Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, October 29, 2010

UConn picked No. 1 in AP poll

In the days after the season-ending knee injury suffered by starting point guard Caroline Doty, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma began to do the math.
When the final number was crunched, Auriemma figured out that the 2010-11 Huskies would be asked to replace 5,198 career points and 3,073 rebounds with the graduation of Tina Charles, Kalana Greene, Meghan Gardler, Kaili McLaren and Jacquie Fernandes coupled with the loss of Doty.

Auriemma was convinced that there was simply no way that the voters would pick his two-time defending national champions first in the Associated Press poll as they did seven times from 1995-2009.

Well, when the votes were tabulated, UConn received 39 of 40 first-place votes to be the preseason No. 1 team for the third straight year.

"It makes no sense but I guess that's what the perception is around the country, " Auriemma said. "Well, they have been No. 1 for so long that they have to be No. 1 again this year. You (subtract 5,000) points and (3,000) rebounds, hey no problem. We are good with that. It's better than them saying 'you know what, you lost an awful lot last year in Tina, Kalana and Caroline. You know what, we're going to pick you 15th.' Well, that would really (tick) me off. Now. it is like we lost all those guys and you are going to pick us No. 1. It kind of bothers me too but not as much. I guess it is a testament to where we are, what we've done."

UConn was also the preseason pick in 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2008 and 2009. This is the 44th straight week the Huskies top the chart but the first time in 35 weeks that UConn isn't the unanimous pick.

Baylor, which will play UConn on Nov. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford, received the other first-place vote and was picked second. Stanford, Tennessee and Xavier round out the top five.

UConn will play five of the top 10 teams and 10 of the top 15 teams in the poll.
Here's a breakdown of when the Huskies play ranked teams this season:

2. Baylor (Nov. 16 at XL Center)
3. at Stanford (Dec. 30)
6. Duke (Jan. 31 at Gampel Pavilion)
7. Ohio State (Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden)
10. Oklahoma (Feb. 14 at XL Center)
11. at West Virginia (Feb. 8)
12. Notre Dame (Jan. 8 at Notre Dame, Feb. 19 at Gampel Pavilion)
13. at Georgetown (Feb. 26)
14. at St. John's (Jan. 12 at Madison Square Garden)
15. at North Carolina (Jan. 17)
18. Florida State (Dec. 21 at XL Center)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Impressive Euroleague start for Charles

Former UConn star Tina Charles had 24 points and 13 rebounds but her Nadezhda team lost its Euroleague opener 76-68 to Ros Casares.

Ex-Husky Diana Taurasi had 24 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists in her first EuroLeague game with Fenerbahce after a sensational run with Spartak.

Charles' former UConn teammate Kalana Greene had two points, three rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot in Gorzow's, Charde Houston had six points and two rebounds for Good Angels Kosice.

Here's a breakdown on how the Connecticut Sun players (or those whose rights are held by the Sun fared on opening day/night

Kelsey Griffin (Mizo Pecs 2010): 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals
Sandrine Gruda (UMMC Ekaterinburg): 17 points, 8 rebounds
Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (Spartak): 6 points, 2 rebounds
Johannah Leedham (Gorzow): 8 points, 3 steals
Erin Phillips (Wisla Can-Pak Krakow): 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
Alba Torrens (Halcon Avenida): 20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block

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Huskies get passing grades

The formulas for calculating academic success among collegiate sports programs can be a little complicated. Some count transfers against institutions, others don't. When calculating years, there can be some leeway in counting a student as being in good standing even if they did not graduate until a year or two after their class did.

I can say this much about the Graduation Success Rates released by the NCAA on Wednesday, the UConn women's basketball program's mark of 92 percent from 1998-2003 is well ahead of the average mark of 83 percent for women's basketball programs and the 87 percent mark of women's sports programs.

"We’re pretty proud of the fact that kids who come here graduate," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "They enroll for the right reasons. They want to get a great education, they want to prepare themselves for the future and they want to win championships.

"We’re proud of the grade point average that our kids consistently attain. I don’t know that any other school in America that's had three of their basketball players be the National Scholar-Athlete of the Year as we’ve had with Rebecca (Lobo), Jen (Rizzotti) and Maya Moore. I would love to look it up. I don’t have the stats, but I don’t think there’s another college in America playing at the Division I level that’s had three. I think that’s a statement about what we believe in here as a university and what our basketball program stands for."

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Second annual Night of Hope a success

Buoyed by a crowd of about 150 students - more than twice last year's turnout, UConn coach Geno Auriemma was moved by the impact the College Initiative offshoot of Geno's Cancer Team.

"In such a short amount of time, Andrew (Sullivan, the executive director of Geno's Cancer Team's Collegiate Initiative) and his committee has done such a great job. They work at it."

The highlight of the evening unquestionably came when Auriemma summoned The Chordials, one of the two all-female student a capella groups to perform, back on stage so he could perform with them. Naturally, it brought the house down and nobody laughed any harder than Auriemma's players seated in the back of the room as Auriemma performed Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bridgeport to host NCAAs again

Looks like UConn wasn't a fan of having to play all of its NCAA tournament games outside of Connecticut last year for the first time since making its first NCAA appearance in 1989.

That is how I viewed the news that The Arena at Harbor Yard was one of 16 subregional sites for the 2012 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament. As it was in 2008, using Bridgeport as a site for the first and second rounds is a way to allow the NCAA to capitalize on UConn's drawing power. While there's nothing wrong with that, the stipulation that the same sites can't be used year after year. So how does UConn get around that? By having subregionals in Bridgeport every few years to get around the rules. Perhaps this would not annoy me as much if the NCAA did not use the term "grow the game" when it announces subregional and regional sites as it did in today's press release.

If the NCAA is truly going to take the step of pretending that it wants to "grow the game" not giving powerhouse programs like UConn home-court advantages pretty much every year would be a nice place to start. With Rhode Island one of the regional sites, it's highly likely that UConn would not have to leave New England before the Final Four in 2012. I'd have a lot more respect if the NCAA people can out and said "hey, we know a good thing when we see it so why wouldn't we have a subregional in women's basketball crazy Connecticut every year?" than to pretend they are doing this to "grow the game."

Night of Hope returns to UConn

A year ago, "Night of Hope" came at a time that the UConn community was still mourning the death of star football player Jasper Howard.

About 400 students came out for the fundraising event for Geno's Cancer Team. It was a rather impressive event with performances by a pair of student a capella groups and a series of speeches.

The word is that the event which begins tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at UConn's Student Union Theater is going to be bigger and better. There were some conflicts with fratenities and sororities a year ago and that is not the case this year.

Free pink wristbands will be given out as will Victoria's Secret gifts to the first 75 women.

There is a $5 donation required to be admitted to the event and those unable to attend who wish to make a donation can do so at

Stokes still weighing her options

I just spoke with Greg Stokes, the father of UConn recruiting target Kiah Stokes, who said his daughter is probably "a week or a week and a half" away from making her college decision.

Kiah made her fifth and final visit to Iowa and Greg Stokes said she enjoyed her visit just as she did her trips to UConn, Tennessee, Maryland and Georgia but that "nothing is cut and dry, she likes something about all five schools."

Her dad said that currently Kiah's main focus is helping her Linn-Mar volleyball team advance to the Iowa state tournament. Linn-Mar will host Clinton in Iowa's 4A Region 7 semifinals on Thursday night. With a win, Linn-Mar would advance to the Nov. 2 finals and a chance to play its way into the state tournament. Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley are on the other side of the bracket.

Greg Stokes thinks that a decision could be coming by the end of next week.

Stokes, a 6-foot-3 forward/center, is the last uncommitted senior on UConn's recruiting radar.

Stokes' visit to UConn came during the "First Night" festivities on Oct. 15. Speaking of that night, I mentioned that it was UConn commit Brianna Banks who - much to the shock of the UConn coaches and especially the compliance officers - burst onto the floor and danced during part of the events on Oct. 15. Actually, that was highly-touted sophomore Diamond DeShields who was standing and sitting next to UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis while Banks was next to top junior prospect Moriah Jefferson in the video I shot of them in the stands.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Geno reserves comment on Summitt

Geno Auriemma was not in the mood in responding to Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt's comments to a Tennessee radio broadcaster that her holier than thou rant on cheating in recruiting was not directed at Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl (sure Pat, we believe you, we really do) but on women's basketball and "probably" was directed at Auriemma and UConn.

Considering that since Summitt and Tennessee declined to continue the annual regular-season series after the 2006-07 season and the teams have combined to win the last three national titles, Auriemma's "from the time that series ended, we have done OK" was the best part of what he had to say. Obviously Auriemma has moved on and his silence on the matter allows Summitt to continue to portray herself in a negative light. Who would have thought that when it came to self restaint with the media, that Auriemma would be one step ahead of Summitt. If she really wants to exact her revenge on UConn, do it on the court but since she proudly boasted at SEC media day that she doesn't play them any longer in the regular season, she'd have to actually get her team to the Final Four - something she has been unable to do in each of the last two seasons.

Saw what you want about Auriemma, but he doesn't see fit to throw his coaching counterpart under the bus even though UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun's program is being investigated by the NCAA as is Pearl's Tennessee squad. Obviously Summitt was catching some heat for what people in Tennessee viewed as her condemning Pearl's actions when she said "For me, I've never compromised at all, and I wouldn't. And if I did, they should fire me."

Considering that her efforts to nail Auriemma's hide by reporting a series of what she viewed as breaches of integrity after UConn went down to Georgia and plucked Maya Moore from underneath Summitt's nose resulted in UConn being hit with a secondary violation for facilitating Moore's visit to ESPN with Moore's mother. Tennessee also was guilty of a secondary violation as Summitt was photographed with recruit Meighann Simmons. I guess that violation didn't fall under her compromising the NCAA rules so she continued to keep her job.

As hard as it is to believe, there were other more pressing issues at practice. Freshman Samarie Walker has practiced without restriction for the last three days after being sidelined with hamstring issues in the preseason.

Despite what Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said, UConn has not signed a contract to play in the tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands but it sounds like it will happen. Auriemma said he'd be in favor of heading to Europe next fall which NCAA teams are allowed to do every four years but spurred by the Pac-10 and Big 10 Conferences, the NCAA is discussing whether to allow these trips or pull the plug on them.

Auriemma was very complimentary of point guards Lorin Dixon and Bria Hartley. Hartley had the best stretch of her brief UConn career during Sunday's practice and Dixon was displayed the confidence and consistency which hasn't always been there in her first three seasons.

CPTV announces schedule

CPTV announced the UConn games it will air and the list of games could be growing as the i's get dotted and t's get crossed.

Here's the info sent out by CPTV including some info on a couple of specials.
CPTV’s UConn Broadcast Schedule for 2010-11 (Subject to Change)
Tuesday, November 9 at 8 pm The Geno Auriemma Show: You Make the Call (live)
Sunday, November 14 at 2 p.m. vs. Holy Cross (Gampel Pavilion)
Sunday, November 21 at 2 p.m. at Georgia Tech
(The Geno Auriemma Show precedes the game at 1 p.m.)
Friday, November 26 at 7:30 p.m. 2010 World Vision Classic – UConn vs. Howard (Gampel Pavilion)
Saturday, November 27 at 7:30 p.m. 2010 World Vision Classic – UConn vs. Lehigh (Gampel Pavilion)
Sunday, November 28 at 4:30 p.m. 2010 World Vision Classic – UConn vs. LSU
(Gampel Pavilion)
Thursday, December 2 at 7 p.m. at South Florida
(The Geno Auriemma Show precedes the game at 6 p.m.)
Sunday, December 5 at 1 p.m. vs. Sacred Heart (XL Center)
Thursday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m. vs. Marquette (Gampel Pavilion)
(The Geno Auriemma Show precedes the game at 6:30 p.m.)
Tuesday, December 28 at 10 p.m. at University of the Pacific
Wednesday, January 5 at 7:30 p.m. vs. Villanova (Gampel Pavilion)
(The Geno Auriemma Show precedes the game at 6:30 p.m.)
Saturday, January 15 at 12 p.m. vs. Louisville (XL Center)
Saturday, January 22 at 7:30 p.m. vs. Pittsburgh (Gampel Pavilion)
(The Geno Auriemma Show precedes the game at 6:30 p.m.)
Saturday, February 5 at 2 p.m. vs. DePaul (Gampel Pavilion)
(The Geno Auriemma Show precedes the game at 1 p.m.)
Thursday, February 10 at 8 p.m. Geno Live!
Saturday, February 12 at 2 p.m. at Providence
(Geno Live! rebroadcast precedes the game at 1 p.m.)
Saturday, February 19 at 2 p.m. vs. Notre Dame (Gampel Pavilion)
(The Geno Auriemma Show precedes the game at 1 p.m.)
Tuesday, February 22 at 7 p.m. vs. Seton Hall (XL Center)
Saturday, February 26 at 3 p.m. at Georgetown
(The Geno Auriemma Show precedes the game at 2 p.m.)
Monday, February 28 at 7:30 p.m. vs. Syracuse (Gampel Pavilion)
Senior Night Programming: A Tribute to the Class of 2011 and Senior Ceremony prior to tip-off and then an encore presentation of the A Tribute to the Class of 2011 after the game

The games with no TV info released at this point are the Jan. 12 game at St. John's, road contests against Rutgers and Cincinnati on Jan. 26 and 29.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Info on Night of Hope

The second annual "Geno Auriemma's Night of Hope" will be held on Wednesday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at UConn's Student Union Theater. Hey, he's included in the title so he has to be there, right. His wife Kathy as well as Geno's Cancer Team board member Angela Santacroce are scheduled to speak at the event while UConn student a capella groups Rubyfruit and The Chordials will perform for the second year in a row.

There is a $5 donation for the event, which starts at 7:30 p.m., with Victoria's Secret Pink gifts being given to the first 75 women. Proceeds from the event go to Geno's Cancer Team.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some non-UConn notes from today

While most of the coverage in tomorrow's edition of the Register predictably focuses on UConn, I did make my way around to some other coaches and players at Big East media day.

I spoke to St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico regarding incoming freshman Keylantra Langley, a former star at Lauralton Hall and asked Providence coach Phil Seymore about former Hopkins star Lauren "Lady" Okafor.

"Keylantra Langley was one of the best players in the country last year and she is trying to battle Nadirah McKenith who I believe is one of the best point guards in the country so it is a great matchup every day," Barnes Arico said. "I think Keylantra is learning a lot every day."

Now here's what Seymore had to say about Okafor.

"She is learning," Seymore said. "She is a great student of the game and I have some high hopes for her. She is making a transition to the college game and she is doing well, I think she is going to be a really good basketball player in the Big East.
"She has a pretty good IQ, I think she is going to turn into a pretty good scorer. I think she is going to be a good defender. I think potential is the word I use for her because she has all the physical tools. She has the length, she has the ability to run the floor, it is just taking it to another level. She can run up and down the court better than any of the big people I have ever had but she has to do it on a consistent basis. We are very happy to have her and we are counting on her this year."

Barnes Arico provided a glowing tribute to UConn coach Geno Auriemma as she was one of the Big East coaches I asked about the fact that UConn can lose Tina Charles, Kalana Greene and Caroline Doty (to a knee injury) and still get picked to win the Big East by the other 15 conference coaches.

"The thing about him and I promise you I appreciate it more every single year is the ability to be consistent and to be as good as he is every year," Barnes Arico said. "It is absolutely phenomenal. It blows my mind. A while ago when I first got into the league and we started to do well, he said it is easy to get there but hard to stay there and I said 'I am not even paying attention to you because all I want to do is get there. I'll worry about staying there if I get there.'

"He believes that every time he walks on the court, he is going to win that game. He has those kids so confident. They go into every game regardless of who is (playing), they go in believing they'll win that game. That's a credit to him and what's he been able to accomplish. He is truly unbelievable. I am amazed by what he has done and I don't think people realize unless you really look at it. I remember a couple years ago, they had a 'down' year and people got on him. I said 'are you guys serious right now, look at what he's accomplished.' And boom, he got it back. It's a credit to him. He is the best."

I also spoke to Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw regarding to her selection to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I got a call out of the blue because I didn't know that they were doing the selection at that time and had no idea I was even nominated," McGraw said. "We were at summer camp on my way to dinner and I was speechless. I had no idea it was coming and I was overcome with emotion. My husband was with me at the dining hall, I ran over to meet him and gave him a big hug and saidf 'you won't believe what happened.'

"Most times in coaching you don't appreciate where you are until you look back on it. Even with the (2001 national) championship, sometimes I look back and it is hard to remember. You think of all the things you went through during the season and you wish you could relive it knowing that you are going to win it at the end and enjoy it a little more."

Finally, I interviewed DePaul coach Doug Bruno about his experience as Auriemma's assistant coach on the U.S. team which won the gold medal at the recent FIBA World Championships. He spoke rather glowingly of Auriemma, one of his closest friends in the coaching profession.

"He does a great job of getting players to be accountable and get them to like it," Bruno said. "Not only was I impressed with the talent level but just how good of people they were. having the UConn culture, it is something he is sensitive to not wanting to talk about but the UConn influence, every one of those players deserved to be on the team and made the team because they were talented enough to make it. Just having that willingness to share innately, see the big picture of what basketball is about, that is what is really, really great about it."

Bruno also said that Deirdre Naughton, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility, has not been cleared to return to practice.

"You can't assume she is going to be where she was when she left off and that is what we don't know," Bruno said. "She is going to get cleared but it is just a matter of when. How much seasoning is she going to have? We were hoping she is going to be cleared by now to get her feet wet in preseason and in the non-conference schedule so she is really ready to rock and roll by January, February Big East season. I still hope that is the way it is going to work out but the longer that she is not out there, it's less chance that she has to work out the kinks of the non-conference schedule."

Back on UConn, here are videos of Maya Moore's speech at Big East media day and Auriemma talking about the challenges his 2010-11 team faces.

I will leave you with the news that I have created a twitter account @nhrjimfuller where I will be posting updates on both UConn women's basketball and Yale football, my other major feat at the Register.

Geno talks about the freshmen

Among the many subjects UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma addressed at Thursday's Big East women's basketball media day at B.B. King Blue Club and Grill in New York was the progress of the five freshmen.

Auriemma said that Bria Hartley, who was voted as the Big East's preseason freshman of the year, and Stefanie Dolson have been the most consistent of the freshmen. He also said that Samarie Walker could be cleared for full practice in time for Friday's practice.

Auriemma did not pull any punches regarding the first official practice on Saturday.

"It was as bad as any day I've had since I've been here," Auriemma said. "I just couldn't believe how little (the freshmen knew). Let's put it this way, the last time we had five freshmen, we had seven or eight returning guys so I could get rid of the five freshmen and scale them in little by little and not have them dominate practice with their stupidity. Now I have five of them and I have five of their guys so it is us against them and they dominated the first day of practice with their dumbness, the stuff the didn't so they ruined the practice for everybody."

The good news is Auriemma has been progress from the five freshmen.

"There have been a couple of days when I said these guys could be pretty good," Auriemma said.

Auriemma said that Michala Johnson has displayed a knack for offensive rebounding but also delivered a classic line on his rail thin 6-foot-3 frosh.

"Our trainer Rosemary (Ragle) said she is developing some muscle strength and I said 'how can you tell?' She is the skinniest kid I have ever recruited, she makes Tiffany (Hayes) look like Dwyane Wade."

Regarding Walker, Auriemma said that "(she's beind doing) only some half court stuff. Hopefully, she'll be cleared for tomorrow. That was the next step that she could do some full court stuff."

He said that Lauren Engeln has been making some stuff happen but consistency has been an issue.

That has not been the case for Hartley and Dolson.

"They've been on the court more," Auriemma said. "Both of them have a certain level of endurance. They can be out there a long time so the longer they are out there, the more stuff they can get done. Bria has so much confidence in her offense that she doesn't look lost as much. Stefanie has such a good feel for the game, when to flash, when to post up, which was to turn after she catches the ball. She is a pretty good passer so she is not stuck when she catches the ball. A lot of freshmen when they catch it and don't now what to do with it, they panic and throw it away or throw it at the rim. She has a pretty good sense of what to do with the ball when she catches it. Those two more than everybody else has had more good days out of the five days than the other three."

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UConn picked to win conference

UConn was the popular pick at the annual Big East women's basketball media as the Huskies were unanimous selections to win the Big East title while senior forward Maya Moore was the preseason player of the year and guard Bria Hartley was named the presseason Freshman of the Year.

UConn, which is entering the season on a Division I women's basketball record 78-game winning streak, received the first-place vote from the other Big East coaches. Since he can not vote for his squad, UConn coach Geno Auriemma cast his ballot
for West Virginia.

Moore and UConn junior guard Tiffany Hayes were unanimous picks to the preseason all-conference team as were sophomores Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame and Sugar Rodgers of Georgetown.

West Virginia was picked to finish second followed by Georgetown, Notre Dame and St. John's.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Prediction time

With the Big East holding its media day tomorrow in New York, I figured I would take a stab at guessing how the coaches' poll will turn out. It's never an easy task but here we go.

1. UConn: That didn't take very long. Too bad the other picks weren't as easy.
2. West Virginia: They'll miss Sara Miles until she comes back but they are still loaded
3. Notre Dame: I know they were hit hard by graduation but look for Skylar Diggins to emerge as an elite player and if Devereaux Peters can stay healthy, the Fighting Irish could have a top-flight outside/inside combo.
4. Georgetown: Sugar Rodgers returns after a fantastic freshman season as do most of her teammates. The Hoyas won't be sneaking up on anybody this year.
5. St. John's: They'll miss Kelly McManmon's outside shooting and Joy McCorvey's grit but former Trinity Catholic star Da'Shena Stevens leads a talented group of returnees.
6. DePaul: It's a testament to the quality of teams ahead of them that a DePaul team bringing back pretty much everybody as well as welcoming back Deidre Naughton for a sixth year of eligibility.
7. Louisville: There have been some defections but the return of Monique Reid and a top-notch recruiting class should make the Cardinals a player in the Big East again.
8. Syracuse: This is where it starts getting tricky but when you add in gifted Georgia Tech transfer Iesia Hemingway to a nucleus led by Erica Morrow and the Orange have tremendous potential.
9. Pittsburgh: The transfer of three players including center Pepper Wilson hurts but Pitt does return rebounding dynamo Chelsea Cole as well as double-figure scorers Shayla Scott and Taneisha Harrison.
10. Rutgers: If April Sykes starts displaying the talent that made her a top five recruit, the Scarlet Knights could make some noise especially with Khadijah Rushdan and Chelsey Lee returning
11. Villanova: Despite the loss of four key players, I'd expect the Wildcats to regain their shooting touch after uncharacteristically struggling from 3-point range last season.
12. Cincinnati: Replacing Kahla Roudebush won't be easy but the return of Shelly Bellman and addition of Vanderbilt transfer Chanel Chisholm will help during year two of the Jamelle Elliott era at Cincinnati.
13. Marquette: Angel Robinson is one of the more underrated players in the Big East but she'll need help offensively from other veterans if the Golden Eagles are to move up the standings.
14. Providence: The Friars will lead the Big East in Connecticut players on their roster (New Britain's Symone Roberts, New Haven's Lauren Okafor and Windsor's Rachel Barnes give PC three Nutmeg State natives). Barnes was a dynamic scorer in junior college so perhaps she'll help ease the burden left by Chelsea Marandola's graduation.
15. South Florida: The Bulls return two starters but no double-figure scorers but if national JUCO player of the year Andrea Smith and transfers Sasha Bernard (Indiana) and Daleisha Carn (Alabama) can contribute early, USF could be a surprise team.
16. Seton Hall: Nobody told Anne Donovan this was going to be easy since five of the top seven scorers off a team which won one Big East game are gone. Kandice Green returns after averaging 12.8 points and a team-best 8.7 rebounds. Jasmine Crew, who averaged 13.9 points two seasons ago for Northeastern, is a welcome addition.

The league normally picks 11 players (a player of the year and 10 first teamers) so here are my 11 listed alphabetically.

Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame
Keisha Hampton, DePaul
Tiffany Hayes, UConn
Maya Moore, UConn
Erica Morrow, Syracuse
Deirdre Naughton, DePaul
Monique Reid, Louisville
Liz Repella, West Virginia
Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown
Khadijah Rushdan, Rutgers
Da'Shena Stevens, St. John's

My preseason player of the year would be Maya Moore (I know I'm really going out on a limb).
Freshman of the year is a little tougher but I'll go with UConn's Bria Hartley ahead of another point guard (Louisville's Shoni Schimmel).

Friday, October 15, 2010

First Night in the books

True to the advanced billing, basketball was an afterthought at the First Night festivities. There was plenty of dancing, however, which seemed to suit the estimated crowd of 7,000 just fine.

The only actual basketball event at Gampel Pavilion was a skills competition when three UConn men's and women's players had to make a layup/dunk, dribble through four cones, connect on a bounce pass into a net, make a jump shot from the foul line, dribble through another four cones, make a chest pass and hit a layup/dunk.

UConn men's freshman Jeremy Lamb beat out UConn women's players Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes and Kelly Faris. Lamb finished the course in 30 seconds and the three women's players each had a time of 32.

The women's team got its revenge winning the "Minute to Win It" competition. I won't attempt to explain all of these contests but can tell you that Tiffany Hayes won Face the Cookie when she was the fastest to have a cookie slid from her forehand into her mouth without the use of her hands. It seemed to me as if she used her hands briefly but was not blatant enough to be disqualified. Lauren Engeln won the Nose Dive by moving a bowl full of cotton balls from one bowl to another and Stefanie Dolson clinched the win by winning "Junk in the Trunk" when she shook out ping pong balls out of a tissue box affixed to her waist.

Lorin Dixon ended the evening by winning the Simon Says competition.

The seven recruits in the house certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. UConn commit Brianna Banks even ran onto the court to do a little dancing. Fellow UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was joined by uncommitted senior Kiah Stokes, much sought after juniors Moriah Jefferson, Bria Holmes (a two-time All-Stater at Hillhouse) and Morgan Tuck and sophomore Diamond DeShields. It appeared to me as if former Iowa star Greg Stokes and former baseball star Delino DeShields, the fathers of Kiah Stokes and Diamond DeShields respectively, were also in the stands.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jefferson en route to UConn

Following up on my previous blog entry, I reached out to Corey Hegwood of the DFW Elite AAU program UConn recruiting target Moriah Jefferson plays for and he said the highly-touted junior point guard from Glenn Heights, Tex. is on her way to UConn for a visit.

What's interesting about Jefferson's visit is that she was just in Connecticut when the U.S. national team scrimmaged Australia at the XL Center on Sept. 10. I tend to deal with the black and white in terms of recruiting. I do not say so and so is leaning towards UConn or that this comment means this or she will go to this school simply because my mind reading skills aren't exactly top of the line especially when it comes to what 16 and 17 year old girls are thinking. However, I'd have to say that Jefferson is pretty serious about UConn. Two trips in just over a month is understandable if she was from New York or Pennsylvania but to make the trip from Texas twice in five weeks, that's a highly unusual move.

What I can tell you about Jefferson is what Hegwood said about her style of play and talent.

"She could become the quickest guard to play in the (women's) game," Hegwood said. "She plays with a lot of energy on offense and defense, she has a great handle and is a lockdown defender. I've had boys AAU coaches say that she could start for a boys AAU team."

Jefferson is part of a sensational group of recruits checking out Friday's First Night festivities. I've confirmed six recruits already and blogger Kenny Kallina reported that Bolingbrook (Ill.) High forward Morgan Tuck is also planning to visit UConn this weekend. I don't doubt the validity of that information but I placed a call to Bolingbrook just to see if I could confirm that info. This is my ninth season covering UConn and Huskies might be outdoing themselves with the quantity and quality of recruits coming to campus this weekend.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who has already committed to UConn, is considered by many as the best player in the current high school class. The 6-foot wing is an explosive offensive presence.

Jefferson is vying with fellow UConn recruiting target Breanna Stewart for the honors of being the top prospect among the junior class

Diamond DeShields is being touted as the top high school sophomore in the country

Brianna Banks, who has also committed to UConn, caught the eye of the UConn coaches and like Jefferson, is a cat quick guard who is a defensive dynamo who happens to be soaring up the recruiting rankings similar to the way Tiffany Hayes, who played for the same Essence AAU program as Banks, did shortly after she committed to UConn.

Kiah Stokes is one of the top uncommitted seniors and fills a need for another post player. It also can't hurt that her grandfather lives in New Haven or that there is playing time available in the post if she chooses to come to Connecticut.

Bria Holmes is a two-time All-Stater who led Hillhouse to state titles in both of her years with the Academics is an athletic and versatile 6-foot-1 wing who is considered to be a top 20 recruit nationally

Morgan Tuck was a teammate of Mosqueda-Lewis on the U.S. Under-17 national team and has been a much talked about talent since she was a high school freshman. I spoke to her following a U-17 practice in Oakton, Va. Although I previously posted this quote, I thought I would throw it out there. So here's what she said when I asked her about UConn: "UConn is a great program, they are undefeated two years (in a row) so I don't know who wouldn't want to go there. They are the best team in the country right now."

I reached out to Mosqueda-Lewis' high school coach because UConn has expressed an interest in Mater Dei junior guard Jordan Adams as well. Kevin Kiernan said "As far as I know, both will be playing for Mater Dei in a tournament this weekend here in California." However, Mosqueda-Lewis has been putting entries on her twitter account stating she is en route to Connecticut. She makes no mention of Adams and that combined with what Kiernan said makes me deduce that Adams will not be making the trip.

The one thing I would say to those who were hyperventilating when players on UConn's recruiting radar started passing on UConn is that I view recruiting in two-year cycles. A small class one year merely opens the door to have an impressive haul the following season. Whether or not the Huskies land Stokes, it's pretty clear that they have invested a lot of time to getting in tight with some of the top players in the junior class. While recruiting is an inexact science and a lot of things can happen between now and November of 2011 when these top prospects can sign their national letters of intent, it seems pretty clear that the Huskies have put themselves in position to land a pretty special class next year.

The other thing is that UConn tried and failed to get in late with some kids who opted to go elsewhere and it's pretty evident to me that is simply not going to be the case in the next recruiting cycle since UConn is already in with top juniors like Stewart, Jefferson and Tuck.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let's go to the videotape

Here are a couple of videos I took at UConn's media day. The first is of freshman Michala Johnson talking about being cleared to take part in on-court drills and the second features UConn coach Geno Auriemma discussing Johnson and fellow freshman Samarie Walker, who will likely be sidelined for the first week of practice because of a strained left hamstring

Here are some details about First Night being held on Friday night
5 p.m.: FanFest begins on Fairfield Way (across from the North Entrance at Gampel Pavilion
5:45 p.m.: 75 VIP students are let into Gampel
6 p.m.: Doors open at Gampel/Autograph session begins
6:30-6:37: Band, UConn twirlers, UConn dance team perform
6:45: Autograph session ends
6:50: Student On Court Contest
7: Master of Ceremonies takes the court
7:06: Player introductions begin
7:35: UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma and men's assistant coach Kevin Ollie address the crowd
7:40: Team warmups
7:45: Skills competition (and the only basketball portion of the event)
7:52: Minute to Win It event

It should be quite a collection of talent in the stands. While I have not confirmed every recruit expected to be at the First Night event, UConn commits Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Brianna Banks, top uncommitted senior post Kiah Stokes, Hillhouse junior forward/guard Bria Holmes and highly-touted sophomore Diamond DeShields are planning to be there. If I am able to confirm others before the start of the event on Friday, I will certainly post it here.

The photos of former UConn star Diana Taurasi wearing nothing and I do mean nothing on the cover of ESPN the Magazine met with the approval of her college coach.

"I think it was tremendous, one of the best pictures I’ve ever seen of a female athlete," Auriemma said. "Anybody that saw Diana as a freshman in college and even as a senior in college would be unbelievably impressed and proud, especially those of us around here at how hard she’s worked to get herself in that kind of physical condition.

"I was with her a whole month (at the FIBA World Championships when Auriemma coached the U.S. team and Taurasi was the leading scorer for the gold-medal winning U.S. squad). She was the quickest I’ve ever seen her. She’s more explosive than I’ve ever seen her. She’s a pro now. She’s not a college kid eating seven meals a day because you’re bored and you don’t know what to do. She treats herself like a pro, acts like a pro, works out like a pro. When I saw that picture I was like, `Hell, yeah, man.’ I’m really happy for her."

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Michala good to go; Samarie getting close

Much of my focus at Wednesday's media day at UConn was on the Huskies' two ailing freshmen.

Michala Johnson, who suffered two torn ACLs during her high school career, took part in half-court work on Oct. 7 and 8 and since there were no issues, was cleared to go full court for the first time on Tuesday. She is expected to be able to be a full go at the first practice of the season on Saturday.

"I do everything the team does," Johnson said. "The only thing I don't do is play pickup games with them. Last week I played half court. Yesterday was my first time playing full court. I was pretty comfortable and excited. I was very excited because I haven't played in such a long time, getting back into the speed of things, running and playing games it felt pretty good.

"My knees are the last thing on my mind. I'm not letting that get into my head. I am not worried about that, anything I do I am not concerned about that. I am right on time, right on schedule. I am very excited."

Samarie Walker's right knee which she contemplated having surgery on because of an issue with her meniscus is fine but she tweaked her left hamstring twice in the month of September and will not be able to practice on Saturday.

"I've been out pretty much all preseason with a hamstring strain," Walker said. "I've been working back in from that. I know people keep asking from my knees and they are a lot better than they were before."

Walker suffered the hamstring issue shortly after arriving on campus for the fall semester.

"We were working out, I turned the wrong way and I felt it pull," Walker said. "They are working on that. Hopefully another week or so not (before she is back at practice) but too much longer."

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hillhouse's Bria Holmes coming to First Night

I just got off the phone with Hillhouse coach Catrina Hawley-Stewart, herself a former Big East player at Providence, who said that the Academics' gifted junior guard/forward is planning to be at Gampel Pavilion for Friday's "First Night" festivities.

Holmes, who averaged 19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists as a sophomore, has led the Academics to the Class L title as a freshman and sophomore.

Bria will be joined by Hawley-Stewart and her mom during her visit.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Schedule update, First Night info

When the UConn schedule was released, the times of five games have yet to be announced. UConn has dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's with the Dec. 2 game at South Florida, Jan. 15 Louisville game, contests against Rutgers and Cincinnati on Jan. 26 and 29, Feb. 12 game at Providence and Feb. 19 home date with Notre Dame now have the times included on the UConn schedule.

Here's the schedule
Nov. 4 Franklin Pierce (Gampel), 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 Indiana University (Pa.) (XL Center), 7 p.m.
Nov. 14 Holy Cross (Gampel), 2 p.m.
State Farm Tip-Off Classic at XL Center
Nov. 16 Baylor, 6 p.m. ESPN2
Nov. 21 at Georgia Tech, 2 p.m.
World Vision Challenge at Gampel Pavilion
Nov. 26 vs. Howard, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 27 vs. Lehigh, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 vs. LSU, 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 2 at South Florida, 7 p.m.
Dec. 5 Sacred Heart(XL Center) 1 p.m.
Dec. 9 Marquette (Gampel), 7:30 p.m.
Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden
Dec. 19 Connecticut vs. Ohio State, 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 21 Florida State (XL Center), 7 p.m.
Dec. 28 at Pacific, 10 p.m.
Dec. 30 at Stanford, 9 p.m.
Jan. 5 Villanova (Gampel), 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 8 at Notre Dame, 2 p.m.
Jan. 12 at St. John’s (Madison Square Garden), 9:30 p.m.
Jan. 15 Louisville (XL Center), noon
Jan. 17 at North Carolina, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 Pittsburgh (Gampel), 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 26 at Rutgers, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 at Cincinnati, 2 p.m.
Jan. 31 Duke (Gampel), 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 DePaul (Gampel), 2 p.m.
Feb. 8 at West Virginia, 7 p.m.
Feb. 12 at Providence, 2 p.m.
Feb. 14 Oklahoma (XL Center), 7 p.m.
Feb. 19 Notre Dame (Gampel), TBA
Feb. 22 Seton Hall (XL Center), 7 p.m.
Feb. 26 at Georgetown, 3 p.m.
Feb. 28 Syracuse (Gampel), 7:30 p.m.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion on Friday for the annual First Night festivities but there will be a fan fest beginning at 5 p.m. on Fairfield Way (cross from the North Entrance at Gampel).

The basketball portion of the event will begin at 7 p.m. and is expected to last for about an hour.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Championship dinner coverage

In case you're interested, here are links to a couple of videos I took last night at the Aqua Turf where the UConn team was honored at its (I'm tempted to write annual) national championship dinner. The first featured UConn coach Geno Auriemma talking about his experiences at the FIBA World Championships where he coached the U.S. to the title and the second includes interviews with Geno, Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes, Stefanie Dolson and Lauren Engeln discussing the huge fan turnout as well as looking ahead to start of practice next weekend.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Special night for Huskies

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma and his star senior forward Maya Moore have only been back in the United States for a couple of days after teaming up to help the U.S. reclaim its rightful place atop the women's basketball world by winning the FIBA World Championship.

But if they were still dealing with jet lag, Thursday's dinner honoring UConn's 2009-10 national championship squaf at the Aqua Turf in Southington served to invigorate them.

"When you hang out with the pros, you begin to realize how special college is and how special we have it here to have this support," said Moore, referencing the 720 people in attendance at the dinner. "I am very appreciative of everybody here knowing this is my last year, you realize how special it is to have a group that cares that much about not only basketball but women's basketball here at UConn. This is my last go around for everything, I want to enjoy it."

Auriemma felt a weight lifted off his shoulders when the final buzzer went on in Sunday's World Championship gold medal game and the U.S. defeated host Czech Republic 89-69. After a stunning loss to Russia in the semifinals of the 2006 tournament, the U.S. had four years of being called the World Championship bronze medalists. Auriemma was hired to lead the U.S. to the World Championship and Olympic titles and he is halfway to his goal.

Still, he is a little wiped out emotionally. It's understandable since he was under tremendous pressure to lead the U.S. to the world title. When he returned, the start of the first official practice was so close that he was ready to get back into the swing of things.

"It accomplished both," Auriemma said. "It made me realize I need three or four days off this weekend. The kids are all going home pretty much and we have the long weekend so Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday will be really good to get out and get away from everything but the fact that I have been thinking about basketball non-stop for the past three weeks is pretty good because I am in basketball mode now. I have things fresh in my mind, I know what I want to do, I know how I want to do it. They started the motor running and I am kind of excited about it."

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Moore, Hayes are preseason Wooden candidates

UConn senior forward Maya Moore and junior guard Tiffany Hayes were among 30 players named as preseason candidates for the Wooden Award.

A revised list of candidates will be announced in December when the voting for the Wooden Award and All-American team beginning in March after the ballot is finalized.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Maya reflects on another championship

Consider the last month or so to be a bit of like basketball graduate school for UConn senior Maya Moore.

Moore was the only active college player on the U.S. team was forced to play out of her comfort zone at the FIBA World Championships as she was facing opponents physically gifted enough to make it difficult for her to get the shots she wanted.

Moore seemingly can score at will while playing at UConn but she had some offensive struggles in the nine games in the world championship tournament. Moore was 10 for 14 from the floor in the first three games of the tournament but was 21 for 57 in the final six games of the tourney.

"Just experiencing the physicality, the smarts of the players at the pro level made me realize that there are things I can continue to get better at," Moore said in a phone interview shortly after scoring nine points in the United States' 89-69 win over the host Czech Republic in Sunday's gold-medal game. "I feel like I have an advantage just by getting a chance to sneak on this team and get the chance to play with the older crowd. Now, I'll go back and hopefully become a smarter player.

"It is tough, you have to be able to have a counter. Coach Auriemma was explaining it to me, he said it to me before. At this level it is even more clear and easy to understand that I can't just be shoot and just hover around the 3-point line but (need to) get inside, get fouled and score from everywhere on the court. I was trying to be aggressive and attack the basket, I am still working on it and getting better but it was good to have to be able to push myself because the defense was doing a good job."

Veterans like Tamika Catchings, Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi said Moore was like a sponge, trying to pick up everything she could from her more experienced teammates.

"I think I would be a fool not to," Moore said. "Whenever I am off the court or coming in off the bench, I got a chance to watch and really observe and remind myself to be ready when I came into game. It can be easy to sit back, watch and be in awe of the players that are out there but I tried to make it a point that I am ready whenever he checks me in, get a feel for the flow of the game. Just watching Tamika and Diana, the leaders like Swin and Sue and seeing how they back up what they talk (about) and knowing what to say and it is has been fun."

Moore knows she will have some catching up to do with the classes she missed while she was training and playing with the U.S. national team but as first-rate student as well as a spectacular basketball player, she will certainly take care of business in the classroom before embarking on a challenging final season at UConn.

"I have a lot to make up," Moore said. "It is going to be a good year because I feel like I will have a new challenge and have a fresh motivation of how to get better and tighten up those little things that might need (tightening)."

Moore will leave behind her U.S. teammates and reunite with her UConn teammates.

"I am so excited, Moore said. "I miss them so much. I had a chance to skype them a few times. I miss being around them, getting out there working, sweating, running with them. I am just glad that I have them to go back to."


U.S. brings home the gold

Led by Angel McCoughtry's 18 points and forcing 13 steals, the United States won the FIBA World Championship with an 89-69 win over the host Czech Republic on Sunday.

The other three double-figure scorers for the U.S. were former UConn players as Diana Taurasi had 16 points, Tina Charles 13 points and 10 rebounds and Sue Bird 11 points, three assists and five steals. Tamika Catchings and UConn senior Maya Moore chipped in with nine points each.

Taurasi ended up being the scoring leader for the U.S. with 108 points in the nine games while McCoughtry and Charles also ended up scoring in double figures.

Here are the stats for the five former Huskies as well as Moore
Diana Taurasi: 12 points per game, a team leading 24 3-pointers and second on the team with 23 assists
Tina Charles: 10.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, second on the team with 58.8 field goal percentage
Maya Moore: 8.7 points, 3.3 rebounds
Swin Cash: 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds
Sue Bird: 5.6 points, a team-high 26 assists, second on team with 12 steals
Asjha Jones: 5.1 points, 2.3 rebounds

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

U.S. rolls into final

Tamika Catchings led a balanced attack with 14 points while Sylvia Fowles had 13 points and six rebounds as the United States defeated Spain 106-70 in the semifinals of the FIBA World Championships on Saturday.

Angel McCoughtry and former UConn star Diana Taurasi had 11 points each while former Huskies Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tina Charles had nine points. UConn senior Maya Moore had eight points while former UConn star Sue Bird had six points and five assists for the U.S., who will face host Czech Republic in Sunday's gold-medal game.

Spain, which was hindered by the absence of the injured Sancho Lyttle, was led by Marta Fernandez's 16 points.

The U.S./Czech Republic game is at 2 p.m. and will be aired on NBA TV.

Friday, October 01, 2010

U.S. gets second semifinal

Considering how many times Geno Auriemma's UConn teams have drawn the second semifinal in the Final Four, the U.S. national team coach must have felt right at home when he found out that the United States and Spain will meet in the second semifinal on Saturday at the FIBA World Championships.

Belarus and host Czech Republic, which upset Russia and Australia respectively, will play in the first semi at 12:30 p.m. (Eastern time) while the U.S. and Spain are expected to tip at 2:45 p.m. in Karlovy Vary.

The U.S. completely dominated South Korea en route to a 106-44 quarterfinal win while Spain trailed France by nine points in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter before winning 74-71 in overtime.

Spain is clearly the more talented of the two teams the U.S. could have faced in the semifinals especially since France is without the Connecticut Sun's Sandrine Gruda but France's fiesty, hard to deal with defense would not have been fun for the U.S. The U.S. defense should be tested by Spain's dynamic duo of Amaya Valdemoro and Sancho Lyttle, who are averaging 19.9 and 17.9 points per game in the tournament.

Another stunner in Karlovy Vary

First it was Russia falling to Belarus in the FIBA World Championship quarterfinals and now it was defending champion Australia going down to the host Czech Republic squad 79-68. Instead of the anticipated Russia/Australia semifinal, it will be Belarus against the Czech Republic. France and Spain are currently playing with the winner meeting the U.S. in the other semifinal. UPDATED AT 5:14: Spain rallied from a 9-point deficit in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter and won 74-71 in overtime.

Australian stars Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor were a combined 5 for 30 and if not for the 22 points and 10 rebounds from 19-year-old Elizabeth Cambage, Australia might have lost by 30. I noticed that Mariana Tolo, who was so impressive in the exhibition against the U.S. during WNBA All-Star weekend did not play and I'm sure she was missed.

Eva Viteckova had 27 points and Hana Horakova added 21 for the Czech Republic. They combined for nine 3-pointers for the Czechs, which held Australia under 30 percent shooting for the field.

U.S. rolls into semifinals

Angel McCoughtry had 17 points, Candice Dupree had 12 points and 16 rebounds and UConn senior Maya Moore had 15 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots as the United States blew past South Korea 106-44 in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Championship in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic on Friday.

Sylvia Fowles had 10 points while former UConn players Swin Cash and Tina Charles also reached double figures with 11 and 10 points respectively and ex Husky Asjha Jones finished with nine points, four rebounds and two steals.

The U.S., the last undefeated team remaining in the tournament, will play the winner of the France/Spain game in the semifinals on Saturday. The game will be played either at 12:30 p.m. or 2:45 p.m. (Eastern time) with the championship game set for Sunday at 2 p.m.

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi is the team's leading scorer with 81 points through seven games and has nine of the 27 3-pointers for the U.S. Dupree, Charles and McCoughtry are next with 75, 74, 73 points and there are four other players in the 56-66 point range.

Moore, the only active college player on the team, is averaging 8.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 17.7 minutes per game. She is third on the team with both 16 assists and eight blocks but also has a team high 15 turnovers which really is not a shock considering she is the youngest player on the U.S. squad.

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Russia falls in quarterfinals

The FIBA World Championship quarterfinals began with Belarus beating Russia 70-53. Wow, I did not see that coming.

Like the U.S., Russia was a perfect 6-0 through the two rounds of pool play and expected to challenge Australia in tomorrow's semifinals. It's not as if Belarus played out of their minds as it shot 49.2 percent and had 16 turnovers to 11 assists.

Yelena Leuchanka of the Atlanta Dream led Belarus with 17 points and nine rebounds and was one of four players to score in double figures.

Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Silver Stars led Russia with 16 points and former UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova added 14 points.

If I know U.S. coach Geno Auriemma, he made more than a passing mention of the result of the Russia game to his team just in case they viewed a win over South Korea as little more than a formality.

The U.S./South Korea quarterfinal is just a couple minutes away and will be televised on NBA TV.

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