Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, January 31, 2011

UConn's defense never rests

There have been impressive efforts by UConn in the 10 seasons I have covered them but I would have a hard time recalling a more sustained run of defensive brilliance than what the Huskies unleashed on third-ranked and previously undefeated Duke in the first 19 minutes of Monday's blowout win.

Whether it was the 2-2-1 fullcourt press, the aggressive 2-3 zone or straight man to man, UConn simply wasn't giving up any open looks to the Duke players.

Let's be honest, the Blue Devils are not the most talented offensive teams in the country. Senior Jasmine Thomas is Duke's only double-digit scorer, as a team Duke was shooting just 41 percent from the field and had more turnovers than assists but still this was the nation's third-ranked team that the Huskies made look like the 14th or 15th best team in the Big East.

"A couple times I looked up at the scoreboard and I couldn't believe what the score was," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "The way they played in the second half was more the what I expected. What happens when you are on the road and you start missing shots, you've got to hope the other team is missing shots. When they were missing and we were scoring. It is kind of you get caught in that car wash thing and you have no way which way is out. That is what it looked like to me, they just got caught where they couldn't make anything, we were making everything. The more they rushed to hurry up and get back into the game, the harder it became for them."

Duke missed its first 12 shots and was 1 for 20 to start the game.

"It's something that we work on all the time," UConn senior forward Maya Moore said. "It's really hard to do because it requires all five players to constantly be on the same page and communicating and being aggressive and aware. The minute one player loses focus, somebody scores. It's a mindset of not letting your teammates down. It's not about shutting your player down, it's about making sure your player doesn't score and that your teammate's player doesn't score. It's about team defense. It's really a mindset, not just X's and O's. It's about finding a way to get it done. As hard as practice is every day, games like this make it all worth it."

While UConn's defensive effort was a thing of beauty - unless you are a Duke player, the offensive performance also contributed to the surprisingly lopsided win.

Kelly Faris, who was 1 of 9 from 3-point range in her last five games, hit a pair of treys in the opening 13-0 run and finished 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes combined for 49 points on 18 of 30 shooting while freshmen Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley were solid.

UConn/Duke gametime is here

No surprises in the starting lineups as Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes, Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson start for UConn and Duke counters with Jasmine Thomas, Chelsea Gray, Karima Christmas, Kathleen Scheer and Krystal Thomas.

Breanna Stewart, the top-rated high school junior in the country, is sitting two rows behind the UConn bench.

Word is that Bria Hartley's injury is a combination of a tender ankle and foot. She looks like for those worrying about that.

Connecticut Sun general manager Chris Sienko is among those in attendance.

I will be tweeting live during the game @NHRJimFuller for those into such things.

Some thoughts on UConn's recruiting

With Breanna Stewart, the nation's top-rated high school junior, expected to be at Gampel Pavilion tonight I figured it would be worth taking a look at the uncommitted players in the Class of 2012 who are being recruited by UConn.

Leading the list of prospects is a pair of players who were teammates of UConn commit Morgan Tuck on the U.S. Under-17 national team - Stewart and Jewell Loyd - as well as Texas guard Moriah Jefferson, South Carolina forward Xylina McDaniel and Hillhouse wing Bria Holmes.

Stewart, a 6-foot-4 forward at Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) High, Breanna Stewart, is averaging 23 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.7 steals and 3 blocks per game. I watched some of the practices of the U.S. Under-17 national team and came away extremely impressed with the versatility a player like Stewart brings to the court as she seemed equally at ease at the low post or playing out away from the basket.

Getting the complete stats for Loyd, a 5-foot-10 guard at Niles West High in Skokie, Ill., was a bit more challenging. I couldn't track down her scoring totals in four games this season but in the 21 games I found for her has her averaging 30.3 points per game including four 40-point efforts, two more games of 39 points and a triple-double with 42 points, 15 rebounds and 10 steals in a Dec. 14 win over Deerfield. During one recent stretch, Loyd had 125 points in games against Lake Zurich, St. Francis and Glenbrook South.

The 5-foot-8 Jefferson is a home schooled kid who plays for THESA out of Ft. Worth, Texas and is vying with Stewart for the right of being the nation's most highly-touted high school junior.

McDaniel, a 6-foot-1 forward at Spring Valley (SC), is averaging 18.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.6 blocks. McDaniel, the daughter of former NBA star Xavier McDaniel, scored in double figures in last 19 games and has nine 20-point games this season. During UConn's recent trip to play at North Carolina, UConn coach Geno Auriemma stayed behind to watch McDaniel play.

Holmes, a 6-foot-1 guard/forward, is averaging 17.4 points per game and has been the picture of consistency by scoring between 13-26 in every game this season for the Academics.

While dynamics in recruiting is an ever evolving process, those appear to be at the top of UConn's wish list at the current time. Jordan Adams, a high school teammate of UConn incoming freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, seems like more of a long shot with each passing week even though when I spoke to her during Mater Dei's recent game in Springfield, Mass. she did say UConn was still in the picture. It seems likely that Adams would stay in California and with the improvement shown by UCLA and USC in the last season or two as well as perennial Pac-10 power Stanford, Adams won't lack for viable options. Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan did say that Tennessee was making a push for Adams so it will be interesting to see if Tennessee coach Pat Summitt can work her recruiting magic. It should be noted that while looking for info on Loyd, one recent story mentioned that Summitt took in one of her recent games.

I can't have a good feel for how seriously California post players Imani Stafford and Alyson Beebe are considering UConn.

Finally, this is merely my opinion but it is beginning to look unlikely that Australian teenager Gretel Tippett would leave her home country and a chance to play in the WNBL in Australia to play collegiately. Had Tippett remained with the Australian Institute of Sport, perhaps I've feel stronger about the liklihood of her coming over but the fact that she has yet to come over to the U.S. to visit potential colleges should be a bit of a red flag. Since joining the Logan Thunder, Tippett is averaging 4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game so she won't lack for opportunities to earn money in Australia's pro league. Unlike the others mentioned above, Tippett would be a part of the incoming freshman class is she opts to head to the U.S. Now, if she makes a decision to come over to visit a school like UConn in the next month, certainly that would be a pretty fair indication of her intentions. I have attempted to contact Gretel's parents via e-mail but have not heard back yet but I will continue to monitor this situation.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lofty praise for Jasmine Thomas

Back in April, some of the nation's best collegiate players headed to Hartford to train with the Select Team during the U.S. national team training camp.

Of all the returning college stars and even recent college graduates, few caught the eye of U.S. national team coach Geno Auriemma more than Duke's Jasmine Thomas.

I've covered enough of Auriemma's games and practices to know when he takes a shine to a player and it didn't take me long to figure out he loved the way Jasmine Thomas played. I even mentioned that to him during interviews back in April.

With Duke and Thomas coming to Gampel Monday night for a game against UConn, I figured I would revisit the subject. It didn't take much prodding for the Hall of Fame coach to speak in glowing terms about Thomas.

"I think the physical skills that she has are unique to most guards in the country, she is lightning quick, she is an excellent ballhandler and a terrific shooter," Auriemma said. "She is a scorer and she is probably even more dangerous when she is off the ball a little bit where she can just go. She kind of reminds me of Renee (Montgomery). When Renee had the ball and was running our offense, it was one thing. But you put her off the ball and she became completely different. Jasmine Thomas has all of that. She is a little bigger than Renee, maybe even quicker than Renee - I don't know. I like how she goes about playing, her competitiveness, her drive. I enjoyed my time with her here. I think she has a great future. It is one of those positions we are going to have to identify in the next few years with USA Basketball and I think she is right there at the top of the list."

Hartley given time to rest

Realizing that she is facing a major challenge tomorrow night when All-American point guard Jasmine Thomas leads No. 3 Duke against UConn, the Huskies' freshman guard Bria Hartley didn't play in the final 17:40 against Cincinnati on Saturday and took most of Sunday's practice off.

Hartley did suffer a right foot injury, which was originally reported as an ankle injury, in the game against North Carolina but neither Hartley nor UConn coach Geno Auriemma seemed overly concerned about the condition of her foot.

"We want to keep it from getting worse, we want to make it start feeling better," Hartley said.

I haven't heard of any new updates on ticket sales but it would be a surprise if the Duke was not an advanced sellout. Among those expected to be in attendance is highly sought after recruit Breanna Stewart, the No. 1 player in the high school Class of 2012. Stewart is a 6-foot-3 forward at Cicero-North Syracuse, N.Y. who is being recruited heavily by Duke and UConn.

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Keeping big games in perspective

While Gampel Pavilion figures to be packed and ESPN2 will be in the house to televise the game between No. 2 UConn and No. 3 Duke, the two coaches have taken part of enough big games not to read more into the high-profile non-conference matchup than they need to.

Other than a possibility that the winner of Monday's game could have the inside track to landing in the Philadelphia Regional since it is the closest of the four regional sites to the two campuses, the game will not impact either program's chances to make a run at the Final Four and national championship.

"I always think that these guys are more of finding out the positives of your team rather than the negatives," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I love it when people say 'well you know you had that stretch in Pittsburgh game that if you play like that against Duke, you are going to get killed. Well, if Duke played the way they did against NC State in the first half, against us they are going to get killed. No kidding. So it is not the negatives that come out of this game, it is what positives come out of this game. If you do things really well in this game, then that bodes well in the future. That means you can do it against a really good team, you can do it against anybody. If you don't it do in that game at the end of January on a Monday night, that doesn't necessarily have any bearing on what happens at the end of February or at the end of March.

"That is why these games are so good to play. There are absolutely no negatives to these games. At least in my perspective as a coach, that's how I go into these games that if we win, if we do all these things right, if we accomplish this, if we accomplish that then that all bodes well for down the road. If it doesn't work, then we know 'hey, we have to fix this between then and now.' Looking at tomorrow, that is exactly what I am thinking about. We are going to get an opportunity to find out exactly what it is that we are really good at. Our freshmen have one more opportunity like the ones they have already had to take another step towards becoming experienced college players. With each situation like that we find ourselves in, the better they are going to be. That one game, Stanford did not win a national championship when they beat us and we are not going to win a national championship if we beat Duke. I think both teams have a pretty good perspective of what these games are all about otherwise you wouldn't schedule them. If these games we that defining and all emcompassing, you wouldn't schedule them because then you would say that would affect the way we approach the rest of the season. I am not going to do that, I am not going to put them in that situation.

"If you make it life or death, this is our defining moment as a team, you'd better hope everything goes right because it is also a defining moment for you if you are lousy. I don't think that's the case either way. You can't say in that Stanford game, that is who Connecticut is. I don't think so. Or at Carolina, that is why Connecticut is. I don't know, at Notre Dame in the first half or the last five minutes at Notre Dame."

Joanne P. McCallie is 0-4 against Auriemma since arriving at Duke but did beat the Huskies in a game at the Hartford Civic Center on Dec. 29, 2004 when she was the head coach at Michigan State.

"We will learn a lot from this game," McCallie said. "This game is a great opportunity for us to learn about ourselves, who we are and what we want to do out there. That’s an important thing to have. Given the nature of Geno’s teams and how they are coached, it’s a really (good) test that way. I’ve coached at Gampel before and it’s a great place for women’s basketball. Being able to look in the mirror a little bit and be in an environment that will be quite loud, very crazy, there’s simply no way to simulate that environment. It’s not about pumping in a crowd noise. It’s about having the experience.”


Friday, January 28, 2011

Duke ticket update

According to UConn, about 600 tickets remain for Monday's game at Gampel Pavilion between No. 2 UConn and No. 3 Duke.

Tickets are available online through ticketmaster or by calling 1-800-745-3000. If tickets are still available Monday, fans can purchase them at the North Entrance of Gampel Pavilion beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Doty being patient

Caroline Doty was back in the spotlight courtesy of a video capturing a variety of trick shots which has been generating a ton of interest on youtube. However, the junior guard would rather be making a crucial 15-foot jumper for the Huskies than perfecting her wide array of "you have to see it to believe it" shots from the stands or various other locations in whatever basketball court she happens to be in.

A torn ACL has forced Doty into the role of reluctant spectator once again. But unlike the situation two seasons ago when Dotty was chomping at the bit to return to the court, she is taking a more patient approach this time.

"It is a whole different view being on the outside looking in because I know what it's like to be on the inside," Doty said. I sit back and read how people react to different situations, just getting excited for the girls too. Being able to still be there with them but not be on the court, still feel 100 percent a part of it (is important). I still feel the excitement and joy of whatever they do, I get excited too. I love being passionate about what's going on. The Notre Dame game, although that was the closest game, I had a fire inside of me and I was ready to go. I love that part of basketball."

Since her latest serious knee injury happened before the season, she has more time to get fully recovered from her surgery. She was given the OK to start running or as she put it "more like jogging. There are no sprints. I can't cut or turn anywhere."

Doty will have a three week before in May before enrollng in summer school. When June rolls along, her goal is to be taking part in conditioning drills with her teammates.

"I am hoping I will be able to do the majority of postseason (workouts) with them and see what I can do," Doty said. "I am going to focus on June, July and August on strict basketball stuff because my August it is going to be a year (since the injury). I should be feeling 100 percent. I am going to train, be in the gym and do what I need to be to be ready for next year.

"I have a better understanding of how to approach it. You can't push it because it is such a fragile thing. I don't want it to happen again. This is going to be the last time for sure. I am going to do everything right this time and make sure. If my knee is swollen or I don't feel ready to do it, I am not going to feel ready to do it. I am not going to push myself but at the same time I am not going to be a wimp and sit out because my knee is a little sore."

Doty, under the watchful eyes of the UConn medical staff, will gradually increase the pace of her runs and her work on the treadmill.

"A big thing would be cutting or pivoting," Doty said. "Going to the baseline, stopping and turning and going the other way. Even before that it will be the sprint. I am 6.4 (incline) on the treadmill so hopefully I will get up to 7.0 which is like a 7 1/2 minute mile. Right now I am at a 9:15 mile so I think the speed is going to come next. Probably another month (before she starts) pivoting and more basketball related so I will be able to come off screens and shoot, just do a lot more lateral stuff."


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Transcript of Duke coach McCallie's teleconference

A special thanks to Duke women's basketball SID Lindy Brown for not only setting up a teleconference with Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie but putting up a transcript. This was especially helpful for me since the traffic nightmare courtesy of the latest round of snow prevented me from jumping onto the call.

Here is the transcript of the call

What getting here at 20-0 has done for Duke’s confidence?
“Well it’s just been great to play against the teams we’ve played against. I think the significance is in the body of work and the real interesting games that we’ve played. I’m not a bit concerned over wins, losses and streaks, because that can happen a lot of places depending upon who you play and that kind of thing. So I think for us, being able to play some great opponents and really learn a little bit about ourselves and challenge ourselves, especially our young players. I think it’s been very productive for us and playing Geno’s [Auriemma] teams is sort of that experience even further relative to kind of looking in the mirror and getting a sense and a feel for what we need to do to get better. So it’s a great opportunity because his teams are so well-coached and so good at what they do, that, which certainly enhances some of the stuff that we’ve already gone through.”

On what they learned from last year’s game that might help this year:
“The efficiency factor and the difficulty in disrupting them is something you learn when you play them. I know we’re a different team this year. And half of our team did not play them last year, so that doesn’t carry over per-say. But I just really think it’s an overall experience thing. Just, you know, being able to compete each year. This year’s team, our Duke team, against this year’s Connecticut team, and every year that would be different, different people, but still a great opportunity for us. So we’ll see.”

On the progression of the freshman:
“Yeah they’ve really been great. They wanted to be special, ready and even in the recruitment process they wanted to come to Duke and be an immediate impact -- all five of them. And they really have. All five have been terrific and they keep getting better. There’s still a lot of growth needed there because I think it’s hard, you know, it’s hard to be in high school and the next year be playing at Connecticut or some of these teams. It’s quite a leap for them. But they’re very eager, they work really hard. They’re very talented of course. They have committed more to defense, you know, have committed more to the kind of shape you have to be in to play at this level. And they’re just great. They’re fun because they have a take on artist mentality a little bit, but yet they listen a lot, and they’re very coachable. It’s been a really fun time trying to put this team together and trying to grow it a little bit.”

On senior Jasmine Thomas and her leadership:
“Yeah I think her game has just grown to new heights in all areas. I look at last night as an example, and she really was a double-double last night. Some assists got dropped or didn’t convert. But Jasmine’s ability to score, her ability to take things on in different situations, it’s always been there and she keeps growing every year. But I think this year she is better defensively. She also is a better passer, a better creator. Again, a scorer as well. Most importantly she is a team person, a team leader, in terms of communicating philosophy -- talking to the young kids, giving the direction. She really has had an incredible role for us. There is no question that we’ve had success because of Jas. You know, Jas is our All-America, Jas is our key player. She’s our glue. And she’s been that way for us all year. At times, certainly, making winning shots and all. Also at times, deferring. And others have followed. I think that’s the greatest compliment I could give Jas that other people follow her and emulate her and are growing with her in their game. So she has an enormous effect on our team.”

On whether Duke has the scoring ability type of team to beat UConn this year?
“Yeah it’s hard to know until we are in the situation. I feel very good about our team. We’ve had some tremendous offensive games. Pittsburgh for one, Oklahoma State for two and Florida State another great one. Last night’s dominance offensively as well. We’ve had some really good ones, but at the same time we’ve had some other games when we were a little bit more inconsistent. So we’re working on that and it was great to see five people in double figures and people attacking last night. But I think it’s something that you can’t really predict. Again, we will learn a lot from this game. This game is a great opportunity for us to learn about ourselves, who we are and what we want to do out there. That’s an important thing to have. Again, given the nature of Geno’s teams and how they are coached, it’s a really tester that way. And again, environment too. I’ve coached at Gampel before and it’s a great place for women’s basketball. And again, being able to look in the mirror a little bit and be in an environment that will be quite loud, very crazy. And there’s simply no way to simulate that environment. It’s not about pumping in a crowd noise. It’s about having the experience.”

Maya Moore flexes her muscles

In the first 1:58 of Wednesday's game against Rutgers, Maya Moore took and missed three shots. She would end up missing 12 of her 19 shots and for the first time this season would have back to back games when she shot less than 50 percent from the field.

So Moore went about contributing in other ways. By game's end, she would pull down a season-high 16 rebounds and post her third straight double-double as UConn defeated Rutgers 63-44.

“Any time I am in the game, it is a mindset especially on the road if you don’t rebound you are going to be eaten alive,” said Moore, who could match her career high for consecutive double-doubles when UConn plays at Cincinnati on Saturday. “My team looks to me to do a lot of things but rebounding is something that makes us tougher. That is something we are going to show every night. If I am not rebounding, how can I expect Stefanie Dolson to rebound or expect Kelly Faris to rebound. That is something the coaching staff has been trying to emphasize to the upperclassmen that you can’t move forward if people who have been here don’t take care of their responsibilities.”

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

UConn uses strong second half to overwhelm Rutgers

Maya Moore didn't wait for the UConn coaches to come into the locker room at halftime to challenge both herself and her teammates.

Moore can still vividly remember the game at the Louis Brown Athletic Center during her freshman year when the Huskies squandered a first-half lead and suffered its only Big East loss during Moore's wondrous four seasons at Connecticut.

She was determined that history would not repeat. With Moore calmly drilling a 3-pointer 12 seconds into the second half to spearhead a 13-0 run, the Huskies ended any chance the Scarlet Knights had of pulling off the upset.

"Even before the coaches came in at halftime, we just looked at the each other and saying the shots are going to fall," Moore said. "Because we came out of the locker room with confidence in each other, it showed. Sometimes the shots don't fall and you have to keep playing through it. I thought we crashed the boards really well in the first half. The second half we didn't have to depend on offensive rebounding because the shots were falling.

"That is the way we need to start the game. Every time when you are on the road, it is so important to get the crowd out of it and that is the best way to do it, come out of the gates the first five minutes before that first media timeout and make sure you dominated."

To call the first half a struggle for UConn would not be doing justice to the events that transpired.

It didn't help that the Huskies' second-leading scorer Tiffany Hayes was poked in the eye by Rutgers' Erica Wheeler, Hayes' former AAU teammate, 41 seconds into the game and missed the next 7 1/2 minutes or that the Huskies stubbornly attempted to force the ball into the low blocks with usually humbling results.

"Usually offensive continuity comes when you make shots, you run some good stuff, make some shots and everybody goes 'the offense looks great,'" UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You come out like we did in the first half, miss a lot of open shots and throw the ball away a lot and the offense looks lousy. Then we come out in the second half, make shots and wow, they'vve got their rhythm back. Mainly it's about if the ball goes in the basket and what kind of shots you are getting. I told them we are getting pretty good looks at the basket, we just need to make a couple of them. Once a couple of them starting going in, they all are going to start going in at some point. That first 10 minutes of the second half was pretty good.

"We spent a lot of time trying to force the ball into the post and Rutgers did a really good job keeping us from doing that. The second half when we came out, we didn't try to force it in to Stefanie and Maya. We said 'look, we are going to get a lot of open shots, take them. Don't spend the whole game trying to force it in the middle."

Auriemma was asked about Hayes' propensity for being knocked to the ground and replied as only he could.

"I think more than anything, the coaching staff Shea (Ralph), Marisa (Moseley), CD (Chris Dailey), (trainer) Rosemary (Ragle) probably they are just annoyed because she falls down and they tell her to get the hell up. She sometimes loses control of her bodily functions."

Hayes' response "he is right." Then she sheepishly admitted she used to fall down even more when she was in high school.

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Setting the stage for UConn/Rutgers

Thanks to Mother Nature, there won't be a typical full house waiting UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies to the Louis Brown Athletic Center but the Rutgers band is here and awaiting Geno's appearance with "where's Geno?" inquiries.

I have no idea what the attendance number will be but I'd be surprised if it was more than half full.

UConn, which is at the scene of its last loss to a Big East opponent, doesn't figure to take Rutgers lightly even if seniors Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon are the only UConn players on the squad when the Huskies lost 73-71 to the Scarlet Knights on Feb. 5, 2008.

I will be providing regular updates during the game on twitter @NHRJimFuller

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Moore a finalist for Senior CLASS Award

UConn's Maya Moore is one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for women's basketball.

The Senior CLASS award recognizes players for not only their work on the court but in the classroom. Fellow Big East players Liz Repella of West Virginia and Sam Quigley of DePaul also made the cut.

Fans can go to and cast online ballots.

The winner will be announced at the Final Four.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Geno on the Rutgers fans

If you want to truly understand just how young this current UConn team is consider that only three of the nine healthy Huskies have played at Rutgers.

So tomorrow night Kelly Faris, Heather Buck, Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Michala Johnson and Lauren Engeln will be introduced to a new experience. Buck may have some sense of the energy that UConn's arrival causes at the Louis Brown Athletic Center since she was on the roster as a redshirt the last time the Huskies made the trip down to Piscataway, N.J.

With the Big East changing things up and replacing Rutgers with Notre Dame as the team the Huskies play twice in the Big East regular-season schedule, there are no longer annual trips to Rutgers. It is something that UConn coach Geno Auriemma seems to miss even though he is the subject of boobirds and taunts every time UConn plays at Rutgers.

"I think it will always be there, them being who they are," Auriemma said on Monday two days before UConn plays at Rutgers. "I don't think it is the same as it was a few years ago. Things change. When we were playing them twice every year, that makes it even more of a competitive thing. All it is going to take is one really good game by them, one bad game by us down there. They win and all of a sudden it is all back to the craziness that it used to be. It will be back, I am sure of that.

"It reached a peak there for a while. I think it has calmed down a little bit. I think the personalities on their team aren't quite as outgoing as they used to be and we don't have as many kids that you used to hate like we used to have so it has been toned down a bit on both sides.

"The guys in the band are my favorite. They start on you as soon as you get off the bus and they don't stop. If you beat them, they go 'good job Coach, that was great.' For the two hours that you are there, it is pretty good, you have to admire some of them. They are good and they are right next to you. In that sense, it's like a lot of other places. It is not the kids you worry about, it is the adults that are the goofiest. The kids are fine, they are a lot of fun and they enjoy poking at you. There always seems to be a certain edge, I think it comes with the territory. If you like in New Jersey and you get that reputation that you are a little bit of a tough guy. I think a lot of those kids probably fancy themselves as that. How many times can you get asked 'what exit are you from?' before you want to punch somebody. I tell that to (UConn associate head coach and Rutgers graduate) Chris Dailey all the time, you are the only state where you don't have towns you just have exits."

Just a reminder to those who do not have access to CPTV, this game will not be available on hoop streams.

Here is what CPTV had to say about the situation.

Since the game is being played in Piscataway, New Jersey, Rutgers as the home team controls the TV and streaming rights for their women’s basketball games which are available for local production. While CPTV was granted permission to broadcast the game, the company which holds the rights to this game has decided not to permit CPTV to stream the game on its Hoop Streams service. Representatives from the statewide public television network fervently appealed the decision, but to no avail.

“We are very disappointed by this turn of events,” commented Harriet Unger, Executive Producer of UConn Women’s Basketball for CPTV. “It has always been CPTV’s goal to broadcast and stream every UConn women’s basketball game that is made available to us. Unfortunately, this is a game to which we have not been given full access.”

Wednesday's game will start at 7:30 p.m.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Caroline Doty trick-shot video making the rounds

A knee injury may be keeping Caroline Doty from being able to play for UConn this season but that doesn't mean the sweet-shooting junior isn't still making news with her shot-making prowess.

A video shot mostly by UConn student manager Greg Mihailides of some incredible shots from the stands, while sitting down and others of the "you have to see it to believe" variety is making the rounds.

Doty chuckled when she was asked about it before Monday's practice.

"We were able to put something together," Doty said. "Kyle Singler (of Duke) had a YouTube video called buckets. We were watching that and it kind of inspired me a little bit to try some trick shots. Greg, our manager, took shots of them and started videotaping them. My freshman year when I was injured, Rosemary (Ragle, UConn's women's basketball trainer) would rebound for me and I would do ridiculous shots, over the backboard or something crazy so that kind of started it. This year, I kind of got that shot down from freshman year. This year we were trying something new, having some fun."

Even Doty got a chuckle when she saw the finished product.

"Doing it, you remember back to what we were doing at UNC, Maya was there and we were trying to do full-court shots and we were rimming it out. Maya gave me that shot from the corner at UNC. It was just one thing after another. Bria got footage of the Stanford shot on the phone so we were playing around with it and having fun."


It's official: Samarie Walker to Kentucky

Kentucky just sent out an official release on Samarie Walker's transfer.

Here is the release:
Former UConn forward Samarie Walker (pronounced suh-MAHR-ee) has transferred to play at Kentucky, Wildcats head coach Matthew Mitchell announced Monday.

Per NCAA transfer rules, the 6-foot-1 Walker will be permitted to practice but will not be able to participate in games or travel with the team. She will be eligible for games following the fall semester of the 2011-12 season.

"I am very happy that Samarie has joined the Kentucky program," Mitchell said. "She is a fine young woman who I got to know well while recruiting her during her high school career. Samarie is a talented player who will have an excellent opportunity to make a significant impact at Kentucky on and off the basketball court."

Walker, a native of West Carrollton, Ohio, played in 17 games for UConn this season, averaging 6.2 points and 5.8 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game. She hit 58.7 (44-of-75) percent from the field and posted double digits in five games, including a career-high 15 pts vs. St. John’s. She grabbed double-figure rebounds twice, pulling down 11 vs. South Florida and a career-high 13 boards vs. Marquette.

Walker averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a senior at Chaminade-Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio. She was ranked as the No. 10 overall prospect and No. 5 among forwards by ESPN Hoopgurlz and the eighth-best recruit nationally by Blue Star and No. 10 by the All-Star Girls Report. She was honored as a First-Team All-American by ESPN Rise while also earning a spot on the McDonald's All-America Team with UK freshman Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.). She also earned Parade Magazine Second-Team All-America honors, was voted onto the USA Today All-USA Third Team and was a Division II All-Ohio First-Team selection. She earned a spot on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-America Team and posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in the WBCA All-America Game.

She will have three years of eligibility remaining, beginning at the conclusion of the fall semester in December 2011.


Big East honors UConn's Moore and Hartley again

For the second week in a row, Maya Moore and Bria Hartley swept the Big East awards.

Moore was named the conference's player of the week for the third consecutive time and sixth time this season after averaging 27 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3 assists in wins over North Carolina and Pittsburgh.

Hartley earned Big East Freshman of the Week recognition for the fifth time this season as she averaged 12 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists per game in a 2-0 week.

Also, courtesy of Andrew Sullivan of Geno's Cancer Team's College Initiative group, here is video of Caroline Doty making some rather remarkable shots. Men's star Kemba Walker and UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma also are featured.

Last but certainly not least for those UConn fans who live outside of state, Wednesday's game at Rutgers will be televised on CPTV but will not be available on hoop streams.

Here is what CPTV executive producer Harriet Unger posted on the CPTV women's basketball facebook page:

"To set the record straight, the Rutgers game will be broadcast on CPTV, so if you are in our viewing area, you will see the game. However, the rights holder to the game will NOT allow us to stream the game, nor have it on demand. Even our friends at UConn could not get the decision reversed. Our hands are tied."

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Looking back at Pittsburgh game

After rolling to halftime advantages of more than 20 points in the last three games against Pittsburgh, things were a little more challenging on Saturday night.

Pittsburgh cut a 13-point first-half lead down to four and only trailed 34-28 at halftime. With less than 12 minutes to play, the Panthers were only down six with possession of the ball before the Huskies put the game away with a 15-2 run.

"I am proud of how we pulled it out, we couldn't pull it away more than 10 points but we kept fighting," said UConn senior forward Maya Moore. "I think the coaching staff said it really well that it is OK to struggle. We are not machines, we have off nights shooting but as far as the effort that can't happen and I thought in the second half we brought better effort and I thought that is why we are able to pull away more."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma cited an unlikely source for playing a key role - senior guard Lorin Dixon. Dixon missed her only shot, was scoreless and had two rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes but Auriemma felt that Dixon's speed and ability to push the ball helped open avenues for her teammates.

"I didn't see a whole lot, there wasn't a great flow to the game," Auriemma said. "It seemed to be a chore, a struggle to get anything done for whatever reason. Except when Lorin Dixon was in the game, there didn't seem to be a lot of good stuff happening. It seemed to be forced. Lorin I thought changed the game the whole time she was in there. Pittsburgh did a really good job of keeping the tempo at a walk, making sure we didn't get too many run outs. It wasn't until the second half that we really got organized better defensively and it made all the difference in the world."

Pittsburgh coach Agnus Berenato, while proud of the moxie her team displayed, was not quite as pleased with the disparity in fouls called and free throws taken as the Huskies attempted 20 free throws to just four for the Panthers.

"I'll be very select in my words because I felt like we really did attack," Berenato said. "In the first half we had 22 points in the paint and imagine that, we did not have a free throw. We did not have a free throw until the end of the game. I guess we weren't working hard enough to get to the free-throw line. I don't know. It is amazing to me. We like to attack. It's not like our posts are the only ones to attack, we really like to go up and down. It was a pretty fun game to watch and I guess they didn't want to stop the clock."

Berenato was also asked about UConn playing the rest of the season with six or seven players in the main rotation following Samarie Walker's decision to transfer. It is something she dealt with in the last year on her own team. She didn't seem to think it should be a cause for concern.

"I just think that if you look at his stats, he only plays about seven people anyways, that is where it comes into play," Berenato said. "The tricky part is your practices. I know they have a fun squad of men's practice players, it really affected us. We had a few injuries. (Assistant coach) Mallorie Winn plays for me. I just don't see Shea (UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph) playing for them in their practices because they have so many practice players. I don't look at that as a negative. I think whatever hand you are dealt with, with him seven, eight or nine. You want the people who want to be there and you want the people there who are committed. You only need five to win and there are many games in the history of basketball that have probably been won (with five players). If I were a player, (Stefanie) Dolson averages 19 minutes, I am think cha ching, cha ching. If I am Heather Buck, I am thinking cha ching, cha ching that is more minutes for me."

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More on Samarie Walker

When reached on Saturday night by text message, Samarie Walker declined to comment.

Her former teammate Maya Moore had the same response when the subject of whether Walker addressed the team before opting to leave UConn bound for Kentucky.

But some details of how things got from the point of a player like Walker went from being one of the crown jewels of UConn incoming freshman class to being left behind when UConn played at North Carolina on Monday and ultimately her decision to quit the UConn team.

A source close to the situation said that Walker first told the UConn coaches in October that she wanted to give up basketball and leave UConn only to be talked into staying by UConn coach Geno Auriemma. Walker seemed to respond and became a valuable member of the squad, playing in the first 17 games and starting against Lehigh.

When Walker returned to school after the Christmas break, the problems returned. The source indicated that Auriemma asked Walker if she wanted to return to the game against Louisville in the second half and the freshman forward had no response and did not play the final 15:26 in what proved to be her final game as a Husky.

When the team returned from Chapel Hill, N.C., UConn senior forward Maya Moore met with Walker and informed the coaching staff that Walker didn't seem to be in a hurry to rejoin the team.

Now she is planning to enroll at Kentucky and will attend class on Monday.

"I had no idea she was considering Kentucky," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "All I can tell you is what she told me and what she told the other coaches and what she told the other players - that she had lost in her interest in playing basketball. It had nothing to do with playing time, what position she was playing, anything of that nature. Academics. Nothing. It all had to do with, `Coach, coaches, I just don’t want to play basketball any more.’ So when I came back from New York (on Friday) and someone told me that she’s enrolling at Kentucky Monday that was as big a shock to me as anything that I’ve heard. And I wish her the best of luck."

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Kentucky it is for Samarie Walker

I've been able to confirm that former UConn forward Samarie Walker will indeed be enrolled in classes at Kentucky.

Also, since she did not play in an games in the spring semester she will be eligible to play in the spring semester of 2012 and will have 3 1/2 years of eligibility for the Wildcats.

Walker played in 17 games for UConn, averaging 6.2 points and 5.8 rebounds. She was left home when UConn played at North Carolina on Jan. 17. When the Huskies returned to practice three days later, Walker informed the UConn coaching staff that she planned to transfer.

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

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Report: Samarie Walker transferring to Kentucky

Jim Dabbelt, a blogger from Dayton, Ohio, is reporting thst former UConn forward Samarie Walker is transferring to Kentucky and will enroll in classes at the university next week.

Although there is no confirmation from either UConn or Kentucky, I would be willing to believe the report since Dabbelt was the first to report that Walker committed to UConn during a visit to Storrs and as the quotes from Samarie just six days before she left the program indicated, she did not talk like a kid tiring of basketball.

Walker was left behind when UConn went to play at North Carolina because UConn coaches wanted more out of her from practice. Walker tweeted "lesson learned" leading to speculation that she would return to the court when UConn practiced on Thursday. Instead, UConn announced that Walker was leaving the Connecticut program with the intention of transferring.

Walker, who averaged 6.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 17 games as a freshman, will have a mininum of three years of eligibility remaining. Since she was enrolled and attended class on the first day of the spring semester, it is uncertain whether she will be eligible to play at Kentucky in the spring of 2012 or whether she will need to wait until the fall of 2012 to suit up for the Wildcats.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said that Walker told him that she had been struggling with her commitment to basketball since the 10th grade. However, I would be more likely to believe the story was closer to what Walker's high school coach told the Dayton Daily News that he saw signs of homesickness as Kentucky is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Dayton. The biggest issue, however, is likely that Walker didn't feel like she could fully handle Auriemma's coaching style. He is extremely demanding and obviously took issue with Walker's practice habits otherwise he would never have left her behind when the team headed to North Carolina.

Auriemma's style does not fit everybody as 15 players have transferred since the end of the 1993-94 season. Even a Connecticut icon like Rebecca Lobo admitted at a recent function that she told her mom she wanted to transfer. Obviously she had second thoughts and the rest is history. Auriemma's dealing with Walker is not too different from his pattern with other young post players. He usually pushes them during the first semester and if the prodding to up their effort at practice doesn't do the trick, he usually turns up the heat when the team reconvenes after the holidays.


Friday, January 21, 2011

My thoughts on Walker's departure

First let me admit that I was shocked by Samarie Walker's decision to leave the UConn program. As my story in Friday's Register documents, she was talking very much like a member of the UConn program when I interviewed her on Jan. 14, the day before she would play her last game at UConn.

There were some signs that something might be up. First came in the preseason when UConn coach Geno Auriemma wondered aloud why Walker's hamstring issues were keeping her off the court longer than anticipated. Just a couple weeks ago he said "Samarie I don't think has made as much progress that she did in the first month, she has slowed down for whatever reason and that is something that has to get better and it has to be addressed."

True to his nature, it was addressed. Auriemma and his coaching staff are a demanding bunch. You don't win six of the last 11 national championships, win 90 straight games and develop the number of WNBA players that they do at UConn by casually looking the other way when players aren't performing to their expectations. They demanded more out of Samarie in practice and she either wasn't willing or able to oblige. I truly expected as did one of my sources close to the program that she would be at practice on Thursday and would begin the process of working herself back into the good graces of her teammates and coaches. Instead she decided she couldn't make it work.

Next up for Samarie is to figure out what she wants to do. She can remain in school at UConn and transfer at the end of the spring semester. After sitting out next season, she would have three years of eligibility. She could leave in the coming days although she only has until Jan. 31 to withdraw from class without it impacting her academic standing or grade-point average.

As for UConn, this is a big blow simply because UConn wasn't a deep squad to begin with. The Huskies' starting lineup of Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes, Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson is talented enough to make a serious run at a third straight national title. The problem is that the margin of error is extremely slim. Many eyes will turn to Heather Buck and see if the sophomore center can be a consistently effective option off the bench.

It's tough to read too much into what happened at North Carolina when the Huskies relied mostly on a six-player rotation and still ran a veteran Tar Heels squad off the court because it was North Carolina. I doubt any other top team will settle for jacking up 3-pointers when the Huskies use Maya Moore at center like UNC did and teams like Duke, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and West Virginia will not let Moore and Tiffany Hayes take whatever shot they want whenever they want to like the Tar Heels did. What happens if Dolson gets two fouls before the first TV timeout against Duke or West Virginia or Moore picks up a couple of silly fouls and is forced to sit out for an extended period? It's pretty difficult to play Lorin Dixon and Heather Buck together because they simply are not offensive threats so now opponents can focus on the other three players on the court. But there will be stretches when they have to play together. The other issue is if Dolson is struggling to defend an opposing center, UConn no longer can pluck an athletic replacement like Walker off the bench to try to change things up like it did against Baylor.

Personally, I'd like to see Auriemma give Buck and Michala Johnson quality minutes and let them learn on the job so that come NCAA tournament time, they can be counted on for 20-25 minutes a game between the two of them. I'm not sure if he'll do that or if Buck and Johnson will give him a reason to do just that.

Last but certainly not least, I feel compelled to address to issue of UConn's recruiting methods. I've received e-mails that UConn needs to look at the way it recruits. The fact of the matter is that is not a recruiting issue but a practice issue. The Huskies set the bar high, they expect nothing but the absolute best out of their players. It's a reason why kids from all parts of the country come to Connecticut, it's why UConn has won seven national championships, why Auriemma was the quickest Division I women's coach to 750 wins as he will be the quickest to 800 wins and why come April, UConn will have produced four No. 1 overall picks in the WNBA draft since 2002. I remember when an entire recruiting class blew up on them when Kia Wright, Kiana Robinson and Liz Sherwood all transferred out before the start of their sophomore year and the attack dogs were out saying no top players would come to UConn. Renee Montgomery, Tina Charles and Maya Moore had no such reservations nor did Tiffany Hayes or Bria Hartley. UConn's incoming recruiting class includes the No. 1 ranked player in Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and the No. 1 player in the next recruiting cycle (Brenna Stewart) is very much on UConn's radar. UConn will continue to recruit the nation's best players and when they get to Storrs will continue to expect nothing but their absolute best. Will that mean a team member may look at themselves in the mirror and say "I just can't deal with all of this" and head home, perhaps but life will go on both for that player and the UConn program.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reaction to Samarie Walker's departure

UConn freshmen Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson looked and acted like they were given word to choose their words carefully regarding the decision of classmate Samarie Walker to quit the UConn squad.

"Samarie, to me she doesn't really show a lot of emotion," Hartley said. "I don't know what to say about it."

Dolson had a little - with the key word being little - more to say about it.

"It is her decision," Dolson said. "I didn't really talk to her a lot about it but it is her decision and we wish her the best of luck in the future. I can't say I am surprised. It is her decision, we wish her the best of luck and we'll miss her.

"She's a roommate and a friend. We will still be great friends after this. I am always there to encourage her and talk to her about things but at the same time, it is her business. If I asked a question and she just wants to give me an answer that is it. I didn't push things."

UConn senior Maya Moore, who was in the program when Elena Delle Donne and Jessica McCormack opted to head home to Delaware and New Zealand respectively before playing a game with the Huskies had this to say:

"It is tough to know what somebody is really thinking. Not having been around her for three or four years, I am not going to say I could have predicted it. I've never thought about anybody leaving and not being with the team."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma had plenty to say about Walker and the decision to become the first player in UConn's main rotation to leave the program in the middle of a season since the Huskies won the first of its seven national titles during the 1994-95 season.

"She was really struggling with basketball. I said since when 'she said since sophomore year of high school,'" Auriemma said. "So it has been a real struggle for her for the last couple of years and it just kind of all kind of caught up to her. She is going to try to figure out what she wants to do whether it is basketball or not basketball. It is probably a bigger issue than that (where her next basketball stop may be) right now. We have been trying to work with her for the last couple of months but it just hasn't worked.

"We thought she had started to turn the corner at one point. There is very little, you can't make somebody want to do something that you feel in their heart that they don't really want to do. It is very frustrating for everybody. Her mom and dad have seen this happen in the past. Marissa has spent a lot of time working with her individually on the court. There is only so much that a coaching staff or anybody else for that matter can do. This is isn't an extracurricular activity when you just use it as a hobby. You accept a scholarship to play Division I basketball, there is commitment required physically, mentally, emotionally. That $30,000 scholarship doesn't come just because you are a nice kid, if it did there would be hundreds of thousands kids on scholarships who are nice kids. You have to be able to put forth that kind of commitment, that effort and that kind of passion. Samarie says that she is not able to do that at this point.

"It's unfortunate for her. Not for us, we will go on and we will do what we do. I am sure that her parents are disappointed. I asked her point blank 'why would you come here to college to play basketball?' She made a comment that my parents wanted me to so right away you know that it is a delicate situation. It's not fair to the rest of the kids on the team either. If you are going to have any kind of level of success, you have to have everybody invested to the same level, the same amount otherwise it is not going to work."

In retrospect, Auriemma said there were signs of an issue with Walker while he was recruiting her out of Dayton, Ohio powerhouse Chaminade Julienne.

"It is easy to look back now and say 'I saw signs of it,'" Auriemma said. "But you can always chalk those things up to a variety of reasons. There were signs also that she wanted to do it. She came in here way, way, way out of shape. The whole summer was spent in trying to get her in shape and that is one of the reasons she was hurt the whole preseason. But she worked really hard to get in great shape so you could never tell where is she, is she is one who didn't get ready to play meaning that she really wasn't interested in playing or the one who worked so hard to try to play."

I was told by a UConn spokesman that Walker is enrolled and attended class on Wednesday, the first day of the spring semester. She is obviously still weighing her options of whether she wants to attend school for the rest of the year before transferring. She has until Jan. 31 to withdraw from her current classes without it impacting her grade-point average.

The last time I spoke with Samarie was the day before she would play the final game of her UConn career. Walker was coming off a career-high 15 points in a win over St. John's. She did not sound like a person ready to stop playing at UConn but a player eager to improve.

"I had a film session with (UConn assistant coach) Marissa (Moseley) and she asked me why I was so hesitant and I said I was timid," . She told me not to be so when I came out here, I tried not to be and tried to be more aggressive.

"I don't understand why. If I watch myself on film, I can see what I am doing wrong."

I asked her about whether she felt any pressure to carry on the tradition of UConn women's basketball and her answer made it clear that she thought of herself very much as part of the UConn program and talented freshman class.

"We knew coming here that we had big shoes to fill, there were five of us and there were five upperclassmen," Walker said. "We always try to improve every day, we stick together and push each other every day and push the upperclassmen as well."

In other news from practice, Hartley said she is not concerned about the right ankle she injured in Monday's win over North Carolina.

"When we came back, I was working with Rosie (UConn women's basketball trainer Rosemary Ragle) getting the swelling down. It is recovering well, I am wearing an ankle brace. I've hurt my ankle before, I have actually broke this ankle years ago. I usually roll it and walk it off but this was a little bit more, I guess I hurt it more than I usually do."

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Walker leaves UConn

Freshman forward Samarie Walker has decided to leave the UConn women's basketball program.

In a release just handed out by the university, Walker informed UConn coach Geno Auriemma of her decision to transfer.

"I want to thank Coach Auriemma for the opportunity to be here but right now I can't give the team the energy and commitment that it needs to be successful," Walker said in a prepared statement. "I need to go and figure out what my future holds. I have struggled with this for some time and remaining here would not be fair to my teammates or the coaching staff."

Walker started in UConn's 81-38 win over Lehigh and is UConn's top-scoring reserve with an average of 6.2 points per game and was the Huskies' third-leading rebounder, pulling down 5.8 per game.

"The coaching staff has known for quite some time that Samarie is struggling with her commitment level to basketball," Auriemma said. "We have attempted to work with her and help her through this. I wish Samarie all the best in her future endeavors."

She will be the first player to transfer since Elena Delle Donne in 2008 and first to leave the program since Jessica McCormack, also in 2008.

Walker did not make the trip to North Carolina so she could attend to "personal matters."

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Report: Samarie Walker not expected to practice today

According to an entry on the CPTV Women's Basketball facebook page, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said during this morning's taping of his show that freshman forward Samarie Walker will not practice today and will not play against Pitt on Saturday. He also said he does not see her playing for at least another week. The interview will air on the hour-long Geno Auriemma Show beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Obviously the subject of Walker's status, who was left home from UConn's trip to North Carolina so she could attend to a "personal matter" will come up when Auriemma meets with the media following this afternoon's practice.

Speaking of CPTV, there will be a taping of the Geno Auriemma Show filmed in front of a live studio audience at the Rocky Hill Marriott. The show will air on Feb. 12 before UConn's game against Providence and according to Harriet Unger, the executive producer of UConn women's basketball broadcasts for CPTV "the tickets are limited and are a thank you gift with a pledge of support at the $60 level."

Auriemma is expected to be joined by the rest of his coaching staff who will answer questions from the audience.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nothing new to report on Samarie Walker

With Geno Auriemma cancelling practice on Tuesday as a reward for how well the Huskies played on Monday at North Carolina and there being no practice scheduled for today, look for an update one way or the other tomorrow regarding the status of freshman forward Samarie Walker.

Walker was left behind when the Huskies headed to North Carolina even though the university said she did not violate any team rules and did have any academic issues. This is not the first time that a young post player has irked Auriemma (Charde Houston, Kaili McLaren and Willnett Crockett come to mind) and since both Walker on her twitter account and Auriemma in Monday's post-game comments both had variations of the message that "lesson learned" I would not be least bit surprised to see Walker back at practice tomorrow.


Wife of Connecticut Sun broadcaster passes away

Marcia Heussler, the wife of Connecticut Sun and Fairfield University play by play broadcaster Bob Heussler passed away on Tuesday. Bob also works with Yale University students at WYBC and has been delivering sports updates on WFAN for quite some time.

I did not know Marcia but can say that Bob is about as classy an act as I've encountered in my 20 years I've been in the newspaper business in Connecticut and my heart aches for Bob and his family right now.

Here is a link to the obituary that will appear in tomorrow's edition of the Register

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Connecticut Sun not a player in free agent period

Unlike a year ago when the Connecticut Sun pursued and landed Kara Lawson, Sun coach and personnel director Mike Thibault said on Tuesday that their main objective is getting unrestricted free agent Tan White under contract.

The Sun has the bulk of its 2010 team under contract including reigning WNBA rookie of the year Tina Charles, Lawson, Asjha Jones, Renee Montgomery, Kelsey Griffin, DeMya Walker and Allison Hightower. White expressed her desire to stay with the Sun at the end of last season when she was Connecticut's fifth-leading scorer and led the team in steals.

Although the Sun traded away its first-round pick in April's WNBA draft, Danielle McCray is expected to join the team. McCray was a first-round pick last season but missed the season while recovering from a knee injury. The Sun also have the rights to Spain's Alba Torrens and England's Johannah Leedham, Connecticut's third-round picks in 2009 and 2010. Both players could get pressure from their respective national team programs.

Although the Sun traded away what proved to be the fourth overall pick in the deal which landed them Griffin, Connecticut will pick 16th in what is being touted as a deep draft and never rule out the possibility of the Sun acquiring a first-round pick.

Finally, it will bear watching when France's Sandrine Gruda and Latvia's Anete Jekabsone-Zogota come over since they have become extremely valuable cogs for the Sun.

The period for speaking with free agents began on Saturday and February 1 is the first day to officially sign a free agent.

Former UConn stars Swin Cash, Svetlana Abrosimova and Ashley Battle are among those on the list of unrestricted free agents.

Here's a breakdown on how the Connecticut Sun players or those whose rights are held by the team are playing overseas

Player Team Country Notable statistics
Tina Charles Nadezhda Russia 19 points, 12.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks
Kerri Gardin* Elitzur Holon Israel 16.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.1 steals
Kelsey Griffin Mizo Pecs 2010 Hungary 9.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals
Sandrine Gruda Ekaterinburg Russia 14.6 points, 5.1 rebounds
Allison Hightower Reze Nantes France 11.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals
Anete Jekabsone-Zogota Fenerbahce Turkey 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Johannah Leedham* Gorzow Poland 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 steals
Danielle McCray* Rishon Lezion Israel 16.8 points, 7.6 rebounds 3.2 assists
Renee Montgomery Maccabi Ashdod Israel 18.7 points, 3.7 assists, 2.2 steals
Alba Torrens* Halcon Avenida Spain 17.2 points, 2.7 assists, 2.1 steals
DeMya Walker Adelaide Australia 13.1 points, 6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks
Tan White Burhaniye Bld Turkey 11.4 points, 4 rebounds
*-Sun own rights to Gardin, Leedham, McCray and Torrens. Jekabsone-Zogota spent part of EuroLeague season with Spartak Moscow Region. White is an unrestricted free agent

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Moore, Hartley sweep Big East awards

Maya Moore was named the Big East Player of the Week for the fifth time this season while Bria Hartley was the conference's Freshman of the Week for a fourth time.

Moore averaged 23.5 points, 6 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.5 steals in wins over St. John's and Louisville while Hartley's numbers in the two victories were 16 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tar Heels figure to test Huskies

It's easy to look back at the last time UConn played North Carolina on a road and expect yet another walk in the park.

Two years ago the showdown between No. 1 UConn and No. 2 UNC never materialized as the Huskies rolled to an 88-58 victory even though the Huskies were playing their first game without injured guard Caroline Doty.

Last year, the Huskies rolled to an 88-47 win over the Tar Heels at Gampel Pavilion. But UConn coach Geno Auriemma is expecting a different game when the teams meet on Monday at Carmichael Arena.

"It's not like the last couple of years when we were encouraging Carolina to run up and down because the more they ran up and down, the better it was for us and the more difficult we could make it for them," Auriemma said. "I don't know that running up and down best suits us right now. I think we are going to have to manage the game a little differently. We are going to have to control the tempo a little better than we have in previous years and be really good in he half-court set, trying to make it more of a half-court game instead of the full-court game that we are so accustomed to having."

Auriemma said that before he knew the status of junior guard Tiffany Hayes. The good news is that Hayes passed her post-concussion tests and is expected to play against UNC. However, freshman forward Samarie Walker did not make the trip to take care of "a personal matter" leaving UConn a bit on the thin side. If the game is called closely, the Huskies could have some concerns.

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Hayes is expected to play tomorrow

Just received an update on Tiffany Hayes from UConn women's basketball SID Pat McKenna. The junior guard did not practice on Sunday but her tests showed "no lingering effects of yesterday's collision."

Hayes, who is second on the UConn with a scoring average of 15 points per game, is expected to practice on Monday and play against North Carolina Monday night.

Hayes was knocked out of Saturday's game against Louisville when she collided with teammate Maya Moore in the first minute. She spent the remainder of the game in the locker room.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Inspirational recovery

A decent amount of the press conference after UConn's win over Louisville focused on the condition of junior guard Tiffany Hayes, who was knocked out of the game in the first minute with a mild concussion.

But when it comes to recoveries, it's hard to top what North Carolina's Jessica Breland has accomplished. The 6-foot-3 senior missed all of last season with cancer to become the Tar Heels' second-leading scorer and top rebounder.

With UConn playing at UNC on Monday night, I asked UConn coach Geno Auriemma about Breland's comeback and how much inspiration her teammates' can draw from her return to the court.

"That should be an inspiration to every kid playing basketball and every person who is not even involved in sports," Auriemma said. "I think it goes to show you that part of getting well, part of becoming healthy in life is your outlook, how positive you are and the kind of attitude you have. Obviously she has a tremendously positive personality, has a passion to want to get back and play basketball and was able to do it. I think there are players who are playing today if they played with half that positive mentality and that kind of passion would be much better players. I talk about that with (injured junior guard) Caroline (Doty) all the time that how much her approach and how much her enthusiasm for wanting to play, how much that speeds up your recovery no matter what it is you are trying to overcome whether it is a knee injury or whether it is a life-threatening disease."

Monday's game will continue a long tradition of the Huskies playing a top opponent on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Maya Moore was asked about the significance of playing on that day.

"I see it as a perfect opportunity to play on a stage that when he was alive, wasn't there for not only female athletes but black student athletes so I see it as a celebration of where our country has come," Moore said. "A big reason is because of his passion and his selflessness investing his life for human rights so if you think about it that way, it is pretty cool to create that and why not just go out on the court, give everything and play with passion and excitement."

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Freshmen point guards step up

As stunning as it is to believe, Bria Hartley said she never faced fellow freshman point guard Shoni Schimmel on the court with the exception of the WBCA All-American game.

They made up for lost time in UConn's 78-55 victory over Louisville on Saturday.

Hartley had a career-high 24 points, six coming on a pair of clutch 3-pointers during a 17-5 second-half run, and also had a career-high eight rebounds. Schimmel finished with a team-high 15 points and six assists.

"She's a pretty aggressive kid," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She certainly doesn't shy away from the ball and she doesn't shy away from wanting to shoot it and wanting to make a play. I think she's a lot like Bria. She needs to solid and she needs to be consistent for them to help their team. Based on what I saw, there's very little that when I watch her you can say she struggles with. She seems to have a good overall game."

Before the team flies out to North Carolina for Monday's game against the 11th-ranked Tar Heels.

Hayes collided with Maya Moore in the first minute of the game and suffered a mild concussion.

UConn women's basketball trainer Rosemary Ragle said in a statement that "symptoms of a mild concussion were clearing quickly by the end of the game. Tiffany will be re-evaluated by the team physician tomorrow morning."

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UConn's official release on Tiffany Hayes

Here is the official statement on UConn junior guard Tiffany Hayes, who was knocked out of Saturday's win over Louisville in the first minute after colliding with teammate Maya Moore.

"Symptoms of a mild concussion were clearing quickly by the end of the game," UConn women's basketball trainer Rosemary Ragle. "Tiffany will be reevaluated by the team physician tomorrow morning."

Neither UConn coach Geno Auriemma nor Moore believed that Hayes' concussion was anything too serious.

"I think her head hit my midsection hard and she didn't get back up quickly," Moore said. "She is looking fine. She's not like laid out or out of it.

Hartley back in starting lineup

After coming off the bench against St. John's because the coaching staff wanted senior Lorin Dixon to get to start her final collegiate game in her native New York, freshman Bria Hartley is back in the starting lineup against Louisville.

Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes, Kelly Faris and Stefanie Dolson will also start for UConn while Becky Burke, Shoni Schimmel, Tia Gibbs, Monique Reid and Keshia Hines will start for Louisville.

The Mater Dei High School team, led by UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and UConn recruiting target Jordan Adams, just arrived and are sitting behind the bench. The duo had 17 points each as Mater Dei crushed Murry Bergtraum last night at the HoopHall Classic in Springfield. Here's the story I wrote after catching up with Mosqueda-Lewis and Adams after the game.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Mosqueda-Lewis happy to be back in New England

Outside the two feet of snow and frigid conditions, UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was thrilled to be back in New England as her Mater Dei High School team was playing in the HoopHall Classic for the second time in the last three years.

Mosqueda-Lewis had 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists in the Santa Ana, Calif. team's 85-45 win over New York's Murry Bergtraum.

"I feel different about being here now that I am going to UConn and going to be there next year," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I am certainly excited to be able to come
out and play here."

Mosqueda-Lewis, a 6-foot wing, will join guard Brianna Banks and post player Kiah Stokes in the Huskies' incoming freshman class, the first set of Huskies to suit up in the post-Maya Moore era.

"I know it is going to be a big leap for me. I know Coach Auriemma is going to get me ready. I am going to be there for summer school doing workouts and hopefully they are going to get me as ready as possible for my freshman year. Hopefully I tansition well, hopefully I am ready for that."

Auriemma, who was in attendance at the game, was asked about Mosqueda-Lewis after UConn's Friday afternoon practice.

"I like the fact that No. 1, the kid wanted to come here and that to me is huge," Auriemma said. "That says something about her right there. That was the No. 1 thing right there. She is an incredible kid, just her personality, her approach and the way she interacts with other people, it is unusual for kids that age.

"I think in her career, she has proven more than anything else that she is a winner. Her high school team wins all the time, the USA Basketball teams wins, she scores at every level. It doesn't matter what level she plays at, high school, AAU, USA Basketball, that kid just puts points on the board so given all those things, I haven't seen her play yet this year, this will be the first of a couple times I am going to see her. Knowing that Maya is leaving, it probably couldn't come at a
better time, somebody capable of putting that many points on the board. It is uncanny."

Mosqueda-Lewis not only shares Moore's ability to drain 3-pointers (she had three more to give her 53 this season) but also the same uniform number. Mosqueda-Lewis has already asked Moore for permission to wear No. 23 at UConn next season.

"I actually asked Maya for No. 23 and I am still holding on her answer because as of right now, she wants it to be able to rest for a little bit when she leaves," Mosqueda-Lewis said with a laugh. "Hopefully she will let me have it."

Whether she wears No. 23 or not, Mosqueda-Lewis plans on continuing to work on her game before she enrolls at UConn in the summer.

"I have really been working on trying to get to the basket because the last couple of years my shot has been my money maker," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I have been trying to get quicker, get to the basket, be able to jump higher and working on everything."

Auriemma wasn't the only person to heap praise on Mosqueda-Lewis on Friday,.

Mater Dei coack Kevin Kiernan, who coached the Monarchs to the No. 1 national ranking last season and has four Division I signees on this year's team, said "she is the best player I ever coached, I think she is the best player in the country. Just having her on the floor opens things up for everybody else."

UConn recruiting target Jordan Adams, the highly-touted junior guard who had 17 points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals against Murry Bergtraum, first saw Mosqueda-Lewis play when Adams was in fourth grade.

So what is her best attribute?

"Definitely her 3-point shot, she can create her shot no matter where she is on the floor," Adams said. "You pressure her at the 3 (point line) and she will drive past you. If you get her the ball, she is a scoring machine. It's been an honor to play with her."

Unlike Mosqueda-Lewis, who committed in October of her junior season, Adams is going to be a little more patient.

"Kaleena, she knew where she wanted to go," said Adams, who confirmed that UConn is still among the schools she is considering. "I am not sure where I want to go yet, I feel like when I am ready I will commit. I can't even tell you that there's a list. I am looking everywhere right now and seeing where my best fit is."

Mosqueda-Lewis, Adams and the rest of the Mater Dei team is planning to go to Saturday's UConn/Louisville game at the XL Center.

"Who doesn't want to go see UConn play?" Adams said. "Coach Geno is a great coach and they are a really good team. Just to see Maya Moore, it is going to be fun. I just like the way they play together as a team. They have Maya Moore who is clearly an all-star but everybody else gets their points."

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Faces change in UConn/Louisville rivalry

UConn and Louisville will meet on Saturday at noon at the XL Center and it figures to be a showcase for first-year players on both sides.

Among the Big East freshman classes, nobody has more points or assists than the first-year players from Louisville while no team has played freshmen more than the Huskies.

It's a far cry from the experienced squads that met in the 2009 national championship ggame.

"Programs, they handle these cycles differently depending on where they are in the history of the program," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Somebody like Notre Dame who has been doing this a little longer at this level can graduate a bunch of seniors, replace them and not miss a beat as much. Somebody like Louisville, Jeff (Walz) hasn't been there long enough to kind of stockpile people to withstand graduations so it is a little more difficult. I watch them play now and I don't even recognize some of the names. I know they are good, I know they are talented and they have young kids who everybody was recruiting but it is going to take a while before it shows up, especially on the road. The two teams that played in the national championship game, there is semblance either way."

Speaking of the game, UConn is announcing it as an advanced sellout although if you go onto the XL Center site, there are no lack of available tickets.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Streak to be honored at Hall of Fame

The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. is planning to honor UConn’s NCAA Division I basketball record 90-game winning streak later this year.

Josh Sullivan, Director of Basketball Relations for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, said that they will request items for an exhibit but the request likely won’t come until after the season since the Final Four teams also have items showcased at the Hall of Fame and if the Huskies were the make the Final Four, it makes more sense to have Connecticut send all the requested items at once. The exhibit figures to be finished around the time of the June 11 Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

At Monday's open practice, Geno Auriemma said he wanted to see more from Samarie Walker and that he was going to have to address that with her. Just like that, Walker netted a career-high 15 points against St. John's two days later. So in the post-game press conference I asked Auriemma if Walker's performance was aided by a heart to heart talk between him and Walker. His answer was more of a far-reaching response on the inconsistencies of the UConn freshmen.

"I don't know what everybody wants me to say, but there was a point in time when our freshmen were making steady progress," Auriemma said. "They've done what pretty much every freshman does, they hit that wall that every freshman does. They have not gotten any better, they are stuck so you get what you get. You get a great night, you get a bad night. You get a great practice, you get a bad practice. There is no consistency so we spent, I'll bet you a huge time during our meetings and in practice talking to these guys about what we need to do, showing them what we need to do and working with them in practice.

Bria (Hartley) was in Shea (Ralph's) office, it had to be three or four hours the other day watching film, talking. Then we went to practice, in one ear and out the other. I asked her 'what was the three hours watching film for?' Typical freshmen, they have no idea. I am sure every other coach int he country is going, yeah, yeah right. (St. John's coach) Kim (Barnes Arico) said that to me today 'Bria is playing great, Samarie is playing great, Stefanie Dolson has been great for you.' So they don't want to hear me complaining. I am just saying that what you expect from normal kids is like what Kelly Faris (brings). A little bit, build on this game, this game, this game. But when you get freshmen, there is no correlation between what they do in practice and what they just did in this game, what they are going to do Friday and what they are going to do in Saturday's Louisville game. Nothing follows so you just kind of flip a coin and hope it comes up heads."

Women's basketball fans in the area have other options besides Saturday's noon game against Louisville at the XL Center. UConn signee Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will lead Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif. against New York powerhouse Murry Bergtraum Friday at 6 p.m. at Springfield College as part of the HoopHall Classic.

Amherst College, the No. 1 ranked team in Division III, will play at Wesleyan on Saturday at 4 p.m. It figures to be Amherst's final game at No. 1 since the Lord Jeffs lost to Kean on Tuesday. Amherst is led in scoring by former Guilford High star Jaci Daigneault with an average of 14.4 points per game but the most remarkable aspect of this Amherst team is that Daigneault and Kim Fiorentino leads the team with an average of 21.3 minutes per game.

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UConn's defense steps up

While it's easy to look at the 21 points scored by Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes and the 64.3 field-goal percentage in the first half by UConn and saw it was just another day when the Huskies were simply too explosive for their opponent in Wednesday's 84-52 win over St. John's at Madison Square Garden.

But considering how well St. John's played UConn in the regular season in the last two seasons, it was impossible to overlook the defensive effort by the Huskies. UConn tipped a myriad of passes by the Red Storm, something they have not been doing in recent weeks. The performance did not go unnoticed by UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

"We have spent a lot of time in the last couple of days on the defensive end," Auriemma said. "We probably played more zone today than we have in a long, long time trying a a couple of different kind of zones so we aren't giving teams a chance to get into a nice little rhythm and I thought the kids worked really hard at keeping St. John's away from the lane. We did tip a lot of passes, we did cause a lot of tipped balls. I think when you have Kelly (Faris) and Maya (Moore) on the back end of that zone, it really makes it active. It is a very aggressive defense with those guys back there."

Auriemma rewarded senior guard Lorin Dixon, who grew up in Springfield Gardens, N.Y., by giving her just her third start of the season and first in the last nine games.

"For us, you are trying to do the things that make kids feel good about themselves," Auriemma said. "For Lorin, it's the last trip she is probably going to make down here as a player. Playing St. John's in Madison Square Garden, it has to be a great thrill for a kid. No matter how many times you play here, you always look forward to playing here. It is different from any other place and I think she appreciates that more than other players because she grew up here."

The win was Auriemma's 750th. He is the seventh Division I women's coach to reach that milestone. It's ironic that of the Huskies next four games, two are against coaches in the 750-win club (North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell and C. Vivian Stringer of Rutgers).

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lorin Dixon gets the start against St. John's

Senior Lorin Dixon gets the start at point guard for UConn ahead of fellow New York native Bria Hartley. I haven't heard a specific reason for Dixon making her third start of the season but it would be typical for UConn coach Geno Auriemma to reward Dixon by letting her start in her final collegiate game game at UConn.

The other starters are the same (Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes, Kelly Faris and Stefanie Dolson) while Sky Lindsay, Da'Shena Stevens (a former Trinity Catholic star), Nadirah McKenith, Centhya Hart and Shenneika Smith will start for St. John's.

With a win, UConn coach Geno Auriemma would become the seventh Division I women's basketball coach with 750 career wins.

I don't anticipate updating the game on this blog but will be tweeting during the game @NHRJimFuller

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Reunion time at MSG

One of the more intriguing parts of the St. John's/UConn women's game tonight is that the teams feature a pair of former high school teammates.

UConn's Lorin Dixon and Sky Lindsay of St. John's were teammates at Christ the King while Bria Hartley of UConn and Eugeneia McPherson of the Red Storm played together at North Babylon.

I never got around to asking Lorin about Sky Lindsay but their partnership did not end well as Lindsay quit the Christ the King team as a senior. Lorin is a very engaging kid who giggles as much as she talks during interviews but has a much different persona the last time I asked her to look back to her time teaming with Lindsay.

The relationship between Hartley and McPherson seems to be a much friendlier one even those McPherson also had a premature ending to her days as Hartley's teammate. When McPherson was a senior and Hartley a junior, McPherson was suspended for five days for what Newsday reported was suspended for five days for an incident at school. Unfortunately for North Babylon, the suspension included a playoff game which North Babylon lost to Copiague.

Bria remembers her time going up against McPherson in practice rather well.

"It is going to be fun," Hartley said of meeting up with McPherson again. "It will be like practice in the old days when I was always going against her. She was definitely was somebody I looked up to, a really good player and just going against that type of competition every day definitely helped me. It was good that we pushed each other."

Hartley, a freshman guard, is third on the Huskies in scoring at 13.5 points per game while McPherson, a sophomore guard, is third on the Red Storm in scoring with an average of 10.9 points per game.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dolson learned from costly miss

Stefanie Dolson's junior season at Minisink Valley High School ended with the most heartbreaking loss of all. Dolson, who had 36 of her team's 44 points against perennial rival Kingston in the New York Section 9 Class AA title game, stepped to the free throw line with 1.1 seconds left. If she hit both foul shots, her team would win barring some half-court heave by Kingston. But she missed the front end, Kingston grabbed the rebound and Dolson was absolutely devastated.

Visions of that miss popped into Dolson's head as she stepped to the line for a 1-and-1 in the final seconds of Saturday's game against Notre Dame. If she missed, the Fighting Irish would be able to push the game for a game-winning two-point basket. Dolson, who had hit 21 of 23 foul shots up to that point, quickly cleared her head of what has to be the lowest point of her basketball career and calmly hit both shots forcing Skylar Diggins to rush up the floor and attempt a game-tying 3-pointer. The shot wasn't close and UConn had an emotional 79-76 victory.

Dolson credits that miss against Kingston for driving home how critical free throws are.

"When it happened (at Notre Dame), that was the first thing that came into my mind was that game how I went out, missed those free throws and we lost the game," Dolson said. "I got that out of my mind and said 'no, that's not going to happen here. I am going to make these.' I went up with confidence and I made them.

"It just showed me how important free throws are. Defense will get you to the end of the game but free throws are what make or break a game sometimes."

Dolson is shooting 92 percent from the free throw line which is an impressive number for anybody but is simply hard to comprehend that a 6-foot-5 freshman center would be shooting better than 90 percent from the line. How rare is it? Well look at some of these career foul-line percentages of the Huskies' best inside players:

Kerry Bascom 79.6
Swin Cash 64.7
Tina Charles 62.1
Asjha Jones 63.6
Rebecca Lobo 69.5
Tamika Williams 65.4
Kara Wolters 58.4

The only drawback is that Dolson has attempted 25 free throws in 15 games, a ratio she as well as the UConn coaches, want to increase.


Mutual admiration society

Perhaps more than any other Big East team in the last couple of years, St. John's has consistently been able to make UConn work for victories.

Two years St. John's was within seven points at the midway point of the second half thanks in large part to the brilliance of then freshman Da'Shena Stevens, who finished with 27 points in a 77-64 loss to the Huskies.

Last season, freshman Nadirah McKenith had 15 points and 11 rebounds as St. John's only trailed by six in the final minute of the first half before falling 66-52.

In the eyes of UConn coach Geno Auriemma, you only have to look as far as his coaching counterpart to see why the Red Storm is having success.

"I think Kim has done an absolutely incredible job down there going from where it was to where it is without necessarily getting big, high-profile recruits either," Auriemma said. "She's gotten a lot of local kids, a lot of good players and they have done a phenomenal job of putting themselves in a situation when every year now they are a ranked team, an NCAA, Sweet 16 kind of team. I think it's got a lot of people energized down there both with that they are doing and what the men are doing. At one time people are looking at St. John's and saying they will never be back. You have two programs that are factors."

Barnes Arico's relationship with Auriemma is not as highly-touted as the one he has with Villanova's Harry Perretta, Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame or DePaul's Doug Bruno but it is clear that the two have a tremendous amount of mutual respect.

"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's had 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. 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."


Moore makes Wooden Award midseason watch list

UConn senior Maya Moore was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 list.

Moore, who won the award last year, was joined on the list with fellow Big East players Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame and Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers.

The Wooden Award's All-American team will be named during the week of the NCAA Division I regional finals.

The official ballot for the Wooden Award will be finalized in March with the award being presented on April 8.

UConn junior guard Tiffany Hayes was one of 30 players on the preseason watch list but did not make the midseason list

Here is the list of candidates

Danielle Adams 6-1 Sr. F/C Texas A&M
Kachine Alexander 5-9 Sr. G Iowa
Angie Bjorklund 6-0 Sr. G/F Tennessee
Jessica Breland 6-3 Sr. F North Carolina
Skylar Diggins 5-9 So. G Notre Dame
Jasmine Dixon 6-0 Jr. G UCLA
Victoria Dunlap 6-1 Sr. F Kentucky
Dawn Evans 5-7 Sr. G James Madison
Brittney Griner 6-8 So. C Baylor Big
Amber Harris 6-5 Sr. F Xavier
Shenise Johnson 5-11 Jr. F Miami
Jantel Lavender 6-4 Sr. C Ohio State
Italee Lucas 5-8 Sr. G North Carolina
Maya Moore 6-0 Sr. F Connecticut
Nnemkadi Ogwumike 6-2 Jr. F Stanford
Kayla Pedersen 6-4 Jr. F Stanford
Danielle Robinson 5-9 Sr. G Oklahoma
Sugar Rodgers 5-11 So. G Georgetown
Jasmine Thomas 5-9 Sr. G Duke
Courtney Vandersloot 5-8 Sr. G Gonzaga

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Lesson learned?

The game had yet to reach the 5-minute mark and Geno Auriemma had seen enough.

In a Dec. 30 loss to Stanford, UConn's Hall of Fame coach had been kicking himself for not being more proactive in driving his point home that standing around and watching was not an acceptable course of action for his reigning national player of the year. So after seeing Maya Moore falling into the same bad habits that limited her offensively against the Cardinal, Auriemma benched his best player.

This was not one of those 60 or 90-second teaching tools either. Auriemma sat UConn's all-time leading scorer for more than 3 1/2 minutes. Apparently, he got his point across because Moore was a different player the rest of the way.

"I am not a message guy when it comes to that kind of stuff," Auriemma said. "The offense got better after Maya (sat) and it stayed better for long stretches after I put her back in. One of the problems was that Maya, as she is prone to do, just went to a spot, stood there and waited for everybody else to take care of her. That just wasn't going to happen again like I let it happen in the Stanford game.

"Once we took her out, everybody started playing and she realized we are not going to stand around and watch you stand like we did in the Stanford game, we are not going to do that anymore so you either get involved, move and cut and do all the things good players do or you are going to sit here and you are going to watch. She decided she would rather play. Then she did what Maya normally does, make big shots and make big plays but it certainly did not start out that way."

Moore finished with a game-high 31 points as UConn held off Notre Dame 79-76 in the most competitive game - at least according to the scoreboard - that UConn has played in the Big East since escaping DePaul with a 77-76 win during Moore's freshman year.

Moore is hoping that the lessons she learned in the Notre Dame will serve her well for the rest of her time a UConn.

"More and more I am starting to recognize it but sometimes I am still working on the habit of catching it and I always have to be moving, getting ready to move," Moore said. "It is more of a mental thing. It is not a physical thing. I think that is what Coach is trying to achieve so I can move to that next level. I have to be at the height of my awareness this year when things do break down.

"I made sure I was more aware of it because we still had a lot of game left and I wasn't going to let that frustrate me to the point where I was out of my rhythm. It took me a little to get me back into it but the secondhalf, I think I had a fresh start and starting moving a little more on offense but he shouldn't have to do that for me. I will learn from it and catch it sooner."

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Huskies going through growing pains

Coming into this season without graduated stars Tina Charles and Kalana Greene and injured starter Caroline Doty, UConn coach Geno Auriemma fully expected games like Saturday's narrow escape at Notre Dame to be more of the rule than the exception.

With two freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup, Auriemma was fully anticipating the ebb and flow that comes with having such an inexperienced team.

The biggest surprise for Auriemma is that Stanford is the only one of the five ranked teams who have been able to capitalize on UConn's youth enough to hand the Huskies a rare loss.

"There is a long way to go between now and the end of the year," Auriemma said. "Bria, to start with, has done exactly what most freshmen do. She has been really good, not so good, she has been average. She has been everything you could imagine, she has played great defense, she has played awful defense, she has shot the ball well, she has not shot the ball well. She has handled the ball well, she hasn't handled the ball well.

"I think for somebody like Bria, the regular season is all geared towards getting her mentally and physically ready for the NCAA tournament which brings a whole other set of issues. It will be her first NCAA tournament. Stefanie is the same way. It is constant learning experiences. Samarie I don't think has made as much progress that she did in the first month, she has slowed down for whatever reason and that is something that has to get better and it has to be addressed. It comes down with all three of those guys that there is a level of intensity and a level of aggressive you have to have to play that position."

So what has been the biggest adjustment Auriemma and his coaching staff has had to deal with?

"We have to go over the scouting report earlier, we have to do more of it in practice, we have waste more time worrying about the other team than we ever have before," Auriemma said. "The last couple of years, we spent way more time more concerned about ourselves than the other teams. Now with this team, you have to spend a lot of time being concerned with who they have, what they have, what they are going to do, how they are going to do it because it is new. It takes more than just doing it a couple of times to do it. You have to do it a lot because this team doesn't have the basketball IQ that the last two teams have, nor should they have. "

Auriemma was asked if he was enjoying the more hands on teaching aspect as he tries to bring the younger players up to speed.

"Nothing that we are doing from a coaching standpoint is more fun yet," Auriemma said. "I think it can be more fun when we started to see some of the results but during it while you are trying to get to that point, it is not a whole lot of fun.

"Teaching is fun but teaching is fun when you see the results of your teaching. Then it becomes fun, the actual teaching part becomes a struggle. If you have a pet, teaching your dog how to go pee outside is fun once he stops peeing on your rug. The more he keeps peeing on your rug, that whole teaching thing isn't a whole lot of fun."

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