By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — Kelly Faris is the unquestioned leader on the floor for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.
The senior forward is also a Dean’s List student, so there’s no one better to give advice to her freshman teammates as they approach fall semester exams for the first time.
“Study, study, study,” she said. “That’s all I do. I sit in my room and study. It’s hard because we have that stretch where there are no games and you’re like, ‘Dang. Practice, practice, practice’ mixed in with a final here and there. It’s hard because in some classes that final is so much of your grade and it’s different than high school because you have to be really prepared. So you study.”
The Huskies had the weekend off to give them extra time to prepare and, of course, give some of the coaches — including Geno Auriemma — a few days to hit the recruiting trail.
Final exams start Monday and run through next Sunday the 16th with a reading day scheduled for Thursday.
Freshman Breanna Stewart wrapped up her classwork last Wednesday by giving a speech on the negative side of social media. Two days earlier, she finished her final paper.
“I think it’s great but it’s a what my teacher thinks,” Stewart said with a smile.
Freshman Moriah Jefferson said she’s ready for finals. She was home schooled most of her life but also took courses at a community college near her Glenn Heights, Texas, home before coming to UConn.
“I’d been doing college stuff before I got here so I’m fine,” Jefferson said. “I’m going to go hit the books hard this week.”
The second-ranked Huskies (8-0) return to action against Oakland, Mich. on Dec. 19 (7 p.m., SNY) at the XL Center in Hartford. Their last game before heading home for Christmas is Dec. 22 (1 p.m., SNY) against the University of Hartford at Chase Family Arena in West Hartford. It will be their first road game against Jennifer Rizzotti’s Hawks in 22 years.
Tickets to Bridgeport
Bridgeport has hosted three NCAA tournament subregionals (2004, 2008, 2012) and a regional (2006). All four times the NCAA selection committee placed UConn there and the Huskies have posted a 7-1 record.
For those that believe the committee will make it 5-for-5 in March, note that all-session tickets will be available for the Bridgeport Regional of the 2013 NCAA tournament at the Webster Bank Arena starting on Tuesday.
All-session tickets are available for purchase starting at $54.50 for adults and $49.50 for students and senior citizens, with end zone all-session tickets available at $39.50 for adults and $24.50 for students and senior citizens. All-session passes grant admission to both regional semifinals on Saturday, March 30, and the regional final on Monday, April 1.
Tickets can be purchased by logging onto the Ticketmaster website or by calling 800-745-3000. Fans can also purchase all-session tickets by visiting the Webster Bank Arena box office starting Wednesday.
“The MAAC, Fairfield University, and the Webster Bank Arena look forward to hosting a successful NCAA event in Bridgeport,” Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Commissioner Rich Ensor said in a statement. “Fans from the area and throughout the country will have an opportunity to watch quality women’s college basketball as four teams vie to play in the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four in New Orleans.”
The regional semifinals on March 30 will tip off at noon and approximately 2:30 p.m. The April 1 regional final is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
Entering last week’s play, UConn was averaging 92 points per game on 58 percent shooting from the floor. Against Maryland and Penn State, the Huskies averaged 65 points on just under 40 percent shooting. Their 20 turnovers against Penn State were a season high.
Maryland and Penn State are Top 10 teams so that obviously had something to do with. Their physical play defensively was also effective. But Auriemma has been using 10 players game-in and game-out and sometimes going that deep into the bench hurts a team’s offensive rhythm.
“I think if we stuck with a six- or seven-player rotation our offense would be really good,” Auriemma said “But I’m trying to play eight, nine or 10 and it looks ugly at times. And there’s nothing you can do about that. We’re just going to have to weather it out until it gets a little bit better.
“There’s a big gap between our top five players and our next four or five players. The average person out there doesn’t know that. They think our second five could go to the Final Four. I don’t think our second five could beat a good intramural team here at Connecticut at times with the way they run offense. So when you mix and match those people and you’ve got different combinations, and especially if you’re in foul trouble, now all of a sudden you start mixing people up it’s not going to look good.”
A lot of coaches would love to have Auriemma’s problems. Through eight games, the Huskies have trailed for 48 seconds.
Sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis suffered a concussion on Nov. 24 against Purdue and missed UConn’s next game against Colgate Nov. 28. She returned to practice two days later but the Dec. 1 workout at Gampel Pavilion was such a struggle for her she felt she had to say something to her teammates.
“I apologized because they deserve better,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “They deserve my best every single day. They’re putting everything on the court for me and I’m going to do the same for them. If I don’t bring it every day, that could be the one practice that I miss getting better, that I miss getting better at rebounding and that’s why we lose in the Final Four. I don’t want my attitude to be a reason the team loses.”