Throwing his hands up in the air, Geno Auriemma let out a yell of frustration.
His team had just executed perfectly on defense, swatting the ball away and getting out in transition. Katie Lou Samuelson launched a long pass to Megan Walker, who bobbled the ball before having it stolen away in the paint.
The sounds coming from Gampel Pavilion on Friday were that of a team that can play extremely good basketball, but also make simple mistakes. At various points, the gym erupted in cheers for a steal by Crystal Dangerfield or a block by Walker, almost always followed by a groan from Auriemma 10 minutes later when things stopped running smoothly.
It’s moments like this that Auriemma was talking about earlier in the week, describing UConn as incapable of doing one thing all good or all bad. It’s a season, he conceded, where the team can’t rely on one part of its game being perfect.
“This is one of those years where every single thing that is a positive with our team has a negative attached to it,” Auriemma said. “There isn’t anything that’s all this way or half positive, half neutral. It’s either a lot positive and a lot negative or some combination of those two things, so I’ve got to find a way to deal with that.”
In practice on Friday, the Huskies focused a lot on defense — something they didn’t have problems with against Cincinnati, but that hasn’t been their strong point this season. They played fast, pressuring and trapping opponents, with emphasis on not allowing layups or second-chance buckets.
While Auriemma frequently stopped them to talk through defensive issues, it was Dangerfield’s voice that was heard almost as much as her coach’s. The junior point guard has become much more vocal this year, and it was clear that she’s comfortable directing her teammates — seniors included — on the court.
Dangerfield, who’s averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 assists, was quick to talk through mistakes with her teammates. She explained why certain plays wouldn’t work and pointed out missteps, all while making almost every shot she took and playing physical defense. Helping others is a big part of her job, and getting comfortable speaking up is something that’s taken some time for her to do.
“It’s been huge,” she said of becoming more vocal. “I think it’s going to get better as I go on and keep playing basketball, but as a point guard, that’s kind of something that you have to develop. [Auriemma]’s always said that we have to get outside of ourselves, and that’s something, especially for myself, that I have to be able to do. That’s something this team needs me to do. We’re younger, and it’s going to be even more important next year.”
At practice, Dangerfield yelled out a play on offense. A few teammates did what they were supposed to do and a few didn’t, causing the offense to stall and Dangerfield to sigh. Why, Auriemma wanted to know, hadn’t they just run the play she called? The next time she called something out everyone listened. She understands everyone isn’t always on the same page, but she’s optimistic about the future.
“There are days when we have eight people on board and two sit back, and then on another day it’ll be six on [board] and four in the back,” Dangerfield said. “When we get people on the same page — and we haven’t necessarily gotten that yet — I think we’ll be good.”