Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Doty delivers in Duke win

A lack of confidence has never been an issue for Caroline Doty. However, this season has tested the bravado of the UConn junior guard.
The recovery from a third torn ACL in her left knee cost Doty the entire 2010-11 season and even now as she is back in the fold, the multiple knee surgeries have kept Doty from reaching the level she played at earlier in her collegiate career.

The games against the top teams have been a bit frustrating for Doty. She missed eight of 10 shots both against Stanford and Notre Dame. In a Dec. 18 contest at No. 1 Baylor she did not even attempt a shot in 15 minutes of action. If not for a lone offensive rebound, her stat sheet would have been completely blank.

That is what made Monday night so special for her. Doty made four of her five shots and was a perfect 3 for 3 from 3-point range. Her first trey was in the midst of a 6-0 run to give the Huskies their first double-digit lead. In the second half she hit a pair of timely 3’s in the first 7:12 to give the Huskies some breathing room. Doty finished with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.
“The fact that I was able to knock some shots down, it was great for my teammates to get me in position to have those open shots,” Doty said.
Nobody was happier to see Doty deliver some key shots than UConn coach Geno Auriemma. He knows the road to recovery has been a long one for Doty.
“She hasn't made any shots,” Auriemma said. “She didn't make a lot of shots in practice, she didn't make a lot of shots at shootaround, she has been struggling in and out with the knee bothering her. I think when she made her first one; I think it kind of let the air out a little bit. People forget that Caroline knocked in some big shots as a sophomore. We are trying to get back to that point where she felt like she is contributing. When you are coming back from injuries like she is, you wonder whether or not you are contributing, She is the first one out (of the game) all the time, you have Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) coming off and everybody's talking about (her). It's always the new kid in town and Caroline just wants to feel like she is contributing. I was thrilled for her.”
Auriemma has downplayed the turnover totals in previous games against ranked teams but after Monday’s game Auriemma said he will need to address the carelessness which has been creeping into his team’s play.
There were 21 turnovers against Duke and too many of them were of the unforced variety.
“That is the next step we have to address, we have to stop throwing the ball away,” Auriemma said. “We have three or four possessions in a row where we don't get a shot. We can count on Caroline to kind of get us out of that rut.”

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Monday, January 30, 2012

A true team effort for Huskies

There have been times this season when one player would have the weight of the world placed on them. Whether it was Bria Hartley scoring 25 points in the losses at Baylor and Notre Dame or watching Tiffany Hayes post games of 35 and 33 points, it seemed like a little bit of a different way for the Huskies to play.

However, in Monday's 61-45 win at Duke, it was truly a case of seven players all contributing to a winning effort.

Stefanie Dolson dominated early, scoring the Huskies first six points before foul trouble limited her to 13 minutes. Tiffany Hayes a stretch with five points and an assist during an 8-2 run which gave the Huskies a lead it would never relinquish. Kiah Stokes ripped down 12 rebounds and five blocks, Caroline Doty, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Bria Hartley took turns draining clutch shots in the second half and Kelly Faris also hit an important 3-pointer.

"That is where teams kind of grow a little bit is when you go on the road against a really good team on their court," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You kind of grow up as an individual because you get to make tough shots, you make plays that mean something, you grow as a team because the last time anybody beat these guys here was us. It is not an easy place to win and I think we grew up as a team tonight and hopefully that gives us confidence going forward. That is why we play these games. Some teams say 'well maybe we don't want to play those games in the Big East part of your schedule but you play these games because they are great challenges."
Auriemma was at his story telling best when asked about what happened to UConn senior guard Tiffany Hayes, who fell hard to the floor in the first half and did not return until 12:45 remained in the game.

"You either get up and keep playing or you lay down and you are coming out, that is all there is to it," Auriemma said. "None of this crap that a kid lays there for five minutes and you play the next 25 like nothing happened. You are either hurt or you are not. When she stayed down, I knew something happened. When she came out, she didn't look good. That is why we didn't start her in the second half because Rosemary (Ragle, UConn's trainer) wanted to take her down there (to the locker room) and put her though that whole test that trainers have these kids when they get hit in the head. We were prepared to play in the second half (without Hayes) if we had to. When I came upstairs for the second half, I didn't think she was going to play in the second half. As soon as they told me, Bryan (Enterline) came over and said whoever you sub in is going to shoot the free throws, I couldn't wait to get Stefanie (Dolson) in. That took about three seconds."

This game was the first of the four-year deal between the teams as UConn will return to Duke during the 2012-13 season while UConn will host the Blue Devils next season and in the 2014-15 season.

New York powerhouse Christ the King has been kind to the Huskies over the years as All-Americans Sue Bird and Tina Charles both played their ball for the Middle Village, N.Y. squad.

While new recruiting target Saniya Chong doesn't play for Christ the King, former Royals head coach Vince Cannizzaro is said to have been the one to tip off the UConn coaching staff to the talents of the high-scoring junior guard at Ossising (N.Y.).

Assistant coach Shea Ralph is planning to check out Chong's game tomorrow while Marisa Moseley will be boarding a flight to California to do some recruiting including checking out UConn recruiting target Karlie Samuelson out of Edison (Calif.) High.

Former Connecticut star aids in Duke star's development

Part of my interview with Duke freshman phenom Elizabeth Williams was spent talking about her relationship with former Bridgeport Central star Nadine Domond, who founded a training service after her professional career ended.

I filed a notebook for Tuesday's edition of the Register with the lead item focusing on Williams' thoughts on Domond, who is expected to be at tonight's game.

Here's some of what she had to say about Domond, who is still sixth on the Connecticut career scoring list.
"One of my AAU teammates at the time had trained with her and said 'hey, I want you to meet this lady, she is a really great trainer,'” said Williams, Duke’s leading scorer and rebounder who has already broken the Blue Devils’ single season record for blocked shots for a freshman. “This player, she really came a long way from the season before so that was how I got introduced to her.
“She talked a lot about footwork. When I was young she tried to get me to be patient as a player and make the right moves.”

It was just announced that the Feb. 25 UConn/Marquette game has moved from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The game could set up a huge regular-season finale for UConn as the Huskies may need to beat Notre Dame two days later just to earn a share of the Big East regular-season title.

Hayes honored by Big East

UConn senior guard Tiffany Hayes was named the Big East Player of the Week for the first time in her career after a record-breaking week.

Hayes had a career-high 35 points in Wednesday's win over Syracuse and then on Saturday came back with 33 points and 10 rebounds against South Florida. The 68 points is a Connecticut program record for scoring output in consecutive games, breaking Kerry Bascom's mark of 65 set in 1991. Hayes also averaged 8.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals per game while making 21 of 30 shots from the field, 8 of 12 from 3-point range and 18 of 20 from 3-point range.

She is the first UConn player to be named Big East Player of the Week this season

Rutgers' Rushdan hurt in loss to Georgetown

Rutgers senior guard Khajidah Rushdan suffered a head injury in Sunday's loss to Georgetown and missed the second half. Rushdan left the game with 5:37 left in the first half after falling hard on her head.

There's no word on Rushdan's status for the Scarlet Knights game agaunst Notre Dame on Tuesday or Saturday's game at UConn. She is Rutgers' second-leading scorer, averaging 12.7 points per game, has a team-high 77 assists and is in the top three in rebounding, steals and blocks. She is the only Rutgers player to start all 21 games this season.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Elizabeth Williams dishes on Breanna Stewart

I just got back from Cameron Indoor Stadium for a sit-down interview with Duke freshman phenom Elizabeth Williams. While the main purpose of the interview was to do an advance on Williams and UConn freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, I did have a chance to talk to Williams about UConn recruit Breanna Stewart.

The two post players were teammates on the U.S. U-16 team in 2009, the U-17 squad in 2010 and last summer helped the U.S. win the U-19 World Championship,

"She has unlimited potential, she is a great player and person," said Williams of Stewart, who led the U.S. U-19 team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. "I was just talking to her yesterday. She is a great kid and is a really good player. She is a quick learner and she is eager to get better, definitely."

Stewart, a senior at Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) High, was named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, the first time an active high school player won that prestigious honor.

"To earn such an award at such a young age really shows the type of player that she is and all types of people are starting to see that," Williams said.

As of Thursday, there were about 5,000 tickets sold for tomorrow's game being played in the 9,314 seat Cameron Indoor Stadium. While tickets are being steadily sold, it might be pushing it to expect a sellout for the nationally-televised game.

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A week to remember for Breanna Stewart

Breanna Stewart has to be loving life right now.

This is how the second half of her week finished out.

On Wednesday the Cicero-North Syracuse, N.Y. senior sat in the stands at the Carrier Dome with her family to watch her future teammates at UConn beat Syracuse.

Two days later USA Basketball named her the Female Athlete of the Year after she was the leading scorer on both the Under-19 and Pan Am squads.

Also on Friday, she scored the 2,000th point of her high school career Stewart had 20 of her 26 points in the first half as Cicero-North Syracuse to a 94-39 win over Auburn.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Limited number of tickets remain for Duke game

According to a release on the Duke website, a limited number of tickets remain for the Monday's night showdown between No. 3 UConn and No. 5 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium

UConn will be playing at Duke for the fourth time and third during the Geno Auriemma era.

On Feb. 1, 2003 UConn beat Duke 77-65 and on Jan. 18, 2010 the Huskies went to Durham, N.C. and won 81-48.

Monday's 7 p.m. game will be televised on ESPN2.

Dolson has a monster game against USF

It didn't take long to figure out what the focus of UConn's offensive game plan was in Saturday's win over South Florida.

Sophomore center Stefanie Dolson had averaged 7.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.1 field-goal attempts in her last eight games, erupted for a season-high 22 points, a career-high 18 rebounds and her 15 shots were also the most for her this season.

"Coach challenged to the bigs to be what we are - which is a big - I was really focusing on rebounding, being strong out there, finishing inside which I didn't do a great job of," Dolson said. "I was definitely focused on rebounding and getting us more possessions.

"We as a group, we had a horrible half at Syracuse. We did a better job of coming out and being more aggressive, more awake and aware of things. Today I wanted it to translate to an entire game and have one half be one way and one be the other way."

Dolson was expected to be a focal point of UConn's offense this season but she has had a few more peaks ad valleys than she would like.

"The inconsistency comes probably from my mindset," Dolson said. "I think sometimes before a game, before practice I don't have the correct mindset, mentality. The other day against Syracuse I (mistook) energy for being too goofy so I don't think I came into the game being focused where as today I was extremely focused but with high (level of) energy. CD (UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey) has talked  about killer mentality, if you want to punch the practice players and then it will happen in the games."


Emotional day for Tiffany Hayes, Huskies

Tiffany Hayes wasn't particularly impacted when she found out that she set a Connecticut program record for points in consecutive games.

However, she was reduced to tears when the subject of playing on what would have been the 23rd birthday of her close friend Jasper Howard.

"One of my friends (Howard) who passed said to play every play like it is your last you will ever play and his birthday is today. I think I have been living by that and it gives me a lot of motivation."

That was about all Hayes could get out as she was asked a pair of follow up questions about the emotional impact of playing on Howard's birthday as well as the No. 6 UConn hat she was clutching while meeting with the media after Saturday's 77-62 win over South Florida.

Yeah, it is," Hayes said when asked if it was extra emotional game playing on his birthday. Then her words trailed off as she began to cry and turned away from the group of reporters surrounding her.

Hayes had 33 points in the game giving her 68 over her last two games. Before this week, the highest scoring total by a Husky in consecutive games is 65 set by Kerry Bascom in 1991.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Doty glad hiatus was a brief one

Caroline Doty practiced without restriction today - or at least as close to "without restriction" as one can with three torn ACLs. She is slated to return to the lineup on Saturday when UConn plays South Florida after missing Wednesday's game against Syracuse with a bone bruise in her left knee.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Doty will return to her role as a starter while Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will go back to being the first player of the bench.

"I wanted to be smart and not fight through it," said Doty, who asked out of the Jan. 21 game against DePaul with 17:40 remaining in the first half. "I've learned from the past that if you fight through something it possibly could get worse. I am trying to be smarter this time around so it is only a few days and not a few months down the road. I guess it takes three ACL tears to realize what's worth fighting through."

Doty said she first felt something during pregame warmups but it wasn't until after a collision early in the DePaul game that she asked to be taken out of the game. She did not return.


Hartley, Mosqueda-Lewis named to Wooden midseason list

UConn sophomore guard Bria Hartley and freshman guard/forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis were named to the Wooden Award Midseason Watch List.

Surprisingly, UConn's leading scorer Tiffany Hayes was not among the 20 players named to the list.

Breanna Stewart named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year

UConn signee Breanna Stewart has been named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year.

The 6-foot-4 senior at Cicero-North Syracuse, N.Y. was a member of the Under-19 national team as well as the Pan Am Games squad.

"It is exciting because this is a pretty big award," Stewart said in a statement. "I'm just honored to be thought of as USA Basketball's Female Athlete of the Year."
Jen Rizzotti, who coached Stewart on the U-19 squad said "Breanna Stewart ranks up with Maya Moore as one of the most competitive young players that I've ever seen,. She has the ability to tremendously impact the game on both ends of the floor. She works constantly to improve all aspects of her game, and I look forward to watching her growth as she develops into an even more complete player. Her desire to win and compete on every possession raised the level of intensity for our team and was crucial to our winning the gold medal."

USA Basketball will nominate Stewart for the U.S. Olympic Committee's 2011 SportsWoman of the Year, which will be announced later this year


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tiffany Hayes has a career night

Tiffany Hayes wasn't sure what to expect when she couldn't buy a basket during UConn's shootaround on Wednesday morning. But once she the game started, Hayes was unstoppable as she scored a career-high 35 points in Wednesday's win at Syracuse.

"I just think it was a good day," Hayes said. "From what I remember, it has definitely been a hard place to shoot from. At shootaround, I was struggling but during the game I felt it so I kept letting it go and they were going in."

The amazing thing is that Hayes needed only 15 shots for the 35 points.

"It reminded me a game Sveta had when she scored 39 points on 14 or 15 shots," Auriemma said. "That kind of production, that kind of efficiency that is what good players do. Anybody could get 35 if you take 30 shots or 25 shots but to do it the way she did it and still get everybody else involved in the game ... It wasn't just solely coming down and doing my thing, she did it within the framework of what we do and that makes it all the better."

Auriemma was actually encouraged by what he saw from Hayes at shootaround. Sure, he would have preferred she made a few more shots but her attitude when the shots didn't go in was a positive step forward.

"Unlike other times, she didn't just walk away from it and say (forget) it," Auriemma said. "She got involved. Our shootarounds are not just come out here and throw up balls at the rim. She got involved and did other things, she was part of 'this is what we are going to do offensively, this is what we are going to do defensively' and she was able to kind of capitalize on that. Sometimes you come to shootaround and you make everytthing and in the game, nothing goes in. I am happy for her. There has been a big difference in her, I have seen a change in herin the last couple of weeks and not just on the court either. She has a pretty clear vision right now of what she wants to do and how she wants to do it and I thrilled for her."

Her teammates obviously could tell early on that Hayes was feeling it.

"I knew when we were playing you could just see that Tiff was going," said Hartley, who assisted on three of Hayes' six 3-pointers. "She gets out in transition and has a lot of open 3's. She knew she was going to take them and she knocked them down."

Hayes passed Cathy Bochain, Jen Rizzotti and Wendy Davis to move into 14th place on UConn's career scoring list.

In perhaps the biggest statistical oddity of the night, this is the fourth time in the last five games against Syracuse that a UConn player had at least 34 points. As a point of reference, there have been 17 such games in the history of the program. It started back on Jan. 17, 2009 when Maya Moore had 40 points. Then in a game on Feb. 24, 2010 Moore went off for 38 points. Tina Charles put up 34 points in a Mar. 7, 2010 game against the Orange in the Big East tournament.

UConn commit Breanna Stewart, a star at nearby Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) was part of the record crowd of 4,357 at the Carrier Dome for the game.

Naturally, Auriemma was asked about Stewart in the post-game press conference.

'"Our coaches, we like to ask if this kid was 5-10 instead of 6-4, would she be a really good basketball player, would she be one of the top 10 players in the country?" Auriemma said. "A lot of times the answer is no. The reason a kid, a big player, is good is that they are 6-4. Breanna, if she was 5-10, she'd still be one the best players in America (because of) the fact that she is so competitive and is skilled and has a really good understanding of not only the game but her affect on the game.

"It's tough being a freshman at UConn and she will find that out. It is very difficult because the expectation level is going to be really high. There are going to be times when she can't meet those expectations. But if you were to draw up something and say what does a kid need  when you come to UConn as a post player, wing or anything - she can play any position she wants - what does that person need? She has all of those qualities and she is an even better person than she is a basketball player and you don't find that too often. We are lucky, we end up finding those kids."

After the game Auriemma said that junior guard Caroline Doty, who missed Wednesday's game with a bone bruise in her left knee, is still on track to return to practice on Friday and play on Saturday against USF.

"Right now that is the plan," Auriemma said. "We have a day off tomorrow. Friday, she is going to get a workout in, hopefully the entire practice and we are planning on playing her on Saturday."

Doty suffered the injury when UConn played at DePaul on Saturday and missed her first game of the season. Freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis started in her place and had 19 points.

"Not being able to be on the bench and see the mistakes we are making and then go out there and make a change, you kind of just have to go on the fly," Mosqueda-Lewis said after her first collegiate start.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Syracuse game brings reunion with Stefanie Dolson's high school rival

Stefanie Dolson's and Rachel Coffey's names were forever intertwined during their brilliance high school careers.

Dolson's Minisink Valley and Coffey's Kingston squads were always on a collision course to meet in the sectional finals and their individual brilliance was typically the focus of newspaper articles advancing the colossal showdowns.

The rivals will meet again tonight as Dolson is UConn's starting center while Coffey is a guard who has started 12 of 20 games for Syracuse.

"I can't tell you how many times in the newspaper, it was never Minisink vs. Kingston. It was always Stefanie vs. Rachel which I don't understand because we are completely positions but it was always a huge rivalry because it was always us two in the finals," Dolson said. "Any time we played them, it was fun.
"It is interesting. It is always fun to see somebody make it to a college basketball team from the same town or area you are from. I know for me personally, I don't have man of them because of where I am from so to see Rachel there, I am really happy for her and glad that she made it because I knew playing against her in high school that she is a great player. hat she made it to Syracuse and is starting now, I am really proud that, we are not from same town, but from the same area, county."

Upon hearing the news that UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields suffered a wrist injury that will sideline her for the next few weeks, I reached out to Norcross (Ga.) High coach Angie Hembree to see how long she expects the highly-touted junior to be sidelined.

"Diamond injured her left wrist in our game with North Gwinnett," Hembree said in an e-mail on Friday morning. "This is her non shooting hand and we expect her to be back in time for the playoffs."

Norcross is in Georgia's AAAAA class and the state tournament begins on either Feb. 24 or 25.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Doty won't play against Syracuse but should return against USF

Caroline Doty underwent an MRI today, showing the condition of her meniscus and ACL are unchanged according to an official release sent out by UConn.  Doty suffered a bone bruise in her left knee during warm-ups, prior to the game against DePaul on January 21, and began experiencing soreness early on in the game at DePaul.  She will not play against Syracuse on Wednesday but is probable to play against South Florida on Saturday.

It will be the first game that Doty has missed this season. While Doty was not available to the media on Monday, we were able to get reaction from Geno Auriemma and some of Doty's teammates.

"Every time she goes up for a layup, does this or does that we are kind of holding our breath," UConn junior forward Kelly Faris said. "You hate to see a good player like that going through injury after injury (plus) the fact that she has worked her butt off to get back. When she went out, immediately 'shoot, where's she at? What she is doing?' Once I saw her and made eye contact (and knew) she was fine it is a little

Auriemma believes the fact that they are celebrating that it is "only" a bone bruise is an indication of just what Doty has been through since suffering her first of three torn ACLs as a senior at Germantown Academy.

"I am sure everybody was fearful that it might be something a lot more serious but I guess it takes having three ACL repairs to say it's only a bone bruise," Auriemma said. "For most people 'hey it's a bone bruise and I am going to be out for two days, five days, who knows.' But in Caroline's case saying it was only
a bone bruise, it was like somebody broke a fingernail. She is not going to play Wednesday and then we will see for Saturday. She is a tough kid and if there is anyway at all you come back from something like that, if somebody says it is six days, she will do it in three days. That is just the kind of kid she is and I am happy to hear it is 'only' a bone bruise."

Auriemma never saw the series of events early in the game leading up to Doty asking to be taken out of the game.

"She asked to come out," Auriemma said. "Nobody saw it, a collision that 'oh my God, look.' It was (UConn assistant coach) Shea (Ralph) saying 'get Caroline.' I turned around, looked and she was (motioning) 'get me out.' It is a good sign on her part because in her younger days, she wouldn't have said anything, she just would have kept playing and it would have gotten worse. Then she would have been out three weeks. I am glad it worked out like it did."

With Doty out, freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is expected to make her first career start on Wednesday.

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An update on Moriah Jefferson

Thanks to the Texas Home Educators Sports Association (THESA) Riders coach Alan Burt, I have UConn signee Moriah Jefferson's up to date statstics.

Jefferson is averaging 18 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists. 5.6 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. Jefferson is shooting 57 percent from the field, 49 percent from 3-point range and 76 percent from the free-throw line and she has committed just 1.6 turnovers per contest. In 33 games, Jefferson has scored 20 points 13 times and 30 points three times.

The THESA Riders are 33-5 going into tonight's game against a 32-0 Pflugerville squad led by North Texas signee Itiana Taylor and American University commit Ari Booth.

While reports recently surfaced stating that UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields could be sidelined for 2-3 weeks with a wrist injury, another high school junior being pursued by the Huskies has returned to action.

Karlie Samuelson, a wing out of Edison (Calif.) High, missed 10 games with a sprained ankle. In her first game she, Samuelson had 28 points and had four 3-pointers in a 75-59 win over The Bishop's School on Saturday.

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Mosqueda-Lewis added another Big East honor

UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has been named the Big East's Freshman of the Week for a sixth time after averaging 16.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in wins over North Carolina, Cincinnati and DePaul.

Mosqueda-Lewis had 15 points, six rebounds and two assists in win over North Carolina, had 10 points and seven rebounds in a victory over Cincinnati and wrapped up her week by tying her career high with 25 points in Saturday's win at DePaul. Mosqueda-Lewis leads up in scoring, averaging 14.8 points per game and also had a team-high 50 3-pointers. She is the fifth UConn freshman with 50 3-pointers. Maya Moore set the school record for 3's by a Connecticut frosh with 73, topping Diana Taurasi's total of 71. Bria Hartley made a run at that mark last season before finishing with 69. Ann Strother and Jen Rizzotti finished with 58 and 53 during their freshman year.

It is the sixth time Mosqueda-Lewis has been named the Freshman of the Week, which ties her with eight other players including teammate Bria Hartley and former Huskies Svetlana Abrosimova and Tina Charles for the third most in Big East history.

She needs one more to tie former UConn star Rebecca Lobo for second on the all-time list. Maya Moore set the conference record with 10 selections in the 2007-08 season.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

UConn's defense too much for overmatched DePaul

With four players including All-American candidate Keisha Hampton sidelined for DePaul, it was pretty clear that Saturday night's UConn/DePaul game was not going to resemble the thriller played at McGrath-Phillips Arena back on Mar. 1, 2008 when a Maya Moore steal and Ketia Swanier coast to coast layup pulled out an improbable Connecticut victory.

Still, it was hard to expect the relative ease with which UConn dismantled No. 21 DePaul before a sellout crowd of 4,001.

UConn set McGrath-Phillips opponent records with 18 steals and a season-high nine blocks and the Huskies held Anna Martin, the Big East's second-leading scorer without a point.

"Everywhere she went tonight, we were able to get a hand on her," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Kelly (Faris) is tough enough to play against when you have two or three options but when you are the single, most important option - it is difficult. What we wanted to do is make sure we pushed her out of her comfort zone and try to make her be a playmaker instead of a shooter. We've got a couple of kids on
our team that take their defensive assignments and they knew they were going up against a very good player today. She had some open looks that she didn't make so I think she probably contributed to this as much as we did."

Offensively, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had five 3-pointers en route to a career-high tying 25 points.

The only drawback in the game was UConn junior guard Caroline Doty leaving the game with 17:40 left in the first half because of soreness in her surgically-repaired left knee. The initial tests were encouraging as the knee showed no signs of instability.

"Caroline's knee is sore every single day and it will probably be sore every single day for the rest of her life," Auriemma said. "I didn't see it happen but she said that she just felt something and there was a little bit of swelling in it which is not that unsual but Rosemary (Ragle, UConn's trainer) and (UConn team doctor_ Tom Trojian said let's just keep her out and they are not that concerned about it."

Auriemma also spoke about the high regard in which he holds DePaul coach Doug Bruno, going as far as saying the first thing he did when he was named the U.S. senior national team coach was put into motion to play to have Bruno be one of his assistant coaches for the 2012 Olympics. The official announcement was made about Bruno's appointment (as well as those of Jen Gillom and Marynell Meadors on Friday).

"The opportunity for me when I was named the coach to just immediately say 'this is a guy I want on my staff," Auriemma said. "Whatever committee looked at his qualifications, there was never any of 'why him?' He has given his life to the game. I just felt like he deserved it because of what he has done and what he has given to the game. He is a really smart guy and he knows a lot about the game that helps me and I think helps our players. for me, it is was the first thing I did when I got the job."
Finally, UConn signee Morgan Tuck (who lives about 30 minutes away in Bolingbrook) was a part of the 4,001 in attendance tonight.

Doty out of game with sore knee

UConn junior guard Caroline Doty left Saturday's game against DePaul with 17:40 left in the first half complaining of soreness in her surgically-repaired left knee.

UConn officials said the soreness developed over the last week since UConn is finishing up a stretch of four games in eight days, When examined by Dr. Tom Trojian, the knee was stable. She will not return to the game.

Caroline's knee is sore every single day and it will probably be sore every single day for the rest of her life. I didn't see it hapen but she said that she just felt something and there was a little bit of swelling in it which is not that unsual but Rosemary and Tom Trojian said let's just keep her out and they are not that concerned about it


Live chat starts at 7 p.m.

A final reminder that I will be hosting a live chat from 7-7:45 before signing off in time for the start of UConn's game against DePaul.

Here is a link to join the chat

Big game for Moriah Jefferson; Huskies Back Pat

Here are a couple of links people might be interested in.

First, thanks to Moriah Jefferson's coach with the THESA Riders for letting me know of a gamer from last night's game against Wylie when Jefferson had 28 points and four 3-pointers to lift THESA past Wylie 62-60. Wylie was led by Peyton Little's 34 points. If Little's name sounds familiar it is because very briefly she was linked with UConn in the recruiting process.

Also, courtesy of my colleague Dave Borges you can find a photo and video of the UConn men's basketball team wearing "We Back Pat" t-shirts in honor of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt's battle with early onset dementia. UConn plays at Tennessee this afternoon. Dave also has some additional details about the UConn women's team needing to fly to Indianapolis with some UConn donors in order to make it into Chicago for tonight's game.

Finally, feel free to join me on a live chat before tonight's game. I'll be fielding questions from 7-7:45 p.m. I'll provide a link as it draws closer.


Another huge game for Breanna Stewart

It's been a pretty impressive week for Breanna Stewart.

On Sunday the UConn commit and No. 1 ranked high school senior by all the major recruiting services had 44 points to lead her Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) team to a win over the Hill School in the Blue Star Invitational at Upper Dublin (PA) High. Then she had 24 points in a victory over Proctor out of Utica, NY. In her most recent game, she had 39 points in Friday's win over West Genesee.

Stewart is now averaging 24 points per game.

Stewart's future UConn teammate Moriah Jefferson is also enjoying an outstanding senior season. For those who haven't seen her play, here is a highlight video of her

As for the final member of the class, when I spoke with Morgan Tuck's head coach at Bolingbrook (Ill.) High last Friday, he thought she would be at the DePaul game since Bolingbrook doesn't have a game tonight. I will try to keep an eye out to see if Tuck is indeed among the sellout crowd at tonight's game.
Changing gears a little, I caught up with DePaul coach Doug Bruno after yesterday's USA Basketball press conference where he, Marynell Meadors and Jen Gillom were officially named as the assistant coaches on Geno Auriemma's U.S. Olympic team staff.

His take on this year's UConn team was the focus of the advance I wrote for tonight's game but for those who missed that story, here's some of what he had to say.

"UConn, it looks to me like they are on a mission and the mission is to prove that 'we are somebody, we are a great UConn team without Maya,' I don't think there is a kid on the UConn team who wouldn't want to have Maya right now. But it looks to me like they are trying to prove and show the world that (they) can win games before Maya and afer Maya. This ia a very good basketball teams and like all really good basketball teams, you change one player and you change an entire group dynamic. Bria (Hartley) is the leader of the pack but Tiffany (Hayes) is a senior who has been though a lot, a lot, a lot of tough experiences through her three years, Kelly Faris is so underrated and (Stefanie) Dolson is a very critical inside player, Caroline (Doty)can shoot the ball and Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) is a great freshman. It is a real strong team, they have no weakness."

I will be taking questions on a live chat between 7-7:45 p.m. today. You can log in by clicking the link below

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Travel woes for UConn; live chat tomorrow

Even before taking on Cincinnati on Thursday night, UConn got word that its flight to Chicago today had been cancelled.

Well, even with a charter flight things can be complicated. The team had to fly into Indianapolis and as we speak they are taking a bus to Chicago.

I'll be taking questions in my first live chat of the season tomorrow before the game (likely between 7-7:45 p.m.).

Here's a link to the chat

A little USA Basketball talk

After a longer than anticipated trip to Chicago for tomorrow's DePaul game, I now can get around to talking about the naming of Geno Auriemma's Olympic staff.

My initial plan was to arrive in Chicago in plenty of time to make it to the USA Basketball press conference today. That was before US Airways set back customer service several decades today. Not only did they expect people flying into areas under winter advisories to voluntarily give up their seats to take a later flight (sure, I'd love to sit in an airport for 12-18 hours because you overbooked your flight) but the people in Philadelphia refused to hold the doors for another 5-10 minutes even though about 10 customers taking a flight out of New Haven were on the connecting flight from Philadelphia to Chicago. We got to the gate about 5-6 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart but were told we were too late.

OK, my travel rant is over.

While I didn't make it to the press conference, I was able to catch up with DePaul head coach and U.S. Olympic assistant coach Doug Bruno (officially named to the staff today along with Atlanta Dream head coach Marynell Meadors and Washington Mystics assistant Jen Gillom) and USA Basketball women's national team director Carol Callan.

Callan spoke about the importance of continuity as the same staff which helped the U.S. win the World Championships in 2010 will be coaching the U.S. at the Olympics later this year.

"It's incredibly important," Callan said. "When you take Geno and these three coaches together, we don't have a whole lot of time to train and a whole lot of time to sit together, prepare leaidng up to it and for them to be able to come in for three days before we even head over the Europe, it is like an old shoe, you just fit right in. They understand their roles, they know what Geno wants, they know the players. We want
players to play over and over again but we also want coaches to coach over and over again so it is invaluable. It is a comfort level, it is an intelligence level and we are already coming in at this level rather than starting fresh every single (year)."

Callan said part of the purpose of doing this announcement to coincide with tomorrow's game between Auriemma's Huskies and Bruno's Blue Demons is that it gives her a chance to talk some things through with Auriemma not the least of which are his thoughts on the available players. The men's program just released its player pool and Callan said "I think soon. Nothing planned but the plan is to do something soon. Part of this weekend, we're not going to take Geno too far away from his (UConn) responsibilities, but there are a couple of things I want to get his opinion on and one of them is let's get deadlines and time lines on certain things."

Callan said ideally she'd like to Olympic team to be named in the spring, perhaps in late March or early April if for no other reason so that the players can make plans to get friends and family over to London.

She said the team will likely gather at an East Coast location for a few days before heading to Europe. Playing a group of non-Olympic WNBA All-Stars is not an appealing option but playing international teams both in the U.S. and then in Europe is a better way to prepare in the mind of the USA Basketball folks.

"It would be nice to do something here, have a nice kickoff, send off thing," Callan said. "Our history has been if we go to Europe, we try to train on the East Coast, if we go to Asia we try to train on the West Coast I think while we have significant time to when we have to play our first game in London, that transition  body clock wise is important as well. It helps if we start on the East Coast and we already have that piece done.

"We are talking first to opponents to where we think we can get some games. Typically what we do is when the WNBA breaks and they have now released their schedule so I guess their last round of games before the Olympics is around the (July) 13th. Typically what we'll do is gather domestically, get a couple of days in. In the past we have played a WNBA all-star team and we are kind to try to do more international things so w are in the process of putting that together. We have already announced that we are going to play Great Britain in Manchester, England on July 18. That leaves us a five-day period of that and really needing to be in London. I hope in next month or so we will have that all tied down as we can even announce what we were doing, put the blueprint (together)."


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Playing friends not always easy for Auriemma

On Thursday night UConn coach Geno Auriemma squared off against former UConn star and longtime assistant coach Jamelle Elliott. On Sarturday he will match wits with one of his closest friends in DePaul's Doug Bruno.

After Thursday's win over the Bearcats, I asked Auriemma his thoughts of playing against such close friends.

"I think the more you play them, the less those things come into play," Auriemma said, "I remember the first time we played Jamelle or Jen's team or you have a certain, a little apprehension there but the more we play like tonight, I was more concerned about our team. I spent a lot of time with Jamelle last night. The same with Bruno, he and I have had a long relationship but if you pay attention to him on Saturday, he doesn't treat me any different from any other guy. He is a competitive guy, he is getting after the officials when he thinks he has to, he is passionate and he is not really worried about who is on the other sideline. I am not either. The only time I feel for them is when their team doesn't play well because if you don't play well against us, you don't have a chance. The only thing I wish for when i play people I have a relationship with and hope their team plays well."

Tiffany Hayes became the 18th UConn player to score 1,500 points and moved by Asjha Jones and into 17th on Connecticut's career scoring list. She also tied Kerry Bascom for ninth on the career 3-pointer list.

"It's just a pat of it," said Hayes, who was also a part of her 130th victory at UConn. "I didn't really know. That is a plus that I have been able to be on that list with all those great players but I have to continue to focus on getting better."

Auriemma talked about the select company Hayes has put herself in during the last four years.

"Tiffany's been fortunate, she has been here during an era when we have played a lot of games. I would hate to think how many points Kerry would score if she played 40 games a year," Auriemma said. "But I think you have to give Tiffany a lot of credit because she has been pretty consistent the whole four years she has been here Yeah, she's had her moments when she's been great and had moments when she has not been great but you don't get to be on the list of most things at Connecticut (by accident). She is up there
with some good players."

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North Babylon reunion tonight

Long before Bria Hartley emerged into an All-American candidate at UConn, she was a wide-eyed middle school phenom hoping for a chance to suit up at North Babylon High School.

When Hartley got her chance as an eighth grader, among the players there to ease her transition was Chanel Chisholm.

Tonight the two former teammates will square off when Hartley and UConn host Chisholm's Cincinnati squad.

"She was definitely one of the stars on that team and the leader of that team and you could tell how hard she worked and how talented she was," Hartley said. "She was always giving me pointers even though I was one of the younger ones. Then when I was in eighth grade, I finally got to play with her. Playing with somebody like that and being around the older girls, it helped me.

"I was very young, really little but she helped me know what I am supposed to do when I am on the court and just do what I did best."

Hartley and Chisholm were teammates for two seasons. Their last year together was a special one. When Hartley was a freshman and Chisholm a senior, they helped North Babylon win its first Long Island title.

"She had a really big role, actually, even though she was in middle school," Chisholm said. "She was playing up on the varsity team and played a really big role competing and getting us to the state finals (during the 2006-07 season)."

Chisholm headed to Vanderbilt for two seasons before transferring to Cincinnati. While Chisholm was adjusting to college life, Hartley was developing into one of the top players in Long Island. Her emergence was not a surprise to Chisholm.

"She has always been a really good player, she has always competed at a high level so I am not surprised at all.

"I thought Bria was really good, especially when she was younger. She had a good understanding of the game and had a really good basketball IQ, she was very fundamentally sound as well as she has a lot of skill and is talented. I knew she was going to be really good the older she got."

Both Hartley and Chisholm are eager for tonight's reunion.

"She was a lot older than me but we were still pretty close and pretty good friends," Hartley said. "Anytime you are playing against somebody that you knew for a long time growing up, you see that you are both doing well and both playing Division I basketball, you just smile and have fun while you are playing.

"I think a lot of fans that saw us play in high school, they watch the games. I talk to some old friends and they talk about how we are playing each other. It is something special."

For those of you who have CPTV Sports, they will be televising the Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.)/West Springfield (Mass.) game from last week's HoopHall Classic beginning at 5 p.m. tonight. It will give people a chance to see UConn commit Breanna Stewart in action before checking out the UConn/Cincinnati game.

The WNBA announced its 2012 schedule which kicks off on May 18 when Seattle hosts Los Angeles.

The Connecticut Sun opens up the following day with a 4 p.m. game at New York with the two teams playing in Connecticut's home opener on May 20 at 5 p.m.

Tracking the former Huskies coming to Mohegan Sun Arena
June 1: Minnesota (Maya Moore, Charde Houston), 7 p.m.
July 1: Seattle (Sue Bird), 5 p.m.
Aug. 26: Chicago (Swin Cash), 5 p.m.
Sep. 7: Phoenix (Diana Taurasi, Ketia Swanier), 7 p.m.

Here is Connecticut's entire schedule
Saturday, May 19                  at New York                            4:00 pm
Sunday, May 20                     New York                            5:00 pm

Friday, May 25                     San Antonio                         7:00 pm

Friday, June 1                     Minnesota                           7:00 pm

Sunday, June 3                     Washington                          3:00 pm

Friday, June 8                          at Indiana                             7:00 pm

Sunday, June 10                     Atlanta                                     5:00 pm

Wednesday, June 13                     Los Angeles                         8:00 pm

Friday, June 15                     New York                            7:00 pm

Sunday, June 17                  at Atlanta                             3:00 pm

Tuesday, June 19                     Indiana                                     7:00 pm

Thursday, June 21                  at Indiana                             7:00 pm

Friday, June 29                  at Washington                          7:00 pm

Sunday, July 1                     Seattle                                     5:00 pm

Friday, July 6                          at Tulsa                               7:00 pm

Saturday, July 7                  at Minnesota                           7:00 pm

Tuesday, July 10                  at Washington                         11:30 am

Wednesday, July 11                     Washington                          7:00 pm

Friday, July 13                          at Chicago                             7:30 pm

Thursday, August 16                  at New York                            7:00 pm

Saturday, August 18                     New York                            7:00 pm

Tuesday, August 21                     Tulsa                                       7:00 pm

Sunday, August 26                     Chicago                             5:00 pm

Tuesday, August 28                  at Chicago                             7:00 pm

Thursday, August 30                 at San Antonio                         7:00 pm

Sunday, September 2                  at Atlanta                             3:00 pm

Tuesday, September 4                  at Washington                          7:00 pm

Friday, September 7                     Phoenix                             7:00 pm

Sunday, September  9             Chicago                             5:00 pm

Wednesday, September 12         at Phoenix                             7:00 pm

Friday, September 14                 at  Los Angeles                         8:00 pm

Sunday, September 16                  at Seattle                             6:00 pm

Wednesday, September 19             Indiana                                     7:00 pm

Sunday, September 23            Atlanta                                     5:00 pm

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Banks back at practice; cleared to play

UConn freshman guard Brianna Banks, who missed Monday's game with North Carolina because of a head injury, returned to practice on Wednesday and should play on Thursday against Cincinnati.

Banks was hurt during Sunday's practice.

"I was dribbling down the court, slipped and turned around. That's when I took a knee to the head," Banks said in a statement released by UConn.

"I felt fine pretty shortly after and wasn't ever really worried."

Banks was encouraged by how she practiced on Wednesday.

"It went really well today.  I felt totally normal and was glad to be back out there."


All three UConn signees nominees for McDonald's All-American game

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion considering how many players make the initial list but UConn signees Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck are among the nominees for the McDonald's All-American game, which is being played on Mar. 28 at the United Center in Chicago.

Hillhouse's Bria Holmes, a West Virginia commit, is the only Connecticut player nominated for the girls' game.

The list of 24 players picked to compete in the game will be announced on Feb. 9.

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UConn-dominated U-19 team honored by USA Basketball

The United States team which won the U-19 World Championship for Women were named the 2011 team of the year by USA Basketball.

Not only was the team coached by former UConn great Jen Rizzotti but also four of the top five scorers either currently play for UConn or in the case of leading scorer Breanna Stewart, has signed a letter of intent with Connecticut.

Joining Stewart on the squad were UConn sophomores Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and another UConn signee Morgan Tuck as well as UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields.

The team certainly deserves recognition for winning the world title but if I had a vote (which I do not) I would have selected the U.S. 3x3 girls team that was forced to play in the semifinals with just two players when Rebecca Greenwell suffered a knee injury and UConn recruiting target Taya Reimer was already out with a sprained ankle. The team lost in the semifinals and in the bronze-medal game but received an honorary bronze medal for their efforts.

Also, USA Basketball will hold a press conference to announce its Olympic assistant coaches on Friday in Chicago. Hmm, UConn is playing at DePaul on Saturday and DePaul coach Doug Bruno has been an assistant with head coach Geno Auriemma during the run to the World Championship gold medal. Something tells me there will be a Bruno sighting at the press conference (especially since the DePaul official athletic site will be providing a live stream of the press conference). Barring any traveling issues, I'm planning to be at the press conference and will file a report when it becomes official.

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Video of UConn target Taya Reimer's most recent game

For those interested in seeing UConn recruiting target Taya Reimer's most recent game, last night's game between Reimer's Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.) squad and Lawrence North was the IHoops Game of the Week.

Reimer, a 6-foot-3 junior, finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds as Hamilton Southeastern improved to 16-0 to a 67-52 victor. I don't have her updated stats but through games of Jan. 3, she was averaging 18.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hartley joined 100 3-pointer club; Doty is next

Sorry to admit I completely missed the fact that Bria Hartley made the 100th 3-pointer of her career in Monday's win over North Carolina (joining Jen Rizzotti, Diana Taurasi, Ann Strother, Mel Thomas and Maya Moore as the only sophomores to reach that milestone). Then I noticed that Caroline Doty has 99 career treys heading into Thursday's game against Cincinnati. It got me wondering how many times has UConn had three players with 100 career 3's playing at the same time since Tiffany Hayes has 160 career 3-pointers.

I leafed through the UConn media guide and the only other time I could find it happening was during the 2003-04 when Taurasi, Maria Conlon and Strother accomplished the feat.

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Cincinnati up next

On Thursday night former UConn player and assistant coach Jamelle Elliott will bring her Cincinnati squad into Gampel Pavilion as the Huskies begin a stretch of four straight games against Big East foes.

The process of attempting to build the Cincinnati program has been a slow one for Elliott. This seat the Bearcats are 9-8 but at 0-4 are one of three winless teams in Big East play.

At Big East media day I spoke with Elliott for a few minutes to check on the progress of her team. I know it's been three months but I figured some people might be interested in her take on this year's squad.

"We are putting in the work, we are looking forward to it paying off. We don't have the injuries this year so we actually are able to go down 5 on 5 and practice. I truly believe we are better at this time this year than we were last year. That has to do with the numbers and - knock on wood - we don't have any injuries so far this year. Our mindset is different. Our freshmen last year, they played a lot of minutes, they know now what it takes to compete in a conference like the Big East Conference. I think they approach every practice knowing what is down the line."

I was curious how deep she thought Cincinnati would be this season.

"I think we have a good solid eight that could potentially play a lot of minutes and we are hoping that (grows) as practice goes on," Elliott said.

This season four Cincinnati players, led by sophomore Dayeesha Hollins, rank among the top 10 in the Big East in minutes played.

When Elliott was hired, she said she'd like to have an exciting, aggressive style of play. Points have been hard to come by at times during her stint so I asked her if we could expect more of an uptempo style this season.

"More than last season, yes," Elliott said. "I don't think last year we were able to score a whole lot of points in transition just because our point guard was injured and we couldn't be as mobile and push the ball as much. This year we have a point guard that wants to push it and we have big guys willing to run the floor so I think we definitely will score more in transition this year."

Even after being on the receiving end of the worst loss in program history, North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said she likes to play UConn and would like to continue the series. However, even before the 51-point beat down, the word I was hearing that ESPN had tired of airing the UConn/North Carolina games only to see the game decided by the second television timeout.

With Maryland being added to the UConn schedule for the next two seasons, it's uncertain if North Carolina will be playing UConn in the immediate future. It's just me talking but I doubt Maryland is dying to have a long-term rivalry with UConn so after the two-year agreement with the Terrapins comes to an end, perhaps North Carolina and UConn could resume their series. I look at Oklahoma in a similar light. The North Carolina game becomes sort of irrelevant now that UConn is set to play Duke and Maryland for the next two seasons while regular-season games against Texas A&M and Baylor makes me wonder what the purpose of playing Oklahoma would be. Another thing to ponder is whether the new-look Big East would go to an 18-game schedule. If that's the case, there would be two fewer non-conference slots making the prospects of playing three teams from one conference a bit on the unlikely side.


Tuck stars in McDonald's Shootout

UConn signee Morgan Tuck had 26 points (including 14 in the first quarter), eight rebounds and three steals to lead her Bolingbrook (Ill.) High team to a 67-36 win over Niles West in the McDonald's Shootout.

Niles West was led by Notre Dame-bound Jewell Loyd, who had 23 points and eight rebounds.


Monday, January 16, 2012

UConn crushes North Carolina

Considering that North Carolina was coming off a stunning loss to Clemson, nobody was expecting the Tar Heels to come into Gampel Pavilion and end the Huskies' NCAA women's basketball record winning streak.

However, there was no way of anticipating the event which unfolded on Monday night as UConn rolled to an 86-35 win over the Tar Heels. It was the most lopsided defeat in North Carolina's history and fell two points shy of UConn's biggest win over a ranked opponent.

"We don't base our win off the score but it is still a little bit surprising for a program like that and a team like that," UConn junior forward Kelly Faris said. "You don't expect going into the game where you are going to play UNC, you don't expect to comer out with a gap in the score like that so it is a surprise."

Bria Hartley led six players in double digits with 17 points. UConn was aided by 26 North Carolina turnovers (against just four turnovers).

"They had the pedal to the metal and were really rocking and rolling out there," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We were just a step slow and couldn't get anything going. I don't think we quit, but I think we got real frustrated."

Later in the post-game press conference, Hatchell went into a long dissertation bemoaning the excessive physicality prevalent in today's game. She opened longed for a return to the days when finesse ruled the sport (perhaps in 1994 when the Tar Heels won the program's only national title).

Naturally Auriemma was asked for his opinion and he did not hold back.

"That is her opinion," Auriemma said. "I don't think Stefanie Dolson is physical at all so if Sylvia is worried about how physical Stefanie Dolson is, she should try to play in our league for about a month and then you could see what physical really is. I think the stuff off the ball and obviously if you watch the game, you see the fouls off the ball impact the game. I didn' t see a lot of that tonight. There wasn't a lot of that tonight, it was just run up and down and I didn't see any of that tonight. I would like for our big guys to be physical, that is part of being a big guy. That is what you are supposed to do.

"I don't want to disrespect anybody but in their league, they don't guard anybody so in our league we do.
(Former New York Knick stars) Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere were really good. I don't know how good they'd be today. Games change, men, women, high school, college, games change in some instances for the better and in some instances for the worse. I don't think we did anything today where you would say 'wow, that Connecticut team  was really physical.' I remember when Shea, Sveta and those
guys were playing, you are talking about physical games we would have against Rutgers, Tennessee or anybody else. In some ways I think they cleaned up some of that. I don't think they let you play like they used to let you play. Yes, there was finesse back in the game when I was coaching at Virginia in 1983. I think those days are long gone. The kids are quicker, faster, they are better It doesn't mean they are better basketball players, don't get me wrong, but the game we played against Notre Dame, nobody could open. The game we played against West Virginia, nobody could get open. That is not good."

The play when freshman guard Brianna Banks suffered the head injury which sidelined her for Monday's game against North Carolina was pretty innocuous.

"It wasn't one of those things that was evident," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She slipped and fell down and as she was going down she banged into somebody's knee and the next thing you know she is in the training room. Nobody really saw it, there was just too much activity going on. They went in and Rosemary said they went through the routine and they asked her a bunch of questions and
couldn't give them any straight answers. I thought, not much has changed why are we worried? In today's day and age, I think you want to be careful with those things. It was good to keep her out and we'll see how she feels on Wednesday."

Brianna Banks won't play tonight

UConn freshman guard Brianna Banks suffered a head injury in practice on Sunday and won't play tonight. She is expected to return to practice on Wednesday and should be able to play on Thursday against Cincinnati.

Banks is averaging 4.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 steals for UConn. She has scored in double figures three times including a season-high 17 against Fairleigh Dickinson.


Mosqueda-Lewis honored by Big East

UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was named the Big East's Freshman of the Week as she averaged 14.5 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in wins over Providence and Villanova.

It is the fifth time Mosqueda-Lewis earned the honor which puts her halfway to Maya Moore's conference record. If she wins the honor one more time, she will move into a tie for third with eight players including UConn products Svetlana Abrosimova, Tina Charles and Bria Hartley. Rebecca Lobo, who will handle the color commentary for tonight's game against North Carolina, is alone in second place with seven Freshman/Rookie of the Week selections.


Tickets available for tonight's game

Somewhere between 1,500-2,000 tickets are still available for tonight's game between UConn and North Carolina.

The game is set to tip shortly after 7 and will be televised on ESPN2.

While that game is being played, there will be another contest of note with UConn signee Morgan Tuck's Bolingbrook squad playing a Niles West team led by Notre Dame commit Jewell Loyd at 8 p.m. in the McDonald's Shootout at Willowbrook in Villa Park, Ill. Unfortunately I just checked my schedule grid and did not see that game televised which is a shame because I'd tune in to see that one.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Huskies right back to work

The schedule makers didn't do UConn any favors having the Huskies play Villanova and North Carolina, who stylistically couldn't be more diverse, in a span of three days.

"This Saturday/Monday thing, there is just no way to get around it," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I think that is what our program is, we are a Monday afternoon or Monday night kind of program so if you want to take advantage of the opportunities you get (to be on national TV) you have to go Saturday/Monday and those are going to be Carolina, Oklahoma, Stanford, Baylor, Duke, it is going to be somebody that you are going to go 'oh Jesus.' The fact that it is Villanova and whoever on Monday, yeah you have to change gears pretty quickly. (Sunday) what we talked about will be completely different from what we talked about coming down here. But it is how you get better. You go into the NCAA tournament and you play somebody Saturday in a conference you haven't seen before and it is walk it up (the floor) and the next day you can play Oregon who is trying to get 120 so it is good preparation."
The Villanova game began a stretch of four games in eight days as the Huskies host Cincinnati on Thursday and then travel to Chicago for a Saturday game at DePaul.

"Four games in eight days, this will be a good week for us," Auriemma said. "I want to see how they come out of this. I am pretty happy with where we are right now but it starts to get pretty serious now, it's downhill. It's a bobsled from now until the end of March."

Among the topics Auriemma addressed after Saturday's win over Villanova was the agreement to extend the regular-season series with Baylor for two more years. The teams will play in Connecticut next season before squaring off in Waco, Texas the following season.

"I remember saying to Neal (Eskin, UConn's Senior Associate Director of Athletics/Special Projects & External Services) that these are the kinds of games you want to play in and these are the kinds of games that TV wants to put on television so what's the down side?" Auriemma said. "There really isn't (one). As long as you aren't worried about your record. Every coach has a different perspective on things. I am not worried about my record, if we win, we lose, I don't care. The bottom line is we are going to play the games I think are great to play in, great for our fans to watch, ones that my players get all excited about. Win or lose, who care? That game isn't going to keep you out of the NCAA tournament so I don't see any down side to it."

With my tongue plantled firmly in my cheek, I asked him if he pushed for the renewal so he could get another standing ovation from the Baylor fans as he did in last month's game?

"There are a lot of strong Americans down there, there is a lot of patriotism down there in Texas. If we come up third in the Olympics, there might not be a standing ovation. The Alamo might not be the only place where guys get killed. That might be part of a song 'Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Geno Auriemma hanging there with a Mexican lance through them.'"

Switching gears, Auriemma talked about the decision not to play freshman forward/center Kiah Stokes on Saturday and the process of getting Stokes to become a more impactful player in practice and during games.

"She is frustrating, so frustrating, just frustrating, it is the only thing I can tell you is that she is frustrating because she is really, really good," Auriemma said. "I am tying to instill in her what it takes to play at this level and I don't want to reward a mediocre and even less of an effort. 'This is what I did in high school, Coach.' Well it doesn't work here. You are too good, too talented and have too much potential. We are going to find out how bad you want this. I think she does."

Even four days after the fact, the biggest missed free throw of Rachel Roberts' career at Villanova still irked the former Mercy High star.

The Wildcats were leading Marquette by two points when Roberts was fouled with 3 seconds left. If she makes both shots, the game is over. However, the junior guard missed the front end of the one and one setting the stage for Katie Young to hit a 40-footer at the buzzer to give Marquette an improbable 51-50 win.

"I don't know if words can honestly describe what that felt like because I have been struggling from the free-throw line," Roberts said. "I got up there and said 'I can't miss this.' Instead of being the confident person I should have been, I was doubting myself. I knew the moment I missed it that there was something that was going to happen and this game isn't over. It really felt like someone put a dagger in my heart. My dad was saying that there is nothing that you can do about it."

Roberts was able to put it behind her as she led the Wildcats with 16 points in Saturday's loss to UConn. 

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

UConn plays Small Ball in win

In the eyes of UConn coach Geno Auriemma, the best way of beating Villanova was to join them.

Two days before facing the Wildcats, Auriemma hoped that he would be able to use his 6-foot-5 sophomore center Stefanie Dolson as much as he does in a normal game. However, he openly wondered if that was going to be a realistic possibility considering how difficult it is for a post player to come out and guard a Villanova team that uses all five players as threats from the perimeter.

With 13:20 left in the first half he reluctantly went to Plan B. Auriemma went with a five-guard lineup and there was little arguing with the results as a 15-0 first-half run set the wheels in motion for a 72-49 victory.

"Villanova makes it very difficult on you to defend them because what they will do is take whatever big guy is the least mobile and make you come out on the perimeter and there is nothing you can do about that, that is how they are going to play," Auriemma said. "We were hoping that we would be able to have enough success that if we miss enough 3's that it didn't hurt us and still play our regular lineup.  They shot the ball really well from the 3-point line so it forced us to go in the other direction. I thought those kids did a great job when they came in, I felt like we really stepped up. The pressure had its desired effect. Villanova very rarely turns it over and they turned it over a lot today (23 turnovers). There was one stretch in 12 possessions where they had eight an that is where the game kind of got separated."

Senior Tiffany Hayes played a starring role with 22 points while Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 16.

"We worked on that some in practice this weekend," Hayes said. "It is just a faster pace for us. Although we are small, we have some strong guards who can post up in there - Kelly, me, Kaleena sometimes. I don't think it is a disadvantage for us because we can still moving the ball and have a post presence. I think it was a good look for us and we got a lot of steals."

If former Mercy High star Rachel Roberts had her way, she would have received a scholarship offer to play for UConn and would be realizing a lifelong dream. However, since the Huskies went in a different direction, the Marlborough native has no qualms about the cards she was dealt. She has emerged into a reliable offensive option in her junior season at Villanova.

"Every girl grows up dreaming of playing for Connecticut and I grew up 20 minutes (from UConn) and always wanted to be a Husky but  you grow up and I realize that I really can't compete with some of those girls so being here at this place is amazing for me, the academics and basketball is probably the best decision I've ever made," Roberts said. "Being from Connecticut, I know my grandparents were watching, my high school coach was watching, my mom and dad where watching. Just seeing Meghan (Culmo) out there doing the announcing (for CPTV), I grew up watching that, I grew up supporting the Huskies and I wish them all the best. Maybe if we see them in the NCAA tournament we will beat them but I wish them all the best. It is one of those programs,I hold it dear to my heart. I used to cry when they would lose but I am here now so I have to support the Wildcats."

Geno Auriemma couldn't use the word "frustrating" enough to describe UConn freshman Kiah Stokes.

Stokes did not get into Saturday's game and it wasn't because of the tough matchup for post players against Villanova but her continuing struggles to put forth the proper effort in practice.

Auriemma sees the potential in Stokes but has stressed to her that playing at UConn requires more energy and commitment to play at this level, He believes in Stokes and thinks she will "get it" but it is going to be a long process,

Unselfishness part of Stewart's makeup

Considering that the tallest player on the opposing team was a 5-foot-10 freshman, Breanna Stewart could probably have dropped 40 or 50 points in Friday night's game in Springfield, Mass.

However, in the early going the UConn signee and top-rated high school senior in the country, spent the early stages of Cicero-North Syracuse's game against West Springfield looking to get her teammates open looks.

"I think I am a very unselfish player, and I like to get it to my teammates as much as possible," Stewart said after scoring 22 points and adding 18 rebounds in a 60-20 win. "I want them to have a great game. It is just how I play. I want to get them the ball and get them involved. You are playing on a five-person team. Why not try to get them opportunities to score, as well. "

She also brought the ball up the floor on a regular basis not bad for somebody projected to be a power forward at the next level.

"I used to dribble around the block. I can’t do that as much now because it is snowing, of course, and I’m a little busy. But I try to dribble around my block doing different things. It just has progressed over the years. It started in sixth or seventh grade and it has always worked out."

For those who couldn't get to the game and want to see it again, the game will air on CPTV Sports on Thursday before the Cincinnati game.

As for Stewart, she will be at today's Villanova game with the entire Cicero-North Syracuse team and will also be in attendance on Jan. 25 at Syracuse.

Staying on the subject of recruits take in UConn games, I spoke to Bolingbrook (Ill.) High coach Tony Smith last night and he said he thought UConn signee Morgan Tuck would be at the DePaul since Bolingbrook isn't playing that day. He told me that Tuck's season averages are 30 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals,

Also in Springfield was Christ the King and I never pass up the chance to talk to the Royals' coach Bob Mackey.

Much of the interview session with Mackey was spent talking about his gifted sophomore Sierra Calhoun, who is attracting interest from UConn as well as "everybody and their brother. The line starts around the block. I know what block you guys all want it to start, and I am not going there.

"She is really coming into her own. She had a couple really good games out in Phoenix where she stepped up really big. I think she is really starting to be a really good team player. She had seven assists the other night. Tonight she had two. It is starting to come. It is really coming along really well. What a great athlete. What a great kid."

Mackey put Calhoun in select company when asked about where she ranks among the sophomore stars at Christ the King.

"She is comparable to a Chamique Holdsclaw, a Sue Bird, a Tina Charles, a Bria Smith. She is in that realm. As sophomores they were all a cut above most kids."

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Stewart enjoys her latest visit to New England

There are more than a few games worth circling on the Cicero-North Syracuse calendar but for UConn commit Breanna Stewart, it's hard to top playing a game just over the Connecticut border and at an event sponsored by the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The 6-foot-4 Stewart did her part with 22 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and seven blocks in less than three quarters of play in a 60-20 win over previously undefeated West Springfield.

Being so close to the UConn practice made her think about how things will be next year when she suits up for the Huskies.

"I try to be as prepared as I can because I know it is going to be a step up and I try to prepare myself as best as I can," Stewart said.

"I feel really good with Coach Auriemma and his staff and how he gets the best out of them. He's had so many players come from that program that have become high-profile players - Maya Moore, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and I want to reach my full potential."

She certainly doesn't have the game of a typical 6-4 high school senior. She stepped out and hit a pair of 3-pointers, soared over the rim on a couple of her rebounds, was able to bring the ball up the court and has a game that has so many dimensions to it.

"She is going to be different from anything I think he's had," said Christ the King coach Bob Mackey, who coached former UConn All-Americans Sue Bird and Tina Charles. "He's never had that big forward who can do a lot. He's always had good guards. Swin Cash might yell at me on that one but that is OK. But it will be fun to watch."

It certainly was on Friday. The crowd rose out of their seats when Stewart got ahead of field in anticipation of her attempting a dunk. She did not. At least two of her blocked shots created audible gasps from the fans. Yet, for as talented as she is, she is not an attention craver.

"I think she is as humble as can be," Cicero-North Syracuse coach Eric Smith said. "You can't tell she is the best player until you see her play. She will converse with anybody, she will converse with the kids. When you get on the court, she is going to do anything. She is a smart kid so when she sees the triple team, she will find the open player.

"I think the best quote that anybody said is the Dr. Phillips coach at the Tournament of Champions and that her only fault is she plays too hard. She is diving on the floor, she is running into people, throwing her body anywhere. She is all over the place. Even though she is the best player in the country, she works harder than anybody in the country that puts her a step above everybody else."

The modest part of her personality showed itself when Stewart passed on having a ceremony at her school to sign her national letter of intent. She signed the letter at home, actually she signed it on the hood of her Honda CRV.

"I wasn't planning on doing anything but when I knew I had to fax it to UConn and Coach Auriemma, I wasn't ready to do fax it to them as soon as they needed because they needed it because they have a game that night so I had to sign it on the hood of my car and give it to my dad to fax it from work."

Auriemma loves Stewart's no-frills approach to things, there will not be any problems with a superstar's ego when she gets to UConn.

"She has been unbelievably great to work with in the whole recruiting process," Auriemma said. "The people in USA Basketball are amazed that a young kid can carry herself the way she does. They ask her to play in every single event that they have. Her mom and dad are down the earth. They are grounded people who aren't trying to live their lives through their daughter. It is just really refreshing to see where she comes from, once you do that you can really appreciate where she is right now.

"For a young kid, you say to yourself 'how did she learn so much at a young age.' It is hard to say because she didn't really grow up in an area where women's basketball is a huge hotbed of high school basketball. You just have this thing where she has, I think way kids with all the travel and all the teams they play on and all the stuff they are exposed to at a young age, it is kind of a throwback when you played in your neighborhood. You were a good player and kept it all in perspective. Maybe that is why she is so successful at a young age, against USA Basketball and against older kids, she doesn't take herself that seriously."

Stewart and the entire North-Cicero team will be at tomorrow's UConn/Villanova game and she will be at the Jan. 25 game at Syracuse.

Mackey's Christ the King team beat East Longmeadow (Mass.) 64-33 with sophomore Sierra Calhoun leading the Royals with 14 points. Calhoun, the sister of UConn commit Omar Calhoun, is on UConn's recruiting radar and I will have an entry on what Mackey had to say about his talented sophomore tomorrow.

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Geno loves recruit's low-maintainance attitude

When I spoke with Geno Auriemma yesterday about his highly-touted incoming freshman Breanna Stewart, he couldn't say enough good things about the down to earth persona of her as well as her parents.

"She has been unbellievably great to work with in the whole recruiting process," Auriemma said. "The people in USA Basketball are amazed that a young kid can carry herself the way she does. They ask her to play in every single event that they have. Her mom and dad are down the earth. They are grounded people who aren't trying to live their lives through their daughter. It is just really refreshing to see where she comes from, once you do that you can really appreciate where she is right now."
Stewart and her Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) team will play undefeated West Springfield (Mass.) High at the HoopHall Classic in Springfield in a little bit. The game was scheduled to start at 6 but looks like it will be a little later than that because the boys' game preceding it is still in the third quarter.

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UConn/Baylor series extended

It's just been announced that the regular-season series between UConn and Baylor has been extended for two years.

Next year's game will be played in Connecticut and there have been reports that it will be held in conjunction with ESPN's "Rivalry Week" in February with the game in 2013-14 being played in Waco.

Both sides have been in talks with ESPN and others to extend the home and home series which expired at the end of this season. An issue on Baylor's side was a preference not to have to travel to Connecticut in the middle of the Big 12 portion of its schedule but those concerns have been worked through.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

High praise for Breanna Stewart

I headed over to a forum featuring UConn coach Geno Auriemma, former UConn star and current Hartford women's basketball coach Jen Rizzotti and Trinity College men;s squash coach Paul Assaiante at the University of Hartford.

While I caught just the tail end of the hour-long event and listened to Auriemma's take on the state of college athletics and it was thought provoking to say the least, the purpose of my trip was to speak to Auriemma and Rizzotti about UConn signee Breanna Stewart since I will be heading to Springfield tomorrow to watch Stewart play in the HoopHall Classic.

I'm going to save some of the stuff for the story on her which will run in Saturday's edition of the Register, here are some of the highlights.

"I don't know if a high school game is going to do her justice because she rises to the occasion based on the competition," said Rizzotti, who coached Stewart on the U.S. U-19 squad over the summer. "The bigger game we played, the better she was. She is really, really competitive. She is far from her limit in terms of her potential. She has a lot of room to improve, she has the intangible things that you can't coach. You can't teach somebody to be competitive, hard working or willing to learn. You can teach them how to dribble and how to have a better jump shot, the things he will be able to do with her in basketball because she brings so much more to the table."

Stewart is the latest UConn commit to play in the HoopHall Classic and she will likely receive a similar reception from UConn fans that Tina Charles, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Elena Delle Donne (when she was still headed to play for the Huskies).

"Her being up her at a lot of games, I think she is pretty familiar with what it is all about. I think she will see another side of it," Auriemma said. "She will probably go up there and say 'I can't believe people from Massachusetts and people drive from Connecticut up to Massachusetts to watch me play. Then again, she is such a humble kid, so down to earth that she signed her letter of intent on the hood of a car so I don't think she is one of these kids who goes for all the fanfare."

Other item to come out of the interviews was that Bria Hartley will head to the wake for her AAU coach Robert "Apache" Paschall tomorrow.

"After we practice tomorrow, her dad is going to pick her up, they are going to go down and then they
are going to come down after the service and meet us down there (in Philadelphia) tomorrow night."

It was also the first chance I had to speak to Rizzotti since word came out that UConn/Hartford will resume their regular-season series beginning next season with a game at Hartford's Chase Arena.

"The series itself now that it's been played, it's been done it is not new anymore but the chance for our kids to have UConn in the building is awesome," Rizzotti said. "We have played them, other teams have had chances to have them in their building and we've never had that. I think it will be fun for our kids. We have just one senior so it will be good to have them back, our juniors, and it will be fun for their senior year and experience that excitement. It is always good to play the No. 1 team in the country and to be able to do that in your own gym makes it that much better."
Finally I leave you with an entry in the "it's a small world" department. Before heading up to Hartford, I attended the press conference announcing Tony Reno as Yale's new football coach. Big deal, you say. Well, when I spoke to Tony last week trying to get a sense of how seriously he was being considered for the Yale opening he told me that he went to high school with former UConn star Carla Berube. I never made the connection back when he was an assistant coach. He asked me if Chris Dailey still coaches at UConn and I told him that she did. He said he still remembers when Chris came to Oxford (Mass.) High to recruit Berube and what a big deal that was. Reno is 37 so that visit took place at least 20 years ago so next time you wonder why UConn is such a major player in recruiting, it doesn't hurt that their coaches can leave a lasting impression like Chris Dailey did two decades ago.

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