STORRS - Geno Auriemma is the first to defend his players on the UConn womenâs basketball team when it comes to dealing with the referees.
But the Hall of Fame coach had no issues with Dee Kantner, Bryan Enterline, and Kevin Pethtel following No. 1 UConnâs 80-44 American Athletic Conference win over Central Florida at Gampel Pavilion Tuesday night. Instead, he saved his best sarcasm for his players, who did not deal with UCFâs physical style well.
âThe first half offensively we had a chip on our shoulder toward the officials,â Auriemma said. âOur players didnât think the officials did a good enough job of helping the UConn players look really, really good. I think some players on our team think it is the officialsâ job to help them be really good.â
âAs you noticed in the first half, weâre incapable of making a bucket when somebody touches us. Weâre incapable of making a layup if there happens to be anyone else in the lane with us. Iâm sending out word to the supervisor of officials to have them tell the officials that they didnât get the memo. According to my players, a couple of them, their job is to make sure the UConn players are not defended, nobody gets in their way, nobody tries to block their shots and if they do the officials are supposed to tell them that is not allowed.â
With a 32-19 lead, UConn did not return to the court from the 15-minute halftime break until 20 seconds remained on the clock. It didnât matter as the Huskies shot 63.3 percent over the final 20 minutes to get to 50.0 percent for the game.
Auriemmaâs message was straightforward.
âWe canât go out there and be a bunch of girls,â UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield said. âWe canât be whining if a call is missed or anything like that. We have to go out there and play. We have to play harder and smarter. When a team is that aggressive, you have more areas to beat them, but we werenât playing to those strengths. We were playing kind of the way they wanted us to play.
âIf somebody says âBoo!â on a layup we were kind of missing them. We were barely being touched and we were looking for fouls to be bailed out. We have to be the ones to initiate contact and go through and finish.â
Auriemma said again there was no update on the status of freshman guard Andra Espinoza-Hunter, who missed her fifth consecutive game while dealing with personal issues. âWeâre going to try and get a resolution to this in the next day or so,â he said. âŠ The Huskies improved to 60-0 against teams that have one of Auriemmaâs former players or assistant coaches on their staff. Nykesha Sales, who graduated as UConnâs all-time leading scorer in 1998, is in her second season as a UCF assistant.