The University of Cincinnati Women's Basketball team saw several first in their big match-up against one of college basketballs top programs. The Connecticut Huskies know all about winning Big East and National Championships, with longtime coach Geno Auriemma (557- 111) at the helm, the lady Huskies have proved the women's game can be a big deal amongst college athletics. Thursday night was no different.
In front of 12,735 fans (largest to ever view a UC women's game) Coach Laurie Pirtle's team put up an early fight, only to see a slow second half give away a game they could've won.
Not only was the crowd the largest ever, but only two other teams, North Carolina (77) and Tennessee (89) have scored more than 71 points against UConn this season. The Bearcats are also the fifth team to outrebound the Huskies this year.
Cincinnati native Mel Thomas led UConn with 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting. The sophomore is showing why so many college programs followed Mount Notre Dame and worked to earn her commitment. But Thomas wasn't alone in the double figure scoring. Brittany Hunter (13), Renee Montgomery (12) and Charde Houston (11) also joined Thomas.
The Bearcats shot 40% from the field and 58.3% from 3-point land. One area that cost the team dearly came at the free-throw line. As a team the Bearcats shot 57%. Karen Twehues enjoyed her best game of the season scoring 14 points. She was joined by Treasure Humphries (13) and Shelly Bellman (10) in hitting for double digits. Anne Stephens was the leader on the glass with a total of 7 boards.
The loss moved the Bearcats to 6-43 against ranked teams, but this one could've gone the other way. Coach Laurie Pirtle spoke about the second half that made the difference in the game.
"We came out and were not as aggressive on defense and they were far more aggressive on offense. Geno did a great job of adjusting and moving the offensive focus from Strother to Thomas."
"Our kids did not adjust well to what they were doing and that happens with a young team. But they will learn from it. We're going to get better from playing the likes of Rutgers and UConn because we have talent."
But while the young Bearcats may have come up short, Coach Pirtle felt several positives could be taken away from the game.
"We were really aggressive in our offense, especially driving to the basket from the perimeter. We also played together well, being able to switch our defenses a lot and communicating."
On her teams refusal to give up to the Big East power.
"About the time the wheels started to fall off and UConn really took control, we could of packed it in and lost by 40. But our kids put on the brakes and would not let it happen."
One thing the young Bearcats will take away from this game is the crowd. With five freshman playing key roles, getting the chance to experience this size of crowd will only help as they improve and enter bigger contest. Coach Pirtle spoke about what it was like in the arena.
"The energy in the arena was great and the team responded very well."
While she didn't lead the team on this night, the play of Treasure Humphries has allowed the Bearcats to get off to such a fast start. After the game she had the following comments.
"UConn's a great team and I give them credit for all they have accomplished and all they will accomplish, but I am disappointed with this loss.
Our second half performance was the difference. We did not do a good job on defensive transition."
When asked about the crowd, the junior guard from Canton McKinley High School expressed the excitement shown on the face of her team.
"We fell like they were there to watch us. It doesn't matter how many people come to watch, it's about the team. We play for each other. We need some more cohesion on the floor and we will get it. We are a good team. Don't count us out."
Coach Pirtle and her squad will return to the court on Sunday against South Florida in Fifth Third Arena. Tip is set for 2 p.m. and it's YMCA Day along with Bearcat Kids Club Day.