By Carl Adamec
PROVIDENCE — Geno Auriemma could not resist.
The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team shot a season high 30 free throws, making 24, in its 105-49 Big East win over Providence at Alumni Hall Tuesday night. The Friars, meanwhile, were just 2-for-4 at the line.
The Hall of Fame coach noticed the discrepancy.
“We generally don’t get to shoot a lot of free throws against Catholic schools,” Auriemma said with a smile. “Tonight was an exception. Maybe the Pope resigning had something to do with it. The officials were a little lax and not paying attention as much.”
It was the latest jab by Auriemma at Notre Dame, which leads the Big East by a healthy margin in free throws made, attempted, and shooting percentage. All season he has wondered how and why the Irish get to the line so often, including a 24-14 advantage in their 73-72 win at Gampel Pavilion Jan. 5.
Louisville coach Jeff Walz is probably on that bandwagon as well after Notre Dame had a 26-7 bulge in free throws in a 93-64 win Monday in South Bend. According to an Associated Press report, after the Cardinals’ Jude Schimmel was called for a foul with 0.1 seconds left in the first half on Skylar Diggins’ 25-foot runner to beat the buzzer, Walz yelled toward Big East associate commissioner Danielle Donehew sitting at the end of the court, “Danielle, welcome to Notre Dame.”
“We get to the line seven times, and I thought we attacked and went hard at the basket,” Walz said after the game according to the AP. “Somehow they got to the line 26 times. Stuff happens, I guess.”
Auriemma, though, was genuinely pleased his team got to the charity stripe often Tuesday night.
“Free throws are a function of how much you’re moving,” he said. “When you’re standing around a lot you don’t get to the free throw line. I thought we had real good movement. Our cuts were pretty
sharp. We dribbled the ball into the lane tonight as much as we’ve had for a long time. All those things lead to putting yourself in position to get fouled.
“It’s such an important part of the game you’d be silly not to take advantage of it. And I’d be the first one to say we haven’t done as good a job this year as we have in past years.”
The Huskies have shot 378 free throws this season. They have made five fewer (279) than their opponents have attempted (284).
Stringer-ing her along
UConn’s next game at Rutgers Saturday (4 p.m., SNY) gained some significance Tuesday night.
Rutgers Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer was denied her 900th career win as Brittany Hrynko — who went 0-for-15 from the floor against the Huskies Sunday — hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 10.2 seconds left to lift DePaul past the Scarlet Knights 60-57 in Chicago.
Stringer, 899-327 in her 42nd season as a head coach, is trying to join Tennessee’s Pat Summitt (1,098), North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell (901), and Texas’ Jody Conradt (900) in the 900-win club. Hatchell reached the milestone last Thursday on her second try when the Tar Heels defeated lowly Boston College before 803 people at Conte Forum.
Of course the game is also important for the Huskies, who want to keep pace with first-place Notre Dame in the Big East race as well as build more momentum for their matchup with No. 1 Baylor Monday at the XL Center in Hartford.
Auriemma walked into Alumni Hall for shoot-around Tuesday morning and later told Providence first-year coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl that he loved the way the building had been renovated.
“I’ve always loved this place,” Auriemma said. “They’re an example of what you can do when you put your mind to it. This place is beautiful. If more people did this … I told Susan and the staff that here today. This is the first time I saw it and I said, ‘Wow. This is nothing like you remember 25 years ago when you came to Alumni Hall.’ “
Capacity at Alumni Hall is now 1,824 after the benches were replaced by seatbacks. Game action and highlights are shown on screens on both baselines.
“The facilities are awesome,” UConn’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I like the size. It’s a shooter’s gym. We wouldn’t have a gym like this at Connecticut, but I love it here.”
But with the impending defection of the Catholic 7 from the Big East, Tuesday night’s meeting could have been the last league game here between the schools. With the win, UConn improved to 12-11 in the building.
“This place has a lot of great memories,” Auriemma said. “We had a lot of great games against Providence College. I remember when Bob Foley was coaching here. When I got the job after a couple of years, someone asked me in the athletic department, ‘What’s the goal for Connecticut?’ I said, ‘I want to be as good as Providence. If we could be as good as Providence we’ll be OK.’ That’s the way I used to look at them.
“And I was glad when I walked into the building that they’re doing what they’re doing. I don’t know where it’s going between us and them after they leave, but they’ve done a great job. They have a heck of a coach and I’m going to miss coming here. I know the restaurants are going to miss having all of our money coming in.”
Fifth-year senior guard Caroline Doty became the 23rd UConn player to reach 300 career assists when she set up Breanna Stewart’s layup midway through the first half … Stefanie Dolson improved her nation’s best field-goal percentage to 62.7 by going 4-for-5 from the floor. She is also 28-for-31 (90.3 percent) from the foul line in her last six games after making all six of he tries against PC … Stewart’s double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) was her fourth of the season … 1,000-point watch: Kelly Faris at 968, Mosqueda-Lewis at 956.