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UConn’s Geno Auriemma reveals NCAA tournament ‘furthest thing’ from his mind

Auriemma is focused on navigating a Huskies’ roster that has been plagued by injury this season.

In the aftermath of No. 11 Huskies 83-65 defeat to No. 1 South Carolin on Sunday, UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma made it clear his focus lies squarely on his team’s development rather than the looming NCAA tournament. This refocusing comes amid a challenging season for UConn, plagued by a series of injuries that have left the team short-handed.

Auriemma, who recently surpassed 1,200 career wins, has led UConn to 11 national championships, but this season has been particularly trying. The injury toll includes a season-ending injury to Aubrey Griffin last month, with Azzi Fudd and three others also sidelined for the season. Caroline Ducharme has been out since November due to back and neck issues, further depleting the roster.

Facing these challenges, Auriemma fielded a lineup against South Carolina that included four freshmen, two of whom are in the starting rotation.

“I mean, ever since all this stuff has been happening with our roster, that’s the furthest thing from my mind,” Auriemma said, per Myron Medcalf of ESPN. “I (couldn’t) care less about that. We have a bunch of young (players) playing college basketball for the first time and they’ve gotten better and better each and every week and we have to make sure they keep getting better every week.”

Auriemma calls for assertiveness from senior players 

- UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma “breathing fire” at UConn women’s basketball player Paige Bueckers

Paige Bueckers and Aaliyah Edwards both scored 20 points in the attempt to stop South Carolina’s advance, led by Te-Hina Paopao with 21 points. However, UConn’s limitations were evident as they struggled with a 36.6% field goal rate and committed 13 turnovers.

“We have to do more things right than ever before because of the situation that we’re in,” he said. “We’re not going to get any bigger. We’re not going to add any more players. We’re not going to get any taller, but we need to get a little smarter if we want to be able to win some of these games come March.”

Additionally, Auriemma called for more assertiveness from Bueckers, who, despite playing significant minutes, faces limited recovery opportunities. Still, he remains optimistic about the team’s trajectory and views the loss as a learning experience for his players, especially the freshmen.

“The seven that we have right now, that are playing the most minutes, that’s just the way it’s going to be,” Auriemma said. “It’s going to be on those seven. Hopefully, it was a great learning experience for those young (players) because it was the first time they really had to play big roles in a game like this.”

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