"I think it gets the basketball season off to a great start," said coach Geno Auriemma, who is entering his 27th season at UConn. "I think the kids love it. The players really enjoy this night. They get a kick out of it and they make it fun."
In typical First Night fashion, both teams were introduced to the crowd as they ran out through a platform of smoke and pyrotechnics, then made their way to midcourt. Like always, both coaches made a speech to Husky fans. According to Auriemma, this year's team is going to be "good if not better than anything in the country."
After the introductions and the musical performance, the teams competed in a three-point contest, a game of knockout featuring players and UConn students, a guessing game between players and coaches, and a slam dunk contest.
Sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis won the three-point contest with 20 points. She out shot teammates Caroline Doty and Morgan Tuck as well as Leon Tolksdorf, Omar Calhoun and DeAndre Daniels from the men's team. The women took the top three spots in the contest with Mosqueda-Lewis winning, Doty coming in second with 16 points and Tuck coming in third with 14.
Auriemma is expecting more out of Lewis this year. He wants to see an improvement on defense, rebounding and scoring from his second year player.
"She worked really hard in the preseason," Auriemma said. "She'll have a more expanded role in our lineup, much more so than last year."
Freshman Breanna Stewart competed in the dunk contest in her first ever First Night at UConn. Unfortunately, Stewart was not able to record a dunk in four attempts, but she got the Gampel crowd behind her. Although she did not complete a dunk, the 6-4 forward showed that she can elevate.
"I don't have any expectations, I just know that she is going to be really good," said Auriemma about the season he believes Stewart will have. "I think she's got an opportunity to be as good as any player we've ever brought here. That, in itself, says a lot."
In a style similar to the classic TV show, The Dating Game, Auriemma and center Stefanie Dolson competed against men's coach Kevin Ollie and guard Ryan Boatright to see which player-coach combination knew each other best. Dolson was able to guess that Auriemma had Glee on his iPod and Auriemma guessed correctly that Dolson's favorite movie was White Chicks, but they eventually lost 4-2.
With First Night iover, the real fun begins as both teams participate in their first official practices tomorrow. Auriemma was impressed with the preseason and says his team has played great so far.
"I think that's made all the coaches and the players feel really anxious to get started," he said.