. Nothing serious, you just get bumped, you gotta go to the hospital,” he said. “What’s worse? That, or somebody telling you three months before then, ‘Hey, you’re gonna get hit by a car this season, we just don’t know when.’ Now you’re worried about it all year long, right? So it came upon us so fast last year, we didn’t have time to dwell on it. We just had to go. This year when it happened, I mean, it took a long time for our players to come back to reality. They just couldn’t believe it.”

Ayanna Patterson

Nobody stood out more than Patterson in the exhibition after she put her non-stop motor and energy on full display. As a freshman, she understands her role and has tried to excel at that instead of being something she’s not.

“She knows: ‘This is what I’m better than everybody else on the team at,’ and that’s what she tries to do — that’s refreshing,” Auriemma said. “So she knows, ‘You guys can shoot all you want. I’m gonna go get every offensive rebound, I’m gonna switch every screen because I want to guard everybody on the team. I want to guard big guys, I wanna guard guards, I want to guard everybody’.”

Even though Patterson is still in the early stages of her career, she’s quickly become one of Auriemma’s favorite players.

“She is unbelievable. She gets better every minute,” he said. “Sometimes they say, ‘She gets better every day.’ Yanna gets better every minute that she’s at practice. And you only have to tell her things once. Tell her one time, ‘I want you to come to practice every day and before practice starts, I want you to do this for 15 minutes every day.’ 15 minutes before practice, she’ll be doing exactly what you told her to do and she’ll do it every day. Every day. She’s just such a pleasure to coach, that kid. I love her.”

Quote of note

“Nika’s one of the best screeners in America — well, she just likes to hit people.” — Geno Auriemma on Nika Mühl

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