Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mixed bag for the freshmen

As UConn approaches the halfway point of the season, it's an interesting time for the freshmen.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has already become an invaluable part of UConn's rotation and Thursday night was no different as she had 12 points, her seventh straight double-digit scoring game. However, it has been a tougher road for her classmates.

Brianna Banks did not play in a loss to Baylor and has played less than 10 minutes in three other games. Stokes was in for just one minute against Baylor. That was one more minute than she played against Fairfield.

A day after UConn coach Geno Auriemma said that he may have to just start playing Banks and Stokes even if their work rate in practice isn't up to the standards he is looking for, he did not put Stokes into the game.

Auriemma said he is still hoping to get valuable contributions from Stokes this season.

"I am sure we will get something out of her, we are just not sure what that is yet," Auriemma said. "She has too much ability and is too nice a kid, too conscientious for us not to get anything out her so we will get something out of her. Right now we are trying to impress upon her that what we are getting out of her is not what I want or what the team needs and she has to make some changes. When she does that, I think she is going to be fine."

Banks had one of her best efforts of the season with 12 points (on 5 of 5 shooting), two rebounds and two steals in 17 minutes.

"Somebody must have spiked her egg nog," Auriemma said. "She actually had the ball on top, yelled at Michala (Johnson) to come to the high post, threw it to her, cut and got a layup. Three weeks ago she couldn't spell high post and would not have called out Michala's name and just grunted so for her to do all of that, it is progress. It means she is starting to get what we are trying to do and that is a great sign. She has the ability, we generally don't recruit kids that don';t have the ability to play here at Connecticut, it is other things that get in the way. It is taking a little bit of time and hopefully she can build on today."

Tiffany Hayes' game-high 23 points moved past Tamika Williams and Chris Gedney and into a tie with Peggy Walsh for 19th on UConn's career scoring list. Hayes now has 1,413 points and next up is Kalana Greene,, who finished with 1,444 career points.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Werth family has long relationship with UConn women

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma couldn't recall when he first became aware of the philanthropic Werth family from Woodbridge but he believes they have been loyal supporters of the Huskies for about the last 15 years.

Peter and Pam Werth, who also own a home in Phoenix, got to know former UConn star Diana Taurasi when she was a rookie with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury. On Thursday it was announced that they pledged $4.5 million to the building of a basketball practice facility on the land where Memorial Stadium now stands.

If all goes well, Auriemma has heard that the facility could open as early as in September of 2013.

"I think what Peter and Pam Werth did was just kind of jump start the process in a lot of ways because when people see that, they all want to jump on board and be a part of it," Auriemma said. "Peter and Pam have been involved with UConn women's basketball for a long time and they were at the World Championships last year in the Czech Republic. They are great people, two of the nicest people you will ever meet. Once that word got out that this is what they were going to do, I think all of a sudden everybody else who is in position to be able to do that starts contacting the school and see 'how do I get involved?'

"When something is a priority, it is going to get done. It was a priority to build the football practice facility and it got done. It was a priority to build Rentschler Field and it got done. If it is priority to build this thing, it will get done. We just need a couple more people like Pam and Peter to step up and they will. They are out there and it our job to go out (and find them). Having lunch with Peter and Pam for me was like the greatest thing in the world because you are telling people what you are going to do and you are not lying to them. When I first started in 1985 and I was telling people what I was going to do, I was lying. Now you look people right in the eye and say we are going to do this, we are going to do that and we just need your help to do that. People are just dying to help because they know you are telling the truth because they have seen it and have already felt it. I am thrilled to death, I can't wait."


Heather Buck happy to be back

When Heather Buck felt the pain in her right wrist after tumbling to the court in a loss to Baylor earlier in this month, the junior forward/center was understandably concerned that she could be sidelined for a bit.

The wrist injury did force her to sit out the College of Charleston game but she returned to practice on Dec. 26 and is ready to return tonight against Fairfield.

"I had a lot of time to rest it. It was kind of lucky the way Christmas landed so I have been trying out some different stuff and see what works, trying to get me back as quickly as possible," Buck said.

"It hasn't been as bad as if could have been so it is good."

After a series of tests it was announced that Buck has a bone bruise. She will continue to receive treatment but is not expected to miss additional time.

Former UConn All-American Svetlana Abrosimova has not back been inside Gampel Pavilion since her No. 25 jersey was unveiled as part of the inaugural Huskies of Honor class back in 2006. So with Abrosimova in attendance for a ceremony honoring the 2001-02 UConn squad (she was a graduate assistant on the national championship squad), UConn covered over her placard so it could be unveiled for her during a halftime ceremony.

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Woodbridge family makes a major donation

The Werth family from Woodbridge made a $4.5 donation to UConn which will to put towards building a basketball practice facility at UConn.

Here is the official release from UConn

STORRS, Conn. (Dec. 29, 2011) -- Peter J. and Pamela H. Werth of Woodbridge, Conn., have made a $4.5 million pledge toward the construction of a basketball practice facility on the University of Connecticut campus.  The commitment from the Werths is the largest single private gift ever to Athletics at the University. 
“The entire University of Connecticut community is grateful to the Werth family for the leadership role they are taking with this generous commitment towards the building of our new men’s and women’s basketball facility,” says UConn President Susan Herbst.  “This historic gift will help us maintain the excellence that has long been synonymous with our University and its outstanding athletic programs.”

Mr. Werth is the founder and CEO of Chemwerth Inc., a full service generic drug development and supply company based in Connecticut.  Established in 1982, Chemwerth provides high quality active pharmaceutical ingredients to regulated markets worldwide. Chemwerth has operations in China and India.  

“We are proud to make this commitment to UConn and its outstanding basketball programs,” says Peter and Pam Werth.  “UConn Basketball is part of the fabric of our state, and we know that this facility will help the men’s and women’s teams be successful for years to come.  We hope that other UConn fans, who derive the same joy from the Huskies as we do, will support this project so that construction can begin as soon as possible.”

The Werths are avid Husky fans and season ticket holders for men’s and women’s basketball, and football. They have been active UConn Athletics donors since 2003, supporting overall program enhancement in the Division of Athletics.  Their strong connection to the University  began with their children – Peter III, Debbie and Jackie – all of whom attended UConn.

“Peter and Pam have a great passion for UConn Athletics and our student-athletes,” says Interim Director of Athletics Paul Pendergast.  “This wonderful gift demonstrates their dedication to enhancing the academic and athletic experience of the young men and women who wear the Husky uniform.”

The UConn Basketball Development Center will be a 70,000 square foot facility to be located on the current Memorial Stadium site, adjacent to Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.  It will feature dedicated practice gyms for the two basketball programs, along with locker rooms, coaches’ offices and areas for academic support, video analysis, sports medicine and strength training.  The facility is being designed by Populous, the former HOK Sport, which designed The Burton Family Football Complex and Mark R. Shenkman Training Center.

With this pledge from the Werths, nearly half of the approximately $30 million project cost has now been committed, all through private sources.  
“On behalf of everyone associated with our women’s basketball program at UConn – past, present and future – we are grateful to Peter and Pam for their generosity,” says Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma. “The Werths know what it takes to be successful, and they know that this facility will allow our team to practice, train and study in a setting that promotes achievement.”

“It takes great players to win, and the Werths are great players,” says Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jim Calhoun.  “Through this commitment, they have shown their desire to be leaders and help young people have a very special college experience in Storrs.  The Werths are helping us take a very important step toward the building of this much-needed facility.”


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Abrupt end to practice

When I walked into the open portion of Wednesday's practice at Gampel Pavilion at 12:30 p.m., UConn women's basketball SID Pat McKenna told me he expected practice would run past its scheduled 1 p.m. ending. That's hardly unusual especially when the men's team isn't coming up next and needing the court.

I was in there enough to see about a minute's worth of drills. When reserve guard Lauren Engeln took the ball in the backcourt, raced up the court and sliced into the lane with limited resistance from the Blue team, consisting of the starters. Engeln delivered a pass to a cutting practice player for an uncontested layup. Michala Johnson, Engeln's teammate on the White or reserve team, clapped her hands and said 'way to go, White team." UConn coach Geno Auriemma had a different reaction as he blurted out 5-spot. The 5-spot is the drill that the Huskies end every practice with. When they team finishes and gathered around him, an irate Auriemma let them have it going as far as telling the team that they should raise their hands when they are tired of practicing just so he knows.

Auriemma asked that the players be interviewed first and when he came back to meet with the media, he had cooled off. He said that about 90 percent of the practice was productive but the last few minutes left a lot of be desired. He is attempting to get his squad to push through the mental and physical fatigue. It will be a theme of his this season as he asks his players to reach back for energy and a sense of focus that they probably don't think they possess.

"I think we go in spurts and we don't last the whole practice so I think that's our big thing," junior Kelly Faris said. "It is hard to get everybody on the same page, some people don't get it yet and some people don't have the right mentality. We don't do a good job of keeping everybody accountable."

Sophomore center Stefanie Dolson agreed with Faris.

"The reason he did it was we did really well for the first two hours of practice and that last hour we just kind of lost focus," Dolson said. "We weren't doing things correctly, we weren't going hard like we were for the first two hours. I definitely understand why he is getting upset like that. I think at this point he is getting so fed up with us doing that. I can't say this is the first time we have done it.

"It is halfway through the season and the way we responded to the Baylor loss is not the way we should at this point., Maybe if they were the second game of the season but they weren't, the fact that we are not on the same page we just have to come together. I think we are so young that we lose focus so easily. I know it bothers me. I think some people are bothered by things and some people aren't. You never want to end a practice like that. It is frustrating because I see what he sees too and it is me too. We were so high in the first two hours, our energy, our competitiveness and then we just lost it."

Auriemma downplayed what he saw from his squad on Wednesday when he met with the media. I think he was wise to have us interview the players first so he could get some time to settle down because he was one unhappy camper when he left the court.
"It is just we don't have enough bodies that can operate at a certain level," Auriemma said. "I don't want to go through what we went through last year when we were scrambling to constantly find seven, eight or nine people that can perform at a certain level. If we are not careful, it kind of takes it toll on players especially when there are no practice players. Some of our guys don't get a break. I am kind of excited that (next season) we will have 13 and that will make it so much better, so much easier. Today, we had a great 90 percent of practice was really good and the last 10 percent when we were trying to assimilate the last three miutes of the game and we have to get to that point."
In other news, Heather Buck was able to take part in practice. She will likely have to wear a hard cast or at least a splint wrapped with an ace bandage but she is expected to play tomorrow when UConn ends the 2011 portion of its schedule by playing Fairfield.

Speaking of Fairfield, Auriemma said he likes playing the in-state teams, as long as they want to step up to the challenge of playing the Huskies. He said he wouldn't mind playing a game at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport but he believed that the XL Center would have to be agreeable to it since they have the rights to all home games not played at Gampel. Rather than playing a regular-season game, Auriemma said he would like to have a preseason game there. It couldn't come against Fairfield or Sacred Heart since the only way UConn could play another Division I team in a preseason game would be if the game/scrimmage was closed to the public. Perhaps a Division II squad like Bridgeport, New Haven or Southern Connecticut State could be an option or a Division II team from New York.

In other scheduling news, ESPN is getting involved in having UConn and Baylor play next season. Both Baylor coach Kim Mulkey and Auriemma said earlier this month that it was quite possible that the teams would not meet in the regular season next year. But a source at UConn confirmed that ESPN is pushing for the teams to play a game in February in Hartford, something UConn is in favor of. Baylor would rather have the game played before the start of the Big 12 season but it doesn't look like they have that option.

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Heather Buck back at practice

UConn junior forward/center Heather Buck is listed as probable for tomorrow's game against Fairfield. Buck, who injured her right wrist in the Dec. 18 loss at Baylor, has practiced for the last three days (including today).

An update on the list of players from the 2001-02 squad returning for the Huskies of Honor ceremony, Jessica Moore will not be able to attend.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2001-02 national champs to be honored

The 2001-02 UConn squad, which posted a 39-0 record and won the Huskies' third national title, will be inducted into the Huskies of Honor during halftime of Thursday's game against Fairfield. While playing and coaching conflicts will keep many of the players from attending, Sue Bird, Ashley Battle, Maria Conlon (also a former assistant coach for Fairfield's Joe Frager), Stacey Marron and Ashley Valley are expected to be in attendance.

The '01-02 Huskies featured five WNBA first-round picks including Bird and Diana Taurasi, the No. 1 overall picks in 2002 and 2004, and five first-round picks. The top two and four of the top six picks in the 2002 WNBA draft were members of that squad which averaged 87 points per game and defeated Tennessee and Oklahoma in the Final Four to win its second national title in the last three season. .

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

UConn returns to the court

If there is one statistic which best describes the sustainability and dominance of the UConn women's basketball program it is that the Huskies have not lost consecutive games since 1993. In other words, the players the Connecticut coaches are currently recruiting were not even both the last time the Huskies had a losing streak.

With that in mind, we don't often get to write about UConn losing games or how the Huskies plan to rebound from a loss. I was given that opportunity and my advance for tonight's game against Charleston is focused on how the players and coaches compare last year's season at Stanford to the one on Sunday at Baylor.

Speaking of Charleston, they are pulling out all the stops for tonight's game. According to a story in today's Charleston Post and Courier, former Charleston stars Regina Brown Hall and Lisa Washington will have banners in their own raised to the rafters at TD Arena at halftime. Before the game Charleston's AIAW powerhouse teams in the early 1980s will be recognized as will Kalana Greene, the only player from South Carolina to suit up for the Huskies and other dignitaries with ties to South Carolina.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stewart, Tuck light it up at TOC

A day after squaring off against each other, UConn commits Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart found points a little easier to come by.

According to tweets from ESPN HoopGurlz, Tuck had  35 points as Bolingbrook rebounded from its first loss of the season by routing St. Mary's of Stockton, Calif. 60-39. Then Stewart, who had 15 points in Monday's 43-40 win over Bolingbrook, had 33 points as Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) topped Dr. Phillips out of Orlando, Fla. 48-28 to move the Northstars into the winners' bracket semifinals at the Nike Tournament of Champions. Next up is a game against St. Mary's of Phoenix on Wednesday at 4:30 in Arizona (7:30 p.m. in Connecticut).

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UConn/Baylor garners a 0.9 rating

Sunday's UConn/Baylor game, televised by ESPN, drew a rating of 0.9. In Hartford the number was 12.4, down from the 16.3 that the UConn/Stanford game had on Dec. 30 of last year.

UConn is currently in South Carolina preparing for tomorrow's game against the College of Charleston, which fell to 2-7 after a 71-52 loss at Appalachian State. Charleston was outrebounded 60-38 and committed 28 turnovers (against just seven assists) to fall to 2-7. In other words, the Huskies incredible streak of not having lost consecutive games, which dates back to the 1992-93, will continue.

Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck square off in Arizona

If you haven't already checked out ESPN's story on yesterday's showdown between UConn commits Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, I'd advise you to do it. There is a great photo of the two future teammates mixing it up taken by Chris Hansen which is worthy of taking a look at.

Stewart had 15 points to lead Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) to a 43-40 win over Tuck's Bolingbrook (Ill.) squad at the Nike Tournament of Champions at Hamilton (Ariz.) High,

In other news out of the tournament, UConn recruiting target Karlie Samuelson suffered an ankle injury in Edison (Calif.) High's 67-51 win over Centennial out of Las Vegas.

Another player being looked at by the Huskies in the Class of 2013 is Diamond DeShields. With UConn in South Carolina to play Charleston, Geno Auriemma headed over to the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational in Myrtle Beach (about a two hour ride from Charleston) to see DeShields' Norcross (Ga.) team beat St. James. DeShields had 24 points, half of them coming on four 3-pointers, in the 95-22 win.

Although it did not happen in the tournament, it is also worth noting that ESPN is reporting that Malayna Johnson, the sister of UConn forward Michala Johnson, has committed to Wisconsin.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Buck to miss Wednesday's game

UConn junior forward/center Heather Buck, coming off one of her most impactful
performances with the Huskies, will not play against the College of Charleston on Wednesday because of a right wrist injury she suffered in Sunday's loss to Baylor.

Buck will have her wrist examined by the UConn medical staff when the Huskies return to Connecticut after Wednesday's game. Her status for the Dec. 29 game against Fairfield will be determned by the test results and how quickly she is able to return to practice.

Buck didn't play against Stanford and saw jsust three minutes of action against Texas A&M but with starting center Stefanie Dolson in foul trouble and strugglng to slow down Baylor's Brittney Griner, Buck came into the game and in 12 minutes of action she helped to keep Griner scoreless.


Waco crowd gives Geno a warm reception

Without warning the packed house at the Ferrell Center began to clap and the welcoming reception continued on.

The first thought is that the Baylor team was emerging from the locker room or perhaps recently-crowned Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III was spotted by the Baylor faithful. No, the applause was a result of UConn coach Geno Auriemma making his way across the court and to his team's bench.

Auriemma said he was surprised and appreciative of the way he was greeted by the Baylor fans.

"People said that people down South are a lot nicer and they proved it," Auriemma said. "It really took me by surprise, the reception I got in the gym. I don't know if they do it for everybody when they think they are going to kick their butt.

It was a great game for people to be a part of and watch. I know we had the same environment last year and I am just thrilled to be a part of it."

Auriemma wasn't the only person curious how the UConn coach was going to be received the first time he stepped onto the court in front of the largest women's basketball crowd in Baylor's history.
"He's a legend and they appreciate what they've done for women's basketball," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I was kind of curious how they were going to react to Geno. I know they reacted to (Tennessee coach) Pat (Summitt) the way that they did and hopefully recognize that because that s nothing more than great appreciation for what they have done for the women's game."

On the bus ride to Sunday's game Auriemma heard the news that Jacki Gemelos, who initially committed to UConn before changing her mind and headed to Southern California, suffered yet another knee injury during a game against Texas A&M.

"I knew things were difficult for Shea (Ralph) and they've been difficult for Caroline (Doty) but wow to have that happen to a kid ... Just the fact that she has been able to come back as hard as she has, she is one tough cookie. She had a great summer playing with USA Basketball. I hope she is OK."



Huskies fail to deliver knock out blow

UConn coach Geno Auriemma thought that his team had about 35 minutes against top-ranked Baylor on Sunday night but as it turns out, one four-minute stretch did in the Huskies.

Connecticut was up by 11 and had silenced the largest women's basketball crowd in Baylor history. Then UConn went scoreless for a span of 4:06, missing six straight shots to allow the Lady Bears to pull within a point. Down the stretch the Baylor duo of Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims took over to lead Baylor to a 66-61 victory.

"If you come into a place like this, go on the road and play a really good team you have to be able to withstand a lot of things not going your way," Auriemma said. "I thought for the most part we did. I thought for 35 minutes there, we were good enough to win the game. But there was a five minute stretch and maybe less than that where I thought Baylor's aggressiveness and intensity level kind of took over. They made some plays offensively and we didn't make shots on the other end and kind of got out of (a rhythm). When you are on the road and allow that to happen, your chances of winning are obviously much less."

Other than a long stretch in the first half when she was flustered by UConn reserve Heather Buck, Griner played like the All-American and national player of the year candidate that she is. She had 25 points, nine rebounds and nine blocks. She was 7 of 7 from the free-throw line which was a far cry from her nightmarish effort shooting foul shots in last season's loss to UConn.

Auriemma said that he considered Sims to be the pivotal player for Baylor. Figuring that Griner would get hers, he was hoping the Huskies could limit Sims' impact. They did not. The sophomore had 23 points and four steals. She was 3 of 4 from 3-point range (making her 6 of 7 from downtown in two games against the Huskies) but it was her blazing speed which UConn couldn't deal with.

Bria Hartley starred for UConn, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 25 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 15 points. They were 8 of 16 on 3-pointers and the rest of the Huskies were 3 of 13.

"Maybe we are just not there yet to win this game on this night in this building against this team," Auriemma said.
After the game Auriemma said he believed Baylor and UConn would play in the future but it likely won't happen next season.

"I have to believe that we are going to be playing them again. I don't know if it is going to be next year because we have some commitments with some other teams. You hate to say this but there should maybe be 10 or 15 of these every year by us and by them. There should be 15 games like this where it comes down to the last two minutes of the game."

There was a funny scene outside the media room when Auriemma was being interviewed and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey walked over to shake his hand. She told him it would mean a lot to Griner if he were to congratulate her after she was done with the press conference. "She loves you," Mulkey said.

"Yeah, I love her too. Like a tooth canal."

UConn leaves for South Carolina tomorrow to play the College of Charleston on Wednesday. The game is part of a home and home as Charleston will play at UConn next season.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Settting the stage for UConn/Baylor

Both teams are out on the court as tip is about an hour away.

I wasn't at shootaround this afternoon but heard that the Huskies were pretty loose and in a good frame of mind.

I believe UConn is going to try to put just one person on Baylor's national player of the year candidate and try to limit the impact of the other players. It won't be easy. Sophomore guard Odyssey Sims can be electric, Brooklyn Pope is a dynamic offensive rebounder and forgetting about Kimetria Hayden, Jordan Madden and Destiny Williams would be a mistake.

"A lot of people focus on her and forget about the other players," UConn junior forward Kelly Faris said. "You have to do both, you have to cover it all. There is not one way. Can you let her get that and guard the rest of them or we'll focus on her and not guard the rest of them, I think we are going to do our best to cover everything."

On the other end, Baylor has to guard UConn as well. If Stefanie Dolson is able to play a full game, UConn will have scorers at every position which could put the Lady Bears in some tough spots.

Buck and Stokes believe they are ready

Starting center Stefanie Dolson played a season-high 31 minutes in victories over Stanford and Texas A&M. The UConn coaching staff will be content if Dolson can match that number tonight. Even if she does, that is nine minutes that somebody else will need to square off against Baylor's Brittney Griner. Perhaps UConn could go with its all guard lineup of Kelly Faris, Tiffany Hayes, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Caroline Doty and Bria Hartley but against an athletic front line like Baylor's that's a risky proposition. There figures to come a time when one of the Huskies' post reserves will get the assignment of defending Baylor's national player of the year candidate.

Heather Buck, who played well against Griner in one stretch when Dolson was sitting with foul trouble in the 2010 Connecticut victory, and freshman Kiah Stokes said they are looking forward to the challenge.

"It is another huge game for us," said Stokes, who played 14 minutes against Stanford but only four against Texas A&M. "So far we have played all right during the season but it is just another game, a challenge that we are all looking forward to. We are looking forward to this 1 vs. 2 matchup, it is something where you want to play in the big game.

"It will definitely be a challenge. I have never played against somebody her size and her talent. In practices, we are trying to be more aggressive defensively and offensively. The both of us and Stef, all the post players, we have been working hard and think we can get the job done."

Stokes thinks she has been making progress in practice.

"Each day is a new challenge but every day you have to try to compete," Stokes said. "We'll see how it goes. It is definitely a mental thing. The coaches and Amanda Kimball, our trainer, have told me I have all physical ability and once I get past that, I will be fine."

As for Buck, you could make the argument that her seven minutes in last year's game against Baylor was the most impactful playing time she has had with the Huskies. Buck didn't score a point (or even attempt a shot) and had only one minute but she was able to provide a steady presence during the time she was in there. Buck has pleasant memories from that game.

"I just remember drawing the offensive foul on her, it was really exciting," Buck said. "We'll see what happens. That was last year and she has changed a lot as a player and hopefully I have grown as a player as well and we'll see.

"She just has an amazing ability to find the ball, she is a good shot blocker. She is a great player and we are going to have our work cut out for us but we are looking forward to the challenge."

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Catching up with Moriah Jefferson

Just consider this weekend a 2 for the price of 1 special.

My trip to Texas for tomorrow's clash between No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 UConn, but I was able to catch UConn commit Moriah Jefferson in action with the THESA Riders on Saturday afternoon.

Jefferson's statistics (11 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals in 18 minutes) in the 71-41 win over host Roosevelt High of Dallas won't blow you away but realizing that the game was under control early on, Jefferson took only one shot in the second half  (she didn't play at all in the fourth quarter). If you take the stats of Jefferson from her USA Basketball bio and combine them with the ones I just received a few minutes ago from Riders coach Alan Burt, Jefferson scored the 3,000th point of her career in the gane, These stats include those from when she was in eighth grade, On the season she is averaging 17.8 points, 4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 6 steals while shooting 49.7 percent from the floor including 48.7 from 3-point range. She had 10 20-point games in 26 official games ( a couple of exihibitions don't count towards her stats) and three times had more than 10 steals in a game.

A few observations. Watching her in pre-game drills, she has a sweet shot and is also extremely athletic. The best play I saw in the game was when she caught, shot and scored all in one motion for a fast-break layup. She has a nice handle and made a sweet no-look pass for one of her assists.

Look for a story on Moriah in tomorrow's edition of the Register. A few things of note. First, she said she already has a sister-like bond with fellow UConn incoming freshmen Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck and said she is planning to enroll in summer session at UConn around June 20 as are Stewart and Tuck.

Her main objective right now is leading the THESA Riders to a sixth National Christian Home School title which is why she was so willing to pass up open shots during Saturday's games.

She is rather thrilled that Southern Methodist and Houston are joining the Big East since it will give her some home games in her native Texas.

Finally, I was a bit surprised to hear that she is only "hoping" to be in attendance at tomorrow's Baylor game. I would have figured she had gotten tickets a long time ago but not so.

"I might be, I think I might. Somebody might take me after I leave here. I hope to."

Don't take that as a sign that she isn't thrilled at soon joining the UConn program.

"I can't wait, it should be fun. We have a good group of girls coming in and hopefully we'll do big things. It was fun."

She hung out with Stewart at the Dec. 6 game against Texas A&M and she said she had the time of her life.

"It was like a sense of what it is going to be like when I get there. It wasn't as cold so I didn't get to see that but it was fun and I had a good time. I met everybody and bonded with the team and the coaches. I already knew that was what I wanted or I wouldn't be going there. I love that place."

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Looks like good news for St. John's

When St. John's guard Nadirah McKenith went down with a knee injury during Sunday's Maggie Dixon Classic many people (including me) feared she was another victim of the dreaded ACL. However, I just heard that she has a sprained knee and not any torn ligaments.

McKenith will miss some time but it could have been a lot worse for the Red Storm's floor leader.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Griner and Auriemma to be reunited

The last thing Baylor junior center and national player of the year candidate Brittney Griner said to UConn and U.S. senior national team coach Geno Auriemma before heading back to campus after a couple of weeks in Europe was "see you in Waco."

Well, the time for the reunion is quickly approaching.

After a couple of years of trying to get the immensly talented Griner to take part in one of the U.S. senior national team training camps, Auriemma finally got his wish in late September and early October when Griner was there for a series of practices as well as five games against European pro teams.

In the five games the U.S. team played, Griner shared the team scoring lead with former UConn star Tina Charles, had a team-high nine blocked shots and was second on the team with seven rebounds per game. Griner was the leading scorer for the U.S. team in two of the five games. She scored in double figures in the first four games she played including scoring 22 points in a loss to Ros Casares on Oct. 5.

“It was a great experience playing for Coach Auriemma because he is really passionate and he is a great coach,” Griner said. “He was working on my game, just getting big and just playing to my full ability.”

Auriemma was thrilled that Griner chose to come to the latest training camp and he believes there is a chance she could be a member of the 2012 Olympic team.

"We've always in the three years I have been involved with USA Basketball at this level, you are always trying to figure out what is missing that would make our team better," Auriemma said. "Even after we won the World Championship we sat back and said what we do we have to do to make this team better. Brittney Griner's name was always at the top of the list. How can we get her involved? We realized we couldn't make her do it, nobody could make her do it and we just worked pretty hard with talking with her and
Kim (Mulkey, Baylor's coach) and making sure everybody was on board with what we are trying to do and I think she brings something, there is nobody else in the world like her. I don't care who Australia has, who Russia has or who anybody else has. Nobody has anybody else like Brittney Griner.

"I remember Kara Wolters made the Olympic team to go to Sydney. She was the 12th man on the team. She knew she was there just in case in a three-minute stretch she was going to have to play. She never had to because they didn't need her. Brittney Griner might make the Olympic team and might play 20 minutes every night or there might be two games in one game where she wins the game and we win the gold medal because there are things that she can do than nobody else can do on any other team in the world."

Auriemma tells the story of how dominating Griner could be during half-court drills courtesy of her rare dunking ability.

"What I am used to see in drills is stuff we are doing in breakdowns, you throw the ball in there and you work on your post moves and then you realize that every post move she is working on ends with a dunk, one-handed, two-handed," Auriemma said. "You just kind of smile and say I haven't seen that in one of my practices since I coached the guys' AAU team that my son played on. That is how those guys would end
every drill. I just started smiling and saying it must be good to go to practice. I found myself saying that. We would work on something in a game, we are going to screen here and take it, slip the screen and dunk it. She would go 'OK', slip it and dunk it. I was saying 'guys coaches have it easy.'"

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UConn in unchartered waters

When the question was posed to Geno Auriemma, the UConn women's basketball Hall of Fame coach admitted he wasn't quite sure how to respond.

Auriemma has grown so accustomed to being what he affectionately dubs being "an overdog" that he wasn't certain what the appropriate response that his second-ranked Huskies would be the lower-ranked team on Sunday for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Since the No. 6 ranked Huskies lost to No. 2 North Carolina on Jan. 15, 2007, UConn has played 183 straight games (including 68 against ranked opponents) while being the highest ranked team on the court.

"I don't know if it will play as well as it does in Storrs when we go in as the underdog," Auriemma said. "I don't think it would be any big surprise if Baylor wins the game Sunday night, I don't think anybody's going to call it a monumental upset and I don't think the opposite is true either. If we were to win the game Sunday night, I don't think anybody is going to say 'wow, that was a huge upset by Connecticut over Baylor.' I think Baylor deserves to be where they are, they deserve the No. 1 ranking, they deserve to be treated the way they are being treated because they put themselves in that situation."


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Three UConn signees on Naismith watch list

Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, UConn's entire recruiting class, were among seven players named to the watch list for the Naismith Girls' High School Player of the Year award. UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields is the only non-senior on the list.

Jefferson is a 5-foot-7 guard from Glenn Heights, Tex. who is home schooled and plays for the THESA Riders. Stewart is a 6-foot-4 forward/center out of Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) High and the top player in the current high school senior class while Tuck is a 6-foot-2 forward who already has two 30-point games for Bolingbrook (Ill.) High this season.

Joining DeShields, a 6-1 wing out of Norcross (Ga.) on the list are former UConn recruiting targets Jewell Loyd and Jordan Adams, who have signed with Notre Dame and Southern California respectively and Duke commit Alexis Jones.

The winner will be announced in March. Current UConn freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was last year's winner.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DeShields hits seven 3-pointers in win

I'm a day late on this but thought people might be interested to know that UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields had 34 points and seven 3-pointers to lead Norcross (Ga.) High to a 75-46 win over Collins Hill (yes, the same Collins Hill where Maya Moore starred at) on Monday.

DeShields, a 6-1 junior, did her damage despite checking out of the game with 2 minutes left in the third quarter as Norcross improved to 3-2. It's kind of ironic that two of the three wins come against Moore's alma mater and also Fayette County where UConn freshman Brianna Banks played as a senior.

Next up for Norcross is a home game against Peachtree Ridge on Friday followed by a three-day tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. beginning on Monday. With UConn headed to South Carolina for a Dec. 21 game against the College of Charleston, I'd be shocked if at least one UConn coach wasn't in attendance for at least one of those games in the Crescent Bank Invitational.

Speaking of recruiting trips, something tells me that not all the UConn coaches will head directly from Waco, Texas to Charleston as a detour to Arizona to check out the Nike Tournament of Champions would seem a natural destination for at least one member of the UConn staff considering the incredible field put together by tournament organizers. As previously mentioned in this blog, UConn signees Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart will square off when Bolingbrook (Ill.) plays Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) in the first game for both teams in the Joe Smith Division on Monday. At the same time, UConn recruiting target Karlie Samuelson will lead her Edison (Calif.) team against Centennial High out of Las Vegas.

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UConn/Hartford to resume regular-season series

According to a report by Lori Riley of the Hartford Courant, UConn and Hartford will resume its regular-season series.

The teams have played 12 times, all won by the Huskies, including six straight times from 2004-09 before the contract was not renewed. Hartford coach and former UConn All-American guard Jen Rizzotti said the Hawks wanted to try to pursue sgames featuring top teams coming in and playing at Chase Arena in West Hartford. Part of the new contract will feature a game on Dec. 22, 2012 in West Hartford followed by two UConn home games including at least one played at Gampel Pavilion. In the past, the UConn/Hartford games were played at the XL Center.

Info on announcing team for Baylor/UConn game

ESPN will have a four-person crew televising Sunday's UConn/Baylor game.

Play by play man Dave O'Brien as well as analysts Doris Burke and Rebecca Lobo are no strangers to calling high-profile women's games but ESPN will also call on former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy during the showdown between the top two ranked teams in the country.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Langley stepping up for St. John's

It's a pretty safe assumption that Keylantra Langley never drove into the lane during her time at Lauralton Hall and encountered anything like Baylor's 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner. Yet here she was in her second year at St. John's showing the willingness to venture into the paint during the first game of the Maggie Dixon Classic on Sunday.

Langley got an early call when Eugeneia McPherson picked up two quick fouls and less than 30 seconds after coming into the game she headed towards the basket, drew Griner towards her and delivered a perfect pass to teammate Amber Thompson for a layup. Langley played 25 minutes and had four points, one rebound, one assist and two steals in the Red Storm's 73-59 loss to Baylor.

"When you are playing against her, you can't really back off," Langley said. "You still have to go through your game plan. You know she is there but you have to try to attack the basket the best you can.

"We are trying to go out there and play St. John's basketball and do the best we can. We came into the locker room with a lead (at halftime). I think we played with a lot of energy and a lot of heart today."

While Langley put up some modest stats, there is no questioning the impact she is making in her sophomore season or the rapid development she has shown since last season.

"She has been playing much better for us and her confidence has been getting a lot better," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "She really brings a lot to our team. I don't know what's going to happen with Nadirah but if she is (out), she will have to give us more. She is having a significant impact for us right now. She is aggressive on the offensive end, she can handle the ball, she rebounds like crazy and can defend. She is playing with a lot more confidence and has grown since her freshman year."

Barnes Arico was referred to the knee injury suffered by starting point guard Nadirah McKenith in the second half. The fear is that it is an ACL which would cost St. John's its unquestioned floor leader. If McKenith is out for an extended time, Langley could find herself as the starting point guard.

Is Langley ready for this challenge.

"Of course, if coach has confidence in me then I have to have confidence in myself," Langley said.

Speaking of injuries, St. John's senior forward and former Trinity Catholic star Da'Shena Stevens is close to playing for the first time this season. Stevens suffered a knee injury in the offseason and was cleared to practice on Dec. 2.

"I think she is close, maybe this weekend," Barnes Arico said. "She has to go see the doctor again. She has been practicing and has been getting banged around a bit.

"She is not doing all the contact but she is running up and down and doing all the (non-contact)  drills  but she is not doing offensive/defensive stuff."

"It is tough and our schedule we went to the Bahamas and played in the Maggie Dixon Classic, we did all this stuff for her senior year and it has to be tough. We try to keep her upbeat at times but it really has to wear on her, it has to be devastating. She has done so much for our program, as been the face of our program for so long that you really wanted her to enjoy this season. She has been positive and hopefully she finishes strong."

Some early thoughts about Baylor/UConn

Having watching No. 2 UConn and No. 1 Baylor play in a span of three days, the first thought that comes into my head as I look ahead to Sunday's nationally-televised showdown is that I hope I don't see UConn's second-half performance against Seton Hall and Baylor's first-half effort against St. John's.

Something tells me both teams will be a little more zoned in when the ball is thrown into the air a little past 8:30 Sunday night.

I'll start with that I saw on Sunday when Baylor allowed a small but athletic St. John's team to dictate tempo for the first 30 minutes. I loved the Red Storm's game plan. On offense they drove the ball towards Brittney Griner whenever possible and if they couldn't get her far enough away to set up a cutting teammate for a layup, they would kick it out to the perimeter. When St. John's let the game get away in the second half it was in large part because of ill-advised drives right at Griner. While Griner's shot-blocking numbers (she is quickly closing in on Courtney Paris for No. 5 on the NCAA Division I all-time list) are impressive, it is her ability to block the ball and keep it in play which leads to the Lady Bears getting out on the fast break. I fully expect to see UConn try to do what St. John's did during the first half and try to get Griner moving laterally and throw the ball to offensive players away from Griner to limit her impact as a shot blocker.

Defensively, I was impressed with what Mary Nwachukwu was able to do early on against Griner. I doubt Nwachukwu's name made it into too many game stories since she was scoreless (missing all four of her shots) and had just two rebounds, one assist and one steal in 34 minutes. However, she was able to get physical with Griner and pushed the Baylor star off the blocks whenever she could. That style seemed to fluster Griner. Although giving up six inches, she was able to front Griner and teammates would cheat down from the other Baylor forwards to keep Griner from getting the ball. St. John's also did a good job of applying pressure on the ball so they couldn't have an easy time throwing the ball into the post. What this did was open up room for Brooklyn Pope and she responded with 19 points and eight rebounds and give Baylor some open looks from 3-point range.

With all due respect to Nwachukwu, I don't see her as being a pivotal part of St. John's offensive game plan so the Red Storm could afford to let her bang Griner around and if she picked up some early fouls, no harm done. I don't think that is the case with Dolson. I don't see UConn beating Baylor if Dolson is saddled with foul trouble so she will need to be careful just how physical she gets with Griner. Depending how quickly Dolson gets her first foul, I wonder if the UConn coaching staff might go to either Heather Buck or Kiah Stokes early on and use up some fouls.

I also doubt that Odyssey Sims will commit as many silly fouls as she did on Sunday. Once she was out of the game, the Baylor offense seemed like a rudderless ship. Also, Destiny Williams was benched for the first half for a disciplinary matter and she will be available for all 40 minutes against the Huskies. Having those two on the floor brings a different dimension to Baylor.

On UConn's end, I already addressed the Dolson factor. Tiffany Hayes figures to play a key role. If she steps up in a big way, I think she can wreak havoc with the Baylor defensive scheme with her ability to penetrate as well as being able to hit from the perimeter. I would expect to see Hayes and Bria Hartley drive into the lane early and often giving Caroline Doty, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kelly Faris opportunities from the perimeter.

I have a hunch UConn will try to deal with Griner one on one more often than not and make the other players beat them. They need to keep Pope off the offensive glass and turn Kimetria Hayden and Jordan Madden into jump shooters. I know Hayden has eight 3-pointers but I'd take my chance with her having to knock down shots. More than anything, they need to make Sims' life as difficult as possible. Before Sunday I thought UConn would be crazy to try to press Baylor but watching how out of control Sims was at times bringing the ball up the floor makes me think the Huskies will attempt to extend their defense against Baylor.

I will be curious to see who Kelly Faris matches up with defensively, will she be asked to deal with Griner (even if she is giving up nine inches) or get out on Sims? Perhaps she'll be asked to lock up on either Williams or Pope, two outstanding offensive rebounders. There will be some intriguing individual matchups going on during the course of the game. It should be a fun one, I am looking forward to it.

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Mosqueda-Lewis wins Big East Freshman of the Week once again

UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has been named the Big East Freshman of the Week for the fourth straight time, one shy of the conference record set by West Virginia's Meg Bulger from Jan. 19-Feb. 16, 2004. It should be noted that Bulger was a co-winner of the award twice during that span. The only other player in Big East history to earn the award by themselves for four consecutive weeks is Maya Moore from Jan. 14-Feb. 4, 2008.

Mosqueda-Lewis, who averaged 14.5 points in wins over Texas A&M and Seton Hall, became the first player in Big East history to open her career with four straight Freshman/Rookie of the Week honors. Angie Clark of St. John's owned the mark with three straight honors in the 2003-04 season.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stewart opens season with a double-double

UConn incoming freshman Breanna Stewart began her senior campaign with Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) with 18 points and 11 rebounds (including the 1,000th of her career) in a season-opening 61-19 win over Liverpool in the Tip-Off Classic at the Carrier Dome on Sunday.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma was among those in attendance at the game.

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Trip to New York not soon to be forgotten by Baylor

When Baylor agreed to take part in the Maggie Dixon Classic, little did the school known what a special weekend it would be for the athletic department.

The headlining event was Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III becoming the school's first Heisman Trophy winner. Adding to the festive occasion was that the Baylor women's basketball team was in New York at the time and was taking in the Spider Man play when they received text messages informing them of the good news.

I'll let Baylor junior center Brittney Griner take it from here.

"We got the text that he won and it was perfect timing because the people were cheering for Spiderman and they were yelling so I yelled out 'RGIII,'" Griner said after Sunday's 73-59 win over St. John's.

Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey had plenty to say about Griffin's magical moment and used the forum to serve as the defender of the Baylor athletic department's run of success.

"He is everywhwere on campus," Mulkey said. "Don't be surprised if he comes back. That is the kind of kid that he is. It would not surprise me if he said 'I don't care how much money you throw at me, I don't care when I go in the draft, I am living the time of my life.' He would have been here today if he didn't have obligations. He would have been sitting here right behind the bench like he does at home. He's been bugging me to have a dunking contest with Griner for three years. I might have to relent on that in the offseason. He is everything you see. He is articulate, his parents raised him well. I am so happy for Baylor University.

"I am going to say this and take it the right way guys, the so-called experts are talking about 'it can't be done at Baylor.' I listened for a month about the so-called experts saying Robert Griffin can't win the Heisman. He won it. We've got the Heisman Trophy winner at Baylor, we have the player of the year in women's basketball at Baylor, we have two top draft picks on the men's team at Baylor, we have the best pitcher in the  country in softball at Baylor. Every NCAA tournament across the board at Baylor. This is not the Baylor of old, this is a commitment by the administration to go hire the best coaches to bring a team or teams to that university to compete and compete at the highest level. I really wish that the little digs, the little things that were said stop. Stop it. It is unnecessary. We have a good thing going at Baylor and that's the truth."

Mulkey wasn't called out on her premature crowning of Griner as the national player of the year but was asked if she really felt that Baylor was being disrespected.

"You didn't hear them?" Mulkey said. "I don't have to call out names. 'He can't win it at Baylor, know your place at Baylor.' I am getting tired of it. What else do we have to do? We have to do it on a consistent basis and that is our job as coaches to do that now. Baylor is a little more than an insignificant part of the Big 12 and the national scene."

On a day when Tennessee coach Pat Summitt received the Maggie Dixon Courage Award, Mulkey was rather emotional when talking about the Lady Vols' Hall of Fame coach.

"We got out of our huddle quickly (during the TV timeout when Summitt received the award) and gave her a standing ovation because Pat Summitt is our John Wooden," Mulkey said. "I am going to go out there and watch her team play because you never know how many games she has left. Just her presence on the floor and what she means to all of us, I don't know if any will ever have that presence. I've said this before, there may be coaches who win more championships than her but they won't be Pat Summitt."

Mulkey was asked to recall the day when she heard the news that Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia.
"My cell phone was one and you kept getting the ding, ding, ding, ding and the first thought is that it's your children," Mulkey said. "After about the fourth ding, which is a text message, I look at it and it said what it said. I picked it up and dismissed my staff and kind of gathered my composure. I thought to myself  'I am in here stressing over a basketball game and a staff meeting and practice?' I just called her assistants Mickie (DeMoss) and I talked to Holly (Warlick) because you knew people were going to call and ask questions.  I didn't want to give an uneducated opinion or statement because that is a personal thing. I wanted to talk to them first and get a little more information. When I read the article and how Tyler was with her, I don't mind telling you and I am not too proud to say it got kind of emotional because my son is still at home with me and no son should have to stand there at his age and take care of his mom and listen to that diagnosis. My thoughts just went to Tyler. I called her about two weeks later after everything kind of died down and we just talked. I didn't go into great detail on anything, I didn't think those things were necessary.

"I guess the special that Robin Roberts did hit me really, really hard because there was a doctor that kind of gave a description of what we are dealing with and I didn't want to hear that.  I started hugging her then. There is not an opportunity that goes by. If I see her, I am going to hug her and that is what I did and told her I loved her."

No renewal of Baylor/UConn series is in the works

When UConn travels to Baylor a week today for a much-anticipated showdown between the nation's No. 1 and 2 ranked teams it will mark the third straight season the Huskies and Lady Bears have met. It looks like it could be the last one for a while.

After playing in the 2009 national semifinals, the teams agreed to play a home and home series. UConn edged Baylor 65-64 on Nov. 16, 2010 at the XL Center and now comes the rematch in Waco.

Following Baylor's 73-59 win over St. John's in the first game of Sunday's Maggie Dixon, I asked Mulkey for an update on whether the teams will be renewing the contract.

"I don't think so," Mulkey said. "We've had talks. We couldn't and they couldn't and just never got anywhere. This is the tail end of a two-year deal. That doesn't mean it won't happen. That depends on television, that depends on what we get invited to. Both programs are going to be outstanding. It is not because we don't both want to but he may want to do it on this date and I may want to do it on another date, things like that you have to work out in the future."

I asked Mulkey if the addition of Southern Methodist and Houston to the Big East, which gives the Huskies a minimum of two games in the state of Texas every two years beginning in the 2013-14 season might impact Connecticut's desire to sign up for a trip to Baylor. She actually thought my question about Geno Auriemma perhaps not needing any additional games in the state of Texas was actually an inquiry about keeping him from recruiting the best players in the state of Texas.

"I don't want him in Texas," Mulkey said with a laugh. "I would imagine he would come to Texas. He got his first one (Moriah Jefferson) so I would imagine he would try to get back in the area."

A day start started in such impressive fashion for the St. John's women's basketball team turned sour in a hurry when junior guard Nadirah McKenith suffered a knee injury in the second half of the loss to No. 1 Baylor.

After the game St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico was hoping for the best but bracing for the worst.

"She hurt her knee and is going to have an MRI tomorrow but don't know too many details," Barnes Arico said. "She seems pretty hurt but I don't know (how seriously). I would say it is a significant loss for us, she runs our team.

"She was in a lot of pain. I just feel bad for the kid, you don't even think of wins and losses. She is just a great kid. She is one of the best kids we have in our program, she's so full of personality and when she was down it had to be tough for her. She was playing her butt off. She was going against a top point guard in the country (Odyssey Sims) and I thought she looked great in the first half. I thought she looked as good if not better. It was devastating but maybe tomorrow we get some good news."

If the injury keeps McKenith (who had had nine points, four rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots) out for an extended period of time, former Lauralton Hall star Keylantra Langley could become the Red Storm's starting point guard. I caught up with Langley after the game and look for more on her emergence as a sophomore for St. John's as well as an update on senior forward and former Trinity Catholic star Da'Shena Stevens who missed her 10th straight game with a knee injury but has been cleared to practice on a limited basis.


Jefferson is Catclaw Classic MVP

UConn signee Moriah Jefferson had 23 points as the THESA Riders defeated Wall 46-44 in the championship game of the Catclaw Classic on Saturday.

Jefferson's strong performance, highlighted by her 32 points and six 3-pointers in a win over Early on Friday, earned her MVP honors.


Friday, December 09, 2011

UConn rolls by Seton Hall in a weird one

The stretch in the first half when UConn looked absolutely unstoppable en route to racing out to leads of 20-0 and 30-2 was countered by a span of more than 9 minutes in the second half when UConn failed to score a point in a 70-37 victory over Seton Hall.

Naturally UConn coach Geno Auriemma was somewhat perturbed at what he saw from his team after they raced out to the big early lead going as far as saying that the scoreless stretch was unacceptable for a team with as many gifted offensive players as the Huskies possess.

"A little bit of everything, that is an understatement," Auriemma said with a laugh. "It was really weird. The first 10 minutes was kind of productive, we got some things done. The first five or six minutes of the second half, maybe the first 10 minutes, we got a bunch of stuff done. Everything else was a struggle. The fouls in the first half, I think we were called for more fouls in the first half than we had in the entire (Texas A&M) game so the game had no rhythm to it, no flow to it. There were a lot of missed shots. Maybe it is this gym. There are a lot of times when we come down here and not exactly played stellar basketball."

Auriemma was happy to see Caroline Doty drain five 3-pointers and also play a solid floor game with five assists and no turnovers and was also happy with Heather Buck, who had four points and nine rebounds in relief of a foul-prone and ineffective Stefanie Dolson.

Doty, Tiffany Hayes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 15 points each as UConn beat Seton Hall for the 28th straight time. Hayes added nine rebounds and six assists. Speaking of assists, the Huskies assisted on their first 16 baskets and had 20 assists on 23 field goals.

"I thought in the first half we really got into our stuff and the pressure really helped us," Doty said. "I wasn't sure what it was in the second half. We weren't rebounding when we should of. I don't know if we kind of
got lackadaisical with the way we played but we are hoping to kind of working on in practice in the coming week."

UConn won't play again until Dec. 18 when the Huskies play at Baylor. Final exams start next week so much of the focus will be on taking care of business in the classroom while making time for practice.

"The good thing about exam week is you only have four or five classes so it is only two hours of exams so preparation is the best thing for the actual exam," Doty said. "We had study hall (on Friday) and getting ready for exams that way. When we are on the court, we get away from it that way, reading books, studying and getting all the stuff in your head is draining so it will be nice to just forget about that and just play ball."

While Doty should be well versed in balancing basketball and academics, next week could be challenging for the three UConn freshmen.

"It is all about time management," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "When I have a little break I am doing a little bit of homework. I am not taking as many naps, as much free time as you have is as much time as you need to spend studying."

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Future UConn teammates Stewart, Tuck to square off in Arizona

The schedule of the Nike Tournament of Champions was released today and of particular interest to UConn fans might be the first-round game in the Joe Smith Division as a pair of UConn's incoming freshmen will be going head to head when Breanna Stewart leads her Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) squad against Morgan Tuck and Bolingbrook (Ill.) at Hamilton High School on Dec. 19 at 4:30 (6:30 p.m. Eastern time).

For those interested in the full schedule, here you go

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Another big game for Tuck

You know somebody's pretty good when a 38-point effort results in being the second player mentioned in a game story.

That was the case with UConn signee Morgan Tuck who followed up her 40-point outburst in her last game by putting up 38 in a 77-22 win over Lincoln-Way Central on Thursday.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Huskies, Pirates playing for a cause

Both the UConn and Seton Hall teams will be wearing neon gold shoelaces in tomorrow night's game in support of Go 4 the Goal Foundation to raise awareness for Pediatric Cancer. Shoelaces can be purchased
at the game for $1 with all proceeds helping with the cause. For more information, visit

The 7 p.m. game at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, N.J. will be the Big East opener for both teams.

The 2013-14 season could be an interesting one

I took part in yesterday's conference call with Big East Commissioner John Marinatto as well as the presidents from South Florida, Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, San Diego State and Southern Methodist.

While the impact on women's basketball is not a consideration in the changing landscape of Division I athletics, the portion of the question and answer session which had the most relevance to women's basketball was when the makeup of the 2013-14 Big East was brought up.

Unless Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia are able to pry themselves free from the Big East umbrella a season early there will be 19 teams in the conference with Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist joining the conference in all sports in 2013. Marinatto said that so much focus has been spent on trying to add teams to the conference that there have not been official discussions about the conference scheduling format. However, I'd have to think that the conference would have to go to an 18-game format for at least the 2013-14 season.

Marinatto was asked whether the Big East would have each team face the other once if there is a 19-team league in the 2013-14 season.

"I think if that is the case, that would probably be a model that we would employ where everybody would play each other once," Marinatto said. "But we haven't gotten into the specifics of that. I'm just looking at the numbers as you've outlined them and that would make sense.  We haven't had any discussions in regard to what the tournament might look like under that scenario.  That would be another discussion I'm sure that would have to follow."

The Big East has not played an 18-game schedule since the 1998-99 season and I'd have to think the conference will need to decide whether it intends on going back to 18 games sooner rather than later so the conference schools know how many non-conference slots need to be filled in the schedule. Another aspect I'm curious about is whether the conference will opt to utilize a travel partner concept. In other words, if Houston or SMU has to come East to play UConn and Providence in the same season, wouldn't it make sense to have the games come during the same trip? Conversely, wouldn't it make sense to have UConn make one trip to Florida and play Central Florida and South Florida a couple days apart. It's something the conference has not utilized nearly enough, in my opinion, in past years but as the Big East broadens its borders in order to survive, I would think there has to come a time when concessions are made to cut down on travel as much as humanly possible.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Central Florida, Houston and SMU joining new-look Big East Conference

As trades go, replacing the Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia women's basketball programs with Central Florida, Houston and South Methodist is right up there for the infamous Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell deal swung by the Boston Red Sox a couple decades ago. But desperate times results in desperate moves.

The ever changing conference landscape has nothing to do with women's basketball as football is the cash cow running the show. With the conference running the risk of losing its BCS automatic qualifying status, the Big East needed to move forward.

The Big East will be replacing three perennial NCAA women's basketball tournament teams with three conference USA teams. Central Florida is the defending Conference USA tournament champion while Houston was the conference's regular season title. This season the three teams are a combined 8-16.

Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist will join the Big East in all sports beginning in 2013 while Boise State and San Diego State will join as football-only programs.

On the conference call currently going on, Big East commissioner John Marinatto said he would comment on rumors of other universities (Temple, East Carolina come to mind) who could be added to the Big East in the future.

In a statement, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said "I am thrilled about the additions the BIG EAST has made.  I give a lot of credit to the conference office for putting this together.  I am really happy for our football schools and I love Dallas, Houston and Orlando so I look forward to making those trips.  The BIG EAST is the best women’s basketball conference in the country and it just got better."

On the call, Marinatto said that they would try to facilitate talks in setting up non-conference basketball games with Big East schools.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

UConn forces the issue

Texas A&M has long been considered one of the nation's best pressing teams, beating more talented teams simply by flustering them with full-court pressure.

However, in Tuesday night's Jimmy V Classic it was UConn's pressure defense and ability to handle the A&M press which keyed UConn's 81-51 demolition of the defending national champions.

"We kept our compsure and we stayed within (ourselves)," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We let the offense just kind of flow. We weren't in a hurry to make a play. We weren't anxious to create something out of nothing and we just kind of let it happen for us. The kids did a great job of finding the guy that was open because we got a lot of layups, we got open jump shots. They were doing some things defensively I thought we could score on and luckily we took advantage of it

"Beating Texas A&M by 30 tonight, that is not realistic. I think what happens is when you are willing to go at that pace for 40 minutes, I think the other team gets to the point where they go 'I just can't keep this up.' You can see it in their faces some times and in their body language. We just keep that pace and it is one of the things I am proudest of that we are able to do that."

UConn not only won the turnover battle 20-11 but scored 27 points off the Aggies 22 turnovers while A&M managed just seven points off the 11 UConn miscues.

"You win games because of talent and intensity level and that is something that he gets on us every single day in practice and it is something that we work on every day," UConn junior forward Kelly Faris said. "The second we take a play off, he is in our ear and we know that. Especially the older guys we have been around long enough to know that the second you take a play off, he is not going to be happy with you."

The Huskies were surprised by the final margin, never expecting to beat a team returning three senior starters off last season's national championship team by 30.

"I don't think by 30," Faris said. "They are still a very good team. We came out from the very beginning. It is something we try to do every single game, come out and be the first one to take that punch and set that intensity level and keep that the whole game."

A&M coach Gary Blair admitted that he felt powerless at times to stop UConn, which had six players score in double figures.

"They had 18 points in the first four minutes of the game and they only scored 18 in the next 16," Blair said. "We went to zone and we were in HTM. Do you know what that is? You 'hope they miss.' That was all it was instead of making them miss. Normally we can make people miss but today we looked lost in the matchup, they were overloading in the corner and the other side wasn't coming over.

"We were not able to consistently get the ball inside. I think that was the difference in the ball game
to not get it inside and the open looks that they had. They shot 7 out of 20 were wide open. You can not give those, you can not give that many good looks."

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UConn, Maryland agree to home and home series

Jimmy V Classic still a big deal for Geno

Nine years have passed since UConn took part in the inaugural women's basketball Jimmy V Classic but the time has done little to diminish UConn coach Geno Auriemma's sense of honor in being involved in the event.

The 2011 Jimmy V Classic will take place tonight at 7 p.m. when defending national champion Texas A&M faces UConn at the XL Center. While there is not nearly as much buzz around the event as there was in 2002 when UConn met North Carolina State and Duke faced Tennessee in a doubleheader at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. But in Auriemma's eyes, each time the Huskies are able to take part in the Classic, it is a special occasion.

"We said this down at the dinner and I think Connecticut always has a special place in the Jimmy V Classic because of the time he spent here as a coach and the relationships he had with Dee Rowe (when Valvano was an assistant on Rowe's UConn squad) and the relationship Dee Rowe had with Jimmy, his family, his wife, his children," Auriemma said. "I think there is always going to be a special bond between Coach Valvano and Connecticut and for us to be a part of it is a huge thrill for me. I grew up a lot as a coach in the ACC when he was coaching (at North Carolina State) and I am a big, big fan of what he did and how he did it. At the same time, the cause I don't know that anybody has done more for the awareness, raising money (for cancer research) and what they have contributed more than the Jimmy V Foundation. How many people in their lives that did as many as he did for people when he was alive and now actually has done maybe even more for people since he passed away?  I think he has left a great legacy and I am happy to be a part of it."
For those scoring at home, this will be the fourth time UConn will play in the Jimmy V Classic tying Duke and Rutgers for the most appearances.

People who want to help out with the cause can click here


Monday, December 05, 2011

Doty benefits from time off

Suffering a mild concussion in the first half of Wednesday's game against Towson forced junior guard Caroline Doty to take some time off from basketball. Doty, who looked out of sorts in the Towson game and at times during the World Vision Classic, seemed to have returned with a much better frame of mind.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma raved about Doty since she returned to practice on Sunday and her teammates also spoke about how much better she had been playing since returning to the court.

"I think she just needed a couple of days off," Auriemma said. "I think having Thursday, Friday, Saturday off did her a world of good. It is not easy being her when you think about it she hasn't caught a break in a long time and I don't care how tough you are and what everybody says about you, there is only so much somebody can take before they say 'why do I have to go through this.' Most kids come here for two hours, they go to practice, they go to the training room get a bag of ice and they go eat. She has to do 17 things, she has so much she has to do to get ready for practice, after practice ... After a while I can imagine it just gets to her so every little thing that happens is one more thing and 'why, why, why.' So I think those three days away did her a world of good."

Doty has tried to maintain a positive attitude through it all but in recent games it was evident that she was putting a lot of pressure on herself leading to uncharacteristic sloppy plays from her.

"Taking the two days off was kind of an eye opener," Doty said. "It was like 'listen, calm down you have five more months of this. I came back to practice and I felt pretty good and I am very excited for tomorrow.  I think I was putting a little too much pressure on myself to try to do too much."

Auriemma recently had a heart to heart with Doty about the way she was going about her business and he even went as far as suggesting that Doty's concussion was the result of bad karma.

"When you get frustrated, you are not thinking clearly and everything else is going wrong," Auriemma said. "I told her 'the reason you fell on your head is because you are in a bad mood, you have a bad attitude right now. You have bad vibes, bad mojo.' Otherwise you would have just fell down, got up, make your free throw. Right now there is a bad moon rising over you and you need a couple days off. In her mind she is like I don't want to go through this anymore so just take three days off. It is like the guy who can't play golf, take two weeks off and quit, go play tennis. I told her take three days off and quit, she had fun with it and knew that once she got her head cleared, she'd be all right and she is. Playing bad for her, it just kills her. When you have been waiting so long to play and then you can't do some of the things that you used to be able to do, it is just eating her alive.

"She has had two great days the last two days. Her mind is different, you can tell by the look in her eyes and because of that the ball is going where it is supposed to go, shots are going in, defensively she knows where she is going, her mouth is saying the right things at the right time to the right guys. It's like a quarterback in the huddle. She has control of the situation now for about a week or so."

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Geno not look at Texas A&M as the defending champions

Having guided his UConn team to seven national titles, Geno Auriemma knows a thing or two about the pressure that comes the following season after winning it all.

Naturally, after Monday's practice he was asked about playing Texas A&M, the defending national champions on Tuesday. His take was an interesting one.

"I always say that this Texas A&M did not win the national championship, that was last year's team and I always tried to keep that in mind when we were in that situation," Auriemma said. "If they brought back Danielle Adams and Sydney Colson and we played them, they I would say we are playing the defending national champions but they are not. That is kind of how I approached it. When you lose certain key players, you are not the same team although everybody is going to treat them that way and be sky high for them, I would like to think that is not who we are playing. We are playing a really good Texas A&M team in 2011-12. If you come to Connecticut, you come to play in these games. I would like to think something good is going to happen tomorrow either way."


Mosqueda-Lewis is Big East's top rookie - again

UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis made it a perfect 3 for 3 in the Big East Freshman of the Week award department.

Mosqueda-Lewis was 5 of 8 from 3-point range en route to 21 points in a Nov. 30 win over Towson in UConn's only game.

Bria Hartley was named to the Big East honor roll with 25 points, five assists and four steals against Towson.

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Friday, December 02, 2011

Seton Hall, Syracuse games to be carried on CPTV

All the loose ends have been tied up as CPTV will be televising UConn's road opener a week from today against Seton Hall as well as the Jan. 25 contest at Syracuse.

Getting the details ironed out for road games can be a bit challenging at times which is why those games were not previously listed as being aired on CPTV (and available on CPTV's Hoop Streams) but according to the schedule on CPTV's website, those games will be shown on CPTV bringing the number of regular-season games shown by CPTV this season to 21.

Texas A&M looking to build off last season

The always quotable Texas A&M coach Gary Blair was asked four questions by the Connecticut media in a Friday morning teleconference and managed to talk for about 35 minutes. In the next few days you'll likely be seeing snippets of Blair's interview appearing in newspapers and blogs through the state of Connecticut.

Among the highlights were Blair repeating what he said to me at the Final Four and that is Tuesday's game against UConn at the XL Center is part of a home and home with Texas A&M hosting UConn in either January or February of next year as part of a Big Monday game on ESPN. He said he'd have no problem seeing the series extended after next year. Blair said that seniors Sydney Carter and Adaora Elonu have emerged into key players as seniors to complement Kelsey Bone and last year's Final Four hero Tyra White. He also said he put in a stipulation that the game will feature the starting fives going head to head for all 40 minutes because that's the only way he knows how to slow down UConn freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

Naturally Blair was being his good-natured walking sound bite self on the last item but he was serious when talking about the responsibility of carrying the banner as the reigning national champions.

"I hope we handle it as well as Geno has handled it and Pat (Summitt) has handled it over the years," Blair said. "I realize the importance of being a champion and knowing how to act like a champion the following year. I have been around long enough, I have studied coaches, I have studied programs and really have admired how Geno has been able to handle all the fanfare that goes with what happens in Connecticut and being right there under ESPN and everything. He has done an amazing job. He deserves everything he has gotten, our Olympic coach, our President of the WBCA, he has done it all. The same thing with Coach Summitt, she has done it all with her thing. I am just a little dot on the horizon right now. I am a doggone old dot but I am a dot.

"I think to be recognized in this game, you need to do this more than once. That is what our goal is, not to win a national championship right now, that is not our goal. Our goal is to go out there, win and compete in every ball game and get better and to hold onto that national championship but not live off it. We want to be able to sell it, we want to able to be able to recruit with it. We want to get better and it is making us better coaches. The opportunities we've had over the summer, the speaking engagements, the ESPYs, the Winged Foot Award, taking my grandson and family to Disney World, the White House... Geno's done that seven times and that is pretty special. Our team is pretty grounded. We do not allow them to get too high and too low. Today at the practice court at 1 o'clock, we'll act like we are 0-6 by the time we get through with them because we have to get a lot better in a lot of areas. They can not take away from us what we have accomplished. We were not Cinderella last year and Notre Dame would not have been Cinderella if they would  won it. We were two very good programs that played great when it counted. We just happened to play a little greater when it counted in the second half but part of that team is gone and I have a new team in here."

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Doty held out of practice with mild concussion

UConn junior guard Caroline Doty did not practice with the team today after suffering a mild concussion in Wednesday's win over Towson. According to a release put out by UConn, she is not showing symptoms of being impacted by the concussion and was inside Gampel Pavilion during the practice. She is expected to participate fully in practice by Sunday and should play in UConn's next game against defending national champion Texas A&M on Tuesday.

Doty was fouled on a drive to the basket during the first half against Towson. After missing the free throw and seeming out of sorts on the ensuing defensive possession, Doty was taken out of the game with 4:19 left in the first half and did not return to the game.


Huskies set to go back to work

Five games in a 10-day span is a player's dream but for the UConn coaching staff, the hectic recent schedule has limited the amount of time they can work with their squad.

Without a game until Tuesday when defending national champion Texas A&M comes to the XL Center, look for the UConn coaches to get back to what they were hired to do - teach.

"When you have a lot of games it is not bad because you are actually getting some game stuff on but you really don't get the opportunity to put some practice time in," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Little by little between now and exams we want to get a little bit better at everything - obviously. We just want to figure out ways we can maximize what we have. How many different ways can use our full-court pressure? How many ways can be play our half-court defense? Offensively, how many ways can me move people around so we are not easy to defend? These are all things that you go to practice and work on and because we have such a young group, there is a lot of fundamental stuff that we have to do every day that gets lost when you have games. If you are constantly preparing for games, I know the players like that but for us you get worried about the other teams sometimes and you are not doing enough individual work for yourself. Friday and Saturday  are going to be great because we'll get the opportunity to do that before we start preparing for Texas A&M."

Auriemma is pretty happy where his team is at the current time. Other than the Stanford game, the other contests were against such overmatched opponents that it is probably hard for Auriemma and his staff to get too much of a read of how far along the Huskies are at this point.

"I think when the season began, you aren't quite sure what to expect," Auriemma said. "It kind of reminded me of a couple of years after Diana graduated and you are trying to figure out what is the new dynamic on the team when you lose somebody like that. A game like Stanford came along and it surprised me a little bit that we were able to do some of the things that we did. Tuesday night in the Texas A&M game, I will be anxious to see whether we will be able to respond to some of the things that Texas A&M is going to do to us that is way different from what Stanford did. I think we learned a little after the Stanford game about what who we are, we will learn a little more next Tuesday. That is why you play these games, find out how we are adapting to life without Maya."

The UConn Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is running a toy drive at Tuesday's Texas A&M game at the XL Center. The drive benefits the Cornerstone Foundation in Rockville and fans are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy with them to the game.