No one can say that Indiana University of Pennsylvania doesn’t know what it’s getting into when it plays the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team tonight in the Huskies’ exhibition opener at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.
Two years ago, Division II IUP made the trip to Connecticut and lost to UConn 100-41 at the XL Center in Hartford.
The venue is different but the result figures to be the same for the second-ranked Huskies. The final margin, though, doesn’t interest UConn coach Geno Auriemma. He figures he’ll see what he usually sees from his team after three weeks of practice.
“I expect the same thing you see every exhibition game,” Auriemma said. “There will be some great stuff that we do that people will go, ‘Wow. I can’t believe they’ve only practiced for 10-12 days or whatever it’s been.’ And then there will be times when you’ll look like …
“I remember one exhibition game I think we turned the ball over like 42 times or 32 times. It was ridiculous. So sometimes it’s just horrendous. But I’ve got a feeling you’re going to see some stuff (tonight) that I think is really, really, really good. But I’ve seen some things in practice that are really, really, really good, better than I thought they’d be. And I ask the coaches all the time, ‘Are we
like a little better than we were last year at this time?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, Way better.’ So that’s a good sign. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of that.”
UConn returns four starters from last season’s 33-5 club that won the Big East Tournament title and advanced to a fifth straight NCAA Final Four.
The Huskies will be without All-American guard Bria Hartley due to an ankle injury. Auriemma said there is some concern about the health of fifth-year senior guard Caroline Doty.
The Hall of Fame coach would only commit to having senior forward Kelly Faris, junior center Stefanie Dolson, and sophomore wingKaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in the starting lineup. If Doty isn’t a starter, maybe sophomore Brianna Banks gets the call. Or it could be any of the freshmen — forwards Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck and guard Moriah Jefferson.
Or, for starters …
“Maybe fried calamari and then some tomato mozzarella. Those will be my starters,” Auriemma said with a laugh.
“I don’t know. For our team, when you think about it, it’s such a new team but there’s a bunch of guys coming back. So other than Caroline, who’s been in and out of practice and tweak this and tweak that, and Bria, obviously, who hasn’t practiced, we’re fairly healthy. So Stefanie’s back 100 percent. Kelly is. Kaleena is.
“You look around and you go, ‘The exhibition games are a great
opportunity to maybe just kind of mix and a match and throw some people out there together and see what happens. So Stefanie, Kaleena and I think Kelly will be really good starters for three. And then I’ll just pick two names out of a hat and then go with that.”
No matter what Auriemma decides, they figure to be too much for IUP.
The Crimson Hawks are coming off a 23-7 overall record and trips to the semifinals in both the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and the NCAA Atlantic Region tournaments.
Coach Jeff Dow welcomes back all five starters led by senior forward Sarah Pastorek, who averaged 14.8 points and 7.4 rebounds a season ago. IUP’s tallest returning starter is 6-foot-1, though it does have a pair of 6-2 freshmen.
After facing the Crimson Hawks, UConn will play a second exhibition game against Holy Family in Hartford Wednesday. The regular season opener is Nov. 11 against College of Charleston at Gampel Pavilion.