Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Join my live chat tomorrow at 3

I will be taking questions during a live chat at 3 p.m. on Friday from Indianapolis. The details of where to sign into the chat will be coming over later today or tomorrow or you can always check the website as a link to the chat will be put up there.

Minnesota coach talks about Maya - kind of

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve wouldn't mention Maya Moore by name in the early stages of a pre-WNBA draft conference call on Thursday, not wanting to draw any heat from WNBA officials but there was little doubt (as if there was any suspense in the first place) who the Lynx was planning to take with the first overall pick in the April 11 WNBA draft.

"I think if I were to confirm that, I'd be in big trouble," Reeve said with a laugh. "I would tell you that the assumptions being made are not off base. This franchise is extremely excited about the prospects of a very talented player out of the University of Connecticut."

As the questions persisted about Moore, Reeve didn't make further attempts to talk in general terms about "a very talented player out of the University of Connecticut."

I asked Reeve about what is most striking about Moore's game when she has seen UConn' all-time leading scorer in action.

"She is a player who is extremely passionate about playing this game," Reeve said. Her overall skill level, many people have commented on what they see in her. Obviously her ability to shoot the basketball, I think that is what people look at. I think developing a mid-range game is going to be important for her. She rebounds the ball, she runs. She is player who commits to every part of the game and I think was even honored on the defensive side of things. Just somebody who does a little bit of everything and just determined to be one of the best."

I also asked about having an articulate, engaging person like Maya to help out with the marketing side of things.

"With regard to the business side of things, I would say there has probably been a heck of a lot of excitement around here in regard to that. In this day and age of needing sponsorships, this comes at a really good time for us."

Reeve was also asked for her take on whether Maya was the best college player of all time.

"I think it's been a lot of fun to bring up discussions about where Maya fits in the history of collegiate women's basketball," Reeve said. "I think the biggest thing is there have been some great players and Maya is one of them. I am not a person who thinks she is one of the best ever. I have respect in the history of the game. I think Cheryl Miller was awfully good, I am sure Carol Blazejowski would like her name mentioned in that category. There have been some great players, I think Maya is definitely one of them. To put her at the top, I think it would be more about numbers, but I think our history it is a little bit unfair - the best ever. But it is a great debate. I certainly think one of the best ever, one of the most decorated women's college basketball players ever I think (that) is fair to say about her.

Reeve mentioned the comparisons of Maya to Moore's basketball idol Tamika Catchings especially in terms of work ethic.

"The attribute the people talk about that almost always translates to a great deal of success at our level is Maya's work ethic. When your best player is your hardest working player, great things happen to you. Tamika, with regards to the WNBA, is probably regarded as the most hardest working player in the league and that says a lot about Maya. I think certainly there are parts of her game that I think she is going to have to adjust to in our league. It is more physical to maybe what she is used to seeing and obviously the pace of the game but we are certainly excited to get her here and see what we can do with her. We are excited, she is a special, special player."


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Banks impressive in McDonald's All-American game

UConn signee Brianna Banks had 17 points including seven in a span of 1:02 in Wednesday's McDonald's All-American game. According to my unofficial stats, she also had three steals.

Banks, a 5-foot-9 guard from Fayetteville, Ga. was averaged 16 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 5.2 steals while leading Fayette County High to the Georgia AAAA title, was on the West team with her future UConn teammates Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes.

Mosqueda-Lewis had 12 points and four rebounds and Stokes had one point and five rebounds.

Duke signee Elizabeth Williams scored a McDonald's All-American girls' record 23 points and had 11 rebounds to lead the East to a 78-66 win.

Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes will be playing in the WBCA All-American Game on Saturday. Banks was not selected to play in the game.

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Maya Moore honored by USBWA

UConn's Maya Moore added the United States Basketball Writers' national player of the year award to her growing list of awards. It's the second time she has won this award. The Huskies were shut out of the other two major awards as Baylor's Kim Mulkey and Odyssey Sims were named the coach and freshman of the year.

Maya named to Wooden All-American team

UConn senior Maya Moore, the 2009 Wooden Award winner, was named to the Wooden All-American team along with Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike and Jeanette Pohlen, Courtney Vandersloot of Gonzaga and Baylor's Brittney Griner.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

UConn roll past Duke

Duke stayed with UConn a little bit longer but in the end, the result was the same.

After losing to the Huskies by 36 during the regular season, Duke fell by 35 in Tuesday's Philadelphia Regional final.

Maya Moore, who by her standards, had been a little off in the last couple of the game was absolutely brilliant and her 28 points allowed her to finish the game with exactly 3,000 points.

"The way we came out, we all played together I couldn't have asked for more," said Moore, who added seven steals and 10 rebounds (tying Rebecca Lobo for second on UConn's all-time list). "This is exactly where we've prepared ourselves to be."

Duke, which fell behind 23-2 in the regular-season meeting between the teams, actually hung with the Huskies for a while. It was 23-20 with 3:37 to play before UConn ended the first half on a 7-0 run and had a 22-3 run in the second half.

All that was left was to see if Moore could become the seventh Division I women's player during the NCAA error to score 3,000 points,

She had 26 when she banged her knee against the thigh of a Duke defender. Moore grimaced for a few seconds before leaping to her feet and running off the court with
7:39 to play. She was able to return to the game and hit the magic number with 3:45 left to play.

"I knew, I couldn't help it because other people tell me," Moore said. "I wasn't keeping track during the game but when I hit it, I felt it was close. When my
teammates starting tackling me, I am just glad we played well."

UConn advances to meet Big East rival Notre Dame in Sunday's national semifinal. It will be the fourth meeting of the season between the teams, something that never happened before in UConn's illustrious history.

Notre Dame defeated Tennessee meaning that Moore will go her entire career without playing against the Lady Volunteers since Tennessee coach Pat Summitt cancelled the
regular-season series with UConn over what she perceived to be the Huskies' illegal recruitment of Moore.

"I love playing great teams and good competition," Moore said. "I do have some friends on that team if they could have pulled it out. It's not in our hands, we are
just going to be ready to play whoever wins and advances."


Maya Moore joins select company

UConn's Maya Moore joined former Oklahoma star Courtney Paris as the only players named to the Associated Press All-American team four times.

Moore is the Huskies all-time leading scorer and heads into tonight's Elite Eight game against Duke needing 28 points for 3,000 in her career. In addition to being UConn's all-time leading scorer, she is also the career leader with 4,609 minutes, 1,145 field goals while ranking second with 304 3-pointers and 1,258 rebounds (10 behind Rebecca Lobo's second-place total), third with 299 steals and 201 blocked shots.

Moore has been a part of 151 wins, the highest total in NCAA history and is the first player in Division I history with more than 2,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 500 assists, 250 steals and 200 blocked shots.

Moore, who was an unanimous selection for the third straight season, is joined on the first team by Baylor's Brittney Griner, Jeanette Pohlen of Stanford, Jantel Lavender of Ohio State and Danielle Adams of Texas A&M.

Oklahoma's Danielle Robinson, Xavier's Amber Harris, Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot, Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike and Duke's Jasmine Thomas are on the second team.

The third team members were Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen, Miami's Shenise Johnson, Kentucky's Victoria Dunlap, Xavier's Ta'Shia Phillips and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, the only other Big East player to make one of the three teams although UConn's Tiffany Hayes was an honorable mention selection.

Moore was also named the ECAC Player of the Year while Hayes was a second-team selection.

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Mosqueda-Lewis wins 3-point shooting contest

UConn signee Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis won the McDonald's 3-point shooting contest, finishing with a score of 17 to beat out Bonnie Samuelson and Ally Malott, both former UConn recruiting targets.

Mosqueda-Lewis, a 6-foot forward/guard at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., finished her senior season averaging 22 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.6 steals with 116 3-pointers as a senior.

She set Mater Dei career records with 2,744 points, 872 rebounds and 337 3-pointers, set the single-season records with a 23.2 scoring average as a junior while her 116 3-pointers and 87 percent free-throw percentage as a senior were season records for the Monarchs. Among the single-game records she set were 41 points and nine 3-pointers. She also set a record with 28 points in a half as a sophomore and three times scored a record 19 points in a quarter.


Monday, March 28, 2011

UConn looking to double their Final Four pleasure again

The men's team at UConn has already taken care of their end of the bargain and now the women's team is up next.

If the Huskies beat Duke on Tuesday night, it will be the third time that both teams advanced to the Final Four during the same season.

Naturally, the UConn players are thrilled at the success of the men's program.

"We were in the hotel, we were watching the end of (Saturday's Elite Eight game against Arizona) and we were all screaming in the hallway, high-fiving, chest-bumping, it was awesome to see how our men are just shocking the world," Maya Moore said. "I don't even know what they were ranked in the preseason but to come to where they are now, the poise that the young team is playing with, how they don't get rattled. Kemba (Walker) was doing a great job of leading them, sometimes during the games he may be struggling to score but he hits the shot when he needs to hit. Alex (Oriaki) and the inside guys are playing great D. It is really fun to watch, I know we are really excited and it gives us a little extra motivation to play better."

If it happens, it would be the second time in the last three years that both teams advanced to the Final Four. As a point of reference, that feat was only accomplished once in the first 17 years that the NCAA took over control of the women's basketball tournament. UConn made history in 2004 when both teams won national titles, an accomplishment that has not been repeated before or since.

"I am excited for the men," Stefanie Dolson said. "It's just so cool seeing how well they are doing and how much they have improved. It is definitely a motivation for us to play just as well and do well in the tournament.

"Me and Lauren Engeln go as much as we can. It's crazy, just the adrenaline and excitement you get from being there, it is like high school when you have your girls' team and guys' team. You get just as excited for their games as you do for their own. It is a great feeling."

Here's a look at programs with men's and women's basketball teams in the NCAA Division I Final Four the same season.

1983 Georgia
1999 Duke
2002 Oklahoma
2003 Texas
2004 UConn (only school to win both titles)
2005 Michigan State
2006 LSU
2009 UConn

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hayes emerging into a vocal leader

Lorin Dixon, who played a key role in UConn's 68-63 win over Georgetown, let it be known which of the Huskies took the lead during the second-half huddles.

After the UConn coaching staff addressed the team during timeouts, the five UConn players would gather and it was junior Tiffany Hayes who emerged as the vocal leader.

It was not the first time Hayes spoke up around her teammates this season but with senior Maya Moore being more of a leader by example and the most vocal experienced player being the injured Caroline Doty, Hayes was thrust into a leadership role more on Sunday than at any point in her college career.

"I was basically trying to keep the intensity up and make sure I got Coach (Geno Auriemma's) point across after he left the huddle to make sure they didn't forget," Hayes said. "That is what you huddle for, you keep everybody together. I think somebody has to do it in the last six minutes. I took it upon myself to do it.

"I think that was the most I did it in a game. I've done it before but not as intense as that."

A loss like the 87-51 hurting UConn put on Duke can sabotage a season but the Blue Devils said the opposite was true. Rather than feeling sorry for themselves, the Duke players said they learned their lessons.

"I think we got blown out by 40 points so I am pretty sure we learned a lot of lessons from that game," senior forward/center Krystal Thomas said. "Defense, offense, the whole game was a great teaching point for us."

Duke did stumble a little bit after the loss, the first of the season for the Blue Devils, losing by two points at North Carolina and by 22 at Maryland but seemed to have rediscovered their game in the postseason winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title and advancing to the Elite Eight for the ninth time in the last 14 seasons.

"We definitely learned from it," Duke senior guard Jasmine Thomas said. "We are moving the ball, playing inside/out better than we had back then. It is definitely something we got better at. I think we are excited for the opportunity and the team has definitely grown a lot since then, It is going to be fun for us, we are going to play as hard as we can and it will be a good game."

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Dixon steps up for UConn

Realizing that facing a Georgetown team full of aggressive, slashing wing players was a bit of a defensive nightmare for his freshman center Stefanie Dolson, the UConn coaching staff decided the only way the Huskies were to escape with the win would be to go small.

Finally with 11:13 to go and the Huskies down by four, UConn coach Geno Auriemma pulled the trigger. He summoned Dolson to the bench in favor of Bria Hartley. With Hartley being joined by Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes, Lorin Dixon and Kelly Faris, the Huskies were able to match up better with the Hoyas.

Dixon, the only reserve to get into the game for UConn, responded with the best stretch of her UConn career.

Just 16 seconds after a Connecticut timeout, Dixon stole the ball from Rubylee Wright and hit a layup. Here is what followed

7:14: A Dixon steal results in a Hartley layup
6:41: Another Dixon steal
6:19: After senior All-American Maya Moore passed on a 5-footer, Dixon calmly took and made a jumper to give UConn a 55-53 lead with 6:19 to play.
5:32: Dixon snares an offensive rebound of a Moore miss
5:09: Dixon had another steal. Moore gets fouled on a ensuing possession and makes two free throws to put UConn up 59-53
3:09: After missing a jumper, Dixon keeps the ball alive allowing Maya Moore to grab an offensive rebound and get fouled.
2:15: Dixon sets up Moore for a basket
1:31: Dixon once again assists on a Moore hoop.

"I feel like I was in the right place at the right time during a lot of possessions," Dixon said. "I was trying to get my hands on a couple of (passes)."

When people look at the box score at the game, Moore's 23 points and 14 rebounds and the 17 points by Hartley will jump out but Dixon's four points, two rebounds, four assists and four steals were invaluable to keep the Huskies hopes of a third straight national title alive.


Georgetown assistant remembers time in New Haven

Keith Brown took a trip down memory lane on Saturday.

Brown, in his fourth season as an assistant coach at Georgetown, founded the successful Maryland Mystics AAU program and among the most memorable runs his teams enjoyed was a run to a second-place finish at the 2000 11-and-under AAU nationals in New Haven.

"That was a good time, that was a long time ago," Brown said.

Among the players on that team were Paulisha Kellum, who went to Virginia, former South Florida star Porcha Grant, Latoya Bennett and Jori Nwachukwu who both played at North Carolina Central, Wofford'ss Natalie Gramblin, former Maryland forward Demaria Liles (now at Shaw University).

"It was fun," Brown said. "It wasn't a business, the kids were 11 and we just came off being third in the nation the year before and they were kids trying to get to the Final Four."

UConn signee Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 33 points including a key 3-pointer with 48 seconds remaining as Mater Dei High of Santa Ana, Calif. defeated Berkeley 59-47 in the CIF Division I championship game on Saturday.

Mosqueda-Lewis finished the season averaging 22 points and had 113 3-pointers for the Monarchs, who should finish atop the final national high school polls.

The news wasn't as good for UConn commit Breanna Stewart as her Cicero-North Syracuse team lost to Murry Bergtraum 59-47 in the New York Federation AA semifinals.

Stewart, a 6-3 junior forward, had 16 points.

For those interested, here is my advance for today's game as well as a notebook leading off with the strong Big East representation at the Philadelphia regional.

I will be tweeting live during the game @NHRJimFuller

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Welcome to the Big East invitational

Even before he faced his first question, Geno Auriemma was already ready to roll.

With his top-ranked UConn women's basketball team one of three remaining Big East teams in the Philadelphia Regional, Auriemma couldn't help but throw some love towards conference rivals Georgetown and DePaul as only he could.

"We have been auditioning different places for the Big East Tournament, so this is as good a place as any. I don’t know how Duke got in," Auriemma said with a laugh.

Duke is the only non-Big East team still in contention for the Philadelphia Regional title.

UConn will meet up with Georgetown (for the third time in last 4 1/2 weeks) at 12:04 p.m. followed by the DePaul/Duke game. The winners will meet on Tuesday night with a spot in the Final Four at stake.

Facing a Georgetown team which has given the Huskies fits this season could be an interesting and rugged start to Sunday'as doubleheader.

"We have to make a few more shots. When I look back at the last two games," Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "I thought we played defense. There are some things we need to work on defensively in terms of getting the ball in the post and not allowing (UConn freshman center Stefanie) Dolson to go off on us like she did in the second game, contain Maya Moore of course. We have to be a better offensive team. Defense is what we do, there is no need of going in and trying to change."

Naturally, Auriemma was asked about any backlash he has received after stating that "spoiled" UConn fans resulted in the smallest crowd at a UConn home game since 1994 in Tuesday's NCAA second-round game.

"That is the world we live in so I guess I shouldn't be amazed," Auriemma said. "With all the media out there, everybody's got a twitter account, everybody's got this, that and the other thing so everybody wants to say something. We've got people than nobody gives a damn what they think, what they say, how they feel but they feel compelled to say it. Especially when the subject is a little bit of an A-hole like me so why wouldn't you weigh in on it? Whether I am telling the truth or not, whether I said it the right way or don't say it the right way, the bottom line is when I am telling the truth people want to make a big deal about it so they make a big deal about it. Not here in philly, they don't care. Those guys on (Philadelphia radio station) 610, they hope I get hit by a bus on Broad Street so they don't care."

In a perfect world, Caroline Doty would be out on the Liacouras Center court Sunday afternoon playing in front of friends and family.

Doty, a junior guard at UConn who hails from Doylestown, Pa., will have plenty of supporters there to watch the Huskies play but Doty will be relegated to offering support from the bench since she has been sidelined all season long with a torn ACL.

"My family is coming to the game, friends, people from high school," Doty said on Saturday. "It is kind of tough not being able to play but still being a part of it, still being on the floor, being to see them absorb the atmosphere I am still having a great time."

Doty admits that she has learned to deal with her inactivity better this season than she did during her freshman season when she also suffered a serious knee injury and spent the second half of the season unable to play.

"You learn from your mistakes," Doty said. "I don't think I took the best approach my freshman year so this year I was focused on staying positive and what was important. what is important, number one, is gettign better and also being there for my teammates."

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Live chat tomorrow at 4

Feel free to join me for a live tomorrow at 4 p.m.

For those who want to ask questions or just check out the chat, you can follow this link

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Moore a finalist for Wade Trophy

UConn senior forward Maya Moore is one of 12 finalists for the Wade Trophy, the most prestigious individual honor in women's college basketball. The winner will be announced on April 4.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hayes, Moore among 40 State Farm A-A candidates

The list for State Farm All-American consideration, the criteria UConn uses for its Huskies of Honor program, was sliced from 52 to 40 with Maya Moore (I know, I was shocked too) and Tiffany Hayes making the list.

The 10 State Farm All-Americans will be announced on April 2 in Indianapolis.

Here are the 40 who made the cut:
Danielle Adams Texas A&M
Kachine Alexander Iowa
LaSondra Barrett LSU
Kelsey Bolte Iowa State
Cierra Bravard Florida State
Skylar Diggins Notre Dame
Victoria Dunlap Kentucky
Dawn Evans James Madison
Brittney Griner Baylor
Keisha Hampton DePaul
Amber Harris Xavier
Tiffany Hayes Connecticut
Celeste Hoewisch Wisconsin-Green Bay
Adrienne Johnson Louisiana Tech
Glory Johnson Tennessee
Shenise Johnson Miami
Kalisha Keane Michigan State
Jantel Lavender Ohio State
Alex Montgomery Georgia Tech
Maya Moore Connecticut
Natalie Novosel Notre Dame
Nneka Ogwumike Stanford
Kayla Pedersen Stanford
Devereaux Peters Notre Dame
Porsha Phillips Georgia
Ta'Shia Phillips Xavier
Jeanette Pohlen Stanford
Lauren Prochaska Bowling Green
Samantha Quigley DePaul
Elizabeth Repella West Virginia
Angel Robinson Marquette
Danielle Robinson Oklahoma
Sugar Rodgers Georgetown
Odyssey Sims Baylor
Shekinna Stricklen Tennessee
Carolyn Swords Boston College
Jasmine Thomas Duke
Courtney Vandersloot Gonzaga
Tyra White Texas A&M
Riquna Williams Miami

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Not a perfect exit

Geno Auriemma admitted after Tuesday's second-round win over Purdue that he would have loved to have pulled out seniors Lorin Dixon and Maya Moore at the ideal time to give the crowd a chance to salute them in their final home game. However, the way the game played out, Auriemma found himself subbiing out Moore, Dixon and freshman Stefanie Dolson together with 2:19 to play.

"She (Moore) didn’t play great, so in those instances you like for it to be, she makes a couple of big plays and comes out on a high, but it just didn’t seem like it was going that way," Auriemma said. "I was hoping to get Lorin (Dixon) out or at the worst at the same time. There just wasn’t that flow going and something I tried to orchestrate."

The fans got their chance to salute Moore after the game. While Auriemma was being interviewed by ESPN's Doris Burke, Moore patiently waited her turn when the fans started to chant her name. She raised her hand into the air several times to acknowledge the crowd but admitted in the post-game press conference that she was a little uncomfortable during that time before turning the question into an opportunity to throw some love Lorin Dixon's way.

"I felt a little awkward," Moore said. "I usually don’t like that sort of individual attention because I play a team sport. I would say I appreciate it the fans have been awesome and they’re just to show how much they appreciate Lorin and I (accomplished). It capped off I think both of our careers perfectly when Lorin ended it with a great play on the defensive end blocking the shot and then hitting it off the point guard and making it our ball, that was just perfect. I wouldn’t have wanted to go out any other way then Lorin Dixon making a great play."

I've refrained from taking this step (or at least publicizing it) but in recent weeks the number of anonymous comments have been sent into my blog ripping on UConn players have been increasing. They haven't been posted nor will they in the future. Under no circumstances do I have an issue posting comments critical of UConn or anything I write but when they come in anonymously, it just is not happening. I find that to be incredibly cowardly to hide behind your computer screen and rip on college kids so if you have the urge to do so, save your fingers because they aren't going to make it onto this blog.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hayes steps up

It didn't take very long to see that Tiffany Hayes had an extra jump in her step for Tuesday night's NCAA tournament second-round game.

Hayes was only credited for six rebounds and three of the Huskies' 23 offensive rebounds. But she set the tone for the game early on, soaring to snare rebounds on both ends of the floor. She also played a key role offensively in the 16-2 first-half run and 19-1 run in the second half.

"I think it was because the way we crashed the boards tonight," Hayes said after UConn's 64-40 win over Purdue. "It was our goal, getting as many offensive/defensive rebounds as we could. When we are fighting each other to get rebounds, everything else is going to come."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma noticed Hayes positive body language early on.

"Tiffany is a tough matchup," Auriemma said. "She is too quick and there is not a lot to her so it is hard to find her. When Tiffany makes up her mind to offensive rebound, it is hard to keep her from doing that."

Purdue coach Sharon Versyp didn't disagree with Auriemma.

"If you can shoot the 3, have the quickness to put the ball down and be able to get to the hole, it is very difficult to defend," Versyp said. "In transition we were getting to the point and we weren't getting out on her. She knocked down shots and that's what great players do."

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Geno addresses small turnout at Gampel

The final home game in the career of Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon did not translate into a huge draw at Gampel Pavilion.

The crowd of 5,729 is not only the lowest home draw of the season but the lowest for a UConn home game going back to the 1994 Big East tournament championship game against Seton Hall on Mar. 7, 1994.

UConn Geno Auriemma didn't pull any punches addressing the issue after Tuesday's game.

"It's only natural," Auriemma said. "We probably have to win more games. Everybody loves a winner. I think free parking and handouts at the game would help. Letting some of the fans participate in coaching the team since they always volunteer to do that. I think what would help the most is I am going to recommend we don't bid on this tournament for the next five years because I think we have a real spoiled group of fans who just assume we are going to win, just assume we are going to Philadelphia, assume we are going to the Final Four. The regular season was great, then we had the tournament in Hartford, then we had the first two rounds so you are asking them to do a lot, I understand that. So I am going to recommend to Jeff (Hathaway, UConn's director of athletics) and everybody else that we don't bid on this tournament for the next five years and see where that takes us."


Monday, March 21, 2011

Maya on verge of another record

If UConn defeats Purdue on Tuesday night, she would improve to 148-3 in her time at UConn. The 148 wins would match the NCAA Division I record set by her former teammate Kalana Greene.

Greene was 148-9 in her five seasons at UConn including the injury-shortened 2007-08 season.

Moore and fellow senior Lorin Dixon can become the first UConn players to go four seasons without losing a home game with a victory against the Boilermakers. UConn is 80-0 at home since their arrival - 39-0 at Gampel Pavilion and 41-0 at the XL Center.

"It really makes me think of how privileged I've been to have great coaches and teammates to protect that home court record," Moore said. "I have played with some really special players. Depending on when you come into a program, you don't always get the groups that we have had. We've had some close calls in this building. The one that comes to mind is North Carolina my freshman year and we came back (from an 11-point deficit at halftime) to win that game. There have been some great games here. I don't think there's been any other group that has protected that home court as much as the groups I have been a part of."

Moore has averaged 20.4 points

Here's a look at how some of UConn's best players fared in their final game at Gampel Pavilion.
PLAYER Points Reb Assists Steals Blocks
Tina Charles (2/13/10 vs. St. John’s) 25 21 1 1 3
Diana Taurasi (3/2/04 vs. WVU) 17 4 10 0 1
Sue Bird (3/18/02 vs. Iowa) 22 5 6 5 0
Swin Cash (3/18/02 vs. Iowa) 10 9 3 2 2
Nykesha Sales (2/21/98 vs. ND) 27
Kara Wolters (3/17/97 vs. Iowa) 16 9 2
Jen Rizzotti (3/18/96 vs. Mich. St.) 18 1 6
Rebecca Lobo (3/25/95 vs. UVA) 8 6 2

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

UConn freshmen draw praise

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Sunday's UConn/Hartford game is that Michala Johnson was the first player summoned from the bench in the second half.

Johnson, who did not play in the first half, rewarded her coaches' confidence with a solid 14 minutes of work in the 75-39 win over Hartford.

"It felt really good," said Johnson after scoring five points and adding five rebounds. "I wanted to work harder, I wanted to be a little more aggressive. I am more comfortable now. I know it took me some time but after two (knee) surgeries it has taken me some time."

It might be a reach to expect Johnson to make a major impact during this NCAA tournament but this offseason could be a time for the wiry Johnson to add some muscle to her frame so she can match up against physical post players. She has already added 20 pounds since arriving at UConn but will need to add more weight before she becomes a game in, game out contributor. Still, the progress she has made in the last five or six weeks is hard to ignore.

"Some of it was situational, it wasn't really her fault," UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey said of the time it has taken Johnson to become a regular contributor in practice. "It was a matter of getting used to practicing. She has not really had that kind of practice in two years. It is obviously a different level but she tries. She gives us good effort, she tries to do what we ask her to do. There has been a significant (improvement) probably since about the (Feb. 12) Providence game. She has a knack around the basket, she rebounds and she finishes pretty well around the basket. We are trying to keep encouraging her to run the floor. it is tough coming off two ACLs and not just one."

Kansas State was eliminated from the tournament with a loss to Purdue in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader at Gampel Pavilion. However, before the Wildcats took to the court, assistant coach Shalee Lehning was scouting the UConn/Hartford game. Yes, the same Lehning who has started 53 games for the WNBA's Atlanta Dream over the last two seasons. So I asked her what her impressions of UConn freshman guard Bria Hartley were.

"I love her, she is so young but you would never know it," Lehning said. "She is in total control, she is not afraid of anything. She goes in there, takes the big shots. She is obviously a great point guard playing on a great team and what she really does well is manages the game with a bunch of stars around her. She knows how to get to people the ball when they need it. She is also not afraid to take her own shot herself. That is half the battle when you playing on a team as good as Connecticut - learning to make the right decision."

Lehning, a former star point guard for Kansas State, understands the difficult transition from high school to college for a point guard.

"I think it is a huge adjustment that people overlook a lot of times," Lehning said. "It is just a bigger, faster, stronger game. Especially coming to play at a school like UConn, you have to learn how to make decisions faster, you have to get in better shape and you have to learn mental toughness and I think they obviously do a great job of that here at UConn."

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Coaching changes not a shocker to Auriemma

While the news of coaching legends Debbie Ryan and Van Chancellor stepping down at Virginia and LSU respectively might have caught UConn's Geno Auriemma off guard at first, upon further reflection he was not stunned to see them or any of his coaching peers step away from the game.

"The Debbie (Ryan) thing caught a lot of us former players and coaches by surprise. You know its coming at some point, but when it didn’t happen when Debbie first got sick with cancer, you thought ‘ok she’s fought through that.’ Now it’s
about enjoying her life and what you’ve built over the years.

"Everybody knows that at some point they are going to wake up in the morning and they say I don’t want to do this anymore. I can see after 30 some years. For Van (Chancellor) I’m not surprised at all. At a point it comes to ‘Do I want to spend the rest of my life with 18 year olds?’ I just don’t know that everybody can do that for an indefinite amount of time. I think when you get to a certain age and have a certain amount of success, I’m not surprised by either of those two. I think its going to happen even more as the next couple of years unfold, because the pressures of the job are so much greater than they ever were. Everybody used to talk about women’s basketball, why don’t they take us more seriously, why don’t they pay us more, why don’t they give us more resources, why don’t we get this and this? What happens now is that you are getting all of that and if you don’t win you get fired. I
think you are going to see in the next couple of years coaches saying I got into this for a different reason.’”


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Guilford's Daigneault leads Amherst to title

It's been a good couple of days for former Guilford High star Jaci Daigneault who followed up being named the WBCA Division III Player of the Year by helping Amherst College to the Division III national title.

Daigneault struggled from the field, hitting just 2 of 14 from the floor, but was 5 of 6 from the free throw line in the final 1:11 and finished with nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in a 64-55 win over defending champion Washington University on Saturday.

Emotional ride for Rizzotti

Perhaps former UConn All-American guard Jen Rizzotti will be a bit reflective when she looks around Gampel Pavilion on Sunday afternoon but the University of Hartford coach was certainly not holding back her emotions when she met with the media on Saturday.

However, it was not memories of her playing days but the recollections of how one of Hartford's all-time great Erica Beverly's knee injury keeping her from experiencing the job of playing in the NCAA tournament one last time. As she watched her current group of seniors unable to contain their elation as securing the sixth NCAA tournament bid in Rizzotti's 12 years as Hartford's coach, the occasionally combustable Rizzotti began to cry.

"For different reasons, what we have to remember that last year was a little bittersweet to have (Beverly) be a part of it," Rizzotti said. You can obviously see how much it impacted us emotionally. She is a special kid and this one here (Jackie Smith) had to keep saying 'amazing' and 'awesome' for everything I asked her. It's been really fun the watch the seniors enjoy because we couldn't experience that last year. It was really hard to be there so it is a special group and they came a long way this year. I feel like I cry every press conference. Everyone of them. My heart goes out for Keyokah (Mars-Garrick) who is injured and won't be able to play in this game. I think about my sophomores about how they have no fear and they actually think there might be an answer to stopping Maya Moore and I don't have the heart to tell them that there is not. Then my freshmen who are like kids in a candy store taking 8 million pictures with the championship trophy the other day in Boston.

"It's been a really fun group and it's been really hard. They never gave up. I was rally man to them this year. I ran them, cussed them out and they never turned on me, never turned on each other. To have all that hard work pay off for them and see their faces, it is a special group."


More on the NCAA's decision to end "open" practices

Outside the handful of media members chatting up a storm, Gampel Pavilion was eerily quiet when the UConn women's basketball team took the court for its practice on Saturday.

Other than a 15-minute session available to the media, the NCAA did away with the practice of allowing fans to watch the practices before the first games in the subregional. The decision was made because teams would go little more than a glorified layup line and go elsewhere to conduct actual practices out of the glare of the spotlight and that the fan turnouts at many sites left a little to be desired.

"What the committee looked at this summer was teams would have to do this open practice and then they would have to go to this auxiliary site to do another hour of practice," NCAA spokesman Rick Nixon said. "What we decided to do to accomodate was to do a 15-minute window for the media to start with and close it at that point just to allow teams to get that work here and not go somewhere additionally. We got some feedback from the teams that would work out a lot better."

So is the NCAA expecting a backlash from the fans at sites like UConn and Tennessee with a history of supporting their teams and showing up in large numbers at the open practices?

"A little bit," Nixon said. "We certainly understand that. It was the compromise of trying to assist and help out the teams. We weighed it against the attendance we've had in the past years. Some sites attendance are better than others but when you have very few fans in the seats for those practice sessions, it just didn't justify the means or making them to do the practices at two sites."

The setup will be the same for the regionals but there will be open practices on April 2, the day before play begins in the Final Four.

Hartford coach Jen Rizzotti was unaware of the change in format until she received the fact sheet for the UConn subregional a couple days ago.

"I wouldn't say it has been impactful one way or the other for us," Rizzotti said. "The only time I really remember (a large fan turnout) was when we played here against Rutgers in the NCAA tournament. Every other site we have been to it's been pretty minimal. I don't think it matters either way. I think the focus we have is just having a chance to shoot in the gym we are going to play in. I don't know if I could care less how many people are there watching. I don't know what the coaches of the bigger schools have thought or have wanted."

This season ended a run of six seasons when UConn and Hartford played a game at the XL Center. Rizzotti wanted to free up her schedule so she could play in an exempt event and also set up home and home series to strength its non-conference schedule.

Rizzotti said there are no plans to resume the series next season.

"The kids like the non-conference because it was different because once you get into conference, you are playing kids twice every year and sometimes three times," Rizzotti said. "Changing up non conference is good not just to keep them fresh but the novelty of playing UConn wears off when you play them every single year. I want that game when we play it to be special, I don't want it to be 'oh, we are going to the (XL) Center again this year to play UConn.' A lot of these kids grew up watching them and the first couple of years we played them, it was a big deal and then the last few years it wsn't. There are multiple reasons why we took a year off and next year as well and what happens in the future, I don't know. We haven't really thought that far ahead."


Friday, March 18, 2011

Purdue's Mingo makes remarkable recovery

Purdue junior forward Drey Mingo has a lot to the thankful for. Not only did her Purdue squad get a berth into the NCAA tournament but the Boilermakers will play Sunday's first-round game against Kansas State in the state where several aunts and cousins live. However, more than anything, she is happy to be alive.

Two days after having 21 points and 13 rebounds in a game against DePaul, Mingo was found laying on the floor unconscious and her life hanging in the balance.

Meningitis led to inflammed membranes near her spine and brain which can be a fatal combination. For five days Mingo was in the hospital surrounded by her teammates, coaches and family members not sure if she would wake up. The mere thought that she would play basketball again - especially this season - seemed to be a preposterous notion.

Yet she did return. Mingo missed just four games and after struggling with not only her physical conditioning but the loss of her hearing, Mingo is once again a dominant inside presence for the Boilermakers. She averaged 15.8 points in the final six regular-season games as Purdue made a late-season push at securing a spot in the NCAA tournament.

"Everything happened so suddenly, it was so unexpected but everything has happened for a reason and it definitely has made me the person I am today so I am very thankful for my life and to be here," Mingo said on Friday, shortly before boarding a plane headed to Connecticut for the Storrs subregional.

"It is definitely a life-changing experience waking up with no sound but gradually my hearing has gotten better which they did not think would happen so it is awesome for me. Really, considering how sick I was, I am really happy just to be living. Yes, my life has to change but I have amazing support here and everybody here has helped me every step of the way."

What a journey it has been.

From the bedside vigil at the hospital to the flood of letters and flowers from well wishers from across the country and the emotional scene when she played two minutes in a game against Auburn less than four weeks after being hospitalized, it has been a remarkable odyssey.

"Everything about it says 'miracle,'" said Antionette Howard, one of Mingo's roommates and a close friend of Mingo's for more than a decade going back to their days growing up in Georgia. "For her to be able to survive the situation she was in and then to be able to play again, that was a miracle in of itself. Then to recover as well as she has and be able to impact our team and the game of basketball this year is just tremendous, it is amazing.

"I read stories immediately after and said 'OK, there are different stories to it, different ways that people recover or some people don't recover at all so basketball for me wasn't even on my mind at all. For her to come back like this is amazing."

Mingo, who aspires to enter medical school after graduation, also did some research on meningitis. However, that occured before she incurred the wrath of meningitis.

"I was taking an anatomy class and had an exam on meningitis the week before I got sick," Mingo said. "Once the doctors told me what I had, I kind of knew what what was going on and what to expect from then on. It is really ironic. Literally the doctors were telling me things that where on my exam that I had taken a week before so it was like a cringing feeling knowing what I had and what to expect but it was also a comforting feeling that I did know what it was and what to expect."

Mingo said playing basketball again did not enter her mind immediately after she was informed of what happened to her. When she had her hearing checked, she had 5 percent of her hearing in her left ear and just 20 percent in her right. Making matter worse is that the doctor said there was little hope for her hearing to improve.

"Obviously she was very upset, she looked at me crying and said 'Coach, am I ever going to be able to play basketball again,'" Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "That was one of the hardest moments. I looked her in the eye and I said 'I am not sure about this year Drey but you'll be able to play when your body allows you to play. This is about you as a human being just getting better. You are going to be fulfill all of your dreams, this is a bump in the road.' She has just continued to amaze us. Two weeks after they said she pretty much wouldn't have any hearing she went back and had a hearing test and had 11 percent in her left ear and went up to 60 percent in her right ear. The ear/nose specialist said this is an act of God. He was shocked."

It was not the last time Mingo would stun onlookers.

It seemed unlikely that Mingo would play again this year but not only has she returned, she averaged 15.8 points in the final six games of the regular season.

"I hear stories all the time of people who had the same thing I have and didn't have a great outcome and I am very thankful for mine," Mingo said. "I am really just happy to be living and basketball is just a plus."

It wasn't until early February when Mingo said she felt like herself again on the basketball court.

"Februaryish I was hitting my groove and feeling like myself," Mingo said. "All my doctor appointments had been finished," Mingo said. "I thought I was back to myself by early February.

"It is definitely a life-changing experience waking up with no sound but gradually my hearing has gotten better which they did not think would happen so it is awesome for me. Really, considering how sick I was, I am really happy just to be living. Yes, my life has to change but I have amazing support here and everybody here has helped me every step of the way."

Obviously the support has come from her family in her hometown of Atlanta as well as her aunts and cousins who live in New Haven as well as from the Purdue community but she has received letters and encouragement from all across the country.

"I was really shocked and kept her and her family in my prayers when I found out she was so sick," said UConn's Maya Moore, who played her high school ball in Georgia at the same time as Mingo. "I’m amazed at how well she has bounced back and has played a big part on her team’s success. It’s just a great success story and I am really excited for her."

Mingo feels blessed to be on the receiving end of well wishing from Moore and so many others.

"It's been amazing," Mingo said. "Before I ever got out of the hospital I had notes and cards, get well letter and flowers. People I don't now continue to come up to me to this day and tell me they are praying for me and pulling for me. People across the country I have known all my life have (given her) unbelievable support but definitely the Purdue family here has been absolutely special willing me back to playing and back to being myself."

The Purdue/Kansas State game will begin about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 12:05 p.m. game between UConn and Hartford on Sunday.


Purdue's Howard remembers Maya Moore well

Antionette Howard didn't have to search too far back in her memory banks when the name Maya Moore is mentioned.

Twice Howard led her South Gwinnett team to Georgia's AAAAA championship game only to run into a Collins Hill squad powered by UConn's all-time leading scorer.

South Gwinnett lost to Collins Hill 65-55 in 2006 and 61-37 in 2007 in Georgia AAAAA final. Howard, who is Purdue's fourth-leading scorer with an average of 7.1 points per game, also played a year of AAU with Moore.

"We competed every day in practice together so I got the first hand (look) before anybody else in the country," Howard said. "She is an amazing player. Even back then you knew she was going to be one of the best players in the country. She never settled for anything less than that. Maya, she is a great player and she always demanded the most out of everyone on her team when we were playing AAU ball together."

Obviously Howard and Purdue are completely focused on the Kansas State team it will play in the first round on Sunday but if both UConn and Purdue win, a second round game figures to be well received back in Georgia

"Anytime you can see people from back home competing and playing against each other, I think that is exciting for the community," Howard said. "First, we have to take care of Kansas state. But if we both get to that second game, I think it would be exciting for a lot of people back in Atlanta."

Speaking of Moore, President Obama has vivid recollections of the pickup game Moore took part in on his birthday.

For my birthday I had a little all-star game here, and we had Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and just a whole slew of all-stars.

“Maya, because I’d gotten to know her when she came here, was on the court. She lit the guys up, and was playing hard and they were playing hard. She picked Dwyane Wade - sorry, Dwyane, but I've got to report on this - I mean, she picked him clean on one play. So she can hang with the best players in the world and she’s a winner.”

President Obama picked UConn to win the national title in large part because of Moore.

"I've still got to go to Connecticut. I just think that when you’ve got the top player in the game in a close matchup and somebody who’s a veteran, who’s won the tournament before, they’re not going to get as nervous. They’re going to make the plays down the stretch.

"I think that Maya is going to be hitting her jumper, she’s going to be making rebounds, she’s going to be making plays -- I think Connecticut wins it again."


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Brianna Banks named Miss Georgia Basketball

UConn incoming freshman Brianna Banks was named Miss Basketball in the state of Georgia.

Banks, a 5-9 senior guard at Fayette County in Fayetteville, Ga., averaged 16 points, 5.5 rebonds, 6.1 assists and 5.2 steals per game in leading Fayette County to the Georgia AAAA title.


Mosqueda-Lewis is Gatorade Player of the Year

UConn incoming freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has been named the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year.

Mosqueda-Lewis, a 5-foot-11 guard/forward, is averaging 21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.6 assists per game with 108 3-pointers for Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. heading into Friday's CIF Division I semifinal against Canyon Springs. She also has a 3.4 grade point average and is active in charity and public service work including time volunteering with Down Syndrome Association of Orange County, the Blind Children's Learning Center and the Urban Compass Christmas Outreach program.

She joins Tamika Williams, Ann Strother, Tina Charles and Maya Moore as UConn commits who have won the award and is now a candidate for the Gatorade Athlete of the Year award.

Mosqueda-Lewis was previously named the WBCA and Naismith national player of the year.


Olympics are in Leedham's future

Former Cheshire Academy star and Connecticut Sun draft pick Johannah Leedham got the news she and the rest of the Great Britain national team was hoping for when the Internation Olympic Committee announced that Great Britain would be granted a spot in the 2012 Olympic field.

Great Britain had to petition the organization for a spot in the draw as a host nation and after careful consideration, they were awarded an Olympic berth.

Leedham is a member of national team and it was announced that her squad would face the WNBA's Atlanta Dream in an exhibition game on May 29 at the Manchester Evening News Arena.

"I think it is a fantastic opportunity for the GB team and obviously is a great moment for the WNBA to come over and play in Europe," Leedham said in a release sent out by the WNBA. "I think it is great for women's basketball especially in the UK, and by having such a quality team in the Atlanta Dream as opponents, I feel it can only inspire many more young players in Britain. It will be a huge test for our team, but will help in our preparations and will be an exciting moment for Great Britain and for the WNBA alike.”


Auriemma a Naismith Coach of the Year finalist

UConn's Geno Auriemma joins Tennessee's Pat Summitt, Baylor's Kim Mulkey and Tara VanDerveer (who happen to be the coaches of the No. 1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA tournament) as a finalist for the Naismith Award.

“There is obviously a correlation between the success of these coaches and the fact that their programs each earned a No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament,” said Atlanta Tipoff Club executive director Eric Oberman in a release. "Each has done a remarkable job of coaching this season, which is reflective of their entire careers. Each is very deserving of this prestigious award and we’re excited to crown a winner after the season."

Auriemma ia a six-time winner of the award, being honored in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2009.

The winner will be announced next month.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Morgan Wootten Award winner is

Duke signee Elizabeth William who beat out three other finalists including UConn incoming freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, winner of the WBCA and Naismith national player of the year awards.

Here's the link to the release


Maya Moore up for Premier Player Award

UConn senior forward Maya Moore is one of the five finalists for the Premier Player Award in women's basketball. The winner will be determined by fan balloting with Moore vying with Duke's Jasmine Thomas, Chastity Reed of Arkansas-Little Rock, Iowa's Kachine Alexander and Elena Delle Donne of Delaware. Voting is open until April 4 and there is one vote allowed per IP address.

Fans can also vote for Maya for the Senior CLASS Award although the winner is not chosen solely on a basis on fan balloting. She currently trails Tennessee's Angie Bjorklund and Army's Erin Anthony in the voting. You can vote once a day and select up to three candidates each time you cast a ballot.


Yale will host BC tomorrow night

Although UConn and Hartford are the only Connecticut teams in the NCAA women's basketball tournament, the Nutmeg State has other teams and played partaking in March Madness.

Thursday at 7 p.m. the Yale women's basketball team will host Boston College in the Bulldogs' first postseason game since 1979.

On Friday, former Guilford High star Jaci Daigneault will lead her Amherst College team into the Division III national semifinals. Amherst, in the Final Four for the third straight year, will face Christopher Newport College at 6 p.m.

Daigneault averaged 16.3 points and 7 rebounds in the regionals including 24 points in the regional final game against Babson on Saturday.

Staying on the subject of greater New Haven players in postseason play, former Career star Ilicia Mathis is a key member of the Hartford team which will play at UConn in Sunday's first-round game, former Lauralton Hall star Keylantra Langley and St. John's will face Texas Tech in the first round of the Stanford subregional on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. while former Law star Casey Dulin and Marist will play Iowa State Saturday at 11:15 a.m. in the first game of the Durham subregional. If St. John's and Marist win on Saturday, all that likely awaits them would be second round games on Monday not only against Stanford and Duke but the games will be on the home courts of the national powers.

While it is not a women's event, but I am very impressed by the quality of the field for 2011 Basketball Hall of Fame’s Tip-Off Tournament being held at Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 19-20 with Kentucky, South Florida, Marist, Penn State, Long Island, Old Dominion, Vermont and Radford.

The game schedule at Mohegan Sun opens with four games on November 19 separated into two sessions. In first round action of Bracket 1, Long Island takes on Radford and Vermont plays Marist. First round action of Bracket 2 has Old Dominion
playing South Florida and Kentucky facing Penn State. Games conclude on November 20 with consolation and championship games in Bracket 1 and Bracket 2. Game times and sessions for both rounds will be announced at a later date.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More air time for Maya Moore

UConn senior forward Maya Moore will appear on WTIC-1080 with Bob Joyce, the radio voice of UConn women's basketball, from 6:10-7 p.m. UConn's all-time leading scorer will answer questions from both Joyce and callers. The phone number to call and ask questions is (860) 522-9842.

UConn will open play in the NCAA tournament on Sunday at 12:05 p.m., facing Hartford at Gampel Pavilion. That will be followed by the Purdue/Kansas State game. Tickets are available through ticketmaster.

Moore and teammate Tiffany Hayes were among 52 players named as candidates for the State Farm Coaches' All-American Team. The list will be cut to 40 before the final 10 are named to the premier All-American squad in women's college basketball.


Memorable trip home for UConn's Dolson

With a few days off after playing a starring role in UConn's run to the Big East tournament title, freshman center Stefanie Dolson returned to her roots.

Dolson made her way to Minisink Valley High School, the place where she set the school's all-time scoring record and took the steps which ultimately led her to land a scholarship to UConn.

When Dolson walked into the school to visit friends and former teachers, the reception she received warmed her soul.

"They are all excited to see me, they are all really proud of me," Dolson said.
"They said 'congratulations, you played great. I know so many of them watch (the games) so it is cool that they support me."


Monday, March 14, 2011

Rizzotti coming back to Gampel

Jen Rizzotti is no stranger to playing UConn as the head coach of the Hartford women's basketball program. However, Sunday at noon will mark the first time she matches wits with her college coach Geno Auriemma inside Gampel Pavilion.

Even though Rizzotti's No. 21 is hanging in the Huskies of Honor, Auriemma doesn't anticipate one of his all-time favorite players being too overcome with emotion during the NCAA first-round tournament game.

"I think when Jen comes back there will be a lot of moments when she will get emotional," Auriemma said. "Connecticut basketball started with Jen and Rebecca (Lobo), with Jen and Jamelle (Elliott). That is where it started."

This will be the sixth time Rizzotti has led Hartford into the NCAA tournament but it has been a bit of a rugged road. The Hawks opened the season 1-9 and ended the regular season with a losing record before catching fire at the perfect time. Hartford upset top-seeded Maryland-Baltimore County in the America East semifinals before winning at second-seeded Boston University to claim an automatic spot into the NCAA tournament.

"She told me at the beginning of the year that she really liked these kids, she really thought they were going to be good," Auriemma said. "She enjoyed coaching them and then when it started the way it did, I think she was a little surprised. I know for sure, she didn't expect that."

The waiting has been the toughest part for Heather Buck, who has missed the last five games with a stress reaction in her left ankle. But the sophomore forward/center believes she could be back at practice on Tuesday. It will be her first practice since late February.

"As far as I know I am going tomorrow," Buck said. "Hopefully I can really come back and get things right from the start, be ready whenever Coach (Auriemma) calls on me."

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Familiar faces in UConn's regional

Geno Auriemma will face one of his all-time greats at UConn when Jen Rizzotti takes her Hartford squad against her old team in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday at Gampel Pavilion.

He could square off against one of his best friends in the coaching business if both UConn and third-seeded DePaul makes it to the regional final in Philadelphia.

Duke is the No. 2 seed, Maryland is seeded fourth while the winner of the No. 1 UConn/No. 16 Hartford game will meet the winner of the Purdue/Kansas State game in Tuesday's second round.

NCAA practices on Saturday are NOT open to public

The NCAA has changed its policy and it will not be well received in Connecticut as the practices the day before the first round game will not be open to the public.

No word on what led to this change but it seems a bit counterproductive since they are trying to generate interest in the sport and keeping fans away doesn't seem like the way to go.

Moore on Wooden ballot

Maya Moore, the 2009 Wooden Award winner, was one of 20 players to make it to the next round of the balloting for this year's award.

Danielle Adams 6-1 Sr. F/C Texas A&M
Skylar Diggins 5-9 So. G Notre Dame
Victoria Dunlap 6-1 Sr. F Kentucky
Dawn Evans 5-7 Sr. G James Madison
Brittney Griner 6-8 So. C Baylor
Amber Harris 6-5 Sr. F Xavier
Amy Jaeschke 6-5 Sr. C Northwestern
Shenise Johnson 5-10 Jr. F Miami
Kalisha Keane 6-1 Sr. F Michigan State
Jantel Lavender 6-4 Sr. C Ohio State
Maya Moore 6-0 Sr. F Connecticut
Nnemkadi Ogwumike 6-2 Jr. F Stanford
Kayla Pedersen 6-4 Jr. F Stanford
Ta’Shia Phillips 6-6 Jr. C Xavier
Jeanette Pohlen 6-0 Sr. G Stanford
Danielle Robinson 5-9 Sr. G Oklahoma
Sugar Rodgers 5-5 So. G Georgetown
Shekinna Stricklen 6-2 Jr. G/F Tennessee
Jasmine Thomas 5-9 Sr. G Duke
Courtney Vandersloot 5-8 Sr. G Gonzaga

My take at predicting the brackets

It is time for my annual exercise in futility as I delve into the world of bracketology.

First, the disclaimer I throw out there every year. There is so much more to this than breaking down who beat who. Obviously the body of work is of paramount importance but the field is not seeding on a true 1-64 fashion. Geographic considerations will make for at least one of the regionals being a bit top heavy. It could also lead to top teams in the power conferences being put in the same regional, something I hope the committee avoids. I'd like to see UConn and Notre Dame in different regions, the same the Baylor and Texas A&M as well as Stanford and UCLA. There is also the predetermined sites for the first and second rounds throwing a fly into the ointment. If a school is a host site and make the tournament, it has to be host the first and second rounds. Year after year the NCAA awards too many subregionals to the West and 2011 is no different. In my bracket, Salt Lake City, Spokane and Albuquerque are host sites for the first two rounds meaning some Eastern teams have a long road trip in their future. There is also the attempt to avoid teams from the same conference playing before the regional final.

Before getting to the bracket, let me discuss the top and bottom portions of the field of 64.

UConn should be an obvious pick for the No. 1 overall seed. The Huskies not only have the top RPI but also have the best record at the top 10 and top 25 (with an absurd 16 games against the cream of the crop). That leaves Baylor, Tennessee, Stanford and Duke vying for the other three No. 1 seed. If you crunch the numbers, Stanford could be the team on the outside as the Cardinal rank below the other candidates in RPI, strength of schedule and number of teams played with RPIs outside the top 50. However, I think Duke will be the one to draw a No. 2 seed.

The race for the final No. 2 seed is just as competitive. I went with Xavier, Notre Dame and Texas A&M joining Duke as No. 2 seeds. UCLA certainly could make a case, especially with a win at Notre Dame early in the season. However, that is UCLA's only win against a team with a top 25 RPI. Taking it one step further, UCLA only played nine teams in the top 50 matching it with Xavier for the lowest number among the teams in contention for No. 1 or 2 seeds. Xavier, which just the 55th best strength of schedule and an 0-2 record against teams in the top 25 of Jerry Palm's RPI could be in danger of being a No. 3 seed.

Now for the other half of things. If you look at RPIs, there are plenty of candidates to draw UConn in the first round including Stetson, Gardner-Webb and Navy. However, a 17-15 Hartford team seems like the obvious choice. Normally the Hawks, coached by former UConn star Jen Rizzotti, tend to be much higher seeds than a No. 16 but this year has been a bit of a struggle for Hartford to claim the America East's automatic bid.

Now for the bracket
at Storrs

1. UConn vs. 16 Hartford
8. James Madison vs. 9. Marist
at Auburn
4. Kentucky vs. 13. Central Florida
5. Oklahoma vs. 12. Purdue
at Wichita
3. Miami vs. 14. McNeese State
6. Iowa vs. 11. Northern Iowa
at Cincinnati
2. Xavier vs. 15. Navy
7. Iowa State vs. 10. Princeton

at Waco, Tex.

1. Baylor vs. 16. Prairie View
8. Houston vs. 9. Dayton
at Salt Lake City
4. Michigan State vs. 13. Hampton
5. North Carolina vs. 12. Syracuse
at Charlottesville, Va.
3. DePaul vs. 14. Cal-Davis
6. Georgia Tech vs. 11. Vanderbilt
Shreveport, La.
2. Texas A&M vs. 15. South Dakota State
7. West Virginia vs. 10. Kansas State

at Stanford

1. Stanford vs. 16. Montana
8. Texas vs. 9. Bowling Green
at Alburquerque, N.M.
4. Georgetown vs. 13. Arkansas-Little Rock
5. Florida State vs. 12. Fresno State
at Penn State
3. UCLA vs. 14. St. Francis (Pa.)
6. Penn State vs. 11. Gonzaga
at Spokane, Wash.
2. Notre Dame vs. 15. Utah
7. Wisconsin-Green Bay vs. 10. Louisville

at Knoxville, Tenn.

1. Tennessee vs. 16. Stetson
8. St. John's vs. No. 9 Temple
at College Park, Md.
4. Maryland vs. 13. Tenn.-Martin
5. Rutgers vs. 12. Georgia
at Columbus, Ohio
3. Ohio State vs. 14. Samford
6. Texas Tech vs. 11. Duquesne
at Durham, N.C.
2. Duke vs. 15. Gardner-Webb
7. Marquette vs. 10. Arizona State

As you may have noticed, I did not place Duke in UConn's region as many others have. There are two reasons. First, there's no way that the No. 1 overall seed should get the top No. 2 seed. Secondly, there is only about 80 miles different from Duke's campus to Philadelphia and Dayton so why not put the fourth No. 1 seed (Tennessee) against the top No. 2.

Take what I wrote above with a grain a salt because when the pairings are announced on ESPN between 7-8, I'm fairly confident they will bear little resemblance to the bracket I put together.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Anxious times for "bubble" teams

For a team like UConn, the scores flashing across the bottom of the screen have little relevance. But for those squads not sure whether the NCAA tournament selection committee will include them in the field of 64, this is one restless weekend.

The Duquesnes, Kansas States, Syracuses, Purdues and Michigans of the world likely felt the urge to shed a few tears when Houston was upset in the Conference USA Tournament since Houston will now require an at-large bid.

James Madison in the Colonial, Wisconsin-Green Bay in the Horizon, Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley and Louisiana Tech of the WAC are all teams with resumes strong enough to land in the NCAA tournament if they fail to win their respective conference tournaments. But each Cinderella emerging from a mid-major conference could lead to a bubble team from a major conference being left out of the field.

At some point (probably on Monday) I will take a stab at predicting the field of 64 and place them in the regions as well as highlight teams in contention to draw UConn in the first round of the tournament.

Here is a statement from UConn coach Geno Auriemma on the retirement of Virginia coach Debbie Ryan.

"I was as shocked as anyone when I heard the news. Debbie has been one of the most influential people in my life. Without the opportunity that she gave me and the support I received at the University of Virginia, my life would be totally different than it is today. She will be missed by all her players, present and former, but most importantly, the game will miss her."

Auriemma served as an assistant coach on Ryan's Virginia staff before taking the job at UConn in 1985.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mosqueda-Lewis, Stokes are Gatorade state players of the year

UConn signees Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes were named Gatorade's state players of the year in California and Iowa respectively on Thursday.

Mosqueda-Lewis, a 5-foot-11 wing at Mater Dei HS in Santa Ana, Calif., is averaging 22 points, 6 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.6 assists per game and has 106 3-pointers.

Stokes, a 6-foot-3 center at Linn-Mar High in Marion, Iowa, averaged 25 points, 14.9 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game while shooting 72.1 percent from the floor to win the award for the second year in a row.

The Huskies' third incoming freshman, Brianna Banks, lost out on the Georgia award to UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields, a sophomore at Norcross High School.

UConn commit Breanna Stewart, a junior at Cicero-North Syracuse HS, was named the New York winner. Stewart is 24.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 5.4 blocks, 3.6 assists and 3 steals per game. The South Carolina recipient is UConn recruiting target Xylina McDaniel, who averaged 18.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.9 steals, 1.9 assists and 1.7 blocks per game as a junior leading Spring Valley to an undefeated season and South Carolina 4A title.

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Banks, Fayette County advance to state final

UConn signee Brianna Banks had seven of her 11 points in the third quarter as Fayette County HS of Fayetteville, Ga. defeated Chattahoochee 52-39 in the semifinals of Georgia's Class AAAA semifinal on Wednesday.

The win moves Fayette County into Friday's championship game against Forest Park.

Banks, a 5-foot-9 guard, came into the game averaging 16 points (while shooting 59 percent from the floor and 46 percent from 3-point range), 5.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 5.2 steals per game.

The game, which starts at 3 p.m., will be streamed live at and

The semifinal was also streamed live and can be viewed on ghsa tv

Highly-touted sophomore Diamond DeShields, who is on UConn's recruiting radar, will be playing for Norcross in Thursday's 4 p.m. AAAAA semifinal against Campbell and that game will also be available at the sites I mentioned above as will the AAAAA final, which is on Friday at 7 p.m.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Mosqueda-Lewis hits 9 3's in playoff game

UConn signee Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the Naismith and WBCA High School Player of the Year, had a school record nine 3-pointers en route to 29 points as Mater Dei defeated Fairfax in the first round of the CIF Division I Southern California regional tournament.

The win set up a rematch against Santa Monica in Thursday's second round. Mater Dei beat Santa Monica in the regular season and again in the CIF Southern Section IAA tournament.

Former UConn stars Sue Bird and Tina Charles helped the Rest of the World squad beat Europe 116-88 in the EuroLeague Women's All-Star Game on Tuesday.

Charles had 11 points, nine coming on three (yes I wrote three) 3-pointers. She also had four rebounds and two steals. Bird ended up with six points and eight assists.

Sylvia Fowles and Angel McCoughtry led the Rest of the World squad with 16 points with Fowles earned game MVP honors.

Sandrine Gruda of the Connecticut Sun was one of three players with 14 points for Europe. Gruda also had seven rebounds. Alba Torrens, whose rights are owned by the Sun, finished with 10 points.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

UConn/Notre Dame battle to the end

When I left the XL Center Monday night, I said that the DePaul/Notre Dame was the best game in the Big East tournament. Perhaps I should have added the words "up until that point."

The last couple of Big East finals have been duds as UConn defeated Louisville and West Virginia by an average of 33 1/2 points per game. Even during UConn's 65-59 win over Louisville in the 2008 final, there was never the sense that the Huskies were in danger of losing.

The same could not be said on Tuesday night. Even when Maya Moore scored six early points in the second half, all it did was put UConn up by three. When freshmen Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley combined for eight points in an 11-0 run to extend the lead to 12, Notre Dame was not discouraged.

Despite hyperextending her left knee, Natalie Novosel scored seven straight puts to bring the Fighting Irish back within three. That was when Moore and Dolson went back to work. Moore's basket made it a five-point lead and then came perhaps the play of the game. Moore missed a rushed shot and Dolson somehow corraled the rebound between a pair of ND players and scored. She scored the next four points and UConn fans could finally exhale as the Huskies went onto a 73-64 win and a record 17th Big East title.

"We needed every person to contribute tonight," Moore said. "I thought we did a really good job, especially in the second half of hitting big shots, running out offense and executing. It took all of us so I am really proud of the way everybody stepped up.

"It's been the most difficult year but we have shown some resilience. Overcoming some odds and being mentally tougher than people probably thought we would be, finding a way to win."

Moore finished with 22 points and her six early points were huge in allowing UConn to get settled in early in the second half. She moved into ninth on the NCAA's all-time scoring list. Down the stretch, it was Dolson who took over despite playing all 40 minutes for the first time in her UConn career.

"The thing where I have progressed the most is just my mentality, playing as hard as I can and not focusing on how tired I am," said Dolson, wh had 24 points in the game and a UConn freshman tournament record 60 in the three games. "There was one timeout when I was so exhausted but CD (UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey) talked to me and I had to fight through it because we don't have a lot of depth."

Had the all-tournament voted been cast with about two minutes to play, Dolson was almost certainly have been named the tournament's most outstanding performer. But with the votes being cast before the final media timeout, it was pretty much a toss up between Dolson and Moore for MOP honors. In that case, the veteran Moore would out over the upstart Dolson. Neither player seemed too concerned with how the voting turned out.

Now the team gets some time off the recover both mentally and physically after surviving three games in three days against three of the most physical teams in the Big East. UConn should be the No. 1 overall seed when the NCAA pairings are announced on Monday.

There are video interviews of Moore and Dolson posted on the Register's site.

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Some Big East tournament number crunching

A few numbers worth considering from tonight's Big East final.

Since UConn reached its first Big East championship game in 1989, the Huskies have played for the title every year but 1993 and 2004. If UConn wins, Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon would be the first players to win four straight titles since Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams accomplished the feat from 1999-2002.

If Moore is named the tournament's most outstanding player, she would join UConn's Kara Wolters and Shelly Pennefather of Villanova as the only two-time winners of the award. Wolters, currently the color commentator for UConn's games on the UConn Radio Network, won the award in 1995 and 1996.

Notre Dame is making its fifth appearance in the Big East final but it 0-4 losing to UConn in the 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2001 championship games. The 2001 final is the subject of the "Bird at the Buzzer" book written by Jeff Goldberg, a former UConn women's basketball beat writer for the Hartford Courant.

Maya Moore needs eight points to move into sole possession of 10th place on list of the NCAA Division I all-time scorers. LSU's Joyce Walker currently stands 10th with 2,706 points while Moore has 2,899 points. Penn State's Kelly Mazzante is next on the list with 2,719 points.

With 36 points in the first two games, Stefanie Dolson already stands fifth on Big East tournament scoring list for UConn freshmen. Diana Taurasi set the mark with 53 points in 2001, Svetlana Abrosimova had 49 points in 1998 while Wolters and Carla Berube had 46 and 38 points in the 1994 tourney.

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Mosqueda-Lewis is Naismith Player of the Year

UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has been named the Naismith High School Player of the Year.

According to Eric Oberman of the Atlanta Tipoff Club, the official release should be coming out in the next day or two.

Mosqueda-Lewis, who also won the WBCA national player of the year award, is averaging 21.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.8 steals in 30 games. She has 97 3-pointers on 41.5 percent shooting for Mater Dei High of Santa Ana, Calif.

Mosqueda-Lewis, a 6-foot wing, just led Mater Dei to the CIF Southern Section IAA title. The Monarchs opens play in the CIF Division I tournament tonight against Fairfax.

Mosqueda-Lewis joins former Huskies Tamika Williams, Ann Strother, Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore (one of two players to win the award twice) as winners of the award.

She will be receive the award at a luncheon in Atlanta on Mar. 21.


ND coach has high praise for Faris; Achonwa steps up

Considering that UConn sophomore Kelly Faris is an Indiana native, her talents are no surprise to the Notre Dame coaching staff. But assistant coach Carol Owens has a bit of a different insight into Faris' game than the rest of her fellow Fighting Irish coaches.

Owens coached Faris on the U.S. Under-18 team in 2008 and U-19 squad in 2009 so after Notre Dame rallied to beat DePaul in Monday's Big East semifinal, I spoke with Owens about Faris and to say that she was complimentary about Faris would be an understatement.

"She did a little bit of everything for us," Owens said. "I can see how valuable she is to the Connecticut team. I remember in my second year of coaching her during the trials and I felt like 'we have to have Kelly Faris on our team.' She is a special player defensively, offensively. I remember when we were in Bangkok starting that (U-19 World Championship) tournament out and she said 'what do I have to do better, not only here for USA Basketball but in my college career?' I said 'play to your strengths, you've got Maya Moore on your team and Maya Moore is pretty special.' She did. She plays to her strength. She doesn't go above and beyond, she just does what she has to do. If it is to guard the best offensive player on the team, then that is what her job is. Or it is to shoot 3's like she did (against Rutgers). She is a kid I am sure Coach Auriemma is happy to have. She does the little things. They have plenty of scorers but she comes up with the big rebounds, the defensive stop or a big 3. She does it all. I am happy for her."

On the U-18 and U-19 team, she was known more for doing all the little things and leaving the scoring to others. Owens believes Faris' unselfishness is a rather rare attribute.

"It is very rare because everybody wants to score," Owens said. "When you are on a team with stars, you are going to have to do other things that are going to help stick out and I think she does that very well."

Of course Faris did not look like a secondary scoring option against Rutgers in the first semifinal on Monday night, scoring 19 points as the Huskies defeated Rutgers 75-51. Obviously, UConn is a different team when Faris is aggressive taking and making shots from the perimeter.

"It is really tough because you have to play everybody straight up," Owens said. "I am see that she has really worked on her 3-point shot. I am sure she is in the gym quite a bit knowing her. Her dad's a coach and she has a good basketball mind. I am sure he has taught her a lot about the game and she has had some valuable experience before she got to college. "

Notre Dame freshman Natalie Achonwa said her most memorable experience playing for Canada in the FIBA World Championships came against the United States squad featuring UConn's Maya Moore and coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma.

Achonwa, the youngest member of the Canadian team, had two points and a rebound in 14 minutes in Canada's 87-46 loss to the eventual champions.

"The best memory was probably playing against Team USA even though we ended up losing," Achonwa said. "It was just the experience. I was playing against a whole team of WNBA players and one college player - Maya Moore. It was an amazing experience to play against just great players and learn from them. I got 15 minutes in that game but being on the bench, being able to watch, learn and taking everything back to my university program.

"I played in the World Championships against Skylar (Diggins) when I played for the U-19 team and just getting to know her was great. Last summer it was a great experience. I just loved it, being physical just like tonight (against DePaul) being physical, hammering people. Being able to play with older players and taking what you can from them is what I tried to focus on."

Achonwa played a key role in Notre Dame's win over DePaul, coming off the bench for eight points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. She also helped keep DePaul senior Felicia Chester scoreless.

If senior Becca Bruszewski is unable to play because of injured ribs, something that Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said was a distinct possibility after the game, Achonwa could find herself making her first collegiate start tonight. If that's the case, she could see plenty of fellow freshman post Stefanie Dolson of UConn.

"I never really like the 'well she is a freshman kind of deal,'" Achonwa said. "Growing up, I always tried to get away from the 'oh, she has potential. Oh, she is a freshman is the same thing.' I know Stefanie Dolson and I are both trying to break that frame and play as hard as we can for our team and our program and it is going to be a battle."

Achonwa, who had six points and five rebounds in 11 minutes in the second half as the Fighting Irish rallied from a six-point deficit to earn their first Big East championship appearance since 2001, has drawn rave reviews from the Notre Dame coaching staff for her rapid development and willingness to listen and work.

"We say her play for the Canadian team when we were there (for the U-19 tournament)," said Owens, who coaches the Notre Dame post players. "She is a kid who is very mature for her age. She comes in with a lot of poise. At times early in the season, freshmen can be up and down but she came up big for us tonight. She got some key rebounds when we needed some rebounds down the stretch. She had to guard Chester, who is a senior, and she had a big shot for us so I am really proud of her.

"The main thing I am impressed with is that she is so coachable. She wants to get better, she puts a lot of pressure on herself. That poise that comes out down the stretch inbounding the ball (in the final minute) when everybody is going everywhere and it is choatic, she is able to make that pass."

Dolson and Achonwa have already met twice and if the teams meet in the NCAA tournament, they could square off four times as freshmen setting the stage for what could be an intriguing individual rivalry inside the resurgence of the UConn/Notre Dame rivalry.

"They're two of the top freshmen post players in our league," Owens said. "There are always really good guards but it is good to see post players step up and make an impact on our league."

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Stokes named Iowa's Miss Basketball

UConn commit Kiah Stokes was named the winner of Miss Basketball in the state of Iowa.

Stokes, a 6-foot-3 senior forward/center from Linn-Mar High in Marion, averaged 25 points, 14.9 rebounds and 5.6 blocks as a senior. She finished her career with 1,704 points, 1,239 rebounds and an Iowa record 515 blocked shots.

Stokes is part of UConn's three-member incoming freshman class and a recruiting source said that UConn coach Geno Auriemma is planning to watch the other two signees (Brianna Banks and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis) play in state tournament games later this week.

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Offense clicking for Huskies

Those anticipating that Rutgers would be able to make life as difficult for UConn in the Big East semifinals as Georgetown did in the quarterfinals were in for a bit of a surprise.

After a bit of a slow start, UConn's crisp passing and perpetual motion on offense was too much for Rutgers to handle. The fact that the Huskies had 23 assists on 25 of their baskets should tell you everything you need to know about how the game played out.

"We were clicking, all the practice that we do and all the time we were working on our offense, it has been starting to click," UConn senior forward Maya Moore said. "It is so fun when we can play that way and to do it against a team that is usually good at getting the other team out of their offensive rhythm."

The effort was a lot more pleasing to UConn coach Geno Auriemma than Sunday's Georgetown game.

"When we are generating some movement and the ball is moving, that is kind of how we play," Auriemma said. "It is the way we have always played it. When it is Rutgers or anybody else, sometimes you have been a little more patient. We were patient when we needed to be. We were aggressive when we needed to be. We had a pretty good rhythm going and once we got into that nice tempo, we have unselfish players who are pretty good passers so you get nights like this."

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Mosqueda-Lewis, Banks, Stewart back at work

Fresh off an emotional win over Brea Olinda in the CIF Southern Section IAA tournament final, UConn signee Kaleena Mosqueda will lead Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif. against Fairfax on Tuesday in the CIF Division I tournament.

The irony is that Mater Dei defeated Santa Monica and then Brea Olinda to win the title and the Monarchs could see both teams again. If Mater Dei beats Fairfax and Santa Monica tops Carson in the first round, the teams would meet on Thursday.

On Wednesday, fellow UConn incoming freshman Brianna Banks hopes to lead her Fayette County of Fayetteville, Ga. squad one step closer to the state title when they play Chattahoochee in the Georgia AAAA semifinals. A win would advance Fayette County to Friday's state championship game. Forest Park and Douglas County will play in Thursday's other semifinal.

UConn commit Breanna Stewart, fresh off MVP honors in leading her Cicero-North Syracuse team to the New York Section III Class AA title, now will lead her squad against Shaker in the next step in New York's playoff system. That game is Saturday atLiverpool High School. If Cicero-North Syracuse wins, it will play on March 18 in the state semifinals at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Former UConn stars Sue Bird and Tina Charles will be playing in the EuroLeague All-Star Game on Tuesday. Bird and Charles are reserves on the "Rest of the World" team. Sandrine Gruda of the Connecticut Sun and former Sun draft pick Alba Torrens are starters for Europe's squad.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Breanna Stewart has near triple-double in sectional final

UConn commit Breanna Stewart had 16 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocked shots to lead her Cicero-North Syracuse to a 52-38 win over Proctor of Utica in the New York Section III Class AA championship game on Sunday in Utica.

The 6-foot-3 junior scored in double figures in every game this season and averaged 24.4 points per game.


Dolson dominates against Georgetown

Stefanie Dolson figured to be a tough matchup for undersized Georgetown and 24 points later, those predictions ended up being true.

Dolson had 10 points during a 24-8 first-half run and helped pick up the slack when Maya Moore scored a season-low six points in a hard-earned win over Georgetown in Sunday's Big East tournament quarterfinals.

Dolson was 8 of 12 from the field and 8 of 10 from the free throw line as she broke Diana Taurasi's UConn freshman scoring record in the Big East tournament. Taurasi had 22 points in the 2001 quarterfinals against Boston College.

"It was a tough game, they (Georgetown) came out really aggressive," Dolson said. "We just had to fight back which I think we did. We played really well in the first half. In the second, we didn't have the best half of our lives but it feels good to know I can play like this at the level of this kind of game.

"A game like this teaches you how to be 10 times more aggressive than I was before. In a game like this, when they came out pressuring you the whole 40 minutes I think I played as tough as I could. A game like this going into the (NCAA) tournament is a great experience because I will know how to be aggressive."

The victory was UConn's 30th of the season, marking the sixth straight season the Huskies won at least 30 games. It was the 11th time in the last 12 seasons and 16th time overall the the Huskies won 30 games.

"I think the standard is winning the national championship," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "If we don't win the national championship, I don't think anybody's going to have a parade and say 'we won 30 games so it was a great year.' I don't think we put the emphasis any more on how many games we win, we just want to make sure we keep our focus on the biggest prize. Right now it is the Big East tournament. After that it is the NCAA tournament. I'd settle for 20 wins if we could be in the Final Four all of those years. It is not easy to win 30 games and the fact that we've done it so many times in the last 20 years, I think one of the things I am most happy about with our program is we look the same and act the same, having the same results every year. Not a lot of programs can say that."

Rutgers, which is the last Big East team to beat UConn and last to top the Huskies in the Big East tournament accomplishing the first feat in 2008 and stunning UConn in the 2007 Big East final. That was also the last time the Huskies lost a game on one of its home courts.

Coming off a game against a physical Georgetown team, an equally fiesty Rutgers squad could pose a challenge.

"This is a physical league," Auriemma said. "Teams in our league, especially the top six or seven, are very physical. There is no getting away from it. It is the bracket we are in, we are going to have to get out there tomorrow and be smart about it. We are going to have to handle their size. I thought we did a pretty good job down at their place once we got into a rhythm and we'll have manage it better. Certainly we will have to play better in the second half."

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Tuck leads Bolingbrook to title

UConn commit Morgan Tuck had an Illinois 4A championship game record 36 points as well as seven rebounds as Bolingbrook won it's third straight title with a 71-42 win over Zion-Benton.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Langley delivers for St. John's

As the minutes passed, nobody could have blamed Keylantra Langley if she thought her night's work was done when the St. John's freshman checked out of Saturday's Big East tournament second-round game with 8:47 to play.

With six players having previous Big East tournament experience and the Red Storm in a nailbiter with West Virginia, it seemed likely that the former Lauralton Hall star would be relegated to the role of reluctant spectator the rest of the way.

However, with the game stopped because of the final television timeout with 1:56 to play, St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico not only summoned Langley off the bench but called a play for her.

Just 20 seconds later Langley took a pass at the top of the key and drove to the basket to push the Red Storm's two-point lead to four points en route to a 59-51 victory to end a four-game tournament losing streak for the Red Storm.

"Coach (Barnes Arico)set up a play and she told me to take it," Langley said. "Basically, I had nothing to worry about because the coaches were confident in me going to the basket."

Langley's freshman season started off with her playing at least 10 minutes in six of the first 10 games of the season. However, the last time she hit the double-digit mark in minutes was a Jan. 12 loss to UConn.

She did not play in four games and saw limited minutes until she played 10 minutes against Pittsburgh and although she didn't score, she did have a career-high four assists. In St. John's final game of the regular season Langley played 15 minutes and had a career-high six points.

"I went into the Pitt game and gave them good minutes so I think the coach felt I was contributing to the game, " Langley said. "From there, my minutes just went up.

"At the beginning I wasn't as comfortable. As the season has gone on, I have gotten more comfortable."

The time has allowed her teammates to develop more confidence in her as well.

"She is playing behind a really good point guard in Nadirah (McKenith) but I think towards the end, she knows her role more," St. John's junior forward Da'Shena Stevens said. "I am glad she came out tonight and had the impact she did. It means a lot to me, means a lot to the team just seeing her be as successful as she can be."

Barnes Arico never hestitated in putting the ball in Langley's hands even if she came into the game averaging just 1.1 points per game.

"She is coming in off the bench and in a timeout, I call a play for her," Barnes Arico said. "She sat on the bench for the last 20 minutes and I said 'Key, we are running this for you.' She did it and it was just tremendous for her.

"She has done a tremendous job. I think it was a challenge for her probably most of the year because she had been used to playing every minute of every game. I tried to talk about her about hanging in there because she is very talented kid and she has been playing extremely well but once you get into the Big East, it is a big jump and a drastic change. I thought the last couple of weeks, she has really been practicing well, really been playing well. She gives us something we don't have out there and the last three or four games has given us great minutes. She made the play of the game today, that was a big play."

Time will tell but it could be the win that secures St. John's a spot in the NCAA tournament.

"We are on the bubble and hopefully it gets us off it," Langley said. "This is the Big East tournament and we want to win it."

Georgetown living "in the moment"

Considering that Georgetown had not won a game in the Big East tournament since 2001, it's easy to give Hoyas' coach Terri Williams-Flournoy for not being in a hurry to look ahead to Sunday's quarterfinal showdown against top-seeded, top-ranked and three-time defending champion UConn.

"We're staying in the moment," Williams-Flournoy said after Georgetown's 61-60 win over Syracuse, the Hoyas' first win in the Big East tournament since beating Syracuse in the first round in 2001.

The win set up a rematch against UConn as the teams met a week ago with Georgetown holding the Huskies to a season low 52 points but managing just 42 points themselves. For the first time all season, the Huskies had more turnovers (26) than baskets (14).

Williams-Flournoy is expecting a different UConn team

"We have to be ready for it," Williams-Flournoy said. "They are not going to turn the ball over as many times as they did and they aren't going to miss as many shots. I just hope that we make more shots than we did last time."

Just a few numbers worth chewing on comparing the two programs.

UConn's Maya Moore came into the Big East tournament with 134 career points in the event. Georgetown's active players have 128 points including 61 today.

UConn is bidding to make its 23rd straight appearance in the semifinals while Georgetown has made it to the semifinal four times in program history, the most recently coming in 1999.