No. 5 UConn will play Trevecca Nazarene Wednesday night in their final tune-up exhibition game before beginning the regular season on Sunday.
Trevecca Nazarene, a small religious university in Tennessee, is a Division II NCAA school in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
Much like the 103-40 rout of Jefferson University last Sunday, nobody is anticipating that this game will be very competitive. It will be a great experience for Trevecca Nazarene’s players to play in front of large crowd against some of the best competition in the world.
As for UConn, this is more of an opportunity for Geno Auriemma to play around with different lineups and to get his players acclimated to playing unfamiliar competition in front of a crowd.
“They [exhibition games] are like test runs or dress rehearsals,” senior point guard Crystal Dangerfield said after the Jefferson exhibition.
Dangerfield also pointed out that when these smaller women’s basketball programs play exhibition games against the Huskies, they still have the drive and spirit to play as hard as if it were a regular season game.
“We still have a target on our backs, people still want to come after us and give us their best shot,” Dangerfield said.
Auriemma, who is always trying to make his team better and is no stranger to finding learning experiences in blowout wins, believes there are lessons to be learned from exhibition play.
“You can [gauge] a couple of things,” Auriemma said after the Jefferson exhibition. “There were some things that we did that were pretty good, and a bunch of things that need to be fixed.”
Auriemma was especially critical of the defense, citing previous great defensive teams that he had coached, and said “this ain’t one of them.”
One great defensive player on this UConn team is sophomore Olivia Nelson-Ododa. At 6-feet 5-inches, she is the tallest player on the Huskies by three inches. She also recorded five blocks and four steals against Jefferson.
Auriemma called Nelson-Ododa’s great game on defense a “double-edged sword.”
“When your big has to block a lot of shots, that means a lot of guys got beat. But it’s good to have her back there because she’s long enough to affect shots, and she’s gotten a lot better of knowing when to and how to,” Auriemma said. “We don’t want to put her in that situation 30 times a game where she has to save us from a layup.”
Perimeter defense will likely be an area of emphasis for Auriemma’s players against Trevecca Nazarene.
UConn and Trevecca Nazarene will play at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @seanjanos.