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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kalana impressing; Kara ailing

Just returned home from the scrimmage between the U.S. senior national team and the U.S. Select squad.

First the details, the U.S. national team won each of the 10-minute periods 26-14, 24-13 and 17-15. Four players scored in double figures and all four either attended or in the case of Maya Moore, are still attending school at UConn.

Moore had a scrimmage-best 13 points to go with three rebounds (according to my very unofficial stats). Kalana Greene had 12 points and four rebounds, Renee Montgomery also had 12 points while Tina Charles finished with 10 points and nine rebounds. If you throw in ex-Husky Swin Cash's seven points, UConn products scored 54 points and non-Huskies finished with 55 points.

A couple of newsworthy items.

Greene and Oklahoma's Danielle Robinson, originally members of the U.S. Select player pool, practiced with the national squad on Friday. Greene suited up for the national team and Robinson would have if she didn't injure her left ankle during Friday morning's practice.

How impressive was Greene? Well, let her college coach Geno Auriemma, who is doubling as the U.S. national team coach, answer that.

"Kalana's been amazing," Auriemma said. "She's playing as well as I have ever seen her. She is playing with such confidence, she is really opening some eyes."

It's been a pretty good run for Greene who recently helped the Huskies to a second straight undefeated season, was taken in the second round of the WNBA draft by the New York Liberty and is preparing for her college graduation. On the court she looked at home on the court with former Olympians and those considered locks to be named to the 2012 U.S. Olympic squad.

Greene was as aggressive offensively as I have ever seen her. While she cooled off after a hot start shooting the ball, if she plays during the WNBA season like she did on Friday, she could in the running for WNBA Rookie of the Year honors.

One reason why Greene was called over to the national team practice was because former Stanford star Jayne Appel can not practice because of ankle and foot injuries and Connecticut Sun guard Kara Lawson is sidelined with a reaggravation of an injured knee she has been diligently rehabbing during the offseason.

Lawson practiced on Sunday but has since shut it down after feeling some pain following Snuday's practice.

Lawson has been working with the Connecticut Sun's training staff and is uncertain if she will be available for the start of Connecticut's training camp next week.

Lawson, signed by the Sun in the offseason, was kind enough to indulge me and give me her impressions of her soon to be teammates Kelsey Griffin and Allison Hightower, who both played for the Select squad.

"Kelsey is playing really well, she is a very good basketball player and really knows how to play," Lawson said. "She gets some rebounds and I wonder 'how did she get that.'

"(Hightower) is crafty and is a good offensive player. She's a lefty as well which is a plus."

Hightower had seven points while Griffin had two points and five rebounds during the scrimmage.

A couple of other players who impressed me where reigning WNBA rookie of the year Angel McCoughtry who had a scrimmage-best six steals and also showed off her passing skills setting up Greene for back-to-back baskets. McCoughtry finished with five assists. Duke's Jasmine Thomas was a star for the Select squad. Thomas had eight point and three steals and I have been at enough of Auriemma's UConn practices to know when he takes a shine to a player and he spent as much time instructing Thomas during breaks in the scrimmage than any other player.

Here's a breakdown of the three 10-minute periods
Session 1, 26-14: Moore opened with an assist on a Candice Dupree basket and followed with a 3-pointer. Montgomery had a 3-pointer and three-point play to give the U.S. national squad a 13-4 lead. After the Select squad pulled within three, Charles scored on a putback off an offensive rebound while Greene had a slick jumper off the glass and McCoughtry hit two free throws during the 6-1 run which stopped the Select team's momentum.

Session 2, 24-13: Jantel Lavender's three-point play off a set up from Andrea Riley gave the Selects an early one-point lead. Dupree's back-to-back baskets gave the U.S. national team the lead for good. Seimone Augustus, still working her way back from a knee injury, had five points during a 12-2 run including a jumper to give the veterans a 20-9 squad.

Section 3, 17-15: In an attempt to even the playing field, Auriemma sent Moore and Montgomery to play for the Selects while Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike and Monica Wright of Virginia played for the National Team.

A Greene jumper was followed by four straight points by Charles to put the Nationals ahead 12-6. Montgomery led the Select squad back, assisting on a Lavender basket and adding a 3-pointer and steal and layup (bowling over former teammate and roommate Greene in the process) to tie the score at 15. Cash hit the tie-breaking basket and Stanford's Kayla Pedersen missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

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