Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Huskies tripling their pleasure

It didn't generate much attention at the time but when Saniya Chong hit a 3-pointer with 3:08 left in the third quarter in a win over Tulsa, it was the 100th of her career.

Chong joined teammates Katie Lou Samuelson and Kia Nurse on the list of Huskies with 100 career 3-pointers which is the sixth time that has happened in program history. However, the program record with four players with 100 3-pointers (set in 2012-13) is set for this season.

2003-04: Maria Conlon, Ann Strother, Diana Taurasi
2011-12: Caroline Doty, Bria Hartley, Tiffany Hayes
2012-13: Caroline Doty, Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
2014-15: Moriah Jefferson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart
2015-16: Moriah Jefferson, Kia Nurse, Breanna Stewart
2016-17: Saniya Chong, Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson

Samuelson and Nurse rank 19th and 20th on UConn's career 3-point list with 140 and 138. Next up is Svetlana Abrosimova at 141 and Caroline Doty at 144.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Huge night for UConn commits

While UConn was dispatching of Tulsa to extend their NCAA basketball record for consecutive victories to 92, some future Huskies were filling up the stat sheet.

Mikayla Coombs had 29 points, seven rebounds, five assists, eight steals and three blocked shots to lead the Wesleyan School to a 75-33 win over Woodward Academy.

Fellow UConn signee Megan Walker had 36 points and drained 5 3-pointers as Monacan (Va.) High improved to 13-0 with a 98-37 win over Huguenot.

Lexi Gordon accounted for more than half of her team's points with 16 in L.D. Bell's 43-31 loss to Flower Mound Marcus.

Last but certainly not least, Class of 2018 commit Charli Collier scored the 2,000th point of her career in Barbers Hill's 56-33 win over Kingwood Park.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

UConn rolls past Tulsa for win No. 92 in a row

Katie Lou Samuelson moved into select company, Napheesa Collier doubled her pleasure once against and Gabby Williams flirted with a triple-double as UConn topped Tulsa 98-58 to extend the NCAA basketball record for consecutive wins to 92.

Samuelson had a career-high 34 points and coming off a 28-point game against SMU, she posted the most points in back to back games since Breanna Stewart scored 29 against Temple and 37 against Cincinnati in 2014. I did some checking and the most points I could find in back to back games was 68 by Tiffany Hayes against Syracuse and South Florida in 2012 and Kerry Bascom had 65combined points in 1991 in the Big East final and UConn's first NCAA tournament game.

Collier had 21 points and 13 rebounds while Williams finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Williams and Saniya Chong combined for 15 assists and no turnovers.

It was UConn's 33rd straight road victory, one shy of the NCAA Division I women's basketball record set by UConn from 2001-04 during their Big East days. It was also the 68th straight American Athletic Conference victory matching the program's record for consecutive conference wins (including postseason tournaments).

Tulsa attempted more 3-pointers (34) than shots inside the 3-point line (32) and made 13 of them.

The NCAA announced that the format for the Division I women's basketball will remain the same meaning that the top 16 seeds will host the first and second rounds.

Here's the release from NCAA

The Division I Women’s Basketball Championship will stick with its current format.

After reviewing survey results from NCAA member schools, in which almost 80 percent of Division I conferences felt the tournament should not change its format, the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee on Tuesday decided it will instead focus on ways to enhance the championship.

The two main questions the committee asked all 32 Division I conferences: Whether there was an appetite to move the Women’s Final Four back a week, so it would be separated from the men’s Final Four, and whether the tournament should have 32 teams host first-round games on campus sites followed by four eight-team super regionals.

In each case, the membership overwhelmingly indicated the current format is the best option for the championship. Survey results showed conferences prefer the focus to be on the student-athlete and team experience, attendance and fan appreciation, broadcasting and competitive equity.

“The committee felt the championship format survey was a positive step, with the membership feedback showing a large majority favor maintaining the current format and improving the championship,” Jean Lenti Ponsetto, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and director of athletics at DePaul University, said after the committee’s meeting at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. “People feel the championship is in a terrific place. The next step for this committee will be to take this championship in its current format and look for ways to enhance it going forward.”

ESPN and ESPN2 will broadcast all 63 games of the tournament this spring for the 15th consecutive year. It will also mark the 22nd year that ESPN will broadcast the championship game. The Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee plans to continue working closely with ESPN and the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Committee to find ways to improve the championship’s in-venue attendance and television ratings.

In an effort to place an increased focus on a weekend celebration, the 2017 Women’s Final Four will be played with a Friday-Sunday format for the first time in 14 years. Since 2004, the Women’s Final Four semifinals have been held on Sunday night with the championship game played on Tuesday night.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Former UConn star Wolters a finalist for Women's Basketball Hall of Fame

Kara Wolters, a member of UConn's first national championship team and the 1997 national player of the year, is one of 12 finalists on the ballot for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Wolters ranks eighth in UConn history with a 15.6 scoring average and third with 370 career blocked shots, would join former teammates Rebecca Lobo and Jen Rizzotti as former Huskies inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame if she is one of six people named as part  of the class of 2017 on Feb. 12.

There are two other candidates with Connecticut ties.

Louise O'Neal, who coached the Southern Connecticut State women's team to third-place finishes in the AIAW national tournaments in 1971, 1973 and 1974 and Joan Bonvicini, one of O'Neal's former players with the Owls, were also among the 12 finalists.

Bonvicini won more than 700 games in stints at Long Beach State, Arizona and Seattle highlighted by trips to the 1987 and 1988 Final Fours at Long Beach State.

The six-member Hall of Fame class will be announced on Feb. 12 with induction taking place on June 10 at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Here are the bios from the official release

YELENA BARANOVA (Foreign Player - Russia)1992 Olympic gold medalist.
Fifth all-time in WNBA blocked shots.
2001 WNBA All-Star.
ROSE MARIE BATTAGLIA (Coach)NJCAA Hall of Fame inductee with four NJCAA Final Fours in 38 years of coaching and an overall record of 702-240-2.
Led Paramus Catholic High School (Paramus, New Jersey) to two consecutive state championships.
1998 WBCA Jostens-Berenson Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
SALLY BELL (Official)33-year tenure as a women's basketball official.
Officiated 15 NCAA Division I Women's Final Fours, including 13 consecutive from 1992 through 2004, as well as the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
1991 Naismith Women's Basketball Official of the Year.
EVELYN BLALOCK (Coach)Led Kilgore College (Kilgore, Texas) to three NJCAA National Championships in 1988,1990 and 1993.
Named WBCA Junior/Community College National Coach of the Year in 1989 and 1990.
Inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame.
JOAN BONVICINI (Coach)During her 37-year career, she was the 17th coach to reach 700 career victories.
1981 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Coach of the Year. 
1982 USA Basketball Jones Cup head coach (silver medal) and 1993 World University Games head coach (bronze medal).
NORA LYNN FINCH (Contributor)Served as inaugural chair of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee from 1981 through 1988 and negotiated first women's basketball tournament television contract.
NCAA representative to the U.S. Collegiate Sports Council from 1988 through 2017, and served as its president from 1992 through 1996.
Member of NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee, NCAA Division I Management Council, NCAA Division I Championships Cabinet (chair), NCAA Division I Membership Committee, NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Issues Committee (chair).
CHRISTINE GRANT (Contributor)Founding member of Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). 
Recipient of 2007 NCAA Gerald R. Ford Award, 1998 NCAA Honda Award of Merit, 1995 Women's Sports Foundation Billie Jean King Contribution Award,1993 NACWAA Administrator of the Year, 1992 WBCA Administrator of the Year.
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women at University of Iowa and consultant for the Civil Rights Title IX Task Force from 1973 through 2000.
RICK INSELL (Coach)Led Shelbyville Central High School (Shelbyville, Tennessee) to 10 state championships, two USA Today national championships.
More than 1000 victories at Shelbyville High School and Middle Tennessee State University.
1992 WBCA High School National Coach of the Year.
LOUISE O'NEAL (Veteran)Led Southern Connecticut University to third-place finishes in the National Women's Collegiate Championships in 1971, 1973 and 1974, with eight straight appearances in the national championship tournament.
Served in several national leadership positions, including NCAA Long-Range Planning Committee, Women's Basketball Rules Committee, and NACDA Executive Board.
Recipient of 2004 WBCA Jostens-Berenson Lifetime Achievement Award and 2011 NACWAA Lifetime Achievement Award.
CRYSTAL ROBINSON (U.S. Player)Three-time ABL All-Star.
Three-time NAIA All-American and two-time NAIA national scoring leader.
1996 NAIA National Player of the Year.
SHERYL SWOOPES (U.S. Player)Three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Led Houston Comets to four WNBA Championships.
1993 WBCA Wade Trophy winner and Naismith Player of the Year.
KARA WOLTERS (U.S. Player)2000 Olympic gold medalist.
1997 AP National College Player of the Year.
1996 Victor Award, USBWA, UPI and AP All-America First Team and 1997 WBCA Kodak All-American.

UConn, winning go hand in hand

When a program records six undefeated seasons - with a chance at a seventh - it is hard to get too worked up about clinching a winning season but the fact remains that Saturday's win at SMU guaranteed that the Huskies will finish with a winning record for the 31st season in a row.

For those wondering, that ranks fifth in NCAA Division I women's basketball history breaking a tie with Long Beach State.

Tennessee sets the pace with 46 straight winning seasons and sitting at 10-6, a 47th in a row is more than likely. Louisiana Tech had 39 consecutive winning campaigns that ended in 2012 which was matched by Green Bay last season and with a 15-2 record, No. 40 is a forgone conclusion. Georgia is next with 37 in a row but currently with a 10-8 record and with nine of the 11 remaining regular-season games against teams with winning records, time will tell if it gets to 38 straight winning seasons.

UConn had one winning season before Geno Auriemma's arrival and that came in 1980-81 when Jean Balthaser guided the Huskies to a 16-14 record. UConn went 14-13 in 1986-87, Auriemma's second season. Two years later they went 24-6 and the rest is history. UConn has spent 11 days with a losing record since the 1988-89 season.

UConn junior forward Gabby Williams has been named the American Athletic Conference's Player of the Week for the second time in the last three weeks.

Williams averaged 15 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in victories over South Florida and SMU. UConn players have won six of the American's 10 Player of the Week awards this season.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Future Huskies to play in McDonald's All-American game

UConn signees Mikayla Coombs  and Megan Walker were among 24 players selected to play in the McDonald's All-American Game.

Coombs is averaging 15.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.8 steals per game at the Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.

Walker is averaging 25.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and three steals per game for undefeated Monacan (Va.) High. She has four 30-point games as a senior.

Walker and Coombs will play on the East team.

The McDonald's All-American Game will be played on Mar. 29 at the United Center in Chicago. At least one future UConn product has played in 14 of the first 15 McDonald's games with the lone exception coming in 2013.

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Some more crazy UConn streak numbers

I'm not sure why I didn't research this before but with a pair of long flights as I return home from Dallas, I did some checking and according to my math there have been 71 Huskies who have played for four seasons for Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey and 55 of them have been a part of at least one 30-game winning streak (including current seniors Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor) while each and every four-year player for Auriemma has been on a Connecticut team with at least one 10-game streak.

As a point of reference, before UConn's 35-game winning streak during the 1994-95 season there were five NCAA Division I women's basketball winning streaks of at least 30 games. The Huskies currently have six such streaks including the three longest in NCAA Division I women's basketball history.

UConn is currently on a record 91-game run as the Huskies go for No. 92 on Tuesday at Tulsa. UConn broke its own 90-game streak set from 2008-10 and that mark topped the previous record of 70 straight set by UConn from 2001-03.

Freshmen Molly Bent, Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin will be the 12th class at UConn to be a part of a 90-game streak. A total of 27 of the last 28 classes at UConn have had a hand in a 20-game winning streak with 24 of the last 26 classes being a part of a 30-game winning streak.

Here is the class by class breakdown with the longest winning streak in their four seasons. The class needs to be at UConn for a part of the streak. For example, the players who enrolled at UConn 2010 get credit for the previous 78 wins even if they weren't a part of the program at that time.

It should be noted that the only class not to have a 20-game winning streak to its credit since 1990 is the recruiting class of Kia Robinson, Liz Sherwood and Kia Wright  Wright never played for UConn while Robinson and Sherwood played 18 and 25 games during the 2003-04 season before transferring.

1985-89 11
1986-90 11
1987-91 14
1988-92 14
1989-93 14
1990-94 21
1991-95 35
1992-96 35
1993-97 35
1994-98 35
1995-99 33
1996-00 33
1997-01 30
1998-02 70
1999-03 70
2000-04 70
2001-05 70
2002-06 70
2003-07 15
2004-08 21
2005-09 90
2006-10 90
2007-11 90
2008-12 90
2009-13 90
2010-14 90
2011-15 91
2012-16 91
2013-17 91
2014-18 91
2015-19 91
2016-20 91

SNY drew a rating of 7.34 in the Hartford/New Haven market, the highest for a UConn women's game televised on SNY since Feb. 1, 2014.

SNY is on a run of carrying eight of nine UConn games including Tuesday's game at Tulsa. The only break in that run is UConn's return to Gampel Pavilion to face Tulane on Jan. 22 as that game will be on ESPN2.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

UConn makes history

Anybody who follows the UConn women's basketball team probably figured it would be business as usual before, during and after today's game even if it was a day that the Huskies could make history with the longest winning streak in NCAA basketball history.

True to their nature, there were some smiles but not a heck of a lot of emotion by the Huskies after the 88-48 win over SMU gave the Huskies a record 91st straight win.

"This team is pretty good at keeping everything on an even keel," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Even afterwards there is a feeling of accomplishment, they feel like they have done something significant but there isn't this over the top screaming and yelling as if we won the national championship. Even know I told them that what they did today might be even more significant than winning a national championship."
The players did emerge from the locker room wearing blue t-shirts commemorating the 91 wins in a row and when they met with the media, they did say that it meant a lot to them even though we know the game in Dallas that they would like to be celebrating afterward is the national championship game on April 2.

"It feels great that we can continue what other people have started," sophomore forward Napheesa Collier said, "It feels amazing but now I think we are just going to focus on our games and not necessarily all the hype from the streaks. We are definitely excited because it is kind of a big deal but it is not what we are focusing on, we are focusing on trying to get better."

Much like they did against South Florida a few days ago when the Huskies tied the NCAA record of 90 wins in a row with a 102-37 victory, the Huskies jumped out to the quick lead. On this day, however, UConn's opponent did not go away quietly. SMU continued to play hard and began to score while the Huskies continued to miss shots. The Huskies were never in danger of losing but certainly SMU earned the respect of the UConn players.

I thought it was interesting that the last road game I covered was the Jan. 1 contest at UCF and the streak did not come up once in the post-game press conference. That was certainly not the case today.

Some of the best stuff from Auriemma came when he was asked whether this team was destined to set this record.

"I believe you have to earn it and you have to deserve it," Auriemma said. "Don't get me wrong, there are some great things that happen to people and they don't necessarily deserve and there are bad things that happen to people and they don't deserve it but if you expect to get something amazing back, you really do have to put yourself in position where you feel like you deserve it because you worked hard and you earned that, it wasn't given to you. I think these kids have done that and what has helped them along the way is that group of people who came before them, that Connecticut mentality, that culture  we are fortunate enough to have at Connecticut, when there is a
play to be made, there is no 'can I make this play? Am I good enough to make this play? I have no choice but to make this play because I am at Connecticut.' You still have to be good, you still have to have talent, have all the other stuff but there is this belief that 'well, I am at Connecticut so of course I am going to get that rebound.' We need a blocked shot against Florida State, of course I am going to get my hand on it (as Collier did). Why?  Because I am at Connecticut, that is what Stewie did, that is what Stefanie (Dolson) did and that is what Tina (Charles) did, that is what Rebecca (Lobo) did.

"Sometimes this kind of stuff, these moments just like if you are not used to winning, it those moments things go bad. Things do have a way of becoming what you expect them to become. We have good players. I love when people say you do get all the best players, you should win all the time. Good, leave it at then."

While some may wonder if the streak will ever end, Auriemma knows that it is just a matter of time.

"Everything ends at some point," Auriemma said. "I remember using the analogy of a wave, I don't care where it starts, in Portugal. that wave is going to crash on some shore at some point. We just want to be riding it for as long as it is out there. We know there is going to be a loss somewhere down the road, maybe next year, maybe in the tournament, maybe next year, I don't know but it is coming and until then just enjoy this part of it."

Part of the process of enjoying things is heading to American Airlines Arena (the site of the Final Four) for tomorrow's NBA game before the team heads to Tulsa for the next game.

"That is the goal, we want to be back and playing in this building at the end of the season," Auriemma said.

It isn't lost on Auriemma that when UConn set the NCAA record with 90 straight wins that the Huskies did not win the national championship at the end of the season.

He is more focused on the process than the number of consecutive wins.

"I think that is the approach that we have tried to take for every one of our games," Auriemma said. "If you told me what was No. 70, I would have no idea, what is No. 78, I have no idea. It wasn't like we were keeping track along the way. We are so focused on what is all the way out there, that is the one thing that everybody gears up for is that one night in March when you are hopefully playing for a national championship, that has become the focus every day. All of a sudden you wake up one day like today and you realize along the way that 'oh my God, I can't believe we did this.' It is a lot."

Friday, January 13, 2017

UConn's winning ways begin on recruiting trail

There's a perception that UConn "gets all the best players" and therefore the current winning streak, which barring a monumental upset tomorrow will become the longest in NCAA basketball history is a foregone conclusion.

The numbers, however, tell a different story.

Current senior Saniya Chong was ranked 75th by ESPN coming out of Ossining High School, Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse came in 14th and 33rd the following year (Williams' ranking certainly was hurt by the fact that she missed most of her final two seasons of high school ball and Nurse most likely would have been rated higher had she played in the United States instead of Canada). Katie Lou Samuelson was the top player in her class followed by Napheesa Collier at No. 6 while Crystal Dangerfield was the No. 3 ranked recruit last year. Good luck finding rankings for Natalie Butler, Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin.

Using ESPN's rankings the Huskies are tied for fourth when it comes to the number of top 10 rated players to head to their school in the last four recruiting classes. Duke leads the way with six followed by Texas and Notre Dame with four each while UConn and Tennessee are next at three. Yet the Huskies have rolled along, beating eight ranked teams and are on the verge of history during a season when many of the power programs thought they could take down the mighty Huskies. Perhaps that will still happen but people who were predicting a major decline by the Huskies simply haven't been paying attention.

UConn does rather well in the recruiting department but there is a method to their madness. Some teams seem to recruit like they are building a fantasy football roster, taking players simply based on their talent even if they end up with too many players with the same skill set. UConn has been about getting the pieces to building a great team.

Saying that the Huskies get their share of the best players and that might be an understatement as eight of the last 19 winners of the Naismith Girls High School Player of the Year award played at UConn (Maya Moore won the award twice). That doesn't even include UConn signee Elena Delle Donne who never played a game for the Huskies. But it is not about simply getting the best players but the right ones. Every year there are incredibly talented prospects who barely get a look from the Huskies and that is not by accident.

When Geno Auriemma, Chris Dailey, Shea Ralph and Marisa Moseley are on the recruiting trail, they are looking at not only the shooting, rebounding and passing ability but how the players react when things aren't going well, how they interact with their teammates. If you get to watch Auriemma during a practice, he does not pull his punches. During about a 90-second span at a practice I went to he challenged Samuelson, Nurse, Dangerfield and Collier with caustic barbs. I've seen incredible, Hall of Fame players leave the practice court as emotional wrecks earlier in their careers. I still chuckle at Rebecca Lobo's line to a TV reporter when asked what is next for her after UConn's program-changing regular-season win over Tennessee in the 1994-95 when she deadpanned "I'll go back to being the worst post player in America."

Players know that there is tremendous pressure that comes with playing at UConn, their every move is under a microscope. I'll use Tiffany Hayes as an example, she had an outstanding career with the Huskies but her ability to deliver in the big games was questioned. I have a hunch that is why she slipped out of the first round in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Had she put up similar numbers at Florida State or Georgia Tech, she'd be celebrated as one of those program's all-time greats. Instead, people spoke about what she didn't do at UConn and not what she did. Hayes was taken 14th overall and the only player taken ahead of her with more points in the regular season than Hayes' 1,843 is No. 1 overall pick Nneka Ogwumike. The players taken 6th-13th have combined to score 1,302 points.

What does all of this mean? Well, while what UConn is doing this season might be surprising it is not shocking. The UConn brain trust value competitive spirit in the recruiting process. That toughness as been on display during a string of games against ranked teams featuring experienced and talented rosters. It's a subject I raised with Dailey at a recent media availability.

"Sometimes you think they have and when you get them, they don't have it," Dailey said. "Sometimes you can have it in you and it is a matter of putting them into situations to see how they are going to respond in tough situations. I am not sure if any of them could have done it by themselves but as a core group they have been able to lean on each other the times that they have needed to and any game that we have had, somebody has always done what we needed them to do, they had stepped up. Sometimes it is Gabby, sometimes it is Lou, sometimes it is Phee. It is at different times in the game or it practice it is different times of stepping up. That is part of growing as a player or a person.

"They understand that there is a certain way because that is the expectation that we have, we are holding them to a standard every day. Every second we are in the gym, you are being held to a certain standard and I think they understand that. I think what they have shown is that they too have embraced the challenge, they have embraced the schedule that we have this year, how tough it is when you are Connecticut and you are ranked No. 1, they have embraced all of that and have taken everybody's best shot including the coaches every day and have always gotten back up and performed. I think that is a credit to our players, a credit to the types of kids that we get."

Seeing how Samuelson, Collier, Williams and Nurse have raised their level of play is a testament to them but also to the way UConn goes about its business. The coaches haven't lowered their standards and have been rewarded by their players making the move from role players to All-American candidates right before their eyes. The scary part is Azura' Stevens and Batouly Camara will be eligible next season and the Huskies bring in a top-notch recruiting class headlined by Megan Walker so if teams aren't able to take down UConn this season, what are their chances next season?