Immaturity, Paige Bueckers and next season: Geno Auriemma reacts to UConn's loss to Arizona

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Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma reacts at the end of a women's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game against Arizona Friday, April 2, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Arizona won 69-59. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma reacts at the end of a women's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game against Arizona Friday, April 2, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Arizona won 69-59. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Eric Gay / Associated Press

The UConn women’s basketball season came to an abrupt end Friday night in a 69-59 loss to Arizona. It may have been a 10-point loss, but it felt like 40 minutes of the Huskies trying to chase down the Wildcats, who jumped out to an early lead and never gave it up.

After the game, coach Geno Auriemma was quick to applaud Arizona, while also talking about his own team’s immaturity, next year’s Final Four and more.

Here’s a look at what Auriemma had to say following the game:

Credit to Arizona

Before Auriemma would discuss his team, he first credited the Wildcats for playing tough defense and for Aari McDonald’s impressive 26-point performance. This marks the first time in Arizona’s history the women’s program will be headed to the Final Four.

“They played amazing,” Auriemma said, opening his postgame press conference. “That first half, it was incredibly difficult for us to get anything done. And I thought the intensity level that they played with and the aggressiveness on the defensive end, we just didn't respond as I hoped we would.

“...Aari McDonald, I said going into the game, I don't think we've had to play against a guard as good as she is, and she proved it tonight. She just dominated the entire game start to finish.”

‘A sign of immaturity’

According to Christyn Williams, the Huskies weren’t ready for this game. The UConn junior said after the game the Huskies thought the game against the No. 3 seed would be a little easier than it was. Auriemma said the team has some growing up to do, still.

“I've said all along this year to those that have followed us all year long, we have a very immature group, not just young,” Auriemma said. “We have a young group, but a very immature group. When we're high and when we're on top of the world, we think everything's great.

“When things don't go our way, there's a poutiness about us, there's a feeling sorry for ourselves about us that you don't win championships when you're like that unless you get lucky, if that indeed is what the mindset was because, believe me, the scouting report on Arizona and the game plan on Arizona was way more thorough and way more involved than the Baylor one was, to be honest with you...”

The Final Four loss could help

Auriemma hasn’t shied away from talking about the team’s immaturity, sometimes enjoying it, sometimes pointing out that it can hold them back. But this loss could correct some of that.

“...I believe that what we learned this year through all the ups and downs is going to really benefit us for the next couple years, for sure,” Auriemma said. “I remember saying that in 2008. We played and we lost to Stanford in the semifinal. It was Maya Moore's freshman year. I said, We'll be back. We went back and we were undefeated the next two seasons.

“I don't think that's going to happen. But we'll be back here sooner rather than later.”

14 straight Final Fours

This was 13 straight Final Fours for UConn. Auriemma seemed confident that streak will continue.

“Everybody told me, ‘Hey, listen, this year is just a setup. This is the building block for the next couple of years,’” Auriemma said. “It's great to say that, not so great today when you're sitting here talking to you guys when you're this far away from playing in the championship game.

“I do think that these games do tend to stay with you a little bit longer,” Auriemma added. “I would say, at least on my end, I'm going to be coaching in the Final Four next year on April 2nd, whatever that date is. What my team is going to look like, I don't know because we got a whole bunch of new guys coming in, how that goes.”

Room to grow

Asked about the freshmen, Auriemma said there was room to grow, specially with Bueckers.

“As good as Paige was this year, and she carried our team through most of the season; that's not how you win championships, with one player having to do everything...She needs to get a lot better. As good as you all think she is, and she's really good, if we're going to be here the next couple years with her at Connecticut, she needs to get a lot better. I don't mean just on the court either.”

It’s not easy

UConn has had its fair share of undefeated streaks along with 11 national titles. There was a time when they made each game look fairly easy. Lately? Not so much.

“Yeah, when we were making it look so easy, I try to tell people this is really hard, and nobody believed me,” Auriemma said. “When you're winning all the time, you're winning four years in a row, X number of years out of X number of years, people start to believe this is real easy. It's not.”