Different Role for UConn Women

HARTFORD, Conn. - With the Big East women's basketball championship starting Friday, the Connecticut Huskies finds themselves in a particularly unfamiliar spot as a No. 3 seed for the first time since 2005.

Husky historians will remember that even with the No. 3 seed in 2005, the Huskies still went on to win the championship. But this year's team has some missing ingredients, qualities and personalities that coach Geno Auriemma doesn't hesitate to point out as flaws.

"We don't have any All-Americans on our team," Auriemma said after Monday's home loss to No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the regular season finale. "And you know what? If you don't have an All-American in games like this, if you don't have great go-to players in a game like this, that's when it shows up."

No one has really stepped forward and accepted that role. The Huskies are talented, but miss that player that they can rely on at the end of a game, either to take the big shot or provide guidance. They also seem to lack the ability to fight and respond in big games, a weakness that showed again Monday against Notre Dame.

"When Maya [Moore] left she took all the fight with her," Auriemma said.

Another glaring problem that the Huskies are struggling with is turnovers. In their four losses this season, they have a combined 76 turnovers which averages out to 19 per loss. It is something that Auriemma has worried about since the start of the season.

"I went into the season saying if we don't turn the ball over we could be a really good team," Auriemma said.

Not many positives could be taken out of the loss Monday night, but one that stood out was the play of center Stefanie Dolson, who had 18 points and seven rebounds. She also had three assists and two blocks in 35 minutes. Auriemma has criticized her throughout the season for her lack of production and her an energy level that was inconsistent.

"Stefanie was great," he said after the Notre Dame game. "She had a different attitude about her. I thought she looked like she did last year. There was a body language in her that I haven't seen at any other time this year. She managed to keep that the entire game, which was a great positive for her personally and for us going forward."

In her freshman season Dolson put up very solid numbers, averaging 10.1 points while grabbing 6.1 rebounds per game. And while this year's number have gone down, [9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds] her play against Notre Dame on Monday night is something the Huskies will need a lot more of heading into the Big East tournament and further down the road in March.

The sophomore understands she has a lot to improve on.

"I think I did a better job of getting to the low post, finishing shots around the rim, and getting my high post shot to go in," Dolson said. "Really at the end of the day you look at the things you didn't do. I didn't finish at the end of the game with my layups. I didn't rebound enough at the end of the game. If we are going to win a championship I have to do those things. As well as you think you did there is always things you look back on that you could have done better."

The Huskies enter the Big East tournament as underdogs and with the possibility of playing both St John's and Notre Dame again.

Assuming the seeds hold, the Huskies would face St. John's, who just ended their 99 game home winning streak earlier in the month, in the semifinals. The winner of that game would likely go on to face Notre Dame in the championship game Tuesday in Hartford.

Can the Huskies avenge the St. Johns loss? Can they avoid being swept by the Irish for the season? There is no question that they have the talent. Do they have the fight?

Senior Tiffany Hayes did not hesitate to answer that.

"I know we have it, I've seen it before," Hayes said. "I've seen it in practice and I've seen it in games. We just got to learn how to dig down and get it whenever we need to use it."

Friday, March 2 - First Round (BIGEAST.tv)

Noon ET Game 1: No. 12 Syracuse vs. No. 13 Providence

2:00 PM ET Game 2: No. 9 USF vs. No. 16 Pittsburgh

6:00 PM ET Game 3: No. 10 Villanova vs. No. 15 Seton Hall

8:00 PM ET Game 4: No. 11 Cincinnati vs. No. 14 Marquette

Saturday, March 3 - Second Round (BIG EAST Network/BIGEAST.tv)

Noon ET Game 5: No. 5 West Virginia vs. Game 1 Winner

2:00 PM ET Game 6: No. 8 DePaul vs. Game 2 Winner

6:00 PM ET Game 7: No. 7 Louisville vs. Game 3 Winner

8:00 PM ET Game 8 No. 6 Rutgers vs. Game 4 Winner

Sunday, March 4 - Quarterfinals (ESPNU)

Noon ET Game 9: No. 4 Georgetown vs. Game 5 Winner

2:00 PM ET Game 10: No. 1 Notre Dame vs. Game 6 Winner

6:00 PM ET Game 11: No. 2 St. John's vs. Game 7 Winner * BIGEAST.tv/BIG EAST TV/ESPN3

8:00 PM ET Game 12: No. 3 Connecticut vs. Game 8 Winner

Monday, March 5 - Semifinals (ESPNU)

6:00 PM ET Game 13: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner

8:00 PM ET Game 14: Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner

Tuesday, March 6 - Championship Game (ESPN)

7:00 PM ET Game 15: Game 13 Winner vs. Game 14 Winner

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