STORRS — The scrappy intensity that served as the hallmark of the UConn-Rutgers women’s basketball rivalry demanded some semblance of composure and confidence from its combatants.
Given her lack of consistency during her first two seasons with the Huskies, such demands rendered Lorin Dixon almost a non-factor in these games.
You can expect that to change when the Scarlet Knights visit the XL Center tonight, because Dixon goes into the game playing the best basketball of her career.
“I feel like I’m playing with a lot more confidence,” Dixon said. “I just feel like I’m giving the team what they need. I feel like I’m playing well. I’m doing all the little things I can do. There’s things I still want to do better, but I’m pretty happy.”
It’s difficult to judge the positive impact Dixon has had based solely on her statistics. She is averaging only 2.4 points, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game, but the UConn coaching staff and players couldn’t be happier with the contributions she’s made.
“Lorin is like a ball of energy that you know has the potential to go off, and you never doubt that unlimited source of energy she brings to our team,” Maya Moore said. “When she comes in and makes up her mind she is going to bring our team energy, there is nothing you can do about it. She is going to find a way to make an impact.”
Dixon has added not only energy, but composure. She is tied with Moore for the team lead in assist/turnover ratio (2.2). She’s committed more than one turnover in only two games, and in 70 minutes played over the last four games she’s committed a total of only three turnovers.
“She’s playing great,” said Geno Auriemma. “She’s making plays that need to be made. They don’t always translate into points, but I couldn’t be happier with Lorin. I love everything that she’s giving us right now.”
The one thing Dixon isn’t giving the team is attitude. In the past, she pouted when everything didn’t go her way and it caused erratic swings in her play.
She easily could have pouted when she missed the first nine games due to a left hamstring strain. She had dedicated herself to improving during the offseason by going to Point Guard College and spending much of the summer working with assistant coach Shea Ralph.
She worked hard enough, gained enough confidence and learned enough about her expectations that she earned the starting point guard job. But she injured her hamstring before she ever got to start in a regular season game and lost the starting position.
“She seems to have accepted that role that we have for her and is really doing an unbelievable job with it,” Auriemma said. “Because someone like her who is a junior could be moaning and groaning a about all the minutes that Tiffany and Caroline are getting, and she doesn’t. Not ever once. She knows what she’s good at. She knows she’s going to play and she’s been great.”
Ironically, her strengths are now some of the things that used to be her weaknesses. She plays hard without thinking too much. She’s confident rather than indecisive with the ball. She utilizes her speed and athleticism to dictate tempo without turning the ball over. And she doesn’t need to be playing a big-time opponent to get up for the game.
“Rather than have one really good game and then just have bad game after bad game, I would rather just be solid,” Dixon said. “I’ll make trade that any day when you now your team can count on you every night, your coach can count on you every night and he won’t have any worries.”
By Roger Cleaveland, The Republican American
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