By Carl Adamec
In Jamelle Elliott’s 16 years with the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team — four as a player and 12 as an assistant coach — the Huskies’ record was 519-54.
Midway through her fourth season as the head coach at Cincinnati, Elliott has a record of 50-61.
It doesn’t figure to get better tonight when the Bearcats entertain third-ranked UConn in Big East action at Fifth Third Arena (8 p.m., SNY). The Huskies (17-1 overall, 4-1 Big East) are coming off their impressive 79-49 rout of No. 4 Duke. Cincinnati (8-10, 0-5) has dropped five straight and seven of its last eight. The Bearcats lost 51-45 to DePaul Tuesday and that followed a road trip that saw them lose by 33 to South Florida and by 39 to Louisville.
“You know, it’s always a struggle when you take over a program and Jamelle is pretty hard on herself,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “They can have the same exact injuries that say that we have or have guys out for the year and we can withstand them because of the depth of the talent that we have. But when you’re building a program and you lose a couple of key guys, you don’t recover from that. I know they played a couple of games that were really, really tough on them and the worst thing you can do is get discouraged. But she’s pretty positive.”
In her first three seasons at Cincinnati, Elliott compiled a 42-51 record with a WNIT berth a year ago. In his first three seasons at UConn, Auriemma won just one more game (43-39) with no postseason bids, though there was not a WNIT option in the 1980s like there is now.
But in Year 4, the Huskies swept the Big East regular season and tournament titles en route to the first of what is now 24 straight NCAA tournament bids. Cincinnati, meanwhile, has not been able to take a step forward.
“Everybody in the beginning, your first year you’re working on adrenaline,” Auriemma said. “You think that once you put your fingerprints all over it, it’s going to change and you’re going to be able to will it. Your second and third year you start to realize that it’s a lot harder, and you thought it was going to be hard, and you’re so dependent on the kind of players you have and everything going right.
“There were always times in my second and third years, even though we won more games than we did the year before, you always wonder whether or not you could get over a certain hump. Can you finish .500 in the league? Can you beat the top teams at least a little bit? Can we be competitive in every single game? There are always a lot of questions you can ask yourself. It’s very, very difficult especially at a place that hasn’t been successful for a long time.”
Junior guard Dayseesha Hollins is the only Cincinnati player averaging in double figures. The Bearcats are 0-7 against UConn. The Huskies are 45-0 against the five former Conference USA teams that joined the Big East in 2005-06.
Auriemma has never lost (35-0) against teams that had one of his former players or assistant coaches as a head or assistant coach.
Cincinnati ranks last in the Big East and 297th nationally in scoring (54.5) while the Huskies lead the league and nation in scoring (83.7).
Entering weekend play, UConn sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was second in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage (49.1) and seventh in 3-pointers made per game (3.18). Junior Stefanie Dolson was tied for second in field-goal percentage (60.0), trailing only Texas A&M center Kelsey Bone. Senior Kelly Faris was sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.83).
As well as leading the country in scoring, the Huskies were No. 1 in assists per game (21.6), scoring margin (plus-36.1) and field-goal percentage defense (30.9), while ranking second to Baylor in field-goal percentage (49.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.51) and second to Wisconsin-Green Bay in scoring defense (47.6).