Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Notre Dame loss proved to be turning point in UConn's season

With his team down 13 points with 3:11 left to play in the regular-season finale UConn coach Geno Auriemma resorted to drastic measures in an attempt to reach his team.

He pulled Stefanie Dolson, Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley, Tiffany Hayes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis drawing the ire of some UConn fans who felt he was giving up, something he would never allow his team to do.

Former UConn star Rebecca Lobo knew exactly what Auriemma was doing. Considering that UConn looked like a completely different team when the Big East tournament began it was evident that Auriemma's teaching moment had its desired impact.

“To me it (UConn's improved play) started the last three minutes of the regular season game against Notre when UConn had a chance still to win the game,”  Lobo said. “He put his starters on the bench and had them watch, to me that was when it started. I thought ‘he is giving up this game for the games that really matter down the line.’ That was the catalyst and they refound their identity. It had been missing for a while. It wasn't like it was missing for a week or two, there was a stretch in the season 'who is this team?'”

UConn responded with three straight wins including an impressive win over the same Notre Dame that had beaten them twice during the regular season. Then four came wins in the NCAA tournament and a spot in a NCAA Division I women’s basketball record-tying fifth straight Final Four.

“That was frustrating knowing that there were three minutes of the game that we were on the bench but we didn't deserve to be on the court,” UConn junior forward Kelly Faris said. “After that I think we realized how unacceptable it was. It was definitely motivation to do something about it.
“I think we have been coming together a lot more, we rely on each other a lot more. I think we grasped the concept that it is going to take all of us and we are going to step up at certain times and we can't rely on just one person.”
Lobo was not the only former UConn star saying that the Connecticut squad they saw late in the regular season did not play UConn’s brand of basketball either physically or emotionally.
“I think when we hear it, we felt it and it is one of those things that it was embarrassing and we felt like we let everybody down and they have the right to say that,” Faris said.

UCONN RECRUITS END CAREERS IN STYLEFuture Huskies Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart made their final game as high school players a memorable one.
Stewart had 10 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots, Tuck had eight points and five rebounds while Jefferson finished with four points, four assists and three steals to help the White team to a 74-62 win over the Navy squad in the WBCA High School All-American Game on Saturday.
All three said they can't wait to get to UConn. Jefferson and Tuck are planning to arrive on June 4 and for Tuck that is one day after she graduates from high school. Stewart will arrive on June 13/

There have been plenty of times when UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Tennessee’s Pat Summitt greeted each other with icy silence.
However, when the two crossed paths today they exchanged a hug and had a few moments to engage in friendly banter.
“We just kind of talked about (Summitt’s) foundation,” Auriemma said. “She pretty much said she is doing great, she is doing good she is under great care and is being taken care of by the best people. It was only a couple of minutes but I told her that once the NCAA tournament is over we will get a chance to talk a little more.”

Hartley named to State Farm All-American team

UConn sophomore guard Bria Hartley was among the 10 players named to the State Farm/WBCA All-American, the most prestigious All-American squad in women's college basketball.

Hartley played her way onto the team with some standout performances against the best competition. She had a season high 25 points in regular-season games against Baylor and Notre Dame, had 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals in the Big East final against Notre Dame and has averaged 17.3 points in UConn's four NCAA tournament games.

“I think it was very special and maybe even more so for her mom and dad,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Bria didn't tell them and said 'I want to surprise them. Well they sat right across from the bench Bria and when they didn't see you sitting on the bench the surprise was gone.’”
All joking aside it was very meaningful for Hartley, who needs just 13 points in Sunday’s game against Notre Dame in the national semifinal to become the third UConn sophomore to hit the 1,000-point plateau. By earning All-American honors, she will become the next women’s player inducted into the Huskies’ of Honor.

“It is real exciting,” Hartley said. “We always say that we don’t have a real superstar on the team.  It is an award for the whole team and how we came together, how we all play together. It is still an honor to be named to this team definitely was a dream come true. I think I worked really hard.

“I thought there were times when I had my (struggles) and I think I could have done more. I am pretty happy with the season I had.”
Hartley was UConn’s third-leading scorer with an average of 13.9 points per game, is second on the team with 137 assists and third with steals. There were other players who had gaudier statistics than Hartley but few could match her performances against the elite competition.
“Her numbers were brought up with people who don't play against them and you say '25 against Baylor, (19) against Stanford, big numbers against big teams,'” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno, a member of the All-American selection committee. “She played Notre Dame three times, Stanford, Carolina, Duke, A&M, her numbers were good.”
Joining Hartley on the team were Stanford’s sister tandem of Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, Baylor’s Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims, Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame, Tennessee’s Glory Johnson, Shenice Johnson of Miami, Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas and Elena Delle Donne of Delaware.
Delle Donne originally enrolled at UConn but left after 48 hours before enrolling in her home state school.

She led the nation in scoring and was thrilled to be considered among the best of the best.
“It was a great experience to be named with all these phenomenal players and it has been a goal of mine ever since I started to play basketball,” Delle Donne said. “I am thrilled that I am able to accomplish this.”

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Swin Cash realizes dream of returning to Olympics

When Swin Cash was named to the U.S. Olympic team back in 2004 it seemed like just the start of things for the former UConn star. She was just two years removed from wrapping up her collegiate career with a second national title and an undefeated season as a senior. In her second season as a pro she helped the Detroit Shock to the WNBA title. When she was informed that she made the 2004 Olympic squad, Cash was thrilled to a chance to play in the first of what she thought would be multiple Olympics.

Then a back injury which threatened to short-circuit her promising career, a feud with Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer and the shock of being traded - twice left Cash with so many obstacles to overcome. She did not make the Olympic team in 2008 and many considered her to be a long shot to make the squad in 2012.

Well when the first 11 players to make the 12-member Olympic team were announced on Friday Cash's long road to redemption came full circle.

"When I got the call on my machine it was really emotional for me because I knew about the sacrifice and what it took to get back there," Cash said in a conference call on Friday. "I remember back in 2008 at the NBA studios with Teresa Edwards talking about basketball and I (told her) 'I am going to get back, that is my mission. I want to be playing and I am going to be in London.' (She was) just joking about and talking about it but it really brings you back to the last two or three years after the back surgery, after being traded and going through some personal things and still be traded in the same year as (making) the Olympic team. It is very special to me and back in 2004 when I got the call that I was going I was like 'oh, I have five more medals to go.' You never realize that nothing is guaranteed so for me this moment is really important."

Cash was not a lock to make the team. Even to get one of the 11 spots she had to be picked over Asjha Jones, her former teammate at UConn, and Candice Dupree, who was the leading rebounder for the U.S. squad at the 2010 World Championships.
"Swin has worked incredibly hard to put herself back in the mix, going to Seattle was about the best thing that could happen to her," UConn and U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma said. "Winning another WNBA championship, you dont get those by accident. Swin knows how to win, she is a winner always has been since day one at the University of Connecticut. She brings an energy and passion for the game that is unmatched. I am thrilled for her and thrilled that when everybody counted her out, here she is back again."

Auriemma, who does not have a vote when it comes to selecting the team but certainly made his feeling known to the committee and USA Basketball's Women's National Team Director. He had no qualms about the 11 players named to the team.

"You know when committees are great?" Auriemma said. "When you don't win and you blame the committee, that is when the committee becomes really important. I go to London and do lousy job coaching, they do a lousy job playing then I come back and say 'that committee did a lousy job picking he team.' In reality the reason you have a committee is from a coaching standpoint you can get obsessed with a certain kind of player, you can have a bad attitude towards a certain kind of player and it may not conducive to putting together the best team.

"I think you have a committee so you throw players on the table and say here is what we have to work with, here are the 21 finalists or whatever number that is and now let's put that team together. I would venture to say whoever has coached the Olympic team has never left the country and said 'you know what, that kid, that kid and that kid I did not want them on the team.' Most of the time a coach is going to get to coach the kinds of players they want to coach and the committee is just there to solidify that. I think this committee has done a fabulous job of picking those 11 players."

Another player that Auriemma was ecstatic to see make the cut was former Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen who was named over 2008 Olympians Cappie Pondexter and Kara Lawson.

"I don't think anybody in the beginning said if you don't pick Lindsay Whalen in the World Championship or the Olympic team you have done a bad job," Auriemma said. "Lindsay Whalen is a classic example of a kid who has worked her butt off and made herself into the player that she is. Of all the people picked for that team, I am probably most proud of how Lindsay got on that team. That is a reward for how hard this kid works."

USA Basketball has until June 18 to announce its complete 12-player team and the three alternates. With final detail being ironed out for a training camp in May it does leave USA Basketball with some issues to deal with.

"We've got a lot of things to plan to for what is going on, bringing family and friends and all that kind of stuff," Callan said. "As with all team selections it is 'you make it when you have to' (mentality) but we do have flexibility. We're trying try to put short training camp together during WNBA preseason. We'll talk a little bit, do we have to bring the 11, do we want to bring a couple more. Do we want to make a decision after that or do we want to make it before."

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Diggins named winner of LIeberman Award

Notre Dame junior Skylar Diggins was named the winner of the Nancy Lieberman Award given to the nation's premier point guard.

Diggins, the Big East Player of the Year, beat out finalists Odyssey Sims of Baylor, Angel Goodrich of Kansas and Chelsea Gray of Duke. UConn's Bria Hartley was among the final eight candidates but did not make the cut for the final four finalists.


UConn makes history with five Olympians

In the proud history of the U.S. women’s national team program there have never been more than three players from the same college selected to one Olympic squad. On Friday five former Huskies were named to the 2012 squad.

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi joined former Tennessee star Tamika Catchings in joining select company by being named to a third Olympic team. Swin Cash, a 2004 Olympian, returned to the fold after battling back from career-threatening back issues while Tina Charles and Maya Moore were named to their first Olympic squad.
“We always get that comment and question of 'why are all the UConn players on there,'” Cash said. “I think Coach (Geno) Auriemma said it earlier, we don't just (make the team) for the university we went to, we've all worked really hard in our careers and our resumes kind of speaks for themselves. There could have been a number of different women who could have made the team but I really don't think it comes down to the university you went to.
“There is a tremendous pride I feel because if you look at the ages it ranks from Sue and I, to Diana and then there is Tina and then Maya. Sue and I have been playing in this league for over 10 years so it is not like we are spring chickens and we are picking all the fresh UConn girls. It is very prideful for our university.”
Six members of the gold-medal winning 2008 Olympic team were selected as Bird, Catchings and Taurasi were joined by Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker. Lindsay Whalen and Angel McCoughtry join Charles and Moore as first time Olympians.
“The players who have been selected have won either one Olympic gold medal or they have won World Championship gold medals,” said Auriemma, the U.S. national team coach. “The experience factor is huge, the fact that they have proven they can win, they are proven winners and more than that, they are great players. You don't just wake up one morning and you represent the United States of America on the world stage. This takes some time to put in place; they have put their time in. It is about character too, you talk about people who have extraordinary character as good as their basketball skills are; they are the kind of people we want to represent USA Basketball.”
Bird, Catchings and Taurasi join a select company as three-time Olympians joining five-time selection Teresa Edwards, four-time Olympian Lisa Leslie while Katrina McClain, Dawn Staley, Katie Smith and Sheryl Swoopes were all named to three U.S. Olympic squads.

Five former Huskies on U.S. Olympic team

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will be members of the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team for the third time, Swin Cash will be making her second Olympic appearance while ex Huskies Tina Charles and Maya Moore were named to the Olympic team for the first time give UConn a record five former players on the squad.
One player still has to be named to the team and the committee has until June 18 to make that announcement as well as naming the three alternates.
Joining Bird and Taurasi is Tamika Catchings, who will also be making her third straight appearance in the Olympics as well as 2008 Olympians Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus and fellow first-time Olympians Lindsay Whalen and Angel McCoughtry.
Bird, Catchings and Taurasi join a select company as three-time Olympians joining five-time selection Teresa Edwards, four-time Olympian Lisa Leslie while Katrina McClain, Dawn Staley, Katie Smith and Sheryl Swoopes were all named to three U.S. Olympic squads.

Fomer Huskies meet in EuroLeague title game

Former UConn star Maya Moore's Ros Casares punched their ticket for the EuroLeague title game yesterday. Today and it Asjha Jones' Rivas Ecopolis' turn.

Jones had 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals as Rivas Ecopolis defeated Fenerbahce 74-70 in the day round robin game for both. With Rivas Ecopolis and Fenerbahce both having won their first two games in pool play, this game was for the Group A title.

Fenerbahce had to play without Penny Taylor who injured her knee earlier in the tournament.

Ros Casares went 3-0 in Pool B with Moore averaging 9 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists in wins over UMMC Ekaterinburg, Spartak and Wisla Can-Pack.

Sue Bird led Ekaterinburg into the third-place game with 18 points in a 76-70 win over Spartak. Former Connecticut Sun forward Sandrine Gruda led Ekaterinburg with 21 points and nine rebounds while former UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova had two points. Speaking of Ekaterinburg, the biggest news surrounding them was the knee injury suffered by center Maria Stepanova. There was some chatter on twitter that it could be severe enough to put her participation for Russia in the upcoming Olympics in jeopardy.

Just to give you an idea of how star-studded these lineups are, former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Tina Charles are members of a Galatasaray team which needs to win today to avoid finishing last in their group and be relegated to playing for seventh place.

The championship game, third-place, fifth-place and seventh-place games will be played tomorrow.

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Taking a stab at picking U.S. Olympic team

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced at a press conference in Denver in about 5 hours so I thought this would be a perfect time for me to throw out there who I would pick if I were on the committee (and the U.S. team's championship hopes increase dramatically because I am not).

I will start with who I see as the core players.

Seimone Augustus
Sue Bird
Tamika Catchings
Tina Charles
Sylvia Fowles
Angel McCoughtry
Maya Moore
Candace Parker
Diana Taurasi

That leaves three spots. I would think Baylor's Brittney Griner gets one of them as her shot-blocking ability and size could be of great help against the huge frontlines of some of the other gold-medal contenders. That leaves two spots remaining.

In my eyes one will go to a combination forward. I would say that the top candidates would be Candice Dupree and former UConn stars Swin Cash and Asjha Jones. I don't think there is a wrong choice here. Jones is one of the most versatile players around and as good of a teammate as there is while Cash is a former gold medal winner and was the United States' second-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder in the most recent slate of exhibition games played by the squad. However I'm going with Dupree. She started five of the nine games during the World Championships, led by team in rebounding (pulling down six per game in just 16.6 minutes), was the fourth leading scorer (9.2 a game) and had a 10/3 assist/turnover ratio.

That leaves one spot that should be given to a point guard or at least somebody with the skill set to run the point during the Olympics. The wild card is Cappie Pondexter. There's no question that she is one of the most talented players around but she was a no show at one training camp and did not wow U.S. coach Geno Auriemma when she was at training camp. I'd be surprised to see her make the ream. If I had to pick I'd go with Lindsay Whalen over Kara Lawson and Renee Montgomery. Whalen is a pro's pro and was rock solid in the World Championships. So there's the team I would select

Seimone Augustus
Sue Bird
Tamika Catchings
Tina Charles
Candice Dupree
Sylvia Fowles
Brittney Griner
Angel McCoughtry
Maya Moore
Candace Parker
Diana Taurasi
Lindsay Whalen

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

3 future Huskies impress in McDonald's game

One of the highlights in my eyes of yesterday's McDonald's All-American game was seeing UConn signees Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson exchanging some playful banter as the players waited for the game to begin.

After the game Wednesday night I asked the two about the "conversation."

"Just some noise talking," Jefferson said with a laugh, "I told her I was going to dunk over her and I could have dunked but I just wanted to save her the embarrassment."
Stewart responded with "yeah, yeah, yeah. I told her I was going to block her shot."

Jefferson, Stewart and fellow UConn incoming freshman Morgan Tuck all started the game but even more importantly they all finished it as well. Stewart scored seven of her nine points in the final 3:39 to help the East to a 79-78 win over the West. Tuck had 12 of her 18 points in the second half as the West team rallied fro 16 down to tie the game late before Tennessee recruit Bashaara Graves won it with a free throw with .3 seconds to play.

The affable Jefferson walked over to the TV camera and put both thumbs up, the signal for jump ball, after Katie Collier was called for the foul trying to block Graves' final attempt.
Early in the game the players acted like it was an all-star game but with the game on the line, the competitive fire in the players began to take over.

"At the end of the day you want to win the game," Stewart said. "It is a very fun event but you are still trying to win the game."

I enjoyed watching Stewart and Tuck, two skilled and refined offensive players going head to head when they were on the court together. I was not alone.

"It was definitely fun guarding (Bre), talking on the floor, have fun with each other," Tuck said. "We knew we were going to guarding each other and it was a great challenge because you don't see a Breanna Stewart every day. I definitely didn't want her to score, I tried to elevate over her but she is hard to elevate over. It is fun that in college we are going to have that (friendly competition), I am very excited to see how it is next year."

I asked each of the three to say what impressed them about the other two
Moriah Jefferson: "They play hard, they are playing as hard as I am so I know I can shake and pop or pick and roll and I know they are going to go (hard) especially Breanna with the long arms or Tuck with being able to roll from up top. It will be a great situation."
Breanna Stewart: "Just that they are always trying to win. They are very competitive and they are looking pass first and that is going to be great."

Morgan Tuck: "I like the way Moriah gets after it, she is one of the best defenders I have seen, she is quick, she is vocal, she is a leader. Breanna, she can elevate over people, she can handle and she can shoot. She is very versatile and both of them are great players."

Both Jefferson and Stewart authored the perfect ending to their glorious high school careers. Jefferson led the THESA Riders to a sixth straight National Christian HomeSchool Basketball title while Stewart led Cicero-North Syracuse to the New York Federation Class AA title, setting tournament records for both points and rebounds.

"That was the perfect way to go out in your senior year on a win, that is best," Stewart said.

Jefferson said: "It was amazing. When it happened it was like I didn't actually know, it didn't really it me until I got here that 'wow all four years of high school I was there and I was a part of something that will probably never be done again.' Everything was blank, I went into the locker room and started crying. After that I thought wow high school is over with."

Naturally I asked Tuck about winning the girls' 3-point shooting contest and she said "I am pretty versatile but I was just glad to have the opportunity to be a part of it." I also got Stewart's take on the two dunks she made during the dunking competition.

"The place went nuts," Stewart said. "I wanted to try it. I didn't know if I was going to complete them but to do the two of them, it was really nice."

Finally I asked them about their reaction to UConn reaching yet another Final Four despite losing Maya Moore, the program's all-time leading scorer, off last year's team.

"I have seen the dominance," Tuck said. "The last game was a blowout game, I am really honored to be a part of it next year."

Since they will all be playing in the WBCA All-American game, all three will be at the Final Four and be able to see the national semifinal game against Notre Dame in person.

"I can't wait for the game," Jefferson said. "I love to watch their game so I will get to see them play."

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holmes makes a major impression at McDonald's game

Time was running down as the East's once comfortable lead was on the verge of disappearing. It is the type of situation that turns an all-star like Wednesday night's McDonald's All-American Game into more of a real game than a showcase for the gathered masses.

It's always telling which players the coaches puts on the court down the stretch in these contests. Among those being entrusted with finishing out the game by East coach Anne Long of Spring Valley, S.C. (who some of you may remember as being the high school coach of former UConn recruiting target Xylina McDaniel) is Hillhouse's Bria Holmes.

The fact the Holmes' East squad won 79-78 on a tiebreaking free throw by Tennessee recruit Bashaara Graves with just .3 seconds remaining put the capper on a special experience for Holmes.

Holmes had 13 points, just one of three East players to score in double figures, as well as two rebounds and two steals. She played 22 minutes Graves was the only player for the East to see more playing time. Not a bad effort for the first Connecticut native to play in the McDonald's girls' game.

"I didn't know any of them (before arriving in Chicago) but we moved the ball around and it helped that I got on fire a little bit," Holmes said. "It kind of showed what Connecticut (is all about)

"At first I was a little nervous and then after a couple of shots I started to warm up and started to play my game of basketball. It is a great experience, I am going to remember this for the rest of my life
I am going to keep moving forward and keep playing basketball and trying my hardest, hard work and dedication. It means a whole lot and there has never been a girl who has done this before. I am first, it means a lot to me, it means a lot to my family, our coaches and everybody who supports me. I am just thankful that this day happened."

Although she did not get selected to play in Saturday's WBCA All-American Game in Denver like so many of the other players who played Wednesday night, Holmes said there is a chance she will head to the Final Four. One thing she is certain of is when she is leaving for West Virginia where she signed to play. That will happen on June 26.

"I am ready for college," Holmes said.

Holmes will join the Mountaineers with a championship pedigree as she won state titles in her first three years. The quest to make it 4 for 4 fell a bit short and Holmes took the defeat extremely hard.

"It took me about a week or so," Holmes said. "It really hurt because we got that far before all three years and we won. I just had to let it go after a while, I've got 3."

Finally I asked Holmes her opinion of her East teammate Breanna Stewart, the consensus national high school player of the year. Her answer was classic.

'She is a humble player and she has the game," Holmes said. "She can shoot the ball, she can dribble and drive to the rack. We went to a five-star camp together. She is like a rock star."
I spoke to Stewart and fellow UConn commits Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck and will be writing and blogging about them tomorrow. In stark contrast to two years ago when the people at McDonald's bent over backwards to provide as much access as I could have hoped for, that was not the case today so my time was a little limited with Tuck and Stewart but there's still some pretty good stuff from the three of them especially a little playful trash talking between Jefferson and Stewart as the starters waited for the television timeout to expire so the game could be started.

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UConn announced that there are a limited number of tickets remaining for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team’s trip to the Final Four in Denver.  Call the Athletic Ticket Office toll free at 1-877-AT-UCONN beginning Thursday at 9 a.m. to purchase tickets.

U.S. Olympic team to be announced on Friday

As previously mentioned in this blog, the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team will be announced as part of the Final Four festivities.

The press conference will take place in Denver on Friday at 3:45 local time (5:45 p.m. in Connecticut). With the EuroLeague playoffs currently going on, I'm not sure how many players will be at the press conference but head coach Geno Auriemma and former UConn star and Olympian Rebecca Lobo are among those expexcted to be at the press conference.

Catching up with Kalana Greene

Among the sizable UConn cheering contingent at Tuesday's Elite Eight game against Kentucky was Kalana Greene, a member of two national championship teams for the Huskies.

Once all the coaches and players departed, I was able to talk to Greene about  few different topics.

I asked her opinion on this UConn team reaching the Final Four without a dominant player like Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Diana Taurasi etc. etc. etc as well as what she thought about the performance of her former teammate Tiffany Hayes.

"It's impressive because if you would have spoke to the coaches two months ago they would have told you we weren't making the NCAA tournament," Greene said. "For them to make the Final Four going through what they are going through this year with a lot of things being questioned this year, without Maya Moore, it is absolutely amazing. I think a lot of people had a lot of doubts that we weren't going to make it back. For us to do it in this fashion is amazing.

"I think everybody has watched what Tiffany is capable of and  everybody would like to see if more but when it counts to go to the Final Four, those are the games that matter the most. I think it is great for her because I think she is a player who plays off confidence and to have this kind of game going into another big game definitely we need two more games like that."

Then I turned the focus to her career. She recently returned to the U.S. after playing in Israel for Raanana Hertzeliya where she averaged 7 points and 3.1 rebounds in eight games.

"It was pretty good," Greene said. "It is a beautiful country but I am happy to be home. When I was here, I ws trying to get out of here as fast as I could but now I am back and it is always good to be back in America."

Finallly I asked for her take on the player movement in the WNBA and the fact that her team, the Connecticut Sun, has not made any major moves. The Sun did sign Sidney Spencer, Mistie (Bass) Mims and Dawn Evans but plan on moving forward led by pretty much the same nucleus it had last season.

"When you look at all the transactions made either with free agency or with trades I think we are one team that didn't make a lot of major changes," Greene said. A lot of people changed things, in my opinion, that didn't need to change but by the same token I am not a coach and I am not a GM. I think we have a core group. We may not have the biggest names but we have faces on the team wit Tina and Asjha and I think we have a good supporting cast that they didn't mess with in the offseason which is great keep developing players, forming relationships and chemistry which I think is key which they understand. We should be a pretty good team this year."

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hayes steps up for Huskies

Perhaps no line of questioning was more in vogue on Monday inside the Ryan Center than which UConn player would step up if the Huskies found themselves in a tight affair in the Elite Eight game against Kentucky.

Sophomore Bria Hartley, freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and junior Kelly Faris were the popular choice.

Well, when push came to shove it was the team's only senior who rose to the occasion.

Tiffany Hayes had crashed to the court after grabbing an offensive rebound and getting fouled. Hayes, who may have hit the floor more than any player in UConn history, usually bounced right back up but she was woozy enough that she was taken out of the game with 15:24 to play. Mosqueda-Lewis came in and hit both free throws.

Hayes was examined briefly by UConn's atrhletic trainer Rosemary Ragle before assuring Ragle that she was OK. Just 13 seconds later Faris was whistled for her fourth foul and UConn coach Geno Auriemma summoned Hayes back into the game.

Former UConn forward Samarie Walker hit both free throws to pull Kentucky within three points. Hayes promptly scored five points during a game-deciding 17-3 run. She finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists (one coming on a sweet pass to a streaking Kelly Faris for a layup to beat the halftime buzzer).

"I am a senior and I am supposed to be playing like this all the time," said Hayes who was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the Kingston Regional. "For me to do it in this game means even more. I am glad
my teammates we r ther to help and I am glad to be back in the Final Four."

Hayes is among the top 10 on UConn's career charts in games and minutes played, points, assists and 3-pointers so she has made her share of big plays during her career but this may have been one of the first times that Hayes needed to deliver to save UConn from a season ending defeat and she did just that."

"I am sure she has I just don't know it has been in this moment and at this time wen we really needed her," Auriemma said. "Tiffany's had a lot of great moments and a lot of memorable games at Connecticut. I don't think we would have won two national championships without her contributions but I think tonight was a little different.

"I was really upset with her and Caroline at yesterday's practice. I feel like we were a little too nonchalant like that game was already won. I made it a point of telling them that either you guys play great tonight or you are going to have to leave it up to the freshmen and sophomores. When you guys were freshmen and sophomores nobody left it up to you guys. There was just this sense in her today at shootaround that this could happen."

UConn will face Notre Dame in the first national semifinal on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. followed by Baylor and Stanford. It is the first time since 1989 that all four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four.

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Former NFA star holds no grudges against UConn

There are a lot of things motivating former Norwich Free Academy star Kastine Evans tonight but trying to prove something to a Connecticut program which wasn't heavily involved in her recruitment late in the process is not among them.
“They recruited me early when I was at NFA but I knew I wanted to go further away,” Evans said. “I assumed that Geno would have put more into it but it was just how the cards laid out at Kentucky. I never had that kind of relationship with Geno where I would have that type of attitude towards him. He is a great coach; he has carried that team and that program further than a lot of teams have. I am going out and taking my team Kentucky and trying to get to the Final Four.”
Evans has been hitting up her teammates for tickets ever since the brackets came out and she saw that Kentucky would be sent to nearby Kingston, R.I. if the Wildcats won their first two NCAA tournament games. About 70 of her friends and family were in the stands on Sunday when Kentucky beat Gonzaga. More are expected tonight. 
“I was very excited,” Evans said of Kentucky landing in the Kingston region. “The first projections had us in Des Moines and I said 'I don't want to go to Iowa.' When they showed us in the Kingston region I was really excited also knowing that you're in a place that one of your teammates is from you are going to get more fans than you would when you were in Iowa. If we were in Iowa we wouldn't have had as many fans as we did (Sunday).”
The final Powerade Fab 50 national high school poll was released on Tuesday. Bolingbrook (Ill.), led by UConn signee Morgan Tuck, finished fourth while UConn commit Breanna Stewart's Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) team moved up two spots and finished 10th.

St. Mary's out of Phoenix earn the final No. 1 ranking. Sophomore guard Courtney Ekmark, who took in the regular-season finale between UConn and Notre Dame, is a star of the team which finished 30-0.

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Hayes a third-team All-American

UConn senior Tiffany Hayes was named to the Associated Press third team All-American team.

Hayes, a member of two national championship teams at UConn, is the Huskies' second leading scorer heading into tonight's Elite Eight game against Kentucky with an average of 14.6 points per game, has a team-leading 79 steals, is second on the team with 206 rebounds and is one of three Connecticut players with more than 100 assists. UConn is 146-6 in games that Hayes has played making her the third winningest player in women's Division I history behind only her former teammates Maya Moore who was 150-4, and Kalana Greene (148-9). Tina Charles was also 146-6 during her UConn career..

Sophomore guard Bria Hartley (13.9 points, 134 assists) and freshman guard/forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (team-high 14.9 points per game, 91 3-pointers) were honorable mention selections.

The first team consisted of Baylor's Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike of Stanford, Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Alyssa Thomas of Maryland. In the spirit of full disclosure I am only of the AP voters and that happens to be the first team on my ballot.

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EuroLeague playoffs resume tomorrow

Not only are six former UConn stars on teams still in the running for EuroLeague for Women title but when the playoffs resume, all six are in two matchups.

Maya Moore and her Ros Casares team will face the UMMC Ekaterinburg squad featuring Sue Bird and Svetlana Abrosimova on Wednesday in Pool B play. In Pool A there will be a showdown between Galatasaray (led by Tina Charles and Diana Taurasi) and the Asjha Jones' led Rivas Ecopolis.

How the next round works is there are two pools of four teams early and each team will play everybody in their pool once. The round robin play is scheduled for Wednesday-Friday. The teams with the best records advance to the championship game. There will also be third-place, fifth-place and seventh-place games.

Here's a look at how the six former Huskies have fared this season:
Abrosimova: 4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists
Bird: 9.3 points, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals
Charles: 18.5 points, 8.6 rebounds
Jones: 17.4 points, 8.6 rebounds
Moore:: 15.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2 assists
Taurasi: 21 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists

UConn going after 13th Final Four appearance

UConn knocked off Big 10 regular-season champion Penn State in the Sweet 16 and all that stands between the Huskies and a record-tying fifth straight appearance in the Final Four is SEC regular-season champion Kentucky. The teams will meet tonight with the winner playing the Notre Dame/Maryland winner in the national semifinals on Sunday.

Here's a look at how the Huskies have fared in regional finals in the past

Year: Result Final result
1991: Defeated Clemson 60-57 lost in national semifinals
1994: Lost to North Carolina 81-69
1995: Defeated Virginia 67-63 Won national title
1996: Defeated Vanderbilt 67-57 Lost in national semifinals
1997: Lost to Tennessee 91-81
1998: Lost to North Carolina State 60-52
2000: Defeated LSU 86-71 Won national title
2001: Defeated Louisiana Tech 67-48 lost in national semifinals
2002: Defeated Old Dominion 85-64 Won national title
2003: Defeated Purdue 73-64 Won national title
2004: Defeated Penn State 66-49 Won national title
2006: Lost to Duke 63-61 (ot)
2007: Lost to LSU 73-50
2008: Defeated Rutgers 66-56 lost in national semifinals
2009: Defeated Arizona State 83-64 Won national title
2010: Defeated Florida State 90-50 Won national title
2011: Defeated Duke 75-40 Lost in national semifinals

UConn's recruits shine in skills competition

UConn incoming freshmen Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart didn't waste much time making rheir presence felt at the McDonald's All-American Game festivities.

Tuck, a 6-2 forward out of Bolingbrook, Ill., won the girls' 3-point shooting contest with a score of 17 while Stewart threw down a pair of dunks to advance to the finals in the dunking contest where she lost to Shabazz Muhammad.

The McDonald's game will be played tomorrow in Chicago with Stewart, Tuck, fellow UConn commit Moriah Jefferson and Hillhouse's Bria Holmes taking part in the event.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Composure could be key tomorrow

As Penn State found out the hard way, there is a different between playing fast against some teams and playing fast against UConn.

The Lady Lions came out and played right into UConn's hands by turning the first few minutes into an up and down, 94-foot game. Not surprisingly UConn wasted little time jumping out to an early 10-point lead en route to a routine victory.

Kentucky also liked to put their foot on the pedal so it bears watching to see if Kentucky is able to control the tempo in tomorrow's Elite Eight game.

"We are going to focus on ourselves," Kentucky senior guard Amber Smith. "We don't want to play that style of game so we are going to do whatever we needed to do to keep the tempo in our hands and pace in our favor."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma knows facing Kentucky will be different from any style of play they've had to contend with this season.

"You watch them play and you see these wild swings in what they do and I think that's part of what they generate out on the court. They beat Tennessee by one and then lose by (37) You go  'what???' Or they'll just thoroughly dominate somebody for the longest stretches and then they'll beat McNeese State by three. They'll be down and you think, 'There's no way they can win this game,' and they come back and they win the game. So, I think their style of play, if you're not careful, gets you into such a crazy way of playing that they're a lot better at that than you are. So, if you don't control the tempo and you don't take control of the basketball game – and keep control of it – I think they get you exactly where they want you and then you're at their mercy.

"We were talking about that this morning with our coaches that you play Penn State and you know exactly where most of their points are going to come from. But when you play Kentucky, its kind of like playing us a little bit, you're not quite sure where all their points are going to come from. You know some are going to come from here, some from there.  They're one of those teams that are difficult to play against because you just don't have a lot of places where you can just play off of. But if they did, they wouldn't be here. They'd be with all the other teams, watching this game on TV tomorrow."


Former team up next for Samarie Walker

When Samarie Walker walked into Kentucky locker room with a few cameramen just a few feet behind there were a few bemused looks on the faces of her teammates.

The Wildcats knew that if the seeds held true to form and Walker's new team would be squaring off with her former team with a spot in the Final Four on the line that Walker would be in great demand from the assembled media in Kingston, R.I.

Their hunch was correct.

Walker didn't shy away from any of the questions either when they were asked in the official press conference or a few minutes later in the locker room. She cited homesickness as the major reason why she opted to leave UConn and transfer to Kentucky.

"I feel like I am answering questions everybody wanted to be answered," Walker said. "I feel like it is going to be over soon. They have been waiting for a year now."

Naturally she was asked about what led to her leaving UConn after playing 17 games during the 2010-11 season.

"I was just homesick," Walker said. "I had a six year old brother I am close with, I am close with both of my parents and I am from Ohio. It's close but not too close. I feel like when people ask "why would you want to leave UCon, you have to be in that position to know. Everybody has an opinion and of course you have to deal with it.

"I talked to all them (UConn teammates) before I left and I talked to some of them now, I saw some of the managers in the hallway and I gave them hugs and we talked for a little bit. There are no hard feelings between me and the team and the coaches.

"I feel like some of them knew I was but they didn't know that is what is was. I told them it felt like I lost my passion but I didn't know what it was and I was homesick. I realized when I came here and was able to go home on weekends but there was some kind of miscommunication so hopefully answering these questions will help with all of this."

Speaking of miscommunication, that is what Walker considered the situation that played out in a Jan. 15 game against Louisville when UConn coach Geno Auriemma asked Walker if she wanted to go in. The response was not what Auriemma was looking for so she did not. When the team left for North Carolina a couple days later Walker was left behind. She would never play for the Huskies again.

"I remember we were in a timeout and he asked me if I wanted to play and did I want to go back in the game?" Walker said. "I nodded my head yeah but he wanted a verbal answer and that was definitely a miscommunication between the both of us because I did want to play, I did want to go back into the game. He wanted a verbal answer and i thought nodding my head was enough."

Auriemma has chosen not to go into many of the details leading to Walker's departure but did not seem overly concerned about having to game plan to deal with Walker, who has had double doubles in her last two games.

"I have heard that a lot about people losing their passion for basketball and then they end up playing somewhere else," Auriemma said. "Kids don't play basketball all their lives and all of a sudden they lose their passion for basketball. She lost her passion for what I wanted her to do at Connecticut and decided that her passion was somewhere else. She is where her passion is and we are where we are regardless of the reasons. She didn't belong at Connecticut and she belongs at Kentucky.

"You look at the history of our program and we've never had a great player leave that has played there, been
there, spent time there and after a year or two years say I don't want to be there any more. The jury is out whether Samarie Walker will be a great player at Kentucky but maybe she will be the first one."

If there is any lingering resentment towards Walker from her former UConn teammates, they did a nice job of hiding it.

"Samarie's a great player, she works really hard on the boards," said sophomore center Stefanie Dolson, who roomed with her at UConn. "The main thing we would see is how she goes after the ball, she has gotten a lot better at it and playing hard. Every time I played with her she did what she can and is always crashing
the boards and playing pretty good defense.

"We are definitely happy for her. We are happy she is at a place she is enjoying (herself) and she is having fun and really adding to their program. It is definitely not easy leaving a program because you don't want to let your teammates down but she is happy. It was hard when it happened but we kind of all moved on."

Auriemma was asked if the UConn players will play with any extra motivation to prove something to their former teammate.

"I don't think they have anything to prove to Samarie Walker," Auriemma said. "I wouldn't know what was, what they would have to prove to her. This isn't like Larry Bird left the Celtics and now is playing for the Lakers. We are talking about a kid who left as a freshman played 20 minutes the other night and I don't think Samarie Walker's going to have a difference in the game either or them or for us."

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Hartley a finalist for Nancy Lieberman Award

UConn sophomore Bria Hartley is one of eight finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award which is awarded annually to the nation's top point guard.

Joining Hartley on the list is Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, Angel Goodrich of Kansas, Duke's Chelsea Gray, Nebraska's Lindsey Moore, Samantha Prahalis of Ohio State, Baylor's Odyssey Sims and Haley Steed of Brigham Young.

The winner will be recognized during an Apr. 18 banquet at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Hartley is averaging 13.9 points, is second on the team with 134 assists and 61 3-pointers and third on the team with 67 steals. She needs 26 points to join Svetlana Abrosimova and Maya Moore as the only UConn players to reach the 1,000 career point plateau as a sophomore.

"It means a lot," Hartley said. "I have been working all season on getting better as a point guard and making sure my assist/turnover (ratio) is getting better and taking care of the ball. It really helped me out a lot working out with Shea Ralph has improved (her game). I am working at being a better point guard and see things beforehand."


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Balanced offensive attack powers UConn into Elite Eight

A year ago UConn's NCAA tournament run was pretty much a chance to see how many points the wondrous Maya Moore could score.

With the graduation of Moore, UConn's all-time leading scorer, the Huskies have a different offensive approach this season. That was never more evident than during Sunday's Sweet 16 win over Penn State when five different UConn players scored in double figures and four players took at least 10 shots.

"We wanted to make sure that this was a team thing instead of looking around for somebody to have a big night, some body is going to get 30-35 or somebody is going to put up ridiculous numbers," Auriemma said. "This is going to have to be a team thing, our team was going to have to play great defense, our team was going to have to execute offensively. When you look at the stat sheet it tells some of the story but this is one of the more complete games that we have played in a while. It couldn't come at a better time."

Bria Hartley led the way with 20 points as she has scored in double figures in all eight of her NCAA tournament games since arriving at UConn. Kelly Faris added a season-high 15 points, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 12 points (and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double) while Stefanie Dolson and Tiffany Hayes had 10 points each.

"It is one of those things when we had to have a complete effort, we had a bunch of guys in foul trouble and a bunch of us stepped up at the right time," Faris said."We've had a few different times this season when we have gotten that."

It was the seventh time this season that five UConn players scored in double figures but first time since a Jan. 16 win over North Carolina.

Count Penn State sophomore guard Maggie Lucas among those impressed by UConn's performance.

"Hat's off to UConn, they are an unbelievable program and they were the better team today," Lucas said.
"UConn made us better today and we wish them luck for the rest of the tournament

"They are pretty systematic, everyone knows their role and they move the ball until they get a perfect shot."

Hartley didn't mince any words as she said she felt that Faris' block of a Maggie Lucas jumper and highlight-variety finish resulting in a transition layup was "probably the most exciting play of the game."

In typical Faris fashion, she deflected credit elsewhere.

"It was fun. Those are the things that add to the entire game," Faris said. "Caroline (Doty) did a great job of chasing it down and getting it out to me. I got up and they were all coming at me so that was one of more fun plays in the game." 

Among those watching UConn play Penn State likely none had a similar reaction than Kentucky sophomore forward Samarie Walker.

Walker played 17 games for the Huskies last season before deciding to transfer. Walker sat with her teammates and took in part of the UConn game before heading into the locker room to prepare for their own regional semifinal against Gonzaga.

“I feel like I got that out of the way watching them play,” Walker said of the surreal situation of playing against her former college teammates in Tuesday’s regional final. “I had to put that aside because I played with them before and once I did that, I'm was OK. It was a little weird at first thinking I was just there a year ago but after we watched them play, it was all about what we had to do on the court for the next game.”

Walker came off the bench and had 16 points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes in Kentucky’s 79-62 win. Now all that stands between the Wildcats and realizing their goal of reaching the Final Four is Connecticut.
“We had a big sign that said Denver and Final Four that is in our locker room that we walked past every day going to practice,” Walker said “I feel like we are doing it now.”

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Penn State assistant takes a trip down memory lane

Maren Walseth's time in Connecticut was relatively brief but it was still long enough for her to land securely on UConn's recruiting radar.

Walseth, who is in her fifth season as an assisant coach on the staff of Penn State coach Coquese Washington, took a few minutes on Saturday to reflect on the experience of being recruited by UConn. It was the perfect time for Walseth to reflect on her days in Connecticut since UConn and Penn State are meeting in the Kingston (R.I.) Regional semifinals today.

"It is always fun, there is a little bit of a tie," Walseth said. "I think it is different for me because I didn't graduate from high school in Connecticut, I was there for a short time but I went to a ton of UConn games in high school and was recruited by them."

Walseth is a native of Minnesota and attended Jefferson High School as a freshman. She spent her sophomore and junior seasons at Simsbury High before heading back to Jefferson for her senior season.

"In my mind it was a two-year stint but in Connecticut's mind it was a lot longer," Walseth said. "It was just a
two-year littile stint in my life.

"I joke with (UConn associate head coach) Chris (Dailey) that I got more air time than she did because I sat behind the bench at literally every home game. They did their due diligence in recruiting me as I am sure they did with all of their recruits. I did the campus tour, went to a bunch of games and obviously did stuff like that."

Walseth was hired by Washington and has been there every step of the way as Penn State is back to being a player on the women's basketball scene. Walseth knew that Washington, a former player and assistant coach at Notre Dame, would get the Lady Lions moving in the right direction.

"She is a fantastic leader and she has a great vision," Walseth said. "She gets credited with a lot of on the court things but she is intentional about everything she does, the types of players she recruits, the people she has on her staff, the people she has working in her office. She is a very goal-orientated drive person that everything that she does and has her players and staff do, there is a reason for it. She lays out the plan, we check the box and make sure we follow the plan so I am not surprised where she has taken the program."


UConn commit Breanna Stewart ends HS career in style

According to a live blog in the New York Post, UConn commit Breanna Stewart finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead her Cicero-North Syracuse team to the New York Federation Class AA title with a 60-28 win over Murry Bergtraum.

The 6-4 Stewart set federation tournament records with 64 points and 38 rebounds in wins over Nazareth and Murry Bergtraum.


Memorable day for future Huskies

It certainly was a Saturday to remember for UConn's incoming recruiting class.

First, Breanna Stewart set a New York Federation Class AA playoff scoring record with 42 points (on 15 of 20 shooting) and tied the single-game record with 23 rebounds (matching her own record) to go with six blocked shots in Cicero-North Syracuse's 80-55 win over Nazareth in the semifinals. The win moves Cicero-North Syracuse into today's championship game against Murry Bergtraum.

Shortly after Stewart wrapped up her breathtaking performance, Moriah Jefferson took the court for the final time as a member the THESA Riders. Jefferson had 24 points and nine rebounds to lead THESA to a 62-51 win over the MHEA Eagles in the  6A title game at the National Christian HomeSchool Basketball tournament. The victory gave the THESA Riders a sixth straight national title.

Not to miss out on the fun, the final member of the class was also in the news as Morgan Tuck was named the Ms. Illinois Basketball.

Tuck, a 6-2 forward out of Bolingbrook High who averaged 27.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.7 steals, finished with 287 points, beating out Notre Dame signee Jewell Loyd (159 points) out of Niles West and Mount Carmel sophomore Tyra Buss (94).

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Morgan Tuck named Ms. Illinois Basketball

On a day when Moriah Jefferson won another national tiptoe and Breanna Stewart set a NY Federation AA scoring record, the third member of UConn's recruiting class joined the fun.

Morgan Tuck beat out an impressive field to win the Ks. Illinois Basketball

Another huge game for Breanna Stewart

Breanna Stewart will have a chance at the one prize that has eluded her during the UConn commit's brilliant high school career.

The 6-foot-4 forward had 42 points (a New York Federation Class AA tournament record), 23 rebounds and 6 blocked shots as her Cicero-North Syracuse team beat Nazareth 80-55 in the Class AA semifinals on Saturday.

Now Stewart and the Northstars face Murry Bergtraum, the team which eliminated Cicero-North Syracuse in the Federation semifinals last season, in Sunday's championship game.

As we speak UConn signee Moriah Jefferson and the THESA Riders are going after a sixth straight National Christian HomeSchool Basketball title.

I asked UConn freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis about the impressive feat of being a part of so many championship teams.

"She is a great player and to be able to experience that, not a lot of high school players get a chance to play (for titles) that many times, she is really lucky," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "She is a fun girl. I am friends with her, I have known her for a couple of years now. She has a great personality and does have a lot of energy, is positive and people want to be around her. To have her in Connecticut soon is going to be great."

Plenty of women's college coaches have some pretty good Geno Auriemma stories to tell but it was hard  to top what Penn State coach Coquese Washington had to saw when she was asked about the Huskies' Hall of Fame coach.

"My biggest memory of Geno while I was at Notre Dame was when I was pregnant with my son at the time and we come out before the game and he walks up to me and rubs my belly with his hand and I'm like, 'Geno, what are you doing?'" Washington said. "He's like 'I've got to rub the baby, I've got to touch the baby.'  That is one of my favorite memories of Geno.  He's just a really good guy and fun to coach against.  He certainly has done so many wonderful things for our game with what he has done with Connecticut."

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Samarie Walker: "I am happy now"

With all due respect to Penn State's Maggie Lucas, Alex Bentley or any of the other non-UConn players taking part in the games in Kingston, R.I. tomorrow and Tuesday, no player drew more attention from the Connecticut media than Kentucky forward Samarie Walker who played 17 games for UConn last season before transferring.

"I came here on a few visits in the early part of my recruiting process my freshman and sophomore years and I loved it," Walker said. "I knew a few players Amber Smith, I knew (Jen O'Neil) playing with her in the McDonald's All-American game and WBCA (games). I had conversations about how much they love it and I knew Coach (Matthew) Mitchell. Once I got on campus, once I transferred I knew it was the place for me. I could have left again because I wasn't playing yet bu I was excited to be here and still excited. I am happy now"

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Walker was able to take part in practice but had to sit out the first 10 games of the season before being eligible to play. That time gave her time to clear her head and was ready to restart her basketball career.

"For me it was a good break," Walker said. "It gave me time to realize that I did still love basketball. It did give me time to get the focus solely on academics and what I wanted to major in. It has been a good transition

Kentucky likely would not be playing Gonzaga tomorrow if not for Walker's double-double in a second-round win over Green Bay. She has started nine of the 23 games she was played in and leads the Wildcats in rebounding with an average of 7 per game and her 8.2 scoring average is fourth on the team.

""I thought she had a tough time early on jumping in," Mitchell said, "I think it was a difficult position for her to be in. I think she has done a good job. She gives us a real physical presence inside, she can rebound the basketball. She finally shot the basketball the way, around the rim (against Green Bay). She is a real talented player and gives us some strength inside, has some athleticism, her rebounding is important for us. She has been a great teammate so it gave us an added dimension of some strength and power."

Things could be interesting if both Kentucky and UConn win tomorrow to set up a matchup in the regional final Tuesday night.

"I thought it was kind of funny (being in UConn's region) but I am not too worried about them, I am more worried about this game (against Gonzaga)," Walker said. "If we meet up on Tuesday, I will be worried about that."


Penn State has moved on from "sad" circumstances

With all the attention generated by the sexual abuse claims after former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, there have been some trying times in the athletic department at Penn State in recent months.

The women's basketball team, which will play UConn tomorrow in the Kingston (R.I.) Region semifinals, were among those in the Penn State community impacted by the events taking place inside the athletic department.

"It was sad," sophomore guard and leading scorer Maggie Lucas said. "Everything. Football, Joe Paterno (who died in January), it meant a lot to our university. It means a lot to our university still. We were all on the outside because we where just told to stay away from what was going on because it was negative. It was just sad but our university is strong and bounces back."

Alex Bentley, Penn State's junior point guard, had a different take on things.

I think a lot of students did positive things that weren't shown in the media," Bentley said. "There were a lot of things that the media didn't catch that students were doing positively. They kind of just wanted to hint at the negative things."

UConn recruits go for the gold

This weekend will conclude the brilliant high school careers of UConn incoming freshmen Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart (unless you include the McDonald's and WBCA All-American games).

Jefferson, a 5-foot-7 from Glenn Heights, Tex., has her THESA Riders squad in the National Christian HomeSchool title game where the Riders will play the MHEA Eagles, the team the Riders beat in the last two title games. The championship game begins at 4:45 p.m. today. A win would give the THESA Riders six straight national titles.

In Friday's semifinals Jefferson had 20 of her 35 points in the first half and added five rebounds, five assists and five steals in a 78-49 win over the OKC Storm. There's a nice piece that captures the essence of Jefferson in today's Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader.

As for Stewart, she will lead her Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) team against Nazareth in the New York Federation AA semifinals at 2 p.m. today. The winner would play Murry Bergtraum for the title on Sunday at noon,

Next up for the duo is a trip to Chicago to take part in festivities leading up to Wednesday's McDonald's All-American game. Also playing in the game is a third UConn signee Morgan Tuck and Hillhouse's Bria Holmes. My colleague Chris Hunn spoke with Holmes, a West Virginia commit who is the first girls' high school player from Connecticut selected to play in the McDonald's game, on Friday.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Some new obstacles for UConn

In recent years it seemed inevitable that the UConn women's basketball team would be seeing a team it faced during the regular season during a run to the Final Four. Last year few introductions were necessary when Connecticut had to beat Georgetown in the Sweet 16 and Duke in the Elite Eight.

However, the selection committee changed things up a little bit this year. Of the 15 teams UConn could have faced in the Kingston bracket, the only one which had faced UConn this season was Rutgers. Any thoughts of a third meeting this season between the Huskies and Scarlet Knights were dashed quickly when Rutgers lost in the first round.

Now Penn State, a team UConn has not played since 2008, is the next obstacle on Sunday afternoon. If UConn wins it would need to beat either Kentucky or Gonzaga. UConn and Kentucky have not met since 1999 while UConn and Gonzaga have never played.

"I think it is good both ways," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I like the fact that they don't know as much about us as some of those teams did last year. I don't know as much about them as I would like to know. I like the fact that they don't know as much about us probably more than I like that we know little about them. When we get caught up on what we need to know then I like it a lot because I would like to think we are not always team to play against even thought you have a week to get ready."

According to a story in the Gwinnett Daily Post announcing UConn recruiting target Diamond DeSheilds as the paper's player of the year, the highly-sought after 6-2 junior has cut her list of schools to Connecticut, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee. Not too many surprises in her list of five but I'd be surprised to see DeShields make a decision any time soon.

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No UConn players among Wade Trophy finalists

The WBCA announced the 12 finalists for the Wade Trophy and no UConn players made the cut.

Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, Brittney Griner, Odyssey Sims, Anna Martin, Shenice Johnson, Anna Martin, A'dia Mathies, Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, Alyssa Thomas and Julie Wojta are the contenders for the award

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Geno happy about series with Penn State

When UConn and Penn State met in the 2008 Maggie Dixon Classic one couldn't help but wonder if the two Eastern schools both with strong women's basketball tradition, it seemed to be only natural that the teams would investigate the possibility of playing more games in the regular season.

Well that time has come as the schools agreed to start a home and home series beginning with a game in Connecticut in December.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said earlier in the season that starting a series with a Big 10 program was something he'd like to see happen.

"We played Purdue there for a little bit, we had Michigan State or a little bit. I thought the Ohio State thing, something would come out of that with the Maggie Dixon Classic," Auriemma said. "Basically it is just trying to get a well-balanced schedule from around the country so we are not top heavy with one conference. There just seemed to be too many ACC schools there for a while and three Big 12 schools. I think the more we can spread it around (the better). They are a Northeast school, they are a Northeast school, they recruit similarly and when Neal (Eskin, UConn's associate athletic director) and I discussed it, I thought it was a natural.

"We had all those commitments and there was no way to fit them in (the last couple of years). Now is the right time, from the time we talked to them to the time it happened, it took no time at all."

It doesn't hurt that Auriemma holds Penn State coach Coquese Washington in high esteem.

"I thought when she got the job, I thought it was a great hire by Penn State," Auriemma said. "They have done a phenomenal job since she has been there. I have been on a bunch of committees with her. She is one of the most impressive young people I have come across in a long, long time. She has a whole lot of things in place, Notre Dame as an assistant there, a law school grad, trying to run a family. Doing it at a place like Penn State where they are in the Big Ten and it is not just any school, I am really impressed with the job that she has done."

Auriemma chose his words carefully when asked about the possibility of meeting up with former UConn forward Samarie Walker if UConn and Kentucky both win on Sunday.

Walker was granted her release in January of 2011 after a meeting with Auriemma and landed at Kentucky.

Here was what Auriemma had to say about Walker and her depature.

"Samarie Walker didn't want to be at Connecticut. Her parents are the nicest people in the world and I think they wanted Samarie to be at Connecticut more than Samarie wanted to be at Connecticut. Once that became evident, we didn't want Samarie to be at Connecticut so Samarie is at the place she wants to be at and seems to be enjoying herself, playing well. I think it benefited her and I think it benefited our team so everybody lives happily ever after."


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

UConn commit honored

UConn incoming freshman Morgan Tuck has been named the Herald-News Player of the Year following a spectacular senior season at Bolingbrook (Ill.) High.

As impressive as her statistics were (27.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.7 steals), the comments of Bolingbrook head coach Anthony Smith about Tuck's work ethic.

Here is the snippet of what Smith had to say about his senior star "most kids work out, get it over with, go home and want to do something else. But, basketball is her true passion, seven days a week. It will be tough to fill her shoes because those kinds of kids don’t come around too often. We’re hoping her ways rubbed off on the rest of the kids because they want to be like her."


UConn and Penn State agree to regular-season series

UConn and Penn State, which will meet in the Kingston Regional semifinals on Sunday, have just finalized a deal to play a home and home series beginning with a December game in Connecticut next season.

Penn State joins Baylor, Maryland, Duke, Stanford Oregon, Hartford, Texas A&M as well as a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam as part of UConn's non-conference schedule.

UConn is set to face eight teams in the Sweet 16 in the regular season next season including Big East rivals Notre Dame and St. John's.

UConn, Purdue, Wake Forest and DePaul have been announced as teams taking part in the Paradise Jam. There willl be eight teams in the event with the tournament splitting the field into two groups of four. Each team will play the others in their group once and the champion will be determined by record in the round-robin results. DePaul and UConn should be placed in opposite brackets since they are in the same conference. The tournament will be held from Nov. 22-24.

Join me for UConn online chat tonight

I'll be joined by Dave Borges, the New Haven Register's UConn men's basketball beat writer, for a chat about UConn basketball which will be streamed live beginning at 8 p.m.

If you want to submit questions or check out the event, follow this link

Future Husky earns All-American honors

UConn commit Moriah Jefferson has been named to the National Christian HomeSchool Basketball All-American team.

Normally as a player selected to the squad, Jefferson be playing in the NCHBC All-Star game being played at Missouri State  on Wednesday. However, Jefferson can only play in two All-American games and she is planning to take part in the McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago on Mar. 28 and in the WBCA High School All-American Game on Mar. 31 in Denver.

Jefferson, a 5-foot-7 guard, helped the five-time national champion THESA Riders to a pair of wins in the pool play portion of the NCHBC tournament as they beat Team USA White 79-41 and the Knoxville Ambassadors 56-26. The Riders will begin play in the 6A championship bracket beginning Thursday at 2:15 p.m. against the Kansas City East Lions with the national championship game set for 4:45 p.m. on Saturday.

ESPN posted the times for the regional semifinals once all the second-round games were played and UConn will face Penn State in the first semifinal in Kingston, R.I. on Sunday at 4:34 p.m. That will be followed by the Kentucky/Gonzaga semifinal with the winners meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Penn State defeated LSU 90-80 behind 30 points from sophomore guard Maggie Lucas. Lucas, a former teammate of UConn's Caroline Doty at Germantown Academy, needed just 12 field-goal attempts to rack up her 30 points.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stokes steps up for UConn

If there was one image from last night's dissection of Kansas State which figures to stay with me it was probably the jubilant reception freshman Kiah Stokes received as she checked out of the NCAA second round game for the final time.

Stokes received some words of congratulations from her coaches and then her teammates were waiting smiling from ear to ear. Perhaps nobody, other than Stokes, was more ecstatic than Tiffany Hayes who jumped into the air to exchange a chest bump with Stokes.

Stokes finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in 18 minutes in UConn's 72-26 victory. It was the type of performance and level of energy that the Connecticut coaches have been trying to get from Stokes since the first official practice in mid-October.

"I was really excited and when I came over," Stokes said, "(Assistant coach) Marisa Moseley said 'great job Kiah.' Just the reaction of my teammates was amazing, it was great to know they were in this supporting me as well and I am glad I was able to give that to them as well."

Stokes' up and down freshman season has been well documented. For every game like her 11-point, 11-rebound effort against North Carolina or 12-rebound, 5-block outing against Duke, there have been times when her lackluster practices resulted in her not playing at all in two games and being limited to fewer than five minutes in four others.

However, Stokes seems to have learned the lessons courtesy of the tough love from the UConn coaches as she averaged 9.5 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in the two NCAA tournament games in Bridgeport.

"It feels good, it makes everything worth it all the coaches yelling at me, all the extra sprints and all that stuff makes it worth it," Stokes said.

Getting UConn coach Geno Auriemma to throw compliments Stokes' way has not been the easiest of chores this season but that changed following Monday's game.

"When I said going into the season and into the tournament that Kiah Stokes is going to be a factor in how far we go people said he is just saying that to get them riled up and all of that," Auriemma said. "But it is obvious when you watch her play like that and we can play with two big guys we are a whole different team. I think she had two three-point plays (against Kansas State), I don't think she's had that many all year so she is trying and that is all I have asked of Kiah, just try harder, work harder, bring a little more (passion) to the game. (Monday) she did and look what happened."

Auriemma's take on the Hallmark moment of a reception she received from her teammates was classic Geno.

"I think once they got over the initial shock of it ... I think somebody showed them the stat sheet and once that happened they were genuinely excited for her. You would not believe how many kids on this team would kill to have a body like that, to look like that. (Assistant coach) Shea Ralph said the same thing, it was like she was built to play basketball and all you want is (for her) to use those God-given gifts and come out and dominate a game. They know how important she is to us. Those kids are not stupid, they know if she plays like this every single night we are a whole different team. We are not going to win a national championship playing the way we did at Marquette with our tallest guy being 5-11 or 6-foot so this was maybe the best thing that could have happened for Kiah Stokes and for our team."

The veteran UConn players agreed with Auriemma.

"I think she has grown the most of anybody on the team and for her to come out during tournament time and play the way she did, we are excited for her," junior guard Caroline Doty said. "It's been tough for anybody coming in not knowing what to expect as a freshman, take all the challenges being thrown at you. For her to be able to do as great as she has, it is awesome to see her get the blocked shots, doing the great things she is doing."

Speaking of the blocked shots, she passed teammate Stefanie Dolson for fifth place on UConn's blocked shots list as a freshman. Dolson had 46 blocked shots while Stokes has 47.

I don't have any individual stats but UConn signee Moriah Jefferson and the five-time defending champion THESA Riders opened play in the National Christian HomeSchool Basketball Championships with a 79-41 win over Team USA White on Monday. The Riders are facing the Knoxville Ambassadors as we speak in the second and final game in pool play.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Historic defensive effort for UConn

Pretty much from the time Kansas State attempted to run offense for the first time it was pretty evident it was not going to be a comfortable day at the office for the Wildcats.

A Brittany Chambers basket late in the first half allowed Kansas State to avoid matching the NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament record for fewest points in a half. However, the Wildcats did etch their names into the record book as the 26 points scored were the fewest in the history of the Division I women's tournament, breaking the mark of 27 set six years ago to the day by Southern University in a loss to Duke.

Kansas State's 10 field goals is tied for the fewest in tournament history (with three of the five times it has been done just happens to come against UConn) and the 17.5 field goal percentage is the fourth worst in tournament history.

"Our team looked like killers out there, it looked like we had seven guys out there and they only had five so they didn't know what to do when we came out and trapped," UConn freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. "Every time somebody turned their back, there was another person to come out and swarm them as soon as they turned around. The defensive effort tonight was great."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said it may have been the best defensive showing his team has had this season. Certainly the energy the Huskies displayed in its full-court press and traps was at an extremely high level.

"When we came out tonight, we kind of set the tone right away," Auriemma said. "For whatever reason, they (UConn's players) ended up being in a zone."

The other side of things was a Kansas State team that just seemed bewildered by the relentlessness displayed by the Huskies.

"They have five players committed to the defensive effort  at all times and you don't find a lot of holes," said Brittany Chambers, who led the Wildcats with 11 points. "I think we, early in the game, had some open shots and didn't convert and start forcing things. When you start forcing things, they want you to drive to the baseline, they want yo to drive and are ready to double team you at all times. We kind of played right into what they wanted us to do."

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Nazareth is next for Breanna Stewart's team

I didn't have much luck finding a bracket of the New York Federation Class AA tournament so I reached out to Cicero-North Syracuse coach Eric Smith who informed me that his team, led by UConn signee and national high school player of the year Breanna Stewart, will square off with Nazareth in the semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Times Union Center in Albany. The winner gets Murry Bergtraum on Sunday at noon in the championship game.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Moriah Jefferson, THESA Riders begin title defense Monday

UConn signee Moriah Jefferson and the Texas Home Educators Sports Association (THESA) Riders begin a quest for a sixth straight National Christian HomeSchool Basketball championship beginning on Monday.

The THESA Riders will open against Team USA White in pool play on Monday at 4:10 p.m. If the Riders win, they would face the winner of the Spirit Warriors/Knoxville Ambassadors game on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

The tournament runs through Saturday in Springfield, Missouri.


UConn's Tiffany Hayes joins a select group

When Tiffany Hayes was credited with an assist on Stefanie Dolson’s jumper with 1:11 left in the first half of Saturday’s NCAA tournament opener, the UConn senior moved into some pretty select company.

The assist was the 474th of her career, moving her by Svetlana Abrosimova for 10th on UConn’s career list it also enabled her to join Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery as the only Huskies in the top 10 in games played, points, assists and 3-pointers made.

“I got to play with (Moore and Montgomery) and they were great players so I am blessed to play with (them),” Hayes said. “You have to take pride in it.”

Hayes heads into tonight’s game against Kansas State tied for fourth with 150 games played, is eighth with 183 3-pointers and 10th with 1,748 points and 474 assists. She is also 12th with 210 steals. Add in being a member of two national championship teams and it has been quite the journey for Hayes, who will play in Connecticut for the final time as a collegiate player today.

“Hopefully it is a good one and just make it a good (final game),” Hayes said. “It has been a great ride, it has been a good four years so far and hopefully we can finish it out on a good note.”
Before each game veteran Kansas State coach Deb Patterson hasn’t needed to put a heck of a lot into which players would be starting for the Wildcats.
In each of the 33 games this season seniors Tasha Dickey, Jalana Childs and Branshea Brown and juniors Brittany Chambers and Mariah White have been in the starting lineup. The only other Division I teams which can boast of having the same starting five in every game this season are Brigham Young, Brown, Nebraska and Oregon State.
“We are best friends and we hang out all the time,” Chambers said. “Yesterday after the game we had seven people in the same room watching TV we are all really good friends and enjoy being together.”
Of course UConn is no stranger is the department of consistent starting fives. Had junior guard Caroline Doty not missed the Syracuse game with a bruised knee, the Huskies would have had the same starting lineup in every game this season. Still, with the exception of Dickey, a transfer from Arizona, the other starters have been together for at least the last three years. UConn starts two sophomores and its top scorer in freshman reserve Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

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Rehashing yesterday's communication breakdown

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis knew she was starting the second half in Saturday's game against Prairie View A&M after UConn's coaching and medical staffs decided it would be beneficial for senior guard Tiffany Hayes to sit out the second half to rest her sore right foot. There was only one problem, Hayes seemed to be the last to know.

Hayes was still miffed after the game and gave cryptic answers when she was asked when she heard she would not be playing in the second half. Today UConn coach Geno Auriemma shed some light on how it all went down.

"When Rosemary (Ragle, UConn's athletic trainer) came out and said her foot was bohering her and I said 'bad?' She said 'no,'" Auriemma said. "I said 'would you prefer if we didn't play her?' and she said 'if you don't have to, don't.' We go in and these guys said 'is Kaleena starting?' and we said 'yeah.' Somebody must have told Caroline (Doty) she wasn't. There was Tiffany ready to go out and I said 'hey, yo sit down.' So she didn't talk to me for the rest of the night. That's all right, I am used to it. Women getting mad to me is getting old."

Hayes said she is good to go for tomorrow's second-round game against Kansas State and barring any further issues, she should be available for the entire game tomorrow.

Also, we aren't allowed into practices today but UConn women's basketball SID Pat McKenna tweeted that sophomore guard Lauren Engeln, who missed Saturday's game with an ankle injury, practiced today and is questionable for the Kansas State game.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Breanna Stewart has triple-double in championship game

According to the box score on the Syracuse Post-Standard site, UConn commit Breanna Stewart had 13 points, 13 rebounds and 13 blocked shots in Cicero-North Syracuse's  62-48 win over Penfield in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association AA championship game at Hudson Valley Community College on Saturday.

With the win Stewart and the Northstars advance to the New York Federation Tournament of Champions in Albany beginning on Friday. From what I can tell, Cicero-North Syracuse will play Bishop Loughlin in the semifinals on Friday. When I see an official schedule, I will post it.

I asked UConn coach Geno Auriemma if he was in attendance when Stewart had 42 points and 23 rebounds in Friday's win over Ossining. He was not but said he was not surprised that Stewart had a monster game.

"When I heard the score of the game, I guarantee that Breanna had at least 30 - minimum," Auriemma said. "It's unfair to have her play against those high school kids. There isn't a college team in America she wouldn't be starting for.

"God bless her, I hope she keeps getting better and keeps getting better because there is nobody like that I don't think there's ever been anybody like that in high school that I have seen, a 6-4 kid who can do all of that and make 3's? Passes like she does."

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UConn joins the 30-win club again

The first two seasons Geno Auriemma was at the helm of the UConn women's basketball program, the Huskies won a combined 26 games.

Fast forwarding to Saturday, the Huskies win over Prairie View A&M was UConn's 17th 30-win season in the last 19 seasons and the seven straight 30-win seasons matches the NCAA Division I women's record set by Duke from 2000-01 to 2006-07.

“It is amazing,” Auriemma said. “We always used to joke that 20 is the magic number. We always used to joke in the obituary that he won 20 games or she won 20 games 'x' number of times. Now, 20 wins at UConn gets you fired. Looking back, the way we have done things and the way we play there is a certain consistency to what we do. I'd like to think if people see us play they see similarities year after year and the kids that we have. I have to be honest, 30 wins is a big deal for us. That kind of sets you apart from other teams if you can do that and the fact that we have been so consistent is quite remarkable.”

Had the Huskies defeated Iowa State in the 1999 NCAA regional semifinals, the Huskies would have set the record with 11 consecutive 30-win campaigns beginning with the 1993-94 season.

Of all the numbers to crunch during the first day of play at the Bridgeport subregional, none caught my eye more than 4,563 as in the attendance at the doubleheader.

UConn used to draw more than that for open practices when the NCAA used to allow such a thing.

With the Bridgeport subregional charging the highest prices of any first and second-round sites and parking going for $15, the poor attendance was a topic conversation.

Auriemma took some heat after being critical of fans for not coming out when the Huskies played their first two NCAA tournament games at Gampel Pavilion last year so he chose his words carefully when asked about the topic on Saturday.

“I had some comments last year at Gampel and everybody told me shut up, you make a lot of money and you don't know what it's like to be us who have to pay all that money to go to games,” Auriemma said. “What do we do? We move it to a venue where it costs even more than it cost last year. What do you want me to say? I am sure it is disappointing on a lot of (levels). I am not sure what the people thought who bid on this and said 'OK, let's bid on this and if we get 4,500 on Saturday that would be a good day.' I am sure everybody is disappointed.”


Princeton not an overnight success

During Courtney Banghart's first season at Princeton, the Tigers managed just seven wins in 30 games.

The next year Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood arrived from California and North Carolina respectively and things began to change. When they were freshmen the Tigers went 14-14 and were 9-5 in the Ivy League. Reinforcements came in the following season with Lauren Polansky, Kate Miller, Niveen Rasheed and Megan Bowen joining the program.

The rest, as they say, is history. Princeton has won 41 of 42 games in the Ivy League over the last three years making three straight NCAA tournament appearances. The Tigers earned a No. 9 seed, the highest for an Ivy League school, and became the first Ivy school to break into the top 25 in the Associated Press poll.

It's been quite the ride for the Tigers.

"It has certainly has been a long ride and coming into our freshman year we didn't know what we were getting into," Edwards said. "Seeing the program grow, starting as freshmen and not knowing what to expect and now as seniors to have a top 25 ranking, being here in the NCAA tournament and sitting here it is pretty incredible.

"It has been pretty exciting. We wake up Monday and see a top 25 ranking in that AP poll and everybody was really pumped about that. This is the time of the year that we look forward to. It is March and we work our butts off from the time we stepped on campus for this moment. For it to finally be here and for it to be pulled together, getting through the Ivy League we played pretty consistently and it is pretty exciting to see our team come together and hopefully rise to the challenge."

Allgood is part of a class that has put the Tigers on the women's basketball map.

"It means a lot," Allgood said. "We came in as freshmen not really knowing where this team was going to go. It just shows that we should be able to play with a lot of pride because we have come so far. It shows our lack of complacency, I think it shows our hard work and the effort we put in over these past four yeas to be the team that we are today."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Huge game for UConn recruit

UConn signee Breanna Stewart left no doubt whether her Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) team would be playing for a state title on Saturday with a jaw-dropping effort in the New York AA semifinals.

Stewart had 42 points and 23 rebounds as Cicero-North Syracuse defeated previously undefeated Ossining 79-51 in Friday's semifinals.

Stewart had a double-double by the end of the first quarter and now the Northstars will face undefeated Penfield on Saturday at 8:45 p.m. as they attempt to repeat as AA champions.

Ossining was led by junior guard Saniya Chong's 21 points but the UConn recruiting target needed 26 shots for her 21 points.

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Doty ready for return to NCAAs

A knee injury kept UConn junior guard Caroline Doty out of last year's NCAA tournament but she is expected to be in the starting lineup when the Huskies play Prairie View A&M in Saturday's NCAA tournament opener.

Doty did her best to downplay her emotions but knowing what a competitor Doty is, I know it must have been incredibly trying to sit there and watch the tournament games last year and especially the loss to Notre Dame in the Final Four.

"For anybody it is exciting to be a part of it," Doty said. "It is what everybody dreams of, there are only (64) teams and it could end any day so we have to come out here ready to fight and play at the same time.

"It is more focus time and being there for your teammates. It is way better being on the court of course but it is a team sport for a reason. You do your role and have fun at the same time."

The UConn coaching staff gave Doty stuff to track during games last season so she still felt like she was a part of the Huskies' success. Doty said that year on the sidelines did aid her.

"Just kind of taking a step back, it is easier to see everything on the court when you are on the sidelines so it was just pretty much being aware of what is going on, what needed to happen," Doty said. "The experience of being in the tournament, it was a once in a lifetime experience."

Geno Auriemma said that Doty played a significant role in the win over Notre Dame in the championship game of the Big East tournament even though she did not score. Doty's ability to run the offense enabled Bria Hartley to play off the ball more, a position which allows her to look for her shot more.

"She has played here and she knows what it is like," Hartley said. "It helps reinforce what you are doing. I think that is one thing Caroline has helped me out with the most is going to talking about what we should be doing on the court. It is good to have somebody to work with and talk to throughout the entire game."

Speaking of Doty, she is back at the helm of another video making the rounds on youtube. The latest one is not a trick shot video but one featuring Doty and seven of her teammates letting loose. Much of the filming was done after the Selection Show on Monday night at Gampel Pavilion.

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Prairie View A&M assistant raves about UConn recruit

When I first got word that Prairie View A&M would be UConn's first-round opponent in the NCAA tournament, I immediately checked out the Prairie View website to see if there were any obvious connections to the Huskies.

Actually there was one - sort of - in the form of assistant coach Rob Amboree. That's the same Rob Amboree who coached the Stanford sister duo of Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike as well as Tennessee junior Taber Spani when he was the coach of the Cy Fair Shock. Rob was extremely helpful when UConn was recruiting Chiney Ogwumike and very well connected in Texas girls' basketball circles so among the topics I brought up with him was Moriah Jefferson, the first Texas native to commit to play at UConn.

"Great, phenomenal player," Amboree said. "A kid who you can tell she really loves to play the game. She plays 100 percent all out every second she is on the floor and I think she is going to be a great asset to UConn. I know Coach Auriemma, he just expects so much out of his kids. I think she is going to fit perfect with their style of play and their system.

"A lot of kids don't want to leave Texas too much. It is just a great state and they stay as close to Texas as they can. Nneka and Chiney went way out to the West Coast and Moriah is going away to the East Coast. Those types of kids aren't afraid to leave home, they want the best challenge they can get and I think that is why Moriah ended up going to UConn."