Turnovers have Auriemma concerned

By Carl Adamec

HARTFORD, Conn. — It’s not uncommon to see University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma run his hands through his hair on the sidelines when one of his players commits an unforced or unnecessary turnover.

At least he isn’t pulling his hair out yet, though he might have had an excuse to during the third-ranked Huskies’ 72-58 Big East win over No. 15 Louisville at the XL Center Tuesday night.

UConn (15-1 overall, 3-1 Big East) had 18 turnovers. Seven were by senior Kelly Faris, the nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio. Four were by junior Bria Hartley, who entered the game fifth in the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio. Fourteen of Louisville’s points came off those turnovers.

“I worry about it every day,” Auriemma said. “You should see our practices. I worry about it every day that we get playing quickly, we get ahead of ourselves, we get anxious, whatever you want to call it. And as good as our defense is, it’s a shame to come down the floor and not get a shot. You talk about 18 turnovers … This is the way I explain it to our players. We got 64 shots. So let’s say we cut those turnovers to 10. That means eight times we didn’t get a shot. So in those eight possessions we make three 3-pointers. That’s nine more points. That’s a huge difference in the game. And that’s the kind of thing that catches up to you later on if you don’t fix it.

“And that’s the one thing I think sometimes makes winning look a lot more difficult than it is. It’s that you don’t get a quality shot every time down the floor. And when you ask yourself why, and if I were to show it to you on film, you just can’t believe some of the things that we do.”

The Louisville game was the third time this season that the Huskies had more turnovers (18) than assists (17). The other games were Maryland (16 assists to 17 turnovers) and Penn State (11 assists to 20 turnovers). In the loss to Notre Dame, UConn was a plus-7 in assists (21 to 14).

Of the nine players that saw eight or more minutes of action Tuesday night, only freshman point guard Moriah Jefferson and sophomore center Kiah Stokes didn’t commit a turnover. Stefanie Dolson and Brianna Banks had two turnovers apiece.

Auriemma brought up something assistant coach Shea Ralph said on the UConn bench.

“Shea made a good point. I think some of our players, they’re doing what they want to happen instead of what’s actually going on,” Auriemma said. “So you’ve got Stefanie, who’s got the ball at the high post going, ‘I really want to throw this to Kiah and get her a layup. And the fact that there’s four people guarding her, I really don’t (care).’ So we’re trying to work really hard at, ‘Don’t worry about the guy that you’re passing to. Figure out where everybody else is that’s on their team.’ It’s a foreign concept.”

But if Auriemma thinks he’s got it bad, look around the Big East. Only four league teams — UConn, Villanova, Notre Dame, and DePaul — have more assists than turnovers this season. Louisville (14-4, 2-2) is at a minus-37. The Huskies’ opponent here on Saturday, Syracuse (15-1, 3-0), has 278 assists and 278 turnovers.

Making progress
Tuesday night’s game was Stokes’ third since returning after sitting out a month with a stress reaction in her right shin. It was the Marion, Iowa’s native best effort.

In 12 minutes off the bench, she had just two points. But it was her six rebounds, three blocked shots, and just overall inside presence that won praise.

“Kiah Stokes was great,” Auriemma said. “With Kiah you almost ask yourself, ‘Are you capable of doing that every night?’ What I’m going to do is throw her out there, see what she does, and when she plays like she played tonight leave her in there for as long as she keeps doing what she did tonight.

“Kiah’s minutes at Connecticut are completely dependent on her, and the way she played tonight, it changes out team a little bit. If we could ever play those two (Dolson and Stokes) and Breanna Stewart together, that is not a bad way to go against some teams and in certain situations. But I want to see Kiah do this more than once before I say this is what we are going to get from her every night.”

Recruit report
UConn-bound guard Saniya Chong from Ossining, N.Y., became Westchester County’s all-time leading scorer Wednesday. According a story on The Journal News website, Chong scored 24 of her 43 points in the fourth quarter as Ossining High (9-3) topped previously unbeaten Hamilton 88-79.

Chong reached the milestone with a free throw with 6:05 left. She broke the 27-year-old record of Peekskill’s Sheila Wagner (2,476). With 2,492 points, Chong can now shoot for the Section 1 scoring mark of 2,662 points set by Karen O’Connor in 1987.

That’s the ticket
As of Tuesday, approximately 2,500 tickets remained for Saturday’s Syracuse game at the XL Center (4 p.m., SNY), and 1,500 tickets remained for Monday’s game against unbeaten and No. 4 Duke at Gampel Pavilion.