Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mathis making an impact

The UConn fans who saw Wednesday's game against Hartford will probably remember Ilicia Mathis as the player who busted up the lower lip of UConn senior guard Renee Montgomery.

The fact is that Mathis accomplished much more than ending Montgomery's day courtesy of an accidental elbow.

Mathis, a former star at Career High, made her second straight start and had a career-high 10 points in a 78-41 loss to the Huskies.

Mathis scored all of her points in the second half as she scored in double figures for the first time as a college player.

"My shots started dropping in the second half and I was being more aggressive," Mathis said. "I was being a little tentative, a little nervous in the first half. That wore off and I was able to play my game.
"I always liked UConn growing up and it was a big thing playing against them. I just have to play hard and do whatever I can to help my team."

Mathis impressed her coach with her play.

"I'm really pleased with how Ilicia played," Rizzotti said. "I thought the two people who stood out in my mind where Ilicia and Kasey Pratt. It's just a good
sign for us to get some more guys involved in our scoring. Ilicia for the last month and a half has been sitting in the backseat letting things happen to her and letting other people take minutes. I felt like starting her would force her to be the player we recruited, be an impact player, be a slasher, be an outside shooter and be a defender. She is our best rebounding guard so I felt like I needed to find more ways to get her minutes and we hadn't been getting enough production out of our wing spot and the move so far has worked and hopefully she will be able to carry the momentum of this game forward. If she can 10 points on UConn, she should be able to do that on anybody."

Mathis was apologetic for catching Montgomery with her elbow en route to a driving layup with 17:32 left in the game.

"My bad," said Mathis. "It wasn't intentional. I was just going to the basket hard and my coach told me that those things happen."

Other notes from the game:

Montgomery passed Cathy Bochain and Rizzotti to move into 12th on UConn's career scoring list. Since Diana Taurasi was more of a shooting guard than a point guard during her brilliant career at UConn, Montgomery became the all-time leading scorer among UConn point guard when she had a three-point play with 2:17 left in the first half.

Maya Moore was benched for the final 12:32 of the first half. She returned in the second half and grabbed UConn's first three rebounds in the second half.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Buck in for the long haul

Following practice, Heather Buck said that she is planning to sit out the season so she can take advantage of a fifth year of eligibility.

Buck, a three-time Register State Girls' Basketball Most Valuable Player, has been sidelined with mononucleosis since the preseason and UConn coach Geno Auriemma threw out the idea of Buck not playing in any games so she could have four years of eligibility remaining.

After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, Buck believes Auriemma's suggestion made a lot of sense so she is following the path of Jessica Moore who sat out the 2000-01 season and ended up being a 1,000-point scorer and a WNBA draft pick while playing on three straight national championship teams at UConn.

"It's only good for me," Buck said. "It means I have a year to practice and still have four years to play."

Since Buck has not played in a game, she would fill the requirements to receive a fifth year of eligibility. If she plays in a game in the second half of the regular season she would not be eligible to apply for an addition season of eligibility. UConn would play the 16th game of its 30-game regular season on Jan. 13 against DePaul at Gampel Pavilion. That would also mark UConn's first game at Gampel since a Dec. 3 victory over Holy Cross.

Buck will be able to practice and travel with the team and she would be eligible to play for UConn this season but Auriemma doesn't foresee a scenario where he would call on Buck considering how much time she has missed this season due to her illness.

Just some advanced warning to UConn fans, don't panic when you don't see Jessica McCormack on the bench for Wednesday's game against Hartford. She was given the OK to return home to New Zealand for the holidays. As a transfer sitting out this season, McCormack was not allowed to travel with the team so Auriemma didn't see the harm in having McCormack return home for a couple of weeks. She is expected back in time for the start of classes in the spring semester.

Before Tennessee fans throw a hissy fit upon reading reports of Sue Bird being on the court as a practice player at Gampel Pavilion as a select few have done in the past, let it be known that news of Tennessee freshman Amber Gray suffering a concussion as a result of a collision with practice player Alberta Auguste has reached Husky Nation. Speaking of Tennessee, how can you not root at least a little bit for a team whose only senior's last name is "Fuller."

A few more things, former UConn guard Mel Thomas will be at the XL Center Wednesday beginning at 11 a.m. to sign copies of her book "Heart of a Husky." Lastly, fans who listen to UConn games on either WICC-600 or WTIC-1080 should know that conflicts with UConn's football and men's basketball games on Saturday against LSU and Tuesday against South Florida will force the radio broadcast to be moved to WTIC 96.5 FM

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quiet homecoming for Greene

UConn's marathon road trip ended with blue-collar 77-48 win over South Carolina.

Tina Charles led the way with 21 points and 17 rebounds, Maya Moore had 15 points, a career-high eight assists and five steals while Renee Montgomery (13 points) and Tiffany Hayes (11 points) also scored in double figures.

Kalana Greene, playing her first game in South Carolina since leading her Timberland High team to the South Carolina AAA title in 2005, finished with five points and five rebounds.

UConn improves to 11-0 and will play back to back games at the XL Center on Wednesday against Hartford and Saturday versus LSU before opening Big East play on the road against South Florida on Jan. 6.

It was brought to my attention that I stink in math (like that is a news flash). In my preview capsule today, I started that Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery are on pace to break the school record for most points by three teammates in the same season. That is correct. I stated that the mark was set in 2003 when Diana Taurasi (17.9), Jessica Moore (10.6) and Ann Strother (10.1) combined for 48 points. Actually, it comes out to 38.6 points so I was only off by 9.4 points (not bad by my standards). By my count, the trio of Nykesha Sales (20.9), Svetlana Abrosimova (14.5) and Paige Sauer (11.9) combined for 47.3 points which is currently the gold standard. Moore (18.8), Charles (17.5) and Montgomery (16.3) are on pace to combine for 52.6 points per game. Now if anybody wants me to do their taxes, obviously they like to live dangerously.

"Just another game"

UConn is in Columbia, South Carolina this weekend for one reason and one reason only - as a 40-minute Hallmark moment for Kalana Greene.

As the story I wrote in advancing the game focuses on, giving his players who come to Connecticut from outside the Northeast a homecoming game is very high up on the priority list of UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

That was proved back on New Year's Eve 2001 when UConn played at Wright State in a return home game for Tamika Williams. Wright State stepped in when Xavier, Ohio State and others passes. I still remember the quote of then-Ohio State coach Beth Burns when asked about playing UConn so Tamika Williams could play in front of friends and family. It went something like "if Tamika wanted to play at Ohio State she should have come to Ohio State." It was ironic that Burns is now the coach at San Diego State who had no issues letting the Aztecs host UConn last December so Charde Houston could return home.

Auriemma's efforts haven't always been successful. There was enough backlash from UConn reaching into the heart of SEC country to secure a commitment from the mercurial Maya Moore that there were no takers when the UConn coach tried to get a game either in Georgia or Alabama so Ketia Swanier could play a game near her hometown of Columbus, Ga. Georgia and Auburn (who are coached by 2000 U.S. Olympic coach Nell Fortner who had Auriemma on the staff which led the U.S. to the gold medal) had no interest in playing the Huskies. Fortunately, Georgia Tech agreed to sign on for a home-and-home game with UConn so Maya Moore can play a game in the state of Georgia when she is a senior.

Just out of curiosity, I looked to see how other UConn players have fared in their homecoming games. First, a couple of disclaimers. I am not including Big East games in this chart so don't ask why Mel Thomas' trip to Cincinnati when she was a junior or the returns of Swin Cash and Ashley Battle are included. I also only include the California games for Taurasi when she was a senior since they were set up specifically so she could play at home and not the Pepperdine game in 2000 which was just the second game of Taurasi's brilliant collegiate career.

12-31-02 Tamika Williams at Wright State: 20 points, 8 rebounds in 97-39 win
12-5-03 Diana Taurasi at Pepperdine: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists in 84-53 win
12-7-03 Diana Taurasi at USC: 26 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists in 72-69 win
12-23-04 Ann Strother at Colorado State: 20 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists in 63-44 win
11-27-05 Barbara Turner at Cleveland State: 8 points, 4 assists in 85-51 win
12-21-07 Charde Houston at San Diego State: 6 points, 5 rebounds in 85-53 win

Greene is not making too much out of this game. Hey, when you suffer a knee injury like she did which could have been of the career-ending variety, it's a little easier to put things into perspective.

"It's just another game," Greene said. "A lot of other schools don't have a lot of their games on TV so people see me play all the time. It is no pressure, I think it is just a special experience while I am there to see my family. I haven't been home in a long time and not for the long period of time I am going to be there. It is an opportunity for me to see my friends and family, them to come out, hang out and spend time with me but it is no pressure. It is just another game on the schedule.

"I am not taking any one game any less serious or more serious on our schedule. I not even asking my teammates for tickets because I heard that the tickets are only 5 bucks so if they want tickets, they can go and buy their own tickets. I am going to help out where I can but my friends, they can come to the Coliseum and get the $5 tickets."

Sorry to say that I overslept (OK, I'm not really sorry to catch a little extra sleep) and missed ESPN's Outside the Lines special on Elena Delle Donne, who if things were different would be a freshman for the top-ranked Huskies right now instead of having recently completed her freshman season with the University of Delaware volleyball team. As for being apologetic, I am truly sorry if I provided the wrong info. According to my TV grid, the program will be shown on ESPNews at noon and not on ESPN Classic so tune in if you wish.

As for the status of Charde Houston's knee injury, the fact that she played 21 minutes in the semifinals of the Israeli Cup AFTER she was diagnosed with a torn meniscus should give everybody a pretty good indication of her status.

Last, if anybody is interested in the answer to the trivia question I posed (although judging by the reaction, apparently you are not) Kathy Ferrier was the third-leading scorer on the 1992-93 UConn team behind Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer Rizzotti. Ferrier averaged 10.4 points in her senior season, just ahead of current assistant coach Jamelle Elliott's 10.1 average. That 1992-93 team is the last UConn squad to fail to win at least 20 games and the last group of Huskies which failed to win either the Big East regular season or tournament title.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Good news for Phillips

Since I blogged the info about Erin Phillips of the Connecticut Sun suffering a knee injury in the championship game of the Israeli Cup, thought it was only proper to provide an update.

According to the same site where I found out about Phillips' injury, Phillips does not need surgery

Now, in regards to the big news of the day, i.e. confirmation that highly sought after post player Stefanie Dolson has committed to UConn, here are some thoughts.

I am not, never have been and never will be a coach so unlike these people who prop them up as experts on various recruiting web sites (including one who expects us to value his expertise even though he had Diana Taurasi as the No. 2 rated player coming out of high school behind Ashley Robinson), I am just not qualified to predict how good a player will be. I have always used the "who else is recruiting them" as a way to judge recruits. Dolson's other schools at the end were Maryland, Duke, Penn State and Rutgers. That's some pretty good company. I know that the Washingtonville team playing Dolson's Minisink Valley squad the night I went to see her was so clearly overmatched physically, it was hard to draw any concrete conclusions based off the one time I saw her play.

On a personal level, Stefanie Dolson is an easy kid to like. Coming out of the lockerroom after Monday's win over Washingtonville, the first thing she did was pick up an adorable child who I assumed was either the offspring of a family member or close friend. She has an easygoing nature about her that is very endearing. She reminded me a little bit of Heather Buck in the way she interacted with her teammates and carried herself on and off the court.

It seemed to me that Stefanie found the entire recruiting process to be a bit peculiar especially the part where a guy who drive two hours to watch her play and then want to talk to her after the game about the process before driving two hours back home. For the record, I believe she knew she was going to UConn when I spoke to her and I think she knew that I knew she was going to UConn. But obviously the Dolson family has been raised with a sense of courtesy because they believed they shouldn't announce their decision to the media until they first let all the coaches in the process know. I can appreciate and respect that even though the best thing for me would have been her blurting out to me on Monday that she was committing to UConn. I will say I greatly appreciate the way the process was handled from the end of her and her family and her very helpful AAU coach Marc Riley. Other recruits who accuse the media of being overbearing might want to take a page from the Stefanie Dolson/Heather Buck/Kelly Faris/Samarie Walker handbook.

Among the items I brought up with her when she returned my call was how hard it was telling the other coaches that she was going to UConn. For space purposes, I had to cut that part out of my story which will be running in Sunday's edition of the Register so here it is:

"I feel really bad, I say sorry a lot when I talk to them. It is hard but so far a lot of people I have called, I keep getting answering machines but I will get them sooner or later."

In my quest to place the extent of Dolson's recruitment in the proper perspective, I asked her high school coach Judy Mottola that other than former Virginia guard Tammi Reiss, is there another player in their region who has attracted the same amount of attention from the big-time schools. The only other name she came up with was Katina Mack, who graduated from Penn State as the Lady Lions' fifth all-time leading scorer with 1,463. Mack still ranks 12th on Penn State's career scoring list. That is some pretty good company.

Dolson commits

Stefanie Dolson, considered one of the premier post players in the current high school junior class, committed to UConn according to her AAU coach.

Dolson, a 6-foot-5 center from Port Jervis, N.Y., made her decision on Christmas Day according to Marc Riley, director of the New York Elite AAU program.

"It's a perfect fit for her," Riley said. "They have top-notch coaches, it's a top-notch program, it's close to home and she will be able to grow academically and basketball (wise). I expect to see her doing even bigger things than she has already done (at Minisink Valley)."

With only wing player Kelly Faris signed for UConn's upcoming class, recruiting a post player who will be able to step in when Tina Charles and Kaili McLaren graduate in 2010 was a major priority for the Huskies.

Dolson picked UConn over Duke, Maryland, Penn State and Rutgers.

UConn is expected to continue to think big in recruiting as expect another post player to join 6-foot-1 wing Samarie Walker and Dolson in UConn women's basketball graduation Class of 2014.

There will be more on this story in Sunday's edition of the Register.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A little trivia

Seeing how prolific the trio of Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery have been in the first 10 games of the season, I decided to do a little research to put their scoring exploits into historical perspective.

Just went through the UConn "Blue Book" which is a statistical supplement UConn sports information director Randy Press has put out yearly since the NCAA set restrictions on the maximum number of pages in college media guides.

I discovered that they are on pace to average more points than any three UConn players have in the same season and would be the first trio of Huskies to combine for more than 50 points per game. That is not a shock but it may be a bit of a stunner to realize that Moore, Charles and Montgomery are accounting for 57.4 percent of UConn's points this season and not only is that not a record, but it would not even place them in the top five.

Now for a bit of trivia.

The last time three UConn players accounted for at least 60 percent of the Huskies' points was in the 1992-93 season when Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer Rizzotti were UConn's top two scorers. Who finished third on the team in points scored that season? A hint: she was not a member of UConn's first national championship team two years later.

Painful loss for Sun's Phillips

It truly was like adding insult to injury for Connecticut Sun guard Erin Phillips in the championship game of the Israeli Cup Christmas Day.

Not only did Phillips suffer a knee injury in the first half which knocked her out of the game, but her Ramat Hasharon squad squandered a 12-point lead in the final 5:40 to fall to Ramat Han 72-71.

There was not much information coming about the extent of Phillips' injury as the only reference to it in the game story was "Ramat Hasharon lost Erin Phillips to a knee injury in the first half and she didn't return."

Naturally, Phillips' status bears watching as she figures prominently into the 2009 plans for the Connecticut Sun.

Phillips had six points, one rebound and one assist in 11 minutes before being injured. Phillips averaged 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3 assists in three games in the tournament. During the regular season she averaged 11.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.9 steals a game.

It goes without saying that when I have more information, I will post it.

The injury bug bit a former UConn standout as well as Charde Houston tore the meniscus in her knee (according to the game report) and was unable to play in Raanana Hertzelia's 77-70 win over defending champion Elizur Ramla in the quarterfinals. Kelly Schumacher, a member of UConn's 2000 national championship team, helped fill the void left by Houston's injury with 20 points and 17 rebounds.

The good news was that Houston was able to play in the semifinals, finishing with 14 points, three rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes in a 55-54 loss to Ramat Hasharon Tuesday.

The quote from Houston in the post-game recap was classic Charde:
"God is great. He does things to people sometimes that you can't explain, and this was a great example. I'm grateful that I even got on the court today. It's the type of injury that if you can go, you go. As long as you walk off the court knowing you gave your all, if it doesn’t go your way, what can you do?"

Houston has been sensational in her stint in Israel averaging 24.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2 steals in 17 games.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Programming note

Just spreading the word that if you wish to revisit the Elena Delle Donne basketball burnout story, it will be the subject of an Outside the Lines special on Sunday (9 a.m. on ESPN, noon on ESPN Classic).

I'm sure if you are reading this blog, you are aware of the Delle Donne story. A 6-foot-4 offensive dynamo who was a centerpiece of UConn's current freshman class. But after two days on the UConn campus in June, Delle Donne had a friend come and get her and drive her back to Wilmington, Delaware. After taking the summer to collect her thoughts and ponder her future, Delle Donne enrolled at the University of Delaware and was a member of the Blue Hens' volleyball team which reached the NCAA Division I tournament.

Here's a preview of the report which seems like it falls into the category of "haven't we already been over this before" since she recently finished her first semester of college and if the video clip is an indication of what they came up with, it doesn't appear to be groundbreaking stuff. Also, the release I received from ESPN stated it was her first television interview since telling UConn coach Geno Auriemma of her decision not to honor her scholarship with the Huskies. That is not true since I know at least one local television station was at the press conference at the University of Delaware announcing her decision to enroll at and play volleyball for Delaware.

So anybody who wishes, feel free to tune in.

happy holidays

Monday, December 22, 2008

Going straight to the source

With the rumors swirling around about Stefanie Dolson having already decided on her college of choice, I decided the best way to get to the bottom of the story was to ask Stefanie myself.

The schedule makers cooperated as Dolson and Minisink Valley played at Washingtonville, N.Y. tonight, just 40 miles from Danbury so I got in my car and made the trip to see the game.

First for the details, Minisink jumped out to a 28-0 (yes that is correct, 28-0) lead and won 53-25. It was 44-9 at the end of three quarters before the Minisink stars, Dolson included, got the rest of the night off.

Dolson didn't play for the final 3 1/2 minutes of the second quarter so in 20 1/2 minutes she had 21 points (on 8 of 20 shooting) with 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks. Dolson showed off her perimeter game and was at her best in the third quarter when she had 7 points, 7 rebounds, two assists, a steal and two blocks. The blocks were rather impressive as she stood her ground defensively and when she was challenged by the undersized Washingtonville players, she merely snared the ball with both hands. Dolson missed some easy shots, something she was not happy about but was 5 for 5 from the free throw line. She could have easily had seven or eight assists but her teammates missed some gimmes as well.

She wears the same number (31) as current UConn center Tina Charles but her game reminds me more of Stanford's Jayne Appel with remarkable hands and a variety of post moves. She has a similar bubbly personality that I saw dealings with Appel last year after the two UConn/Stanford games and Stanford's season opener against Yale.

Now for the other stuff. Dolson has not committed to a school yet - or at least she was not ready to have her college of choice be put out there just yet. She said her final five schools are UConn, Maryland, Rutgers, Duke and Penn State. That was the only concrete info she wanted to divulge which is understandable because the right thing is to notify the coaches who spent their time recruiting her before spilling the beans to a journalist she was meeting for the first time.

Here's what she had to say about the process.

"I'm pretty close. It's been a long process, very overwhelming. It's been fun. I'm close."

When I asked her "are you close as in a week or two close, a day close ..." She laughed and said "I can't say."

I stated that it appears she made her decision but you haven't told everybody yet she said "maybe" with a giggle.

Dolson has visited all five schools. She was at UConn in mid-September and took in the UConn football game against Virginia on Sept. 13. She actually notified one school already that they are out of the mix but was reluctant to say which school it was.

"I already made one (call) but I am going to make the other ones after I tell the one (coach) yes," Dolson said.

So what is Dolson looking for?

"A program that will take me where I want to go for basketball, one that will make me the best player I can be and it has to feel right. I can't go to college and feel uneasy."

So that's the deal. Before anybody e-mails me and asks me where she is leaning, don't. As I have said before, I struggled to read the minds of 16-year-old girls when I was 16 and the years have done little to aid me in knowing what goes through the minds of teen-age girls. I will say this, I will be stunned if Dolson's commitment is not made public before we bid adieu to 2008. Her cryptic smile and playful gleam in her eyes when I tried to narrow down a time frame for her decision led me to believe it will come sooner rather than later.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just a few thoughts

Although I was unable to see the UConn/Florida State game because I was covering the Yale/Quinnipiac women's game in New Haven but it is clear from the box score that it was the Renee Montgomery show with 25 points (including 7 of 11 shooting from 3-point range), eight assists, three steals and one turnover.

Perhaps the stats that caught my eye was the good (31 assists on 35 baskets), the bad (seven free-throw attempts) and the surprising (Florida State outrebounded UConn 29-27).

Speaking of stats, there were some pretty ugly ones from the game I was at. Quinnipiac and Yale combined for eight turnovers before the second field goal of the game was recorded.

In Yale's 77-73 overtime win, the teams combined for more turnovers (50) than field goals (45) but the number that stands out was 59 as in 59 fouls called. As hard as it was believe, I was actually wishing to see some familiar officials like Dee Kantner, June Courteau and Bonita Spence after what I witnessed Sunday afternoon when five players fouled out and two other players had four fouls. Quinnipiac's dynamic senior guard Erin Kerner had 35 points, two off her career high. Not sure how Villanova missed out on Kerner, who grew up in Erie, Pa. but she would have had a nice career playing for Perretta's Wildcats.

Changing the subject, tomorrow is a sad anniversary for women's basketball fans as it will mark 10 years since the American Basketball League folded. Former UConn stars Jennifer Rizzotti, Kara Wolters and Carla Berube all played for the New England Blizzard but the best player to suit up for the New England squad was ex-Auburn star Carolyn Jones-Young.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dolson still uncommitted

Updating a report in my previous blog regarding rumors that UConn received an oral commit from one of the top posts available in the Class of 2010, I just got off the phone with Marc Riley, the director of the New York Elite AAU program that Stefanie Dolson is a member of and he said that the 6-foot-5 junior center at Minisink Valley High in Slate Hill, N.Y. has not committed to any programs - UConn included.

Riley did say that he believes a decision on Dolson's college of choice could be coming soon. When I asked him to put the tangible figure on soon, he thought it could be as soon as the next week or two.

Riley said that UConn, Duke, Maryland, Penn State and Rutgers are her top five. She was in attendance at Midnight Madness in October at Maryland and has been at a couple of Penn State football games as well. Through her AAU travels, Dolson has visited all the schools she is interested in including UConn and she was ready to get the decision taken care of soon.

Minisink Valley is 2-2 and lost 46-41 to Warwick on Wednesday despite 24 points from Dolson. The next game is Monday at 7 p.m. at Washingtonville. EDITED SUNDAY 10:30 A.M.: Minisink Valley defeated Suffern 52-43 on Saturday as Dolson had 11 points, 13 rebounds and five assists to improve to 3-2.

Whole mess of notes

There's plenty of stuff to get to so let's start from the end and work out way back.

Got off the phone with Mel Thomas and she was happy to report that about 300 people made it to Monaco Ford in Glastonbury for her latest public appearance to promote her new book "Heart of a Husky."

There will be a story on Thomas and her venture into the publishing world in Sunday's edition of the Register. Among the things which I didn't get into the story because of space limitations (as anybody who reads this blog on a regular basis may have realized, I can be a little long winded at times with my ramblings) was her take on being on the other side of the CPTV broadcast. Friday night was the first time Thomas sat in front of her television to watch a UConn game on CPTV. After four years of being on the screen courtesy of CPTV's coverage of UConn, it was an eye-opening experience for Thomas.

"It was very strange," Thomas said. "But it is great seeing them play. They are great. I've been out of the country so I haven't had a chance to watch them play but I watched them (Friday). I am very impressed with them, I think they have the potential to go all the way and probably will. I hope so."

Thomas will leave for her hometown of Cincinnati shortly and will have two more book signings there before returning to Connecticut. She will leave on Jan. 1 for Ireland where she will rejoin the Waterford Wildcats pro team. In five games with the Wildcats Thomas averaged 24 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.4 steals. She is hoping her play will lead to her getting invited into the WNBA training camp.

Speaking of basketball and Europe, the field is set for the EuroLeague Women playoffs.

Former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird will lead their Spartak Moscow Region team on its quest for a third straight title in the quarterfinals against a ZVVK USK Prague team led by the Connecticut Sun's Lindsay Whalen and former UConn star Swin Cash, a teammate of Bird's last season with the WNBA's Seattle Storm. Ex-UConn greats Asjha Jones and Svetlana Abrosimova will lead UMMC Ekaterinburg against TEO Vilnius. The best of three quarterfinal series begin on Jan. 27.

There is more scheduling news coming out of Cancun, Mexico courtesy of John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Post's Rich Elliott, who are representing the rest of the UConn media contingent quite well with their informational blog entries and news items. Looks like ESPN is pushing hard for a Texas/UConn next year, possibly at the Alamodome in San Antonio - the site of the 2010 Final Four. Since I have San Antonio and St. Louis running neck and neck as the most memorable Final Four sites I have been to (easily outdistancing Philadelphia, Tampa and Atlanta), count me among those who would be thrilled to make the trip back to San Antonio. They are also reporting that nine of the 13 UConn players attained grade-point averages of at least 3.0 which is impressive but hardly stunning considering UConn's track record in the academic department but impressive nonetheless.

If the Texas thing happens, UConn would play nine of the top 16 teams in the latest Associated Press poll during the 2009-10 season with non-conference games against No. 2 North Carolina, No. 3 Stanford, No. 5 Texas, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 8 Duke going with Big East games versus No. 9 Louisville, No. 13 Notre Dame, No. 14 Rutgers and No. 16 Pittsburgh. I'm just thinking out loud here, but one non-conference series I'd love to see UConn work on is one against California. Former Duke assistant Joanne Boyle is building something special out in Berkeley and there are worse places to head to in either November or December than sunny California. Even without the Bears on the 2009-10 schedule, the slate of games promises to be one of the best in the program's illustrious history.

Also, don't concern yourself with reports of Stefanie Dolson committing to UConn. The gifted 6-foot-5 post from Minisink Valley in Slate Hill, N.Y. is high on UConn's wish list but it is not true. Since she has yet to visit the campus, this commitment talk is a bit premature. Don't be surprised if a visit does happen later this season since it's only about a three-hour drive from Slate Hill to Storrs but sounds like some recruiting tomfoolery is being practicing by one of the other schools which is pursuing Dolson. Just a thought, why not let these kids go through the process without adding extra pressure by putting false rumors out there, is that too much to ask for from the college coaches out there.

Friday, December 19, 2008

UConn's "Big Three" make the cut

UConn senior guard Renee Montgomery, junior center Tina Charles and sophomore forward Maya Moore were named to the "Early Season Watch List" for the Naismith Trophy.

The list will be amended in February with freshman available for that ballot. The list will be narrowed to 30 and will be sent out to voters before the list is further pared in March.

Score one for Mother Nature

Just received an e-mail from Mel Thomas and her scheduled book signings were postponed because of a treacherous traveling conditions. Tonight's scheduled event at the East Haven Irish-American Community Center has been postponed to Dec. 29.

A very smart move, I am sure the last thing she would want is to have one of her fans get into an accident en route to her public appearance. Her event at Monaco Ford in Glastonbury tomorrow is still a go from noon-3 p.m.

More on the 2009-10 schedule, Clemson, Richmond and Hofstra will come to Connecticut for the WBCA Classic on Nov. 27-29 with UConn the host site. Now whether it will be in Storrs or Hartford, that has yet to be determined and/or announced. I guess it's OK that for one year the Huskies don't get to visit paradise in November or December after trips to the Virgin Islands and Cancun the last two seasons. Then again, some people might consider either Hartford or Storrs to be their idea of paradise.

Show must go on

When I was in the office last night, I heard from Tom Morrissey of West Haven who is working with Mel Thomas to set up the former UConn guard's list of public appearances to promote her newly-released "Heart of a Husky" book.

Morrissey wanted to get the word out that the book signing at the Irish-American Community Center in East Haven tonight from 7:30-9 p.m. is still on despite the snow which is blanketing the area. If anybody wants to check that the event is still on before getting in their cars can call Morrissey at 787-4873.

While we are on the topic of UConn fans, I have to say I was impressed. Our office received only one call asking which station was televising Thursday's game against Washington. I still remember when Miami was still in the Big East and the game against UConn in Coral Gables was being televised on a non-traditional station. Despite writing about it four straight days before the game, our office received between 50-75 calls from frantic fans unable to watch the game. More recently, there were at least a dozen calls asking why the Virginia game two seasons ago wasn't on CPTV even though we had multiple stories about the game being on ESPNU even speaking to the general manager at ESPNU. I guess we are making progress.

Changing gears, UConn commit Samarie Walker is living up to all the advance billing. The top-rated player nationally in the current junior class led her Chaminade-Julienne team to a 53-40 upset of top-ranked Long Beach (Calif.) Poly in the prestigious Tournament of Championships event in the Phoenix area. C-J's potential showdown with New York power Christ the King ended when the school that includes former UConn guard Sue Bird as well as current Huskies Tina Charles and Lorin Dixon among its alumni lost to Oak Ridge (Tenn.) in the first round on Thursday.

Walker was not the only player on the UConn recruiting radar to get off to an impressive start as Orsi Szecsi, a 6-foot-3 forward originally from Hungary, helped Oak Hill Academy to a 75-40 win over Central Catholic out of the Washington, D.C.

Last item, the 2009-10 UConn non-conference schedule continues to take shape with word that UConn and Florida State signed a home and home series beginning next season with a game at Florida State.
Walker had 15 points and 13 rebounds in the victory.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Connecticut Sun release schedule

The Connecticut Sun just sent out a release with its 2009 schedule. At first it seems favorable with five of the first seven games at home and five of those contests against non-playoff teams.

The Sun kick off the season on June 6 with a home game against Washington. The next day Connecticut plays its road open at Madison Square Garden against the New York Liberty team which knocked them out of the 2008 playoffs.

ESPN2 will televise the games against Los Angeles on July 14 and Phoenix on July 28.

Here's the complete schedule
Jun. Sat. 6 Washington 4:00 pm
Sun. 7 AT New York 4:00 pm
Sun. 14 Atlanta 3:00 pm
Tue. 16 AT Chicago 7:00 pm
Fri. 19 Chicago 7:00 pm
Sun. 21 San Antonio 3:00 pm
Sat. 27 Atlanta 7:00 pm
Jul. Thu. 2 AT Indiana 7:00 pm
Sun. 5 AT Detroit 6:00 pm
Tue. 7 AT Atlanta 7:30 pm
Sat. 11 Detroit 7:00 pm
Tue. 14 Los Angeles 7:00 pm ESPN2
Fri. 17 AT San Antonio 7:00 pm
Sun. 19 Indiana 3:00 pm
Wed. 22 Sacramento 7:00 pm
Tue. 28 Phoenix 7:30 pm ESPN2
Thu. 30 AT Indiana 7:00 pm
Aug. Sat. 1 AT Chicago 7:00 pm
Sun. 2 AT Detroit 6:00 pm
Fri. 7 AT Minnesota 7:00 pm
Sun. 9 Washington 3:00 pm
Thu. 13 Seattle 7:00 pm
Fri. 14 AT Washington 7:00 pm
Wed. 19 New York 7:00 pm
Fri. 21 AT New York 7:30 pm
Sat. 22 Minnesota 7:00 pm
Tue. 25 Detroit 7:00 pm
Thu. 27 AT Seattle 7:00 pm
Sat. 29 AT Phoenix 7:00 pm
Sun. 30 AT Los Angeles 6:30 pm
Sep. Tue. 1 AT Sacramento 7:00 pm
Fri. 4 New York 7:00 pm
Fri. 11 AT Atlanta 7:30 pm
Sun. 13 Indiana 3:00 pm

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Time change

Apparently Florida State is having some travel issues (somebody has to explain that one to me since the Seminoles are stuck smack dab in the Sunshine State) so the time schedule of the Caribbean Classic on Thursday has been tinkered with a bit.

Now the UConn/Washington game is slated to tip off at 5:30 p.m. Just a reminder, the game is not on TV and no matter how many calls Husky fans make to their local newspapers tomorrow night, that will not change so tune into the UConn radio network and enjoy the call from Bob Joyce and Kara Wolters.

One thing at a time

Before she headed off to paradise with the rest of the UConn women's basketball team, I asked UConn senior guard Renee Montgomery if she paid any attention to the recent WNBA lottery since it could ultimately determine where she ends up.

"I will care but right now I don't because my focus right now is just UConn," Montgomery said. "I will care when it comes time to care. I try to stay right here because when you start thinking about too many other things as far the future, things right here tend to slip right by you."

I found the lottery results interesting since Washington and Chicago, which will pick second and third, are both in need of help at point guard. So will Montgomery be picked that high? It's too early to tell but I think it will be determined by the fate of Oklahoma's Courtney Paris. If Paris is taken with either of the top two picks (I would expect Louisville's Angel McCoughtry to be the other top pick), Chicago is sitting there with both Montgomery and Maryland's Kristi Toliver on the board.

Speaking of the WNBA, the list of cored players was recently put up on the WNBA site. Former UConn star Sue Bird, Deanna Nolan of the Detroit Shock and Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever were among the seven players cored. With the cored players in place, now the fun starts. The period when WNBA teams can speak to free agents began on Monday although no contracts can be signed until Jan. 5.

Changing gears, there was some disturbing news coming out of New Zealand as the funding for New Zealand's senior women's basketball program has been cut. That could impact current UConn center Jessica McCormack, who played with the Tall Ferns in the 2008 Olympics, down the road.

On a more optimistic note, people who are into such things will likely be keeping tabs on the results of the Tournament of Champions in the Phoenix area later this week. UConn commit Samarie Walker will lead her Chaminade-Julienne team into the premier high school girls' basketball event in the country. Orsi Szecsi and her Oak Hill Academy team will also be playing in the event. Nine teams in the top 25 in USA Today's national high school poll will be playing in Session I of the event which begins Thursday. Top-ranked Long Beach (Calif.) Poly heads the list and will face Chaminade-Julienne on Thursday. With UConn playing in the Caribbean Classic at the same time, it will be difficult for the Huskies to have any staff members in attendance at the event.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dixon Classic recap

Just got home from New York after an interesting day of basketball.

First, I'll start with the basketball observations.

Tina Charles was immense with 29 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks. Penn State had no answer for her and to her credit, Charles took advantage of the mismatch the Huskies had inside. A side note, I always have to chuckle a little at the spin on the "improved Tina Charles." Last season she scored in double figures in UConn's first nine games and actually had more rebounds after seven games last year than she does this year. If she were on another team, Charles would be talked about as a potential national player of the year candidate. But on a team with Maya Moore, that is not the case. It should be noted that if Charles keeps up her current pace and UConn were to reach the Big East and NCAA tournament finals in 2009 and 2010, Charles would finish as UConn's all-time leading scorer with more than 2,300 points and would also be the first UConn player with more than 1,300 career rebounds.

I know that's a lot of supposing but just keep that stats in mind when you wonder why you don't see the "new and improved Tina" story in the Register. She is playing at an exceptionally high level but I have always felt like she got a little bit of a raw deal in the court of public opinion when you consider how much success she has enjoyed at the college level. I guess it's the price of doing business as UConn.

UConn fans should be thrilled to hear that CPTV has been able to pick up the games against Northern Colorado on Friday and Florida State on Sunday at the Caribbean Classic in Cancun. Originally, none of the three games in Mexico were supposed to be televised in Connecticut now only Thursday's game against Washington won't be broadcast in Connecticut.

The first game of the Maggie Dixon Classic was pretty uneventful with Rutgers topping Army but it was interesting that Brittany Ray and not Epiphanny Prince was playing the point guard. I'm not sure if Ray is a good enough ballhandler to play the point against better competition but I like the move simply because Prince is more effective playing the shooting guard than she is at the point.

Had a chance to speak to Pittsburgh men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon after finishing with the UConn and Penn State press conferences. A few observations, first he is a class act as is the entire family and second, he has high expectations for the event started to honor his late sister.

Dixon said Rutgers and Tennessee will play each other next season at the event and Baylor is interested which would mean the 6-foot-7 (or 6-8 depending on who you ask) Brittany Griner, who will be a freshman at Baylor, could make her Madison Square Garden debut at the fourth annual Maggie Dixon Classic.

Here's what Dixon had to say about the future of the event.

"My goal is to fill Madison Square Garden, obviously we are already playing on national TV," Dixon said. "I think it has already probably become the premier event in the country. You have Tennessee and Rutgers are going to play next year, Baylor wants to be in it. Geno wants to be in it every year if he can. North Carolina wants to be in it but at the same time we want to keep Army involved in it so there are challenges. I think the basketball even has taken care of itself. You have the Garden, you have national TV, our bigger goal now is to promote awareness of sudden cardiac arrest (which claimed the life of Maggie Dixon at the age of 28 in 2006, shortly after she coached Army into the 2006 NCAA tournament) and have some people who maybe haven't given it a thought that they can do some things to prevent it. Maybe we can save a few lives, especially young people because young athletes are more likely to suffer from sudden cardiac arrest. Our goal is to get better health, better diets, more education."

As for a potential regular-season meeting between UConn and Tennessee at the event in the future, Dixon explored the opportunity but doesn't sound like he will explore that possibility since the decision was made to discontinue the most highly-touted regular-season series in women's college basketball.

"I have given that some (thought) but at the same time respecting both coach's wishes who are both very good friends," Dixon said. "Those coaches have made great sacrifices to be a part of it and they should be commended as well."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Drawing a crowd

With Kastine Evans, the only Connecticut player currently on UConn's recruiting radar, playing in the 17th annual Masuk Girls Basketball Tournament, I figured it would be a good time to check out the Norwich Free Academy junior guard since it is the closest she will come to the New Haven area during the regular season.

The first thing I noticed is she is not quite as quick to jack up jumpers as she was when I saw her play in a tournament in Springfield, Mass. last season and plays with more of a sense of purpose and maturity than she did when I saw her play as a sophomore.

Matched up defensively with Masuk's talented junior Kanika Cummings for most of the game, Evans had 17 points, six rebounds and six steals in NFA's 51-39 win over Cummings and the host Panthers. Cummings finished with a game-high 24 points showing off a sweet jumper that figures to get her plenty of Division I looks. I figured there were at least six college coaches in the stands with good reason as Evans, Cummings and Pomperaug's Katie Cizynski are three of the state's top juniors. My eyes aren't quite as sharp as they were in my younger days but I did pick out assistant coaches from Siena and Holy Cross in the building.

As for Evans, she is in no hurry to commit. Besides UConn, I asked Evans who else she has heard from and here is her response:
"Delaware, Maryland, Richmond, Tennessee, Holy Cross offered me over the summer."

Evans said schedule conflicts kept her from making one planned unofficial visit to UConn but when her schedule allows, she plans to making it to either Gampel and the XL Center.

"I'll probably make a couple visits during the season but my schedule is really hard so I will probably wait until AAU season and over the summer to get all my official visits in.
"I am not going to make my decision until before the season next year, probably around signing day. I am going to see what happens."

NFA coach Bill Scarlata has done this drill before. Two of his former players committed to Big East schools as Marci Glenney began her career at UConn and Saona Chapman started out at Rutgers and Krista Rappahan played at Stanford.

"The two biggest ones I had were Rappahahn and Chapman and it is about the same interest as they were getting at this point in their careers," Scarlata said.

"Really there have been a lot of different schools and she is really wide open. UConn has shown some interest, BU, Holy Cross, they can't contact her yet so it is mostly them just calling up. There is a rumor that Tennessee might come looking at her, I am not quite sure of that one."

Evans, who had 22 points in Friday's first-round win over Pomperaug, was named the tournament MVP and joined on the all-tournament team by teammates and classmates Stephanie Long and Jen Escobido (who had 12 and 10 points against Masuk), Cummings and Brooke Butkovsky both from Masuk, Pomperaug's Cizynski and Rose Bajda of Notre Dame-Fairfield.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Buck stops here?

On Friday, UConn coach Geno Auriemma threw out the possibility of red shirting freshman forward/center Heather Buck who returned to practice earlier this week after a bout with mononucleosis.

Buck, a three-time Register State Girls' Basketball Player of the Year while at Stonington, was diagnosed with mono in mid-November. She was cleared to begin light activities late last month but it still not ready to get into a game for the top-ranked Huskies.

"She is breathing hard, her conditioning is not good - obviously sitting out all that time," Auriemma said. "Little by little she is getting better but I think when we get back from South Carolina (following a Dec. 28 game against the Gamecocks), as we get back into the New Year I think are trying to figure out if she is completely ready to start doing something or if so much time has gone by and let her spend the year getting ready and practicing. I don't know how you make up for all that lost time?"

If UConn goes the red shirt route, she would be the first player at UConn who would be cleared to play but held out in order to utilize a red-shirt season since Ashley Battle, who injured her elbow in the fifth game of the 2000-01 season.

Buck left practice early to take a final and was unavailable to the media following Friday's practice.

With a week and a half in between games because of a break for final exams, the UConn coaching staff was able to check out some players in the Class of 2010.

Besides having assistant coach Shea Ralph on hand to watch the two players currently committed to UConn - 5-foot-11 senior guard Kelly Faris out of Heritage Christian of Indianapolis, Ind. and 6-1 junior wing Samarie Walker from Chaminade-Julienne in Dayton, Ohio.

The UConn staff also looked at other prospects in the Class of 2010 and it is clear that their focus was on recruiting size as they were in attendance at games at Stefanie Dolson a 6-foot-5 center at Minisink Valley High in Slate Hill, N.Y., Sherrone Vails, a 6-foot-3 forward/center from Arundel High in Gambrills, Md., Michala Johnson, a 6-foot-3 forward/center from Montini High in Lombard, Ill. and Orsi Szecsi, a 6-foot-3 wing from Oak Hill High in Mouth of Wilson, Va.

For those with a traveling fancy who wish to see the versatile Szecsi play in person, Oak Hill is scheduled to play in a tournament at Monmouth University on Jan. 10-11.

The Huskies are still interested in Norwich Free Academy guard Kastine Evans who ironically is plying this weekend in southern Connecticut.

NFA is playing in a four-team tournament at Masuk complete with Division I talent as Evans, Pomperaug junior Katie Cizynski, Masuk junior Kanika Cummings figure to draw interest from Division I teams in the coming months.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mel Thomas headed to East Haven

I spoke to Tom Morrissey of West Haven when I was in the office on Wednesday night and he informed me of a new addition to former UConn guard Mel Thomas' book signing tour.

On Dec. 19 Thomas will be at the Irish-American Community Center in East Haven beginning at 7:30 p.m. to sign copies of her book "Heart of the Husky."

It will be a busy few days for Thomas. On Dec. 18 she will make stops in Enfield and Waterford. She will have a signing at the UConn Co-Op on Dec. 19 before making her way down to East Haven. On Dec. 20, she will make a stop in Glastonbury before flying home to Cincinnati for appearances on Dec. 21 and 22.

Morrissey was telling me of his connections with the Waterford Wildcats, the pro team in Ireland Thomas is playing for with the hopes of drawing interest from WNBA teams. I'm sure it is a subject I will address further in the coming weeks.

Speaking of the pro basketball circuit in Europe, I couldn't help but notice that the leading scorer in the women's EuroLeague is former Duke star Sheana Moesch who is not listed on any of the current WNBA rosters. The 27-year-old Moesch, who plays for Basket Lattes Montpellier of Lattes, France, is averaging 19.8 points a game on 53.3 percent shooting, a 44.4 3-point percentage while hitting more than 90 percent of her free throws. Moesch had scored at least 20 points six times in nine games including 21 points against Russia powerhouse Spartak Moscow Region which features WNBA stars Lauren Jackson, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles. At the press conference following his team's elimination from the WNBA playoffs, Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault said that adding a light's out shooter would be high on the team's list of priorities. I'm sure Moesch will have multiple suitors from the WNBA and knowing Thibault's impressive track record when it comes to scouting talent overseas, I'm sure he has been well aware of Moesch's scoring onslaught well before I was. It should be noted at Moesch is actually tied for the league lead in scoring with forward Anna Vajda of Hungary's Mizo Pecs.

It should be noted that 2008 first-round picks Essence Carson, Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper are currently ranked third, fifth and sixth respectively in the scoring race. The Connecticut Sun's Lindsay Whalen (ZVVZ USK Prague) and Kerri Gardin (Jolly JBS Sibenik) are ranked 18th and 20th.

Here's a breakdown of former UConn and current Connecticut Sun players in the EuroLeague

Svetlana Abrosimova (UMMC Ekaterinburg) 6.3 points per game
Sue Bird (Spartak Moscow Region) 10.3 points, 6.1 assists, 2.3 steals
Swin Cash (ZVVK USK Prague) 9.8 points, 5 rebounds, 1.4 steals
Asjha Jones (UMMC Ekaterinburg) 10.8 points, 5.1 rebounds
Diana Taurasi (Spartak Moscow Region) 16.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists

Svetlana Abrosimova (UMMC Ekaterinburg) 6.3 points per game
Kerri Gardin (Jolly JBS Sibenik) 14.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.3 steals
Sandrine Gruda (UMMC Ekaterinburg) 13.3 points, 5.4 rebounds
Amber Holt (MKB Euroleasing Sopron) 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2 steals
Asjha Jones (UMMC Ekaterinburg) 10.8 points, 5.1 rebounds
Evanthia Maltsi (ZVVK USK Prague) 14 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.4 steals
Lindsay Whalen (ZVVK USK Prague) 14.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.9 steals
Tamika Whitmore (Gambrinus) 10.6 points, 3.6 rebounds

It should be noted that we are in the midst of the two-week period where WNBA teams can send qualifying offers to their players who are not under contract. Gardin and Maltsi fall into this category along with Barbara Turner, Danielle Page and last year's third-round pick Lauren Ervin. Abrosimova and Tamika Raymond are unrestricted free agents while Jamie Carey is a restricted free agent. Gruda, Holt, Jones, Erin Phillips, Ketia Swanier, Whalen and Whitmore are all under contract.

As a footnote: Swanier (Utex Row Rybnik, Poland), Turner (Tarsus, Turkey), Danielle Page (Dunav Econt Rousse, Bulgaria) and Erin Phillips (Ramat Hasharon, Israel) are also playing overseas.

Beginning on Monday WNBA teams can begin talking to free agents but can't sign players until Jan. 5. It will the intriguing to see what happens in the player movement department in the next month or so.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Lottery time

For the first time, there were no changes in the WNBA draft lottery as teams finished in the order they came into the blind draw for the draft order featuring non-playoff teams. As a result, Atlanta, Washington and Chicago will have the first three picks followed by Minnesota and Phoenix.

How does this impact Renee Montgomery's stock? That's an interesting question.

Louisville's Angel McCoughtry seems to be a perfect fit in Atlanta which needs a rebounding presence at forward as well as a third scoring option to go with the backcourt of Betty Lennox and Ivory Latta. McCoughtry would fill both needs and combining with Sancho Lyttle, who was taken first overall by Atlanta in Monday's dispersal draft, Atlanta could be significantly more rugged in the front court in the 2009 season than it was in the franchise's inaugural season. This is pure speculation on my part, but could Washington look to make a splash by bringing McCoughtry, a Baltimore native, back to the area? It will be interesting to see.

If Washington stands pat, point guard would seem to be a need unless they plan to have newly acquired Matee Ajavon play the point. Ajavon seems to be a better fit at the off guard but now it gets interesting. If Ajavon moves to the off guard and Washington uses the No. 2 pick either on Maryland's Kristi Toliver or UConn's Montgomery, what happens with Alana Beard and Monique Currie. Certainly a lineup of Montgomery/Toliver, Ajavon, Beard, Currie and Tasha Humphrey would be athletic but it would also be on a small side. I just can't see how Washington could contemplate starting former Duke teammates Beard and Currie as bookend forwards. With Humphrey, acquired in a trade for Taj McWilliams-Frankin, and Crystal Langhorne, taken in the first round in the '08 draft, it makes more sense to address the point guard situation rather than add another low-post player in Courtney Paris. But who knows?

Personally, I think Chicago would be the perfect fit for Montgomery as she would be an upgrade over 10-year veteran Dominique Canty at the point and with Sylvia Fowles, Candice Dupree and Jia Perkins on the floor, Montgomery would be a perfect complimentary player.

Without the star power of a year ago when Candace Parker, Fowles and Candice Wiggins were franchise players available at the top of the draft, I would not be the least bit surprised to see some movement at the top of the draft. Where Oklahoma's double-double machine Courtney Paris goes in the draft could ultimately decide how the first round plays out. I'm not sure the Connecticut Sun, who pick 10th, have enough to entice Atlanta or Washington to give up one of the top two picks. I can't see the Sun parting with Lindsay Whalen, Asjha Jones, Sandrine Gruda ot Tamika Whitmore. I'm not sure what combination of players and/or draft picks would be enough to go flying up the draft board in an attempt to land either McCoughtry or Montgomery. With the No. 10 and 17 picks in the draft, the Sun should be able to get two players with a chance to help them.

It shouldn't come as a shock that UConn received all the first-place votes in the latest coaches' poll but it may be a bit surprising to some that three Connecticut teams received votes. Hartford picked up four points and Quinnipiac got one. Quinnipiac (7-1) received a vote in the USA Today/ESPN poll for the second time in school history (Jan. 15, 2008 was the other).

haven't heard the whole story, but the Rutgers took suffered a big loss when highly-touted freshman Jasmine Dixon left the team. A star at California power Long Beach Poly, Dixon is a special talent. When I attended the USA Basketball Under-18 trials, Dixon was a force especially on the defensive end, stepping into passing lanes, wreaking havoc on every possession. I thought she would be a natural in Rutgers' vaunted "55" press. Perhaps she will be heading home to California to continue her basketball career but she won't be playing for Rutgers.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Topping the charts

In the recently-released NCAA Division I statistical database, UConn junior center Tina Charles leads the country in field-goal percentage. Charles has made 42 of 60 shots in UConn's first six games, good for 70 percent.

UConn has players ranked in the top 10 in two other categories through Sunday's games. Caroline Doty and Renee Montgomery are ranked second and eighth with 3-point field goal percentages of 60 and 51.5 percent respectively while Kalana Greene is eighth nationally with a 3/1 assist/turnover ratio. It should be noted that the last UConn player to lead the nation in a statistical category came in the 2001-02 season when Sue Bird hit 94.2 percent of her free throws.

Not surprisingly, UConn is dominating in the offensive team stats. The Huskies lead all Division I teams in scoring offense (95 points per game), scoring margin (39.8), field-goal percentage (58.8), assists (24.5), assist/turnover ratio (1.57) and fewest fouls committed (11.3). It is extremely early as UConn has anywhere from 26-33games left to play but if the Huskies were to maintain their current pace, they would set Division I single-season records in scoring margin and field-goal percentage. Traditionally, stats like scoring margin and field-goal percentage take a beating during the postseason where finding room to operate offensively becomes increasingly more difficult as the level of competition increases.

When UConn coach Geno Auriemma took over the program in 1985, he wanted to start a series with Penn State. However, Penn State coach Rene Portland wasn't interested. As a result, the only regular-season games the two Eastern powers played came in tournaments as UConn won 93-84 in the Hawkeye Classic in Iowa City, Iowa on Nov. 25, 1989 and 87-74 in the Elite 4 Classic in Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 5, 1999. As long as Portland was the Penn State coach, it was pretty clear that there was no chance of a regular-season series between the schools. But former Notre Dame assistant coach Coquese Washington is in her second season as the Penn State coach so any of the bad vibes that existed between Portland and Auriemma are irrelevant as far as a potential series between the schools.

UConn doesn't have a ton of room in its non-conference schedule with series against Holy Cross, Hartford, North Carolina and Oklahoma continuing and a series with Stanford starting up next season. The back end of the Georgia Tech home and home will be held in the 2010-11 season to serve as Maya Moore's return to Georgia game. There has been some talk of setting something up with Temple, now coached by former UConn assistant coach Tonya Cardoza, and UConn normally has a couple of games reserved for exempt tournaments like the Caribbean Classic which UConn is playing in later this month in Cancun. So where does Penn State fit? That remains to be seen.

I spoke to Penn State coach Coquese Washington after Penn State's game against Dayton on Saturday and here's what she had to say about playing UConn in the future.

"We haven't discussed it but certainly something I would be happy to visit with those guys, it is a good rivalry, close proximity. hey are one of the standard bearers in terms of success and we would love to get them on the schedule," Washington said.

In Tuesday's edition of the Register there will be more on Washington and the Lady Lions, who will be playing Connecticut on Sunday in the Maggie Dixon Classic.

Making the grade

Right now, basketball is secondary for the nation's top-ranked women's basketball team.

With the final exam period for the fall semester beginning today and no games on the schedule until Sunday, the Huskies' focus will be on getting the job done in the classroom.

"It’s a fine line between how much do they have to study and getting them out there to try to get some physical exercise," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It’s hard for us to maintain their conditioning during this time and stay sharp basketball-wise, improve individually and put some things in team wise that can make us better. There’s a lot going on. It’s late nights for the players because they’re trying to get their school work done. So it’s not exactly a 10-day vacation."

UConn didn't practice on either Saturday or Sunday and are scheduled to take Wednesday off. When the team does practice today, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, there will be no marathon sessions. Even if Auriemma is dissatisfied with what he is seeing, when the two-hour mark hits, he will end the practice.

It can be a mentally-draining time for all students but even more so when you throw in the daily basketball sessions intertwined with last-minute preparation for final exams, there is plenty on the plates of the UConn players this week.

"It depends on how you manage your own time," UConn junior forward/center Kaili McLaren said. "When it is time for basketball, it is time for basketball. Once finals come, it is time for school. if you can manage your time and balance your studies, everything will work out fine."

It came down to the wire, but the tie Auriemma put up for bid in an online auction to raise money for the Kay Yow Foundation earned $15 more than the handbag Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale had up for bid.

Here are the final numbers
Auriemma's tie had 31 bids from 11 different bidders. The winning entry of $295 was placed shortly after midnight on Thursday.
Coale's handbag had 25 bids from 10 different bidders with the top bid of $280 came in just 43 seconds before the auction closed on Saturday at 8 p.m.

As expected, the Connecticut Sun did not make a pick in the WNBA's Dispersal Draft Sancho Lyttle and former Rutgers guard Matee Ajavon were picked by Atlanta and Washington respectively with the top two picks. Former Sun guard Shannon Johnson was not among the seven players selected in the draft of players under contract to the Houston Comets. The Comets, who won the first four WNBA titles, have suspended operations for the 2009 season. The draft lottery will be held on Tuesday. The Sun are locked into the No. 10 pick.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thoughts on Penn State

Spent the weekend in State College (or it is University Park) Pennsylvania to cover the Yale volleyball team's participation in the NCAA tournament. The schedule makers were kind and had the Penn State women's basketball team play at noon on Saturday which enabled me to check out the Penn State game before heading over to the second round of the volleyball tournament between Yale and defending national champion Penn State.

Curious about Penn State, which happens to be UConn's next opponent? Well, Dayton 67, Penn State 66 should answer some of the questions.

I'm glad Penn State doesn't copy a page from the UConn fans by standing until the home team scores because there would have been some fatigued Lady Lion supporters as Penn State needed 3:47 to break Dayton's shutout bid. The first Penn State field goal didn't come until the 5:33 mark, the second field goal was registered with 9:50 remaining in the half. For those scoring at home, the Lady Lions missed their first nine field goals and after Mashea Williams hit a jumper, Penn State missed their next seven shots. Let's be honest, most of the shots were not close to finding their mark. To their credit, Penn State rallied from a 13-point deficit to take lead on Williams' jumper with 9:35 to play. But two missed layups (including one by Meredith Monroe, a former high school teammate of Kaili McLaren) on the next offensive possession proved costly as Dayton came down and converted on a Casey Nance layup.

I spoke to junior Tyra Grant, who recently scored her 1,000th point, and Penn State coach Coquese Washington after the press conference was over and will have more from them later in the week about playing UConn and taking part in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden. Obviously, Penn State is thrilled to play at the Garden willing to give their best shot against the top-ranked Huskies.

Penn State sold tickets for two bus loads of fans to make the trek to New York and during the game, it was announced that no seats were left on either bus. The New York chapter of the Penn State alumni association is gobbling up plenty of tickets so expect a decent amount of fan support from the Penn State end a week from today when Penn State meets UConn in the second game of the Maggie Dixon Classic at 2:30 p.m. Rutgers and Army will play in the first game at noon.

During the event, the memory of former Army coach Maggie Dixon, who passed away at the age of 28 on Apr. 5, 2006 as a result of an enlarged heart and an issue with a heart valve. Using the high-profile event to help raise awareness for the Cardiac Arrhythmias Research and Education (C.A.R.E.) Foundation, there will be a health expo at MSG.

Fans can eceive a free ECG and blood pressure check. Other features of the Heart Health Expo include free CPR & AED training provided by the FDNY, stress test demonstrations, nutritional counseling and testimonials from heart patients. Additionally, the Knicks Groove Truck will be onsite with plenty of giveaways as well as video games and basketball hoops.

The Heart Health Expo, which is open to all fans attending the games, will be located in Madison Square Garden's Expo Center adjacent to the basketball court throughout the doubleheader event.

Tickets for the Maggie Dixon Classic can be purchased at the MSG box office, all Ticketmaster locations and online at . ESPN U will televise both games.

UConn commit Samarie Walker, considered among the premier players in the current class of high school juniors, had 18 points as her Chaminade-Julienne team improved to 2-0 with a 55-41 win over Thurgood Marshall on Saturday.

Walker and C-J out of Dayton will be competing in the prestigious Tournament of Champions event in Chandler, Ariz. beginning on Dec. 18 against California power Long Beach Poly.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Faris, Heritage Christian deliver

UConn signee Kelly Faris had 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead her Indianapolis-based Heritage Christian team to a 66-64 win over Chicago's Whitney Young on Friday.

Whitney Young entered the game ranked second in the USA Today national poll. Ashlee Anderson, who is headed to Pittsburgh in the fall, led Whitney Young with a game-high 24 points.

Former UConn guard Ketia Swanier, who is now a member of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun had her high school number retired at Columbus (Ga.) High.

Speaking of the WNBA, the draft lottery has been set for Tuesday. Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, Minnesota and Phoenix are in the running for the No. 1 overall pick. The draft order for the 2008 playoff teams is determined by record. The Sun will select 10th. The dispersal draft for the non free agents on the Houston Comets squad will be held on Monday.

Today I will get to see how the other half lives. I am accustomed to covering dominating performances by the nation's No. 1 team as the UConn beat writer. However, I am currently in State College, Pa. to cover the Yale volleyball team in the NCAA tournament. With an emotional five-set win against Ohio on Friday, the Bulldogs get to plat top-seeded and defending national champion Penn State on the Nittany Lions' home floor. How dominant is Penn State? Well, the Big Ten champions are not only 33-0 but have not lost a set this season.

Before I head over to the volleyball match, I am going to be at the Penn State women's basketball game against Dayton. When I went down for breakfast in the hotel lobby this morning, who was at the front desk other than former Providence coach Jim Jabir, now the Dayton head coach.

My apologies to Jabir and Dayton, but with UConn's next game being against Penn State in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden, my focus will be squarely on the home team so I can get some stuff to help me write some stories leading up to the Maggie Dixon Classic. Now if Jabir had any players from Chaminade-Julienne High in Dayton, the same school where UConn commit Samarie Walker is just starting her junior season, that would be a different story but I regret to inform you that is not the case.

Last item, somebody posted a comment on the blog asking why Tahirah Williams, Meghan Gardler, Jacquie Fernandes and Cassie Kerns would not leave UConn and go to a program where they would play more minutes and a more significant role.

Let's see, last year UConn spent Thanksgiving in the U.S. Virgin Islands, this year the week before Christmas the Huskies will be in Cancun, the Huskies fly chartered flights, eat at the best restaurants on the road, are treated like royalty and play in front of thousands of adoring fans on a nightly basis.

Performances like the one Williams enjoyed against Holy Cross are the exception and not the rule for the aforementioned role players but the fact is that they know exactly what their deal is and seem comfortable with it. If that wasn't the case, they wouldn't be at UConn because the last thing the Huskies need is chirping coming from players sitting on the bench. Williams and Gardler in particular could have larger roles in future games and I'm certain they are motivated by that possibility but if that is not the case, they handle their lack of playing time in a fashion that make them valued members of the UConn team. The players who get that remain with the squad, the ones who don't do opt to head to greener pastures.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sorry Lauren

I reported in my game story which appeared in Thursday's edition of the New Haven Register that UConn freshman Caroline Doty was four 3-pointers away from matching the NCAA Division I record of 14 straight set by Portland's Deana Lansing in 1996. That information was correct. But a quick look at the current NCAA record book shows that last season Lauren Howell of Mount St. Mary's also hit 14 straight 3-pointers.

Big test for Faris, Heritage Christian

Kelly Faris, the only player to sign a national letter of intent in the early signing period, will lead her Heritage Christian of Indianapolis squad against Chicago powerhouse Whitney Young Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Here's an item about the game that appeared in Thursday's edition of the Indianapolis Star:

Heritage Christian hosts Chicago power Whitney Young, the Class 4A state runner-up in Illinois last season and No. 2 in the USA Today's preseason national poll, at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

"We've always tried to have a pretty difficult schedule and this year's is the strongest we've had," Heritage Christian coach Rick Risinger said of the opportunities to play regional opponents after winning three consecutive 2A state titles. "(Whitney Young) is the type of team that really challenges you. We're looking forward to playing them."

Former Eagles athletic director Jeff Hester scheduled a pair of games with Bolingbrook, Ill. -- which beat Whitney Young for the state title last season and will come to Heritage Christian on Jan. 31, 2009 -- and that connection led to Friday's game. Heritage Christian, which hasn't lost to a team from Indiana since Jan. 23, 2007, beat Bolingbrook 49-46 last season.

Whitney Young is led by 6-foot center Porsha Harris, who has committed to Ohio University; 5-9 Ashlee Anderson, a Pittsburgh commitment; and 5-6 sophomore point guard Chanise Jenkins.

Risinger believes Heritage Christian will make a return trip to Chicago next season after standouts Kelly Faris (Connecticut), Claire Freeman (Butler) and Emily Anderson (Hillsdale College) graduate.

Heritage Christian is the top ranked team in the Star's 2A poll, receiving all 15 first-place votes after opening the season with three straight wins. In Heritage Christian's last game, Faris had 11 points, 16 rebounds and five assists in a 67-41 win over Rufus King of Milwaukee on Nov. 22.

Changing gears to the professional scene, I spoke to former UConn star Kara Wolters before Wednesday's Holy Cross game to get her reaction to the Houston Comets not fielding a team for the 2009 WNBA season. Wolters played on the 1999 Comets squad which won the third of four straight WNBA titles.

"They did great job with the franchise and we had terrific fans there. I was always amazed by the fan base. It reminded me of the fan base as far as Connecticut in the loyalty of their fans.
"It is shocking. It is almost like when Rebecca (Lobo) and I were here, we got the snowball rolling down the hill here at Connecticut. It is like saying all of a sudden Connecticut isn't going to have a team anymore. It's a shame for the league."

The dispersal draft is set for Monday. The Connecticut Sun have the 10th pick and likely won't make a selection unless they make a trade which seems unlikely. Sancho Lyttle and former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon are the top players available in the dispersal draft and figure to end up in Atlanta and Washington. Five players including future Hall of Famer Tina Thompson as well as former Tennessee center Michelle Snow are unrestricted free agents and can't be selected in the dispersal draft.

The Sun could be players in the free agent market and would love to add a big-time shooting to its 2009 roster. Just a thought, but how would getting a player who was 4 for 6 from 3-point range and finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in a recent EuroLeague game? Well, that was the line for Evanthia Maltsi, who played 26 games with the Sun in 2007. Maltsi has obligations in her native Greece which kept her from rejoining the Sun in the 2008 season and the Connecticut Sun hierarchy weren't optimistic about getting Maltsi to play for the franchise in the 2009 season either. It should be noted that one of Maltsi's teammates at ZVVK USK Prague is Sun All-Star guard Lindsay Whalen. Don't think Whalen wouldn't love to be running the floor with Maltsi at Mohegan Sun Arena in pursuit of the franchise's elusive first WNBA title. Whalen had 11 points, four rebounds and three steals and former UConn star Swin Cash added 10 points and eight rebounds in a 102-78 win over Jolly JBS Sibenik on Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Getting the upper hand

Although Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale didn't get the better of UConn's Geno Auriemma in Sunday's nationally-televised game, she is ahead of him in the fundraising department.

Coale and Auriemma, the president and vice president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, teamed up to raise money for the Kay Yow Foundation for cancer research. Coale has a handbag and Auriemma a tie which are currently up for auction on the and sites.

Nine bidders have placed 16 bids, the highest being $182.50 for Coale's item. Six people have put down 11 bids, the highest being $150 for the tie. The items remain up for bid until Saturday night.

"There's no way that my tie could go for more than the bag," Auriemma said. "No way it could ever happen. Guys may buy a tie or two or three and but they don't want to spend a lot of money on a tie, I don't care whose it is. Women, there are probably 15, 20, 25 of those women who already have three of those bags and they want that one so I have no shot to make more money than Sherri Coale."

Jessica McCormack, who is sitting out the season after transferring from Washington, went through her first practice on Tuesday. McCormack has been sidelined with a tender Achilles tendon but was able to go on Tuesday. At one point, she hit a mid-range jumper and her teammates roared their approval.

Heather Buck, sidelined with mononucleosis, was in uniform. She was cleared to being light activity over the weekend. She spent a little time on the stationary bike and caught a few passes but it is too early for her to take part in practice. That is still another week or two away.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that while in high school I received a "D" in zoology sophomore year. Why is this pertinent? Well, not only did it prevent me from graduating from high school with honors but changed my career path as it was clear that my dream of being a physical therapist wasn't going to pan out so I changed gears and got involved in journalism. My poor performance in zoology precludes me from offering medical time tables. I have seen speculation that Buck could make her game debut in the Caribbean Classic in Cancun, Mexico later this month or maybe even in the New Year's eve game against Hartford. Since I am clearly underqualified to offer an accurate estimation as to Buck's target date for a return, I do not plan on partaking in this particular guessing game. I will leave that to the experts (i.e., UConn trainer Rosemary Ragle and the UConn training staff). Now if you want advice on what to do to deal with a sinus infection, my suggestion would be to buy some saline spray, chicken soup and sleep for about a month straight.

Last time, I did some research last night to put UConn's impressive start shooting the ball into perspective. In the last 10 seasons, the most 3-pointers UConn had after five games was 33. This year's squad already has 44. If UConn continues it torrid pace, the Huskies would shatter the single-season record for 3-pointers of 256 set in the 2000-01 season.

The 24 3-pointers in back to back games is the most UConn has hit in consecutive games. Twice in a three-game stretch in February of 2001 the Huskies had 23 3-pointers over a two-game stretch but never 24.

Renee Montgomery, if she keeps up her current pace, would finish with a UConn season record 109 3-pointers, two better than Wendy Davis' mark set in the 1991-92 season. Sue Bird's record for 3-point percentage (49.7) has stood since 2000 but freshmen Caroline Doty and Tiffany Hayes are currently shooting 54.5 and 53.3 respectively and Montgomery is hitting 48.3 percent of her 3-pointers so that mark could be challenged as well.

Houston, we have a problem

Pretty sad news out of Houston as the four-time WNBA champion Comets are disbanding. Reports of the financial issues facing the franchise have been circulating so it is not completely unexpected but still unfortunate.

There will be a dispersal draft on Monday but don't expect the Connecticut Sun to be too active in acquiring a former Houston player. Normally dispersal drafts are based on record meaning the Sun would pick 10th. With Tina Thompson an unrestricted free agent, the players who figure to draw the most interest in the dispersal draft are Sancho Lyttle and former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon. Michelle Snow, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, Mwadi Mabika and Latasha Byears are also unrestricted free agents. Former Connecticut Sun guard Shannon Johnson is among the players available in the dispersal draft.

Switching gears back to college, the first NCAA stats came out on Monday and it should go down as a huge shocker that UConn is dominating in many categories. The Huskies are in the top 10 in nine different categories and lead the nation in scoring offense (94.8), field-goal percentage (57.5), assists per game (23.8), assist/turnover ratio (1.57) and fewest fouls per game (12.4). The only UConn players in the top 10 in individual categories are Tina Charles, who is second with a field-goal percentage of 67.9 and Caroline Doty, who is eighth with a 3-point percentage of 54.5.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Montgomery honored

Something tells me it didn't take a lot of deliberation before awarding UConn senior guard Renee Montgomery the Big East Player of the Week honor coming off her scintillating performance (30 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 turnovers) against Oklahoma Sunday.

Here's the full release from the Big East.

PROVIDENCE , R.I. – Connecticut senior Renee Montgomery and Notre Dame freshman Kellie Watson led their respective teams to top 25 wins last, earning BIG EAST Player and Freshman of the Week honors.

Montgomery averaged 24.5 points per game, while shooting 59.4 percent (19-of-32) from the field in Connecticut’s two wins last week at Brigham Young (97-46) on Nov. 25 and at home against No. 4/4 Oklahoma (106-78) on Nov. 30. The senior guard also averaged 7.5 assists per game and shot 64.3 percent (9-of-14) from 3-point range. Montgomery put together a career night against Oklahoma. She registered career-highs with 30 points and 13 assists. The assist total tied the single-game record in UConn history, and it was also the first double-double of her career. Montgomery dropped 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 5-of-6 from the 3-point stripe, at BYU.

Watson averaged 12.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game with a 52.9 shooting percentage (9-of-17) and a 63.6 3-point percentage (7-of-11) as Notre Dame picked up wins over Georgia Southern (85-36) on Nov. 25 and No. 24 Michigan State (78-72) on Nov. 29. Against Michigan State , the freshman forward led the Irish with personal bests of 18 points and six rebounds. She also hit 6-of-9 3-pointers, including her first five in a row in the first half, to tie the Notre Dame Joyce Center record for triples in one game. Watson tallied seven points in the Georgia Southern victory.

BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll

Takisha Granberry , West Virginia , Sr., G (Charlotte, N.C)

2-0; 20.5 ppg; 10.5 rpg; 56.0 FG%; 69.2 3FG; Most Outstanding Player at Maine ’s Dead River Co. Classic

Chandrea Jones, Syracuse , Sr., G ( Baltimore, Md. )

2-1; 18.0 ppg; 12.3 rpg; 2.7 apg; 2.0 spg; 48.8 FG%; 75.0 FT%; 21 pts. and 15 rebs. vs. Alaska-Anchorage

Angel McCoughtry, Louisville , Sr., F (
Baltimore, Md. )

2-1; 25.0 ppg; 9.0 rpg; Nugget Classic All-Tournament Team; first 2,000-point scorer, all-time rebounder at UL

Monique McLean, St. John’s, Sr., G ( Newport News, Va ,

3-0; 15.7 ppg; 8.0 rpg; 45.2 FG%; 50.0 3FG%; season-high 24 pts. vs. Stony Brook; surpassed 1,200 career pts.

Shavonte Zellous, Pittsburgh , Sr., G ( Orlando, Fla. )

3-0; 21.7 pts.; 3.3 apg; 45.7 FG%; 38.9 3FG; Pitt Thanksgiving Tournament MVP; also scored 23 pts. vs. PSU

The morning after

Wow. That's the first word to pop into my head to describe the offensive performance by UConn against Oklahoma.

The biggest difference to me is that the UConn stars lived up to their advanced billing - and then some while I am not sure the same can be said for Oklahoma.

Renee Montgomery was sensational with 30 points (felt more like 40 or 45), 13 assists and six rebounds. But the number that jumped out to me was two turnovers. Actually there should be an asterisk next to that number as Montgomery was tripped by an Oklahoma player as she came up court late in the first half. Had a foul been rightfully called, she would have had just one turnover in 38 minutes (when she had a pass stolen by Carlee Roethlisberger with 8:40 left in the game and the Huskies up by 25.) Montgomery's assists set up six 3-pointers and two three-point plays so she ended up accounting for 64 of the Huskies' 106 points. Those are numbers which would make even Steve Nash jealous.

All Maya Moore did was finish with 27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. I thought the best play Moore made in the entire game was backing off trying to block Courtney Paris' shot 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Already with one foul, Moore realized she was more valuable to the team on the floor and resisted the urge to go for the block. Paris missed back to back put back attempts en route to starting 0 for 8 from the floor. Who knows how the game would have played out if Moore had to spend most of the first half on the bench with two fouls.

Tina Charles had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks (two coming against Courtney Paris). More importantly, Charles played her most intelligent game of the season. Bucking the trend of picking up silly early fouls, Charles did not get whistled for her first foul until 14 seconds remained in the first half. Some of that needs to be credited to the way the game was called in the first half by officials June Courteau, Sue Blauch and Wesley Dean who let the teams play as they should have. It was a welcome change from the normal ESPN games which feature Dee Kantner strutting around, calling ticky tack fouls at a dizzying pace and carrying on as if every person in the stands and watching at home are there to watch her. There was one baffling stretch of calls in the second half including a confounding kick ball call on a wild scramble for a loose ball but I thought it was a well officiated game.

All freshman Caroline Doty did was become the first UConn player to go 6 for 6 from 3-point range as she continues to display maturity beyond her years with no turnovers.

Kaili McLaren also stepped up big. Her final numbers (two points, five rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes) may not be overwhelming but she stood in there and held her own against both Courtney and Ashley Paris.

Speaking of Courtney Paris, I was underwhelmed. I didn't think she asserted herself nearly enough in the first half and most of her best work came well after the game's outcome was decided. Paris started 0 for 8 and of her 10 misses in the game, five came when her shots were blocked by UConn players. Charles and Moore blocked Paris twice and McLaren had one block against her. I could be wrong, but I think next year's Oklahoma team could be tougher to play against when the offense is centered around the Danielle Robinson, Amanda Robinson, Whitney Hand and Roethlisberger than they are this season.

A few statistical notes:
Montgomery joins Laura Lishness and Susie Sturman atop the UConn single-game record book with her 13 assists.

Montgomery and Moore became the first set of UConn teammates to score 25 points in the same game since Diana Taurasi had 27 points and Barbara Turner 26 against Penn State in the 2004 NCAA tournament. It was the highest offensive output by two UConn teammates since Svetlana Abrosimova had 39 points and current assistant coach Shea Ralph scored 28 points against UCLA on Nov. 17, 1998.

Doty's 6 for 6 performance from long range tops Kennitra Johnson and Keirsten Walters 5 for 5 efforts against UCLA and Pittsburgh respectively during the 1999-2000 season.

Last but certainly not least, UConn freshman forward/center Heather Buck was cleared to begin light activity and could begin practicing in a week or two. She has missed UConn's first five games with mononucleosis.