The UConn women’s basketball team was brought to a snail’s pace Monday night at Gampel Pavilion in its Round of 32 matchup with in-state rivals Quinnipiac, but overcame the unusually slow tempo to come away with a 71-46 win to send the Huskies to Albany for the Sweet 16.
The No. 9-seeded Bobcats took a completely different approach in their game against the No. 1 overall Huskies. Quinnipiac’s strategy involved draining the shot clock at every opportunity and slowing the game to a halt to avoid getting into a marathon with athletically superior UConn.
“We tried a different offensive set today,” Quinnipiac senior guard Carly Fabbri said. “We tried to slow it down a little bit, so in the first half we were taking shots with 12, 10, under 10 seconds left on the shot clock… The shots that we did take were good shots, they just weren’t falling for us tonight.”
Quinnipiac minimized the number of possessions in the game and, during the first half, averaged 28 seconds per possession, meaning it utilized most of the shot clock nearly every single time down the court. The Bobcats quickened their pace in the second half, but still finished with an average of 24 seconds per possession.
“We slowed the game down so that would take away possessions. We still had 57 possessions to UConn’s 44 with slowing the game down,” Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri said. “We knew we were going to give ourselves a chance with shortening the game.”
While the Bobcats still failed to keep up with the Huskies, they held UConn to one of its lowest scoring outputs of the season and kept themselves in the game into the third quarter. Their slow methodology impressively held the Huskies to just 33 points at the half.
“We firmly believed (the best chance for us to win was) shortening that shot clock, taking it down, slowing the game down, shortening that game to give us a puncher’s chance,” Coach Fabbri said, “to keep it close and within striking distance.”
This approach was a far cry from the Huskies’ Round of 64 matchup with Saint Francis (PA) on Saturday, in which the Red Flash pushed the tempo and paid the price.
“Well, obviously that was a little different than Saturday (against Saint Francis),” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “I think everybody knew that at least on our team that the tempo was gonna be a little bit different today… You can’t dictate how you want the other team to play. I think Quinnipiac did a great job of controlling their part of the tempo and not letting us get too many run-outs.”
While UConn ultimately overcame the Bobcats, the team struggled to force turnovers at the usual rate. Quinnipiac had just seven turnovers the entire game compared to the Huskies’ 13, something Fabbri was quite proud of.
“We don’t turn the ball over,” Coach Fabbri said. “That’s a hallmark of this program… We were just a little bit choppy with a lack of a prep in changing our whole offensive style. I do think we were just maybe a little bit rushed.”
Auriemma said he was impressed with the Bobcats’ ability to stay composed despite the Huskies’ length and athleticism, which usually forces turnovers out of even the best of teams.
“I’ve always said that any kind of shot is better than a bad pass,” Auriemma said. “(Quinnipiac) weren’t in a hurry so they never really turned the ball over a lot so they were able to get a shot. Any time you’re able to get a shot, you get a chance to set up your defense and I woulda done the same thing if I was Tricia. (They’re) either gonna win 50-48 or (they’re) gonna lose 75-50 and that’s the chance (they took).”
The Bobcats did fairly well with their shot clock-draining, slow tempo strategy. They forced UConn to grind for the win, even if the score suggests otherwise.
“It definitely was a grind today,” UConn senior guard Kia Nurse said. “They did a great job on a number of things throughout the game against us.”
Next up, the Huskies will move on to the Sweet 16 in the Albany at the Times Union Center. They will take on the No. 5-seed Duke Blue Devils, who defeated No. 4 Georgia 66-40. The game will take place Saturday afternoon and will be televised on ESPN.