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women’s basketball: No. 16 DePaul at No. 2 UConn, 7 p.m. UConn braces for DePaul’s high-speed offense

November 28, 2018

STORRS — Crystal Dangerfield is no stranger to playing an up-tempo brand of basketball. With 71 games at UConn under her belt, she’s more than acquainted with that style of play.

Yet what Dangerfield is used to might seem a tad slow compared to what the Huskies will see Wednesday against DePaul.

“They’re a different gear,” Dangerfield said following practice Tuesday at the Werth Center. “We do want to play fast, but we want to stay under control.”

UConn pushes the speed limit in the left lane on I-95. DePaul disregards it entirely.

“I always think you’ve got to manage the tempo, for sure” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “They’re very, very comfortable playing at that pace. I don’t think anybody else is.”

Monday offered a sneak peek of what the Huskies should expect to face at the XL Center in Hartford (7 p.m.). DePaul attempted a ridiculous 41 3-pointers, connecting on a school-record 24 of them in a 124-61 victory over Savannah State. Through six games, the Blue Devils are averaging 38.1 shots from beyond the arc.

“When you get a team that shoots that many, you’re kind of at their mercy,” Auriemma said. “This is not like, ‘Well, we’ve got to guard that kid and that kid.’ If they’re on the floor, you’ve got to guard them. That’s all there is to it. And even if you guard them, it doesn’t matter.”

As unconventional as the Blue Demons’ style may be, it’s suited them well. They’re 4-2 and ranked No. 16 in the AP poll, with their only losses coming against No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 12 Syracuse.

“They play a different style and they substitute differently. I don’t know what his rhyme or reason is for when he does it and why he does it,” Auriemma said, referring to Blue Demons coach Doug Bruno. “Sometimes it’s just hockey; it’s just five guys over the boards. It’s five guys in and five guys out. You’ve got no idea why they’re coming out. A kid could go 4-for-4 and it’s their turn to come out.”

The Blue Demons’ leading scorer is 6-foot-1 Chante Stonewall (averaging 15.8 points per game), who coincidentally has hit the fewest 3-pointers (six) among the starters. Guard Ashton Millender, a starting guard on last year’s Big East championship team, is second on the team with 12.8 points per game.

Fortunately, the second-ranked Huskies — who are sitting at 5-0 after a trio of victories at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands — know what they’ll be up against.

“They can all shoot,” forward Napheesa Collier said, “so it’s really going to be a challenge for us to make sure we’re getting back and finding them in transition so they’re not getting easy 3s.”

While it could be enticing to get into a track meet with DePaul, Auriemma said he wants his team to play to manage the pace. Surely it’ll be a few miles per hour slower.

“There’s been some years where that’s exactly what we wanted to do,” he said. “We said every time down the floor we’re looking to get a layup or an open 3 ourselves because you’re going to get a lot of opportunities. I don’t know if that’s the game plan going into this one.”

Griffin on board: UConn officially announced the signing of Ossining High (N.Y.) guard Aubrey Griffin on Tuesday. Griffin, who signed her letter of intent last week, is the No. 33 player in next year’s class. The Huskies’ top target, Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) guard Haley Jones, the No. 1 player in 2019, will announce her decision Wednesday morning.

dbonjour@ctpost.com

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