Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

UConn puts on a show for faithful fans

When Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams were freshmen, the Huskies played six games at the XL Center as they did in each of their four seasons. However, one major change has been the number of people who have turned out for this year's games in Hartford.

With a crowd of 13,110 (it actually looked like more than that were in attendance), UConn averaged 12,458 fans in its six games in Hartford this season. As a point of reference, the Huskies only had one home game to draw more than that in the previous three seasons.

"I think it has been crazy how good attendance has been for XL games and how great our fans have been every single game," UConn junior guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson said. "It seems like every game there has been a little more each time so we want to make sure we go out and play as hard as we can especially today being the last XL game, we wanted to play as hard as we could."

Mission accomplished.

UConn rolled to the 106-45 win over Temple enabling seniors Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams to finish their careers 24-0 at the XL Center.  Nurse had 16 points and Williams 10 marking the 10th time they both scored in double figures at the XL Center. Williams finished with 298 career points in Hartford and Nurse has 274 as she missed last season's game against Temple.

It was also worth noting that UConn matched a season high with 39 bench points, something that was also accomplished in the first game against Temple.

UConn matched its season high with 39 bench points which was also accomplished in an earlier win over Temple. Azura'  Stevens had 11 points, Megan Walker 10 while Batouly Camara had her best scoring game of the season with eight points and Kyla Irwin chipped in with seven points.

"I thought this was one of Z (Stevens) better games, she got a lot of things accomplished today and same thing with that second group," Auriemma said. "This is one of the few times when we really played well as a unit with that second group. It is good that kids come to practice every day, they work really hard and you want them have some confidence, have some fun playing the game and it looked like they were having some fun at the end of the game."

The UConn coaches have been working with Stevens to keep her closer to the basket which is something she did for most of the time she was in there against the Owls.

"Credit to CD (UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey)," Stevens said. "We have been doing a lot of extra work with getting some moves around the basket, that has helped me a lot and just my teammates being patient with me, continuing to get me the ball because I have not been as consistent down there, they still trust me and fed me the ball."

It was a tough afternoon for Atkinson, the former Career High star who came into the game as the leading scorer in the AAC. Atkinson was 2 for 12 from the floor as she had five points and two rebounds as Williams made her work for everything.

"She just has a motor that doesn't stop," Williams said of Atkinson. "She is a little undersized but she is big, strong, athletic, she is quick and has a really aggressive mindset and that makes her dangerous."

UConn hits the road to face Tulane and SMU before returning home to meet South Florida in the final regular season game for Nurse and Williams. By that time the Huskies figure to have wrapped up their fifth straight AAC regular-season title.

There could be an interested spectator at that game as Ezi Magbegor, a 6-foot-4 forward from Australia who was the rookie of the year in National Women's Basketball League, is expected to visit UConn and be at the USF game.

Friday, February 16, 2018

97.9 FM to become new home of UConn football, basketball

When the UConn football team begins the 2018 season, it will be a new era for radio coverage of UConn athletics.

After three decades of UConn games being broadcast on WTIC, it was announced that  IMG has agreed to a 10-year partnership with iHeartMedia and 97.9 ESPN.

No decision has been made on whether Joe D'Ambrosio will remain the voice of the UConn football and men's basketball programs and Bob Joyce will continue to call the UConn women's basketball games.

On a conference call that just recently concluded, the participants side stepped questions about the future of UConn's current radio teams.

It will be business as usual for the basketball programs as well as the men's hockey program until their seasons are over.

UConn AD David Benedict compared the move to what happened when the regional television partnership for the women's basketball program was awarded to SNY after a successful run on CPTV. It should be noted that a change in play by play personnel took place when the games began airing on SNY although time will tell if that is the case this time.

WPOP will serve as the fall back station in case of a conflict, something that is currently handled by 96.5 FM. While the move will leave the UConn radio network without a New Haven presence.

Here is the release

IMG today announced a transformative 10-year, multimillion-dollar partnership with iHeartMedia and 97.9 ESPN, Hartford’s Sport Station, to serve as the Home of the UConn Huskies.

97.9 ESPN will become the new home for the UConn-IMG Radio Network beginning in the 2018-19 academic year. Following the conclusion of the current UConn athletic seasons, it will serve as the exclusive terrestrial radio home for UConn Athletics airing regular season and post-season play-by-play for football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s hockey. Additionally, iHeartMedia plans to broadcast select UConn Olympic sports contests.

“Our new relationship with iHeartMedia and 97.9 ESPN provides UConn Athletics with a powerful reach and the prospect of building an extensive affiliate network throughout the state and the Northeast,” director of athletics David Benedict said.  “Our new partnership with a dedicated sports platform hosted by the most powerful sports and media company in the country, will offer fans and listeners more opportunities to interact with our teams and coaches.”

The relationship between the UConn-IMG Radio Network and 97.9 ESPN will also include pre- and post-game shows as well as the UConn Women’s Basketball Coach’s Radio Show with Geno Auriemma, the UConn Men’s Basketball Coach's Radio Show with Kevin Ollie, UConn Football Coach’s Radio Show with Randy Edsall, and the UConn Hockey Coach’s Radio Show with Michael Cavanaugh.

“This partnership joins three iconic brands,” said Steve Honeycomb, Region President for iHeartMedia. “Having UConn sports on iHeartMedia’s 97.9 ESPN has been our long term goal.  This is the perfect partnership and offers even more entertaining programming for UConn Nation.”
In the event of conflicting game schedules, iHeartMedia will broadcast UConn Athletics events on an affiliate station. IMG also provides fans a variety of ways to follow UConn Athletics audio broadcasts including on their mobile device with the Tunein App and on satellite radio via partnerships with Sirius/XM radio.

iHeartMedia the leading media outlet in the Hartford market with multiple platforms, including its broadcast stations; live events; data; and its digital businesses and platforms, including mobile, social and its own iHeartRadio,  the free all-in-one digital music, podcasting and live streaming radio service – with more than 1.7 billion app downloads and 110 million registered users.

“We couldn't be happier about teaming up with the University of Connecticut Athletics and finally having UConn sports on our station,” said Ben Darnell, Program Director for 97.9 ESPN.

No decisions have been made related to on-air talent for UConn Athletics broadcasts on iHeartMedia Hartford.

IMG is the exclusive multimedia rights holder for UConn Athletics.
About iHeartMedia Hartford

iHeartMedia Hartford owns and operates WKSS-FM, WHCN-FM, WWYZ-FM, WUCS-FM, WPOP-AM, and is part of iHeartMedia. With over a quarter of a billion monthly listeners in the U.S. and over 129 million social followers, iHeartMedia has the largest national reach of any radio or television outlet in America. As the leader in multiplatform connections, it also serves over 150 local markets through 858 owned radio stations, and the company’s radio stations and content can be heard on AM/FM, HD digital radio, satellite radio, on the Internet at and on the company’s radio station websites, on the iHeartRadio mobile app, in enhanced auto dashes, on tablets, wearables and smartphones, and on gaming consoles.

 iHeartRadio, iHeartMedia’s digital radio platform, is the fastest growing digital audio service in the U.S. and offers users thousands of live radio stations, personalized custom artist stations created by just one song or seed artist and the top podcasts and personalities. With over 1.7 billion downloads, iHeartRadio reached 110 million registered users faster than any other radio or digital music service.
 iHeartMedia’s platforms include radio broadcasting, online, mobile, digital and social media, podcasts, personalities and influencers, live concerts and events, syndication, music research services and independent media representation. iHeartMedia is a division of iHeartMedia, Inc. (PINK: IHRT). Visit for more company information.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Another member of Nurse family chasing Olympic glory

Once again, a member of the Nurse family is thriving at the Olympics.

Current UConn guard Kia Nurse was Canada's leading scorer at the 2016 Olympic women's basketball tournament as she had 25 points in a win over Serbia followed by 14 against Senegal to help Canada reach the quarterfinals.

Last night it was her cousin Sarah Nurse who scored what proved the game-winning goal as Canada edged the United States 2-1 in the women's hockey tournament.

After Monday's win over Louisville, I asked Kia if she's been able to catch the Olympic hockey games.

"Trying to watch a little more than I have been," Nurse said. "It is incredible, we love supporting one another and for Sarah this is beyond the most incredible honor being able to play for your country in the pinnacle for everything. I look at her snapchats and try to see if the Olympic village is different between Rio and there so it is fun kind of comparing it. I am super excited and I am sure she will be more than likely be the first Nurse to come home with an Olympic medal."

Sarah Nurse had 15 game-winning goals during her four seasons at Wisconsin helping the Badgers to the NCAA title game as a senior. Nurse's 15 postseason goals are the third most in program history. After being held scoreless in Canada's first two games, she scored with a sweet finish to put Canada up 2-0.

The U.S. and Canada have secured spots in Monday's semifinals and could meet in the gold medal game a week from today.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Bench delivers in latest UConn win

With the way UConn's star players performed in yesterday's 81-point win over Wichita State, it might be easy to overlook what happened when starters Napheesa Collier, Crystal Dangerfield, Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson and Gabby Williams as well as top reserve Azura' Stevens were all on the bench.

This was the 17th time this season that UConn had a stretch in a game without their top six players on the court. Not only was the 6:26 stretch the longest of the season but with a combination of UConn's "second six" of Molly Bent, Batouly Camara, Mikayla Coombs, Lexi Gordon, Kyla Irwin and Megan Walker outscoring Wichita 13-4, it was the largest scoring surplus when UConn didn't have one of its top six players on the court topping the six-point edge against USF.

"They weren't forcing anything and that is why they did so well," Williams said. "I think the last few games I think they got riled up and trying to make plays that the normally don't make and now they all did what they are good at."

It was a far cry from the seven turnovers in 3:55 against DePaul or the five straight turnovers committed against Tulane. Playing just under 45 1/2 minutes without one of its six core players heading into the Wichita State game, the Huskies were outscored by 18 points and committed 29 turnovers.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma was pleased with what he saw for most of the time they were out on the court together.

"There wasn't much of a drop off," Auriemma said. "We started a certain way and we sustained it pretty much the whole game which is not always easy to do when you have a big lead like that. Once you get a big lead, it affects them obviously and I am sure everybody on the other team is hoping we start missing. We kept making them and players we were bringing off the bench added a lot so it kept intensifying."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dangerfield makes immediate impact in return to UConn's lineup

About 90 minutes before today's game against Wichita State, I headed out on the court to see how Crystal Dangerfield was moving around in the warmups. While I was shooting a video, she was standing out of bounds and perfectly lofted the ball over the basket and watched as it dropped through the net. I thought to myself that she might have a hard time topping that play once the game got going. Was I wrong or what?

In the early stages of today's near record blowout of Wichita State, UConn was in the midst of a clinic of how to run transition offense when Dangerfield deftly delivered a behind the back feed to Katie Lou Samuelson for one rather artistic scoring play.

"I saw that there was only one person back so I was like, 'why not,'" Dangerfield said. "I think something like that, it throws the other team off so they had to call that timeout."

The basket was part of a performance when the Huskies outscored Wichita State 52-0 in points off turnovers. I went back through the archives and as long as UConn included points off turnovers in its game notes, I couldn't find a game with that many points off turnovers dating back to the 2004-05 season. UConn also recorded season highs with 70 points in the paint and 25 fast-break points. You figured the Huskies would get out in transition early and often after managing a season-low two fast-break points the last time out against UCF. Still, this was an eye opening effort.

UConn fell two points shy of the program record for points in a game in the 124-43 win and the margin of victory was also the second highest total at UConn. It looked like the Huskies would let a single game record for field goal percentage.

"I don't know that is came out of the other day, maybe it did, maybe we just needed to recharge our batteries but the combination of our defense creating a lot of opportunities when we didn't have Crystal the other day we were reluctant to really stretch our defense out, we didn't want to do even more so it was one less body," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Today I think we felt a little more comfortable extending ourselves defensively and it paid off and we made shots.

"There wasn't much of a drop off. We started a certain way and we sustained it pretty much the whole game which is not always easy to do when you have a big lead like that. Once you get a big lead, it affects them obviously and I am sure everybody on the other team is hoping we start missing. We kept making them and players we were bringing off the bench added a lot so it kept intensifying."

Napheesa Collier led the offensive onslaught with 26 points and had four of the Huskies' 21 steals. Katie Lou Samuelson became the eighth UConn player to make 250 career 3-pointers. She hit five of them en route to 22 points and nine assists. Gabby Williams flirted with another triple double with 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 21 minutes. Kia Nurse had 14 points moving by Moriah Jefferson and Cathy Bochain to move into 21st place on UConn's career scoring list. Azura' Stevens made all seven of her shots as she had 16 points in 14 minutes.

However, all eyes were on Dangerfield who missed the last two games as the UConn medical staff felt she would benefit from resting to get the issues with shin splints under control.

"It is always frustrating sitting out but now I am just focusing on having fun," Dangerfield said. "This game was really fun.

"I do feel a difference but at the same time, it is going to be what it is going to be because once you go out there and run around, it is always going to come back. It is not like it is pounding every single time but I feel it but I am taking care of it."

Dangerfield finished with nine points, two rebounds, four assists and three steals in 19 minutes as she was on a restricted minutes count something that doesn't figure to be the case when the Huskies play Louisville on Monday night.

"You can't underestimate the impact she has on your team because what she can do with the ball in her hands, she can go wherever she wants with it and she is very creative," Auriemma said. "She is like a great soccer player that sees things one or two passes ahead. She is really smart and she can go places that nobody else on our team can. The difference was evident right away, she set the tone as did that whole group in that first quarter and it carried over from there."


Monday, February 05, 2018

4 UConn players named to Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 list

UConn's returning starters Napheesa Collier, Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson and Gabby Williams were named to the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 list.

Collier is averaging 15.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to go with 68 assists, 39 steals and 45 blocked shots.

Nurse is averaging 15.8 points, has 64 assists and is the national leader in 3-point percentage (50.0).

Samuelson leads UConn in scoring contributing 17.2 points per game and is one of three Huskies with at least 40 3-pointers.

Williams is averaging 10.6 points per game, leads the Huskies with 172 rebounds, 109 assists and 56 steals.

Here's the list of candidates
Kristine Anigwe California  6-4 Jr. C/F
Ariel Atkins Texas 5-11 Sr. G
Kalani Brown Baylor 6-7 Jr. C
Lexie Brown Duke 5-9 Sr. G
Jordin Canada UCLA 5-6 Sr. G
Napheesa Collier Connecticut 6-1 Jr. F
Sophie Cunningham Missouri 6-1 Jr. G
Asia Durr Louisville 5-10 Jr. G
Katelynn Flaherty Michigan 5-7 Sr. G
Megan Gustafson Iowa 6-3 Jr. F
Sabrina Ionescu Oregon 5-10 Soph. G
Teaira McCowan Mississippi State 6-7 Jr. C
Kelsey Mitchell Ohio State 5-8 Sr. G
Kia Nurse Connecticut 6-0 Sr. G
Arike Ogunbowale Notre Dame 5-8 Jr. G
Katie Lou Samuelson Connecticut 6-3 Jr. G/F
Shakayla Thomas Florida State 5-11 Sr. F
Victoria Vivians Mississippi State 6-1 Sr. G
Gabby Williams Connecticut 5-11 Sr. F
A'ja Wilson South Carolina 6-5 Sr. F

Friday, February 02, 2018

Gabby Williams puts on a show in UConn's win over South Carolina

The best way to describe the opening few minutes was that Gabby Williams was doing Gabby Williams. Call it going to Gabby mode or it being Gabby time but for a player known to open eyes with her incredible athleticism but even by her standards, what she did was spectacular. I may be showing my age and people raised in the age of CD players and ipods might not understand this but it was almost like Williams was playing the game at 78 RPMs while the South Carolina players were stuck at 33 RPMs as she was tipping balls and defending so many different players.

She started the game on All-American A'ja Wilson, who is six inches taller but it wasn't loing before she was out on top pressuring the ball, she would also make it out to make life difficult for the Gamecocks' wing players.

"My man to man matchup was Wilson but whenever we were in zone, I like to get up and pressure and it is just how we run things," Williams said.

I'm sure even when the UConn coaches were drawing up the defensive game plan, there's no way to fully anticipate the impact Williams would have. She had season highs with six offensive rebounds and 14 total rebounds. I'd say there were five or six of those rebounds that made my jaw drop. It wasn't just that Williams was soaring to get rebounds, I've seen that before but it was the way she was just ripping the ball away from the taller South Carolina players in better position to secure the rebound. More than once I thought to myself, 'how did she come down with that one." That played a major role in UConn having 16 fast-break points with just five steals which is no easy task.

The timing was ironic because a few hours before the game, the most recent WNBA mock draft compiled by Associated Press national women's basketball writer Doug Feinberrg with input from the league's coaches and general managers was released. Williams was slotted in as the No. 4 pick even though she is 5-foot-11 who scores the majority of her points within a shadow of the basket. Her world class jumping ability (she finished fifth in the U.S. Olympic trials in the high jump as a 15-year-old) allows her to thrive even though she typically gives up inches to the players she guards and fights for rebounds against. She needs nine rebounds to move by Swin Cash and into 10th place on UConn's career list. She's already in eighth place on the career steals list. Maya Moore is the only Husky to rank in the top 10 in both categories.

Williams has made her name by not just being more athletic than her competition but also making the hustle plays.

"At that point, the talent level is almost the same so it comes down to those hustle plays, it comes down to who is tougher, who is mentally stronger and physically stronger," Williams said.

"We don't want to rely on our talent because that can only get you so far, you saw what happened last year. We have to be a team that has edge, gets every 50-50 ball, gets every tough rebound, is boxing out because those are the things that win games."

Knowing how competitive Williams is, I'm fairly confident that she worked overtime to add range on her jump shot. However, she hasn't made nearly as many deep jumpers as I thought she would. She had a couple of those on Thursday including what I estimated to be an 18 footer which is certainly something she'll need at the next level.

"It's a mental thing and realize that in big games we need it," Williams said. "It was wide open, I was that open and I had to shoot it."