Auriemma bleak on UConn after loss to Ga. Tech

Auriemma bleak on UConn after loss to Ga. Tech

December 10, 2021

    Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

After the UConn women’s basketball team’s first loss to an unranked team since 2012, head coach Geno Auriemma said Thursday that the Huskies are “in a bad way right now as a team.”

The No. 3 Huskies fell 57-44 at Georgia Tech in UConn’s lowest-scoring game since losing 48-42 to Rutgers on Feb. 27, 2006. The Huskies’ last loss to an unranked foe was a 57-56 defeat to St. John’s on Feb. 18, 2012, a stretch of 239 games.

UConn lost guard Paige Bueckers — the Huskies’ leader in points, assists and steals — to a knee injury in Sunday’s 73-54 victory over Notre Dame. She is expected to be out at least 6-8 weeks, and UConn’s offense struggled without her. The Huskies are also without guards Azzi Fudd and Nika Muhl and forward Aubrey Griffin, who are also injured.

The score was tied 39-39 after three quarters, reflective of a game being played at a pace that suited the defensive-minded Yellow Jackets. But then Georgia Tech outscored UConn 18-5 in the fourth quarter. In their other loss this season, 73-57 to No. 1 South Carolina on Nov. 22, the Huskies scored just three points in the fourth — and that was with Bueckers, Fudd and Muhl playing.

“We’re disorganized as a group right now, from the coaching on down,” Auriemma said. “There is no sense of ‘we have a plan of how we’re going to execute, how we’re going to get a bucket, who’s going to get it for us.’

“Scoring is a function of people working together. I thought Georgia Tech did a great job of that. Their post players worked really well together, really controlled the game. In that fourth quarter, we didn’t respond. Which has happened before with this team. So you can blame Paige not being here — yeah, that’s part of it — but that’s not the real story.”

Georgia Tech was unranked entering Thursday’s game, but the 7-2 Yellow Jackets were in the first two polls of the season, falling out after a loss to Auburn. Their other loss was to Purdue. The Yellow Jackets were an NCAA Sweet 16 team last season.

Coach Nell Fortner, in her third season at Georgia Tech, became the fourth coach to beat Auriemma in their first meeting with him.

“We kept our composure, and I knew defensively we could be good,” Fortner said. “We knocked down more shots than they did, and I’m pretty happy about it.”

Georgia Tech made 22 of 58 from the field to UConn’s 18 of 58; the Huskies were just 2-of-15 from 3-point range and were led by senior guard Christyn Williams’ 13 points. Lotta-Maj Lahtinen led the Yellow Jackets with 15 points.

Asked if he sees some things that can be fixed by the time UConn faces UCLA on Saturday, Auriemma sounded bleak.

“I don’t think it’s gonna get fixed,” he said. “I really don’t. I’ve been doing this a long, long time. Coaches are supposed to be eternal optimists. I’m too old to be an optimist. I’m a realist. I truly believe what I see. I don’t try to make up what I’m seeing and pretend it’s something else. I know what I see.

“And what I see is a team that’s somewhat disheveled. And that’s on me. Somehow, some way I do not have the ability at this point in time to affect my players to make sure that we’re in a better place mentally and physically, to play the kind of basketball we need to play.

“I’ve usually been pretty good over the years at making players better. We get really good players coming out of high school, but they get better and better and better every year. And right now, that’s not happening.”

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