Greason: Connecticut’s blowout win was shameful
Elizabeth Greason | Tuesday, March 20, 2018
I’m annoyed. I was planning on writing this column on Tiger Woods and how, over the past two weeks, he’s made golf relevant once again. How he, after four back surgeries, has already recorded the fastest swing speed on tour this season. How everyone, no matter how much they hated him at his best or even if they were competing against him, was rooting for him to win.
But then No. 1-seed UConn played No. 16-seed St. Francis (PA) in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament Saturday and put up 55 points in the first 10-minute quarter — 94 points in the first half — ultimately resulting in a 140-52 blowout. So, while I would love to laud the fact that Tiger has looked really, really good, I instead feel obligated to point out why this game was such a problem.
I’m all for convincing wins. Start your stars, come out guns blazing and play your hearts out until the game is out of reach. But then let up. A lot. Clear your bench gradually. Slow the pace of the game significantly.
I understand that it is difficult, as a coach, to tell your players not to try to win by as much as physically possible. That it’s hard to tell them not to take every open 3 they see or drive down the court for a wide-open layup in a breakaway play, especially once your backups have been rotated in. But it needs to be done.
But this is where Huskies coach Geno Auriemma has failed. He has won 11 national championships with Connecticut; but along the way, he has instilled a cutthroat culture in his squad. UConn is not new to blowouts, but an 88-point win in the NCAA tournament was unheard of and uncalled for.
It is one thing to embarrass your opponent during the regular season. I am never a fan of running up the score, but at least in November it serves the purpose of helping to solidify a ranking. In March, however, the rankings are set in stone. They no longer matter. It is team against team. Loser goes home.
Losing is consequence enough. There is no need to send a team home — especially a team that had to truly earn its way into the tournament, for whom just appearing in the tournament was a big deal — beaten and bruised. But that is exactly what Auriemma and Connecticut did.
Granted, Auriemma started subbing in the first quarter with a 20-point lead and eventually cleared his bench. However, his stars Kia Nurse and Katie Lou Samuelson both played well over half the game, while Gabby Williams racked up 22 minutes. There was no need for that. Those three could have sat with 10 minutes apiece under their belts.
And while the Huskies definitely eased off the gas in the second half after scoring 94 points in the first, the lead continued to grow. This being said, the Huskies are an infinitely superior basketball team to the Red Flash. There was little they could do at times to prevent the margin from growing without being disrespectful. But it never should have been that large to begin with.
Auriemma strolled into his postgame press conference with a sense of pride. He should have had his tail between his legs.
“The fact that we generally don’t lose to teams that aren’t as talented as us, I shouldn’t apologize for that,” Auriemma said after the game. “That’s not my fault that we play well regardless of whether we play teams that are in the top-five in the country or [No. 305]. I could care less. If I played all my players 30 minutes every single night, we would have scores like this every night.”
Everyone is aware that Connecticut’s loss to Mississippi State in the Final Four last year was likely a fluke. A massive win over a 16-seed in the first round does nothing to re-solidify its status as the only real presence in women’s basketball.
However, what bothers me most about the win has been the public’s response to it. For the most part, the responses have been, ‘Wow, look what UConn just did,’ and, ‘Connecticut just put up 55 points in a quarter.’ And they are warranted because Connecticut is one of the best sports dynasties of all time. But at the same time, this running up of the score, especially during March Madness, should be frowned upon more readily.
In my mind, UConn’s 140-52 win over 16th-seeded St. Francis (PA) is not one the Huskies should celebrate. It is nothing short of disgraceful.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.