OSSINING, N.Y. -- Ossining’s Saniya Chong seems to be rediscovering her shot, and her confidence, at a critical time for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.
Chong scored 11 points Tuesday night as the Huskies (21-1) ripped Cincinnati, 96-36. It was the 900th win in the legendary career of coach Geno Auriemma.
“He’s very special, and he works hard for what he gets,’’ Chong said about Auriemma’s milestone victory. “When we’re at practice, he sets a goal, and we just have to achieve it. We have to do everything we’re supposed to and be playing our role. He works us hard, and it shows in games.”
Chong, a sophomore who starred at Ossining High School, played 22 minutes and connected on 4-of-5 from the field. She was 3-for-3 from 3-point range and added two rebounds, two assists and a steal.
For the year,Chong is averaging 6.2 points per game and nearly 20 minutes of playing time. She is shooting 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point territory.
Just a month ago, however, Chong seemed to be falling out of favor with Auriemma as her playing time diminished. She played just six minutes in a 70-54 win over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 4. Chong missed her only field goal attempt and two foul shots. In the preceding game against East Carolina, Chong played 25 minutes and was 2-for-5 from the floor. She scored just two points in a 90-68 win over Tulsa on Jan. 7.
Chong started the first two games of the year for the Huskies before freshman Kia Nurse moved into the starting lineup. Nurse is now the team’s point guard, while Chong is the first guard off the bench. Freshman guard Gabby Williams also has seen increased playing time.
Chong has played better lately. She scored eight points Sunday in a 83-49 win over Temple. She played 14 minutes and was perfect shooting, hitting 3-of-3 from the floor and two foul shots. She also had four assists. Chong had 13 points in a 96-31 rout of Cincinnati on Jan. 25. She hit five field goals and had four rebounds in 23 minutes of playing time.
“One of the issues with our bench is that, other than Kiah Stokes for a long period of time (three-plus years), everybody else, this is relatively new to them, while Soniya Chong has done it a little bit,’’ Auriemma said after a win over East Carolina on Jan. 28. “You can see that Kiah is the most comfortable … this is her role. It what she wants her role to be and she is playing it to the hilt. The other guys, I think Gabby is making the most progress. She is becoming the most consistent. She is the one that I think made that biggest jump from a month ago to now. Soniya comes and goes. Of the three players that play the most minutes, I would say that is my assessment right there.”
The Huskies could use a more consistent Chong during the season's final two months. A telling game comes up Monday when the Huskies play No. 1 ranked South Carolina in Storrs. UConn is ranked No. 2. Its only loss came on Nov. 17 at Stanford.
The Huskies return to action Saturday at Memphis.
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