— Like a prized baker in his kitchen,
It's in the repetition: meshing, adjusting, cajoling and convincing them to defeat challenges on the way to No. 1.
For the past six weeks, Auriemma has been mixing his new group of ingredients. And Sunday he tried his recipe in one of the nation's hottest ovens for women's basketball, Texas A&M's Reed Arena.
Two hours later, the No. 2
Next comes UConn's anointing as the nation's new No. 1. Thanks to Baylor's loss to Stanford last week, the Huskies (2-0) should top The Associated Press' Top 25 poll by the time they land in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, on Tuesday.
"We've been 1, 2, 3, whatever," Auriemma said. "It's not really something we think about at this point."
It was just the 11th loss A&M had suffered at home since 2005-06. And it was one of its worst. Two years from its first national championship, the Aggies (0-3) have lost to three straight Top 10 teams this season.
UConn beat the Aggies by an almost identical score, 81-51, last year in Hartford.
The reason this time was in the lane, primarily the work of junior center
"She was unbelievable," Auriemma said. "She was great."
And most of them were poured in with former UConn recruit Kelsey Bone trying to guard her. It didn't go well for Bone, who scored eight points (3 of 7) with three rebounds and two turnovers in 25 minutes.
"We know all about the transformation that Stefanie has made physically,"
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 16 points, five rebounds and five assists. The Huskies were 32 of 57 from the floor, outrebounded the Aggies 40-28, and assisted on 27 of their 32 baskets.
Courtney Walker, one of the Aggies' seven freshmen, led them in scoring with 20 points.
Dolson was 9 of 12 in the first half for 20 points. She played 18 minutes and cut incessantly to the hoop, taking passes from a variety of her teammates to score.
"I'm just trying to help the team run its offense," Dolson said. "It's possible for a center to do that, although you always hear about how it's the guards who do that. I can see a lot of people from where I am. I know where people should be, what spots they should be in."
UConn (2-0) will begin play in the Paradise Jam on Thanksgiving against Wake Forest before taking on Marist (Friday) and Purdue (Saturday).
Even this early in the season it appears the Huskies and Aggies are moving in different directions. UConn's three freshmen have played major roles in their fast start. Texas A&M's seven freshmen have had it much harder in losses to three Top 10 teams — the Huskies, Louisville and Penn State.
One of the reasons is their poor shooting. They made just 31 percent (9 of 29) in the first half and scored nine of their 28 points from the line. They shot just 30 percent on Sunday, shooting 3 of 11 from three.
Meanwhile, UConn made its game plan clear. Running a series of plays and making a variety of cuts that opened spots under the basket, the Huskies opened their biggest lead, 25-12, with 9:33 to play in the half.
"We tried to fix some things in practice," Auriemma said. "We know we are a good outside shooting, but [Sunday] we just made a concerted effort to get the ball into the lane."
It was a relatively quiet day for UConn's freshmen, who played such vital roles in their opening win over College of Charleston.
Breanna Stewart, who had 21 in her first game, picked up two early fouls and played just seven minutes in the first half. She saw more of the floor in the second half when she made two three-pointers and ended with 11 points.
Morgan Tuck (3 of 11, six points) missed all four shots in 10 first-half minutes. And Moriah Jefferson, playing in her home state, scored four points all on free throws with three assists and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
The Huskies started the second half by scoring eight of the first nine points in the 4:26 to take a 48-31 lead. They eventually went on an 18-3 run that pried open the game in a big way, the Huskies taking a 58-31 lead when Stewart's three bounced around the rim and in.