You never would have guessed it by the look on the player’s faces, their body language or their words after the game, but UConn women’s basketball beat Cal 72-61 on Sunday to start the season 1-0.
But by UConn women’s basketball standards, at times, it felt more like a loss. Sure, they were only losing at one instance in the game, a 44-second stretch in the first quarter when it was 7-6 Cal, but they also went into the half up only seven points.
“It was a weird game,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “It just looked like we had a hard time getting any kind of continuity on the offensive end, it was really kind of a mish-mosh of things. So I was really disappointed in that cause I think we spent a lot of time on that. That kind of surprised me a little bit.”
In the first half, UConn’s field goal percentage was just 7% better than Cal, they shot the same percentage from behind the arc (33%) and they turned the ball over the same number of times (eight).
Things improved in the third quarter, with the Huskies extending their lead to 14 by the time it was over, but they just couldn’t put the game away, and even lost the fourth quarter 14-11.
“I would not say today was one of those classic, Connecticut offensive games, to say the least,” Auriemma said.
It was Crystal Dangerfield, Megan Walker, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa who led the charge, as the four of them combined for all but two of the team’s points.
Williams led the charge with 24 points on 10-17 shooting while also contributing seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Walker, after starting the game 0-5, found her stroke, going 8-11 after and finishing the game with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Dangerfield and Nelson-Ododa struggled a bit more, going 5-14 and 4-15 from the field respectively.
Williams and Dangerfield both played all 40 minutes, and Walker and Nelson-Ododa each played over 35.
Starting spot No. 5 was occupied by senior Kyla Irwin, who played just 10 minutes and didn’t take a shot. It was a surprise start, as freshman Anna Makurat was expected to be the fifth starter, but Auriemma said after the game that both her and fellow freshman Aubrey Griffin had struggled recently in practice due to what he suspected could have been nerves.
Dangerfield said she expects more from the team on the offensive side of the ball. At one point in the game, Auriemma said that she even went up to him and said they couldn’t run any plays, simply because not everyone on the court knew what they were.
“We all know that our offense wasn’t flowing today, so we’re gonna go back into practice and try and figure that out,” Dangerfield said.
They have two more games this week, traveling to Vanderbilt on Wednesday and Temple on Sunday, with both teams combining for a 4-0 record so far. They are sure to provide a tougher test than Cal, who now drops to 0-2 with their other loss coming against Harvard.
They still have a long way to go to get back to Final Four form, but there’s still a full season to go. After all, this is only game No. 1.
“As far as first games go, I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse,” Auriemma said.