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It wasn't a complete lost cause

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published March 06. 2013 4:00AM

South Bend, Ind.

Tom Coughlin, coach of the football Giants, calls it "the remorse of lost opportunity." It's when you drive yourself daffy thinking about wouldas, couldas and shouldas of the agonizing defeat. That's what befell the UConn women Monday night at Notre Dame.

Regrets, they had a few.

Example: The ball and the lead in the final 32 seconds of regulation, until Stefanie Dolson was called for her fifth foul on a moving screen 80 feet from the basket. Until Bria Hartley fouled out a few seconds later. Two starters, gone in 60 seconds. And then the ball with the game tied in the final seconds, until Notre Dame defenders tied up Caroline Doty, who failed to call timeout.

Example: The ball and the a six-point lead in the final 2:43 of the first overtime until four missed free throws kept the Irish fighting.

Example: The ball and a five-point lead in the second overtime until two offensive fouls led to overtime No. 3.

Example: Thirty-five turnovers.

Example: Missed free throws.

Example: The curious case of Kayla McBride. Late in the first overtime and here comes McBride, all dressed in white. They fail to guard her and allow her to launch the game-tying three.

Oh, the humanity.

But now that your eyes have seen the gory, shall we deliver some better news?

Plenty of good things happened to the Huskies, too. Things that can provide a foundation - and some inspiration - as the games get more significant.

Start here: Morgan Tuck played well. Again. That's two solid contributions against Baylor and Notre Dame now. She gave UConn some fiber in the post, especially after Dolson fouled out. In the most hostile gym UConn experienced all season.

Start here: Hideous turnovers notwithstanding, they were some missed free throws away from beating Notre Dame at Notre Dame. That can be fixed.

Start here: Hartley played better. Not great, but better. And given Doty's foibles with the ball late in the game, Hartley's improvement, or perhaps just a bigger jolt of confidence, is paramount.

Start here: They played three overtime periods without Dolson and Hartley and darn near won. On the road. They didn't play smart. But they showed some fortitude.

So while the aggravation of this loss is palpable - it should be - there's also plenty to appreciate.

The UConn Huskies are far from finished.

Coach Geno Auriemma even lauded his team after the game for some toughness and resilience. Auriemma, however, has some decisions to make, beginning Sunday in the Big East quarterfinals.

Perhaps we should have seen the last of Doty. This is not pleasurable, picking on a college kid. They're college kids, not professionals. But Doty's failure to call timeout at the end of regulation, failure to recognize the concepts of time and score and failure to realize the possession arrow favored Notre Dame cost UConn a chance at taking the final shot.

Doty is a fifth-year senior who played like a freshman.

She has not made a shot against Baylor or Notre Dame in recent memory.

Hence, her usefulness here is over. It's time for Auriemma to play freshman Moriah Jefferson. It's possible her decision making won't be better than Doty's. But it'll be wisdom for the pain. Jefferson has a future here. Doty does not.

The Huskies, barring circumstances more shocking than Monday's, will get another shot at Notre Dame next week in the Big East tournament championship game. And then perhaps at the Final Four. And while the "Notre Dame has their number" narrative will play out in all its idiocy, let me ask this:

What if the next two games between the teams play exactly as the first two did?

Translation: In game one, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis gets a wide open three in the closing seconds. In game two, UConn is up six in overtime and needs to make a few free throws to win.

You think the Huskies sign for those scenarios right now?

The point: The difference between Notre Dame and UConn is thin enough to be spread across a Wheat Thin at the moment. Long way to go. Stay tuned.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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