What DePaul coach Doug Bruno said about Geno Auriemma and UConn: 'Great women's basketball stage'

The UConn women's basketball team easily overwhelmed DePaul 91-54 Monday night at Gampel Pavilion, as Geno Auriemma once again defeated one his closest friends in coaching.

But DePaul coach Doug Bruno, who has never beaten an Auriemma-coached team, still saw the big picture.  Despite the lopsided loss, Bruno began his postgame press conference by praising 11-time NCAA champion UConn and what Auriemma's program has created for women's basketball.

"What the UConn program has done to create the stage for all athletes to come in here and play on, is a big deal," Bruno said before taking questions. "And it's very important that that gets acknowledged. ... These athletes have the opportunity to play on a great women's basketball stage. 

"I really appreciate it for our players to get on that stage and play."

Bruno, 72, has been coaching DePaul continuously since 1988 — he also led the program for two seasons in the 1970s — which was just three years after Auriemma took over at UConn. The friends coached against each other in the old Big East and Bruno served on Auriemma's Team USA staff for two Olympics.

So he knows the UConn program well and has seen the Huskies at their best.

And the team that beat DePaul Tuesday was no different than other UConn teams in Bruno's eyes.

"The is a talented program," Bruno said. "And while there might not be a Diana (Taurasi) or Maya (Moore) or a Stewie (Breanna Stewart), this is still a UConn program. It's got some of the best players in the country playing for it." 

DePaul (11-10) has battled injuries all season, much like UConn. But the Blue Demons have Aneesah Morrow (25.0 points, 11,9 rebounds), who is one of the best players in the country.

So while UConn's win was not unexpected, the margin of victory was not something that Auriemma anticipated.

"I didn't expect to go this way today," Auriemma said after his press conference Monday. "I know how passionate (Bruno) is and I know how much he wants to win and especially what it would mean to beat us, especially (in Gampel). ...

"There's a lot of similarities in what's going on this year. They've got a lot of bad injuries, they've lost players at the beginning of the season, and  dealing with some of those same issues we are in. So they're not your typical DePaul team that we're used to playing against."

UConn's injury issues — Paige Bueckers and Ice Brady are lost of the season, Azzi Fudd and Caroline Ducharme are out, while Ayanna Patterson returned Tuesday — has been ongoing. It got so bad that the Huskies could not muster seven healthy players to compete against DePaul earlier this month, so the game had to be postponed until Monday.

It wasn't an inconvenience for Bruno and his team. The original game was scheduled for a Sunday and was postponed on a Friday night.

"Once the game dates are what the game dates are, I just kind of take it and run with it. So I didn't really think much about it," Bruno said. 

Beyond the injuries, Auriemma has dealt with health and personal issues that required him to step away twice this season. His mother Marsiella passed away on Dec. 8th at the age of 91

Bruno said he and Auriemma don't talk regularly during the season.

"Other than just making sure I wish him well when I know that he’s hurt or sick or something’s going on," Bruno said. "You try to reach out to him, make that he’s going to be OK and all that kind of good stuff."

Auriemma is 21-0 against DePaul, but that doesn't come up among the friends. 

"No teasing whatsoever," Auriemma said. "Just put your head down and walk on out and a couple of days from now we'll get back on speaking terms."