Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Add Erica McCall to list of First Night visitors

It's already been reported that UConn recruiting target Saniya Chong is planning to be at UConn on Oct. 12 when UConn hosts its annual First Night fan fest as well as taking in the Huskies first official practice the following day. I can report that fellow Class of 2012 recruiting target Erica McCall is also planning to make her official visit to UConn that weekend according to her father who I spoke to earlier today.

Greg McCall, the head women's basketball coach at Cal State Bakersfield, said that Erica is down to four schools (UConn, Duke, UCLA and Stanford). OK, so maybe we could make it five schools.

"The fifth is Cal State University Bakersfield, good old dad, I always put that in there," Greg McCall said with a laugh.

Greg McCall , who said he is planning to sit down with Erica tonight to go over some things, said that the UConn visit will be the final one Erica takes and that a college decision could come shortly after after.

"I think she will be ready," Greg McCall said. "I think we would know by then. I think tonight we are going to sit down and talk about some other things by that time she would definitely know. I don;t think she wants to drag it out long. We don't want other schools to have to continue to wait wherever she chooses to go just because. When she knows, she is going to go ahead and say it. It is not going to be one of those things where we are going to play games just to make people wait."

The Stanford visit is planned for the weekend of Sep. 14-15 but Greg McCall didn't remember the exact dates of the trips to Duke and UCLA. He also said that the paperwork for his daughter to be accepted into Stanford has been completed.

"She's done everything, they are supposed to be processing everything right now and letting us know what the word is going to be on that. All of those things are done."

Since he is a Division I head coach I was curious if there were any restrictions on him being able to take part in the official visits and if he was planning to accompany Erica on the visit to UConn. The answers are no and yes.

"I am treated like a parent. It just so happens that I am a Division I head coach but I am treated just like if I was a lawyer or a teacher or a plumber. I will be treated like any other parent. I am very excited about it (visit to UConn). I am looking forward to seeing what UConn is all about. It is an opportunity to watch a great coach coach."

When I reached out to him a couple of days ago to set up the best time to talk he came up with late morning (here in Connecticut) today. When I called him he was talking to somebody else - his older daughter DeWanna Bonner, a star forward with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury. Naturally I understood that our interview started a few minutes later than originally planned.

Bonner is having an incredible season with Phoenix and when I spoke with Erica at the U-17 training camp in Florida in May she said it was invaluable having somebody like Bonner, who was a star at Auburn, to rely on for advice during the recruiting process. Greg McCall agrees that it is a major plus for Erica to have her sister to talk things through. So what are the main advantages of having a former Division I star and current WNBA player in her corner?

"Just talking to her giving her advice, things to look for, what to expect, how to carry herself which Erica has always done a really good job but how to carry herself, what to say to the media to coaches, to parents to fans and just how to do all of those things there and on the recruiting side what to expect on the recruiting trip. It is good to have that part of it because as a parent I can tell her and as a coach I can tell her what to look for but also hearing it from somebody that is close to your age is even better."

Speaking of Chong, UConn is going to be her final visit. The last time I spoke to her she was down to four schools but not having seen a date for a trip to Maryland I spoke with Ossining (N.Y.) coach Dan Ricci who confirmed that she would be visiting Louisville from Sep. 14-15, Ohio State from Oct. 5-6 and UConn from Oct. 13-14. Ricci said that there was no date for a trip to Maryland and it sounds unlikely that one will be scheduled. Much like McCall look for Chong to make her decision after she returns from her visit to UConn.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

U.S. wins 3x3 gold medal

UConn junior guard Bria Hartley and former UConn star Ann Strother were members of the United States team which eked out one-point wins over Australia in the semifinals and France in the championship game at the FIBA 3x3 World Championships.

Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame were the other team members for the U.S. team which finished undefeated in the tournament.

Hartley tied the gold-medal match with a two-point shot to tie the game at 13 and hit the next two baskets as well. Hartley assisted on a Ogwumike basket which ended up being the winning margin.

 Here are quotes from Hartley and Strother courtesy of USA Basketball.

You won a FIBA U19 World Championship and now a FIBA 3x3 World Championship. How does it feel to be a two-time world champion?
It feels good. The feeling doesn’t change. The 3x3 is new to me, and new to a lot of us, to come out here and win that, especially in that game, it was really close and a tough game coming back from down 7-2. I think it was all about pride. I remember being on the court and being like, ‘Guys, we’ve got to win this,’ and we turned it around.

Your team got down early, but you never gave up. What does that say about your team?
We’re players that are competitive. Skylar, I’ve been playing against her plenty of times, and Chiney, we’re just really competitive. This entire trip, there are only four of us. We all became really close being together all that time on the court. We were able to talk to each other and tell each other what we need to do. I think we knew we had to buckle down, and we looked each other in the eye and said, ‘Let’s go, let’s turn this around, let’s step up defensively.’ That’s what we did and we picked it up on offense as well.

What did you learn at the 3x3s that can help your game this year at Connecticut?
Definitely half-court stuff, getting to the basket. I think this game is a lot more physical because of how you have to finish around the rim. I think this will help when I go back to play at UConn.

What will you remember most about this experience?
I think that this is the first-ever 3x3 World Championship. To be the first-ever world champions, not only for the USA, but the first-ever for any country, I think says a lot and is something to remember as you get old.

You won a bronze medal at the 2001 FIBA U19 World Championship and a silver medal at the 2003 Pan American Games. Now you have a FIBA 3x3 World Championship gold medal. How did it feel to stand on top of the podium with the gold medal around your neck?
It feels great. It feels like it finally ended the way it was supposed to. It’s been great to be here and play with these guys and win a gold medal with USA Basketball.

You had to fight through both games today, does that make the gold medal sweeter?
Absolutely, I think when you’re in a situation where you really have to fight for it, it makes it even sweeter. I think it would have been a letdown had it been too easy. France was tough, Australia was tough, and really every team competed and played hard. It definitely made it sweeter.

Your team got down early today, but you never gave up. What does that say about your team?
They’re incredible competitors. I think at 7-2, in a game like this, you can come back as easily as hitting two (two-pointers).  You can’t ever get down, there’s not time to think about being down, or worry about the score. It was fast and fun and great.

What will you remember most about this experience?
All of it, really. The gold medal definitely stands out. For me, I feel like I haven’t been able to play at this level and with players that are this good for a while. It was so much fun to be playing at this level again. Maybe this is the last time I step on the court in this competitive atmosphere, and to end with a gold medal in the World Championship, I don’t think it gets much sweeter than that.

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U.S. wins U-17 title

Lindsay Allen, Rebecca Greenwell and Diamond DeShields had 13 points each as the United States defeated Spain 75-62 to win the gold medal at the FIBA U-17 World Championships.

Three UConn recruiting targets were members of the undefeated U.S. team. Linnae Harper had six points, six rebounds and two steals, Brianna Turner finished with two points and two rebounds while Erica McCall had two rebounds and a steal.

Turner finished the tournament averaging 8.5 points per game, she was second on the team with a field-goal percentage of 56.9 and also averaged 4 rebounds per game. Harper averaged 7.9 points, 6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and led all players with 34 steals in eight games while McCall averaged 3.8 points and 4 rebounds a game.

Diamond DeShields (14.8 points) and Rebecca Greenwell (11.9) were the only U.S. players to average more than 10 points per game.

DeShields was named the tournamemtn's MVP and Harper was named to all-tournament team.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

U.S. advances to 3x3 semifinals

Another day and two more convincing wins for the United States team competing in the FIBA 3x3 World Championships in Athens, Greece.

The U.S. wrapped up pool play 21-2 win over Netherlands and in the knockout stage beat Estonia 21-11 and then defeated Hungary 21-8 in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. will play Australia in the semifinals on Sunday with the winners playing the winner of the France/Ukraine game in the gold medal game.

The U.S. featuring UConn junior guard Bria Hartley, former UConn star Ann Strother, Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame.

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Harper leads U.S. into FIBA U-17 final

UConn recruiting target Linnae Harper had 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists and seven steals to lead the United States to an 84-59 win over Canada in the FIBA U-17 World Championship semifinals on Saturday.

UConn targets Brianna Turner (eight points, five rebounds) and Erica McCall (four points, four rebounds) also helped the U.S. pull away from a solid Canadian team.

The U.S. will play Spain for the gold medal tomorrow.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Engeln's transfer to BC is official

The Boston College women's basketball official site has an item on the transfer of former UConn guard/forward Lauren Engeln.

Engeln played sparingly in her two seasons at UConn. She will have to sit out the upcoming season (although she will be able to practice with the team) and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Linnae Harper has double-double in U-17 quarterfinals

UConn recruiting target Linnae Harper had 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals to lead the United States to an 89-68 win over Australia in the quarterfinals of the FIBA U-17 World Championships on Friday.

Diamond DeShields had 19 points and Mercedes Russell finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds as the U.S. advanced to Saturday's semifinals to play Canada.

Here are quotes from Harper courtesy of USA Basketball

On the game:
We played them a few weeks ago, and we blew them out. I didn't think the game would be as challenging as it was, but we do know that from now on, every team is going to give us their best. We need to stay focused throughout the whole game-- every possession counts. We just can't do the things we have done in the past, because now its win or you don't get a gold medal. We need to stay focused and do what we have to do.
On her rebounding:
I was just trying to help my team, to do what ever we had to do to win. I did whatever I could.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

U.S. game against Argentina in 3x3 tournament to be streamed live

The United States opened play in the FIBA 3x3 World Championships with wins over Germany (22-9) and Angola (21-4).

The good news is the games on Court 1 in the event in Athens, Greece will be streamed live including tomorrow's game against Argentina at 1:30 p.m. at,

The U.S. team includes UConn rising junior Bria Hartley and former UConn star Ann Strother along with Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins and Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike.

Hartley, Strother and Diggins will be competing in a shootout competition on Sunday.

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A look back at UConn's incoming freshmen

With their summer project completed having led the U.S. to the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women, the highly-touted freshman class Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck can get back to the process of bonding with their UConn teammates and preparing for their rookie seasons.

I figured this would be a good time to provide links of the stories I wrote about the trio at the U-18 training camp in Kissimmee, Fla.

Defense Is Calling Card for Moriah Jefferson

The Sky's The Limit for Breanna Stewart

Morgan Tuck Knows What She is Getting Into and She Is Ready

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Geno will be speaking in Danbury on Sep. 10

Just thought I would pass on this info I received from Tom Chiappetta about a Geno Auriemma speaking engagment in Danbury coming up next month.

Here's the info:

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma comes to Fairfield County for "An Evening With Geno Auriemma," Monday, Sept. 10 at 6:15 pm at the Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury. Hosted by the UConn Alumni Association Danbury and Fairfield County Chapters, the event includes a cocktail hour, seated dinner, and remarks by the Hall of Fame and Olympic gold-medal winning coach, as he shares his experiences and personal stories from 27 years as the Huskies’ head coach. Alumni, fans, and friends are invited.
Proceeds from the event will go toward UConn Alumni Association Danbury and Fairfield County Chapter scholarship funds for current students, and for future chapter programs.
For ticket information and to register, visit


CPTV to televise four upcoming Connecticut Sun games

CPTV Sports and CPTV (for those who have yet to get CPTV Sports) can watch four upcoming Connecticut Sun games beginning with Sunday's home game against Chicago. The home games against Phoenix (Sep. 7) and Atlanta (Sep. 23) and game at Atlanta on Sep. 2 will also be shown by both CPTV and CPTV Sports.

Also, the Sun will host "Autism Night" as part of its Community Spotlight program at Sunday's game.

Autism Speaks Connecticut will receive six dollars back on each ticket purchased through the Sun’s Community Spotlight program. Those who would like to experience the excitement and family-friendly atmosphere of a WNBA game while

also contributing to Autism Speaks Connecticut can visit, click on “find tickets” and enter the code word “autism.”

U.S. rolls into FIBA U-17 quarterfinals

UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target Brianna Turner as well as Rebecca Greenwell and Diamond DeShields had 13 points each as the United States rolled to a 98-28 win over Mali to finish pool play undefeated.

UConn Class of 2013 recruiting target Erica McCall added nine points and nine rebounds for the U.S. which won Group A and will play Australia, the fourth-place team in Group B, in Friday's quarterfinals.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

UConn to play in Hall of Fame tournament in '13

UConn is one of eight teams which has agreed to play in the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge next season.

UConn will host Old Dominion, Boston University and St. Bonaventure between Nov. 22-27 before wrapping up with a game against Ohio State on Dec. 1 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass. Ohio State is the other host school as the Buckeyes will play home games against Marist, Monmouth and Bowling Green.

“We are very pleased to be a part of the inaugural Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement.  “There are some really good teams in the field and it will be a lot of fun to showcase our game in the birthplace of college basketball.  This should end up being a very successful event and I would like to express my appreciation to the Hall of Fame for making this concept a reality.”

 In other scheduling news, The UConn-Hartford game will have a 1 p.m. start time on Dec. 22 in West Hartford.

UConn recruiting target gets defensive at U-17 tourney

UConn Class of 2013 recruiting target Linnae Harper had seven steals to go with seven points, four rebounds and four assists and helped keep the leading scorer in the tournament in check as the United States defeated Belgium 80-50 in the FIBA U-17 World Championship for Women on Tuesday.

Belgium's Hind Ken Abdelkader came into the game averaging 21 points per game but she finished with just seven points on 2 of 24 shooting including going 1 of 14 from 3-point range.

UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target Brianna Turner had eight points, three rebounds and four steals as the U.S. improved to 4-0 in pool play.

Rebecca Greenwell led three U.S. players in double figures with 17 points while former UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The U.S. wraps up preliminary round play tomorrow against winless Mali. The U.S. will be the top seed out of Group A for the quarterfinals and play the No. 4 team in Group B which at the current time is Australia.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Prestigious honor for former St. John's star

Stamford native Da'Shena Stevens, who recently graduated from St. John's, was selected as a Big East finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year award joining Villanova cross country star Sheila Reid as candidates for the prestigious award.

The national winner will be announced during the 2012 NCAA Woman of the Year awards event on October 14 in Indianapolis.

Stevens, who played for St. John’s from 2008-12, led the Red Storm to back to back NCAA tournament appearance.She began her career as the Big East Freshman of the Year and ended it as the conference's Scholar-Athlete of the Year and earned the league's 2012 Sportsmanship award.

Stevens finished fifth on the all-time scoring list at St. John's with 1,515 points. She is also No. 3 in rebounds (815), No. 4 in field goals made (579), No. 2 in free throws (354) and No. 5 in field goal attempts (1,305). She is also the career leader in free throw attempts (623).

Maya Moore honored by WNBA

Former UConn star Maya Moore was named the WNBA's Western Conference Player of the Week  after averaging 19.2 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals per game as the Minnesota Lynx won a pair of games to become the first team to clinch a spot in the WNBA playoff.

Moore shot 14-for-23 from the field (.609), including 5-of-11 (.455) from three-point range, and helped Minnesota improve to 17-4, the best record in the WNBA.

Moore had 17 points, four boards and three assists in win over Washington.  She followed that up with a 22-point, 10-rebound effort that included six assists and four steals as Minnesota beat  Tulsa.


Lawson to run in honor of Pat Summitt

For the second year in a row Connecticut Sun guard Kara Lawson will be running in the NYRR Dash To The Finish Line 5K on Nov. 3 to raise money for the Pat Summitt Foundation. Here is the press release with the details

Connecticut Sun guard and former University of Tennessee star Kara Lawson announced today she would once again participate in the ING New York City Marathon Weekend, running in the 2nd annual NYRR Dash To The Finish Line 5K on November 3rd to raise money for The Pat Summitt Foundation, a fund of East Tennessee Foundation.

Lawson’s husband, Damien Barling, and a group of runners from Knoxville and Connecticut will do their part the following day by running 26.2 miles in the ING New York City Marathon.

This is the second year Kara has participated in the marathon festivities. Last year, Lawson raised close to $18,000 over a four-week period in a similar campaign.

“I think it speaks to the impact Coach Summitt has had on basketball,” said Lawson. “Not just at Tennessee and not just college, but basketball as a whole. It also speaks to the level in which Alzheimer’s disease has affected people. It’s deadly and it’s underfunded. The Pat Summitt Foundation has done a magnificent job of setting up an organization that directly funds research to help find a cure. I’m thankful I’m in a position to help, even in a small way. We have a great team that’s going to run in New York City and we’re really hoping to top last year’s donation amount.”

Last summer, former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt revealed that she had been diagnosed with early on-set dementia, Alzheimer’s type. Summitt stepped down from her coaching position on April 18. Lawson was an All-American at Tennessee, playing for the Lady Volunteers from 1999-2003.

“One of Kara's greatest strengths is her love to compete and to better herself,” Summitt said.  “I am very excited that Kara, Damien and their team are representing The Pat Summitt Foundation in the ING New York City Marathon. I sincerely thank Kara for her continuing commitment to help raise awareness and funding to fight Alzheimer's disease.  I will be cheering for Kara and her team to have a great race!"

In May, Lawson announced she would donate $50 to The Pat Summitt Foundation for every three-pointer she made during the WNBA season. The Connecticut Sun Foundation and the Mohegan Tribe quickly matched the donation. To date, Lawson has made 39 three-pointers, ranking second in the league.

“Last year’s campaign to run NYC and raise money in honor of Coach Summitt was so successful we knew we had to do it again,” Lawson stated. “Right before training camp started I had the idea to donate money to The Pat Summitt Foundation for each three pointer I made. It’s been amazing the overwhelming support we’ve gotten since the season started.”

You can donate and find out more about The Pat Summitt Foundation on Kara’s donation page at:


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tuck, Stewart lead U.S. U-18 squad to title

UConn incoming freshmen Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart each had double doubles to lead the U.S. to a 71-47 win over Brazil in the championship game of the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship for Women.

Tuck, who finished as the tournament's leading scorer, had 15 points and 11 rebounds while Stewart finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Stewart was named the tournament's MVP. Moriah Jefferson, the third UConn incoming freshman on the squad, had four points, two rebounds, three assists, a steal and a blocked shot.

The U.S. got off to a slow start and trailed for a good portion of the first half. It was the 3-point shooting of Notre Dame incoming freshman Michaela Mabrey who got the U.S. rolling. Mabrey finished with 14 points.

Tuck finished the tournament averaging 17.8 points and 5 rebounds per game, She also led the tournament with a .542 field-goal percentage (edging out Stewart's mark of .540) and was second with a free-throw percentage of 80.6. Stewart's finished tied for second in scoring at 14 points per game, was third in rebounding (7.8), third in blocked shots (1.8) and fourth in 3-point percentage (.462). Stewart also averaged 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals. Jefferson averaged 5.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists (second among tourney players behind Mabrey's 4.8) and 1.6 steals per game. Mabrey and Jefferson also ranks first and second in assist/turnover ratio in the event putting up totals of 2.67 and 2.1 respectively.

Fitting Stewart's modest persona she said she wasn't expecting to win the MVP award.

"I was really surprised I got that, actually. It’s nice, but I’d rather have a gold medal."

Here are more quotes from Stewart and Tuck courtesy of USA Basketball

They came out very strong and aggressive and I think it rattled us a little bit, just because obviously in the first quarter we were struggling to score. But, I think once we regrouped and got ourselves composed, we realized that we could turn around and go right back at this team and that’s what we did.
Was it the team’s defense?
When Michaela, she hit some clutch threes to help us get into the momentum. Then, the defense, we really stepped it up and everything started flowing from there.

How does it feel to have another gold medal hung around your neck?It felt reall great. It’s always great to win games, but to come out here and win a gold medal, it’s unbelievable.
Does it make the gold even more sweet when you look at how hard you had to work tonight?
Yeah, it did, because we got down early in the game. I think it was 9-2, or something like that. It just showed that we do have the fight in us to come back in games, because all of our other games we were up most of the time. It definitely gave us a different look and gave us a little adversity to prove that we could push through.
There was no panic, it looked like you just settled down on defense. Was that your mindset?
Yeah, I think we just had to play our game. We were kind of rushing things, going too fast, taking too many jump shots. I think we just had to get back to our game, to how we played the past games, because they were successful.
What did Coach Meier talk to you about at halftime?
She definitely talked about running the plays on offense, just playing our game. Stop the dribble penetration, because that was something that was really hurting us on the defensive end. Basically, just keeping them out of the lane.

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Report: Lauren Engeln headed to Boston College

ESPN HoopGurlz is reporting that former UConn wing Lauren Engeln is transferring to Boston College.

ESPN HoopGurlz tweeted the information citing confirmation from Russ Davis, who was Engeln's AAU coach.

Engeln played in 55 games over the last two seasons but when I spoke to Davis on the day that word got out that Engeln was leaving UConn he said a lack of playing time was the issue.

Engeln will have to sit out the upcoming season, although she will be able to practice with the Eagles. She will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in the 2013-14 season.


CT Sun signs Lawson to three-year extension

The Connecticut Sun announced that it has signed veteran guard Kara Lawson to a three-year extension.

“We are delighted to have Kara with our organization for an extended time,” Sun Vice President and General Manager Chris Sienko said in a statement. “If this season is any indication of what is to come, it is going to be a great three years.”

Lawson was originally signed for three years as an unrestricted free agent on Feb. 2, 2010,  Lawson is averaging 14.5 points per game with a team-high 40 three-pointers. She leads the Sun in assists, and she is third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.

"I have enjoyed my time playing for the Connecticut Sun organization,” Lawson said in a statement. “Top to bottom, it is the best franchise in the WNBA.The community has embraced me and my family, and we look forward to sharing many winning seasons in the years to come. We have developed special relationships here, and hope to be a part of the first championship team for the Sun and their fans."


Harper, Turner shine in U-17 tourney

UConn recruiting targets Linnae Harper and Brianna Turner had 11 points each to lead the United States to an 83-43 win over Italy in pool play at the FIBA U-17 World Championships in Amsterdam.

Five different players scored in double figures led by Rebecca Greenwell's 16 points as the U.S. improved to 3-0 in Group A. The U.S. will face Belgium on Tuesday before wrapping up pool play against winless Mali on Wednesday.

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Ann Strother named the U.S. 3x3 squad

With Maryland rising junior Alyssa Thomas unable to compete in the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship later this month, USA Basketball selected former UConn star Ann Strother to join rising juniors Bria Hartley of UConn and Chiney Ogwumike and Notre Dame senior to be Skylar Diggins.

The quartet is taking part in a training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. before embarking for the FIBA 3x3 World Championship in Athens, Greece which begins Thursday.

"Playing for Team USA is as good as it gets," said Strother in a release put out by USA Basketball. "It's an incredible honor to be here and to come in here and play with these three. I'm just excited for the opportunity."

Strother's most recent USA Basketball experience came at the 2003 Pan American Game although she competed in the 3x3 tournament in Colorado Springs were Hartley, Diggins, Ogwumike and Thomas went undefeated to earn the honor of representing the U.S. at the FIBA event.

Strother was a member of national championship teams during her first two seasons at UConn and scored 1,699 points for the Huskies from 2002-06 before playing for three seasons in the WNBA.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tuck, Stewart lead U.S. to gold-medal game

UConn incoming freshmen Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart combined for 42 points and 11 rebounds as the United States defeated Canada 95-46 in the semifinals of the FIBA Americas U18 Champuonship for Women.

Tuck (22 points) and Stewart (20 points, eight rebounds) were a combined 17 of 29 from the field as the U.S. advances to face Brazil in Sunday's championship game. Moriah Jefferson, the third UConn signee on the U.S. squad, has two points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocked shots.

The U.S. will play Brazil tonight at 8:15 in the championship match.

Here are quotes from Stewart and Tuck courtesy of USA Basketball

On her game tonight:I was just waiting to let the game come to me. I talked to coach before the game at shoot around and she was like ‘I have a feeling that tonight you’re just going to go off.’ Did I go off? I don’t know, but I was just doing what I do on the court and having fun while I was doing it.
Were you fueled a little bit by the loss to Canada in the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship?
Yeah, it definitely was fuel. Because obviously you don’t want to lose at these tournaments. At the U19s we lost to Canada. So, yeah we took that as fuel. We wanted to send a message to Canada that that was a fluke and it’s not going to happen again. I think we did that.
What do you need to work on prior to the gold medal game?
I think it’s just staying focused. We had a little point in the third quarter where we let up a little bit. We just have to stay focused and realize that we need to keep playing our game, no matter what the other team is doing. We need to keep doing what we do.
On the play of her teammates:
Everyone is contributing to the team in some way. Obviously we’re down guards, so me and Morgan are playing the three and swinging. Moriah and Lexie are doing a great job keeping the team under control. When Michaela comes in and plays point, she’s doing a tremendous job. She had 10 assists that one game. I think everyone’s playing really well.

Were you fueled a little bit by the loss to Canada in the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship?Yeah, a little bit. We talked about it a little bit earlier today during film that we lost to them last year at the 19s. We definitely wanted to come out and send a message. We definitely didn’t want to lose this game.
The team looks to be playing better and better each game. Are you getting a better feel for each other?
I think we’re getting a better feel for each other. We haven’t been together very long. So, as we’re playing games we’re just learning each other’s game a little better.
Do you think Canada was a little surprised with how strong you played from the start?
I’m not sure they were surprised, but I’m just glad that everyone was on the same page tonight and that we started off the game really well. Because sometimes we’ll start off a little slow, but I think we started off really well and played the game pretty well.
What were your goals heading into this game?
Our goals were to limit them on offense, definitely focus on our defense, because that’s what fuels our offense. We wanted to get transition points, points in the paint, outside-inside hitting shots. I think we did that pretty well. Of course we have to limit the threes that we’re giving up. That’s one thing we really have to work on for tomorrow.
On the play of her teammates:
A lot of people played well. Even if they didn’t necessarily score, they played good defense, made hustle plays. I think it was a great team effort.

Also, head coach Katie Meier (the head coach at Miami) was asked about the impact of Stewart and Tuck.

"I think it was the first game that those two together really took a game over. They do it in so many different ways. At the end of the game we had Stewie at the two and Tuck at the three, with Bashaara (Graves) and Candice (Agee) inside. We were just huge. They just say, ‘okay,’ and adjust and adapt and fill in for you. They did a fantastic job. Those two players are as special as they come. "

If anybody had questions about just how versatile Stewart is, well the fact that Meier had the confidence to play her at the shooting guard in this game speaks volumes.

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Former UConn recruiting target shines in U-17 tournament

Former UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields had 29 points as the United States rolled to an 86-47 win over Canada in the FIBA U17 World Championships. UConn targets Linnae Harper (four points, three rebounds, two steals), Erica McCall (five points, six rebounds, two steals) and Brianna Turner (four points, three rebounds) helped the U.S. improve to 2-0 in pool play. The U.S. will face fellow undefeated teams Italy on Sunday and Belgium on Tuesday before wrapping up play in Group A against Mali on Wednesday.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Morgan Tuck shines again for U.S. U-18 squad

UConn incoming freshman Morgan Tuck had 17 points, six rebounds and two assists as the United States wrapped up preliminary play at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women with an 87-36 win over Colombia.

Fellow UConn signees Moriah Jefferson (eight points and six assists) and Breanna Stewart (six points, six rebounds in just 14:31 of playing time) helped the U.S. clinch the top seed out of group A for the semifinals.  The U.S. will play Canada Saturday at 8:15 p.m. in one semifinal while Brazil and Argentina meet in the other semi. By reaching the semifinals the U.S. automatically qualifies for the 2013 FIBA U19 Championships.

Alexis Prince led the U.S. with 19 points.

After the preliminary round Tuck leads all players in scoring (17.3 points per game) as well as free throws made (16) and percentage (84.2). Jefferson is second in assists (4.7 per game trailing only U.S. teammate and Notre Dame signee Michaela Mabrey's 5.3) while Stewart is fourth in scoring (12.3), fifth in rebounding (7.0), fourth in 3-pointers made (1.3 per game) and third in blocked shots (2.3).

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Impressive start for U.S. U-17 squad

Becca Greenwell had 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target  Brianna Turner added 20 points and 10 rebounds as the United States opened up the FIBA U17 World Championships with a 131-89 win over Korea.

UConn Class of 2013 recruiting targets Linnae Harper (9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals) and Erica McCall (7 points and 4 rebounds) contributed to the victory and helped the U.S. shoot 65 percent from the field and outrebound Korea 64-25.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stewart leads U.S. past Argentina

UConn incoming freshman Breanna Stewart had 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots as the United States defeated Argentina 68-28 in a Group A game Thursday at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships.

Fellow incoming freshmen Morgan Tuck (12 points, 3 rebounds) and Moriah Jefferson (6 points, 6 assists) also helped the U.S. to improve to 2-0 in pool play. The U.S. wraps up pool play at 3:45 p.m. against Columbia.

Here are quotes from Stewart and Tuck courtesy of USA Basketball

On her play in today's game:I just wanted to let the game come to me. They were pressuring a lot of our players and it left people open. I just got some good looks.
On the team�s overall play against Argentina:
Our mindset coming into the game was really good. We knew that we had to pressure (Michaela Sol Sancisi) and (Victoria Llorente), and we worked together really well on defense.
In the second half it looked as if the team lost some of its energy, was that the case?
I think it's just our focus. We just need to learn to stay focused. That'll come hopefully in the next couple of days, because we're not together for that much longer. We need to just stay focused and remember that we still have to go out and play another half.
Is it due to the fact that you were up by so much?Yeah, I think that's part of it. We always have to go into the second half, no matter what the score is, like it's 0-0 so that we can play our best and give our best effort.
On her play in today's game: I just wanted to let the game come to me. They were pressuring a lot of our players and it left people open. I just got some good looks. On the team's overall play against Argentina: Our mindset coming into the game was really good. We knew that we had to pressure (Michaela Sol Sancisi) and (Victoria Llorente), and we worked together really well on defense. In the second half it looked as if the team lost some of its energy, was that the case? I think it's just our focus. We just need to learn to stay focused. That'll come hopefully in the next couple of days, because we're not together for that much longer. We need to just stay focused and remember that we still have to go out and play another half. Is it due to the fact that you were up by so much? Yeah, I think that's part of it. We always have to go into the second half, no matter what the score is, like it's 0-0 so that we can play our best and give our best effort.

On today's game: I think Argentina's a really good team. We definitely came in with a pretty specific game plan. It was a great game for us to work on, being mentally focused and listen to what our coach said.
At the end of the game it looked as if your team slowed down or lost intensity:
I think our mental focus went away a little bit because we were up by a lot, so we knew we didn't have to play exactly how we did in the first half. That's something we can learn from to make sure that we finish the game out.
Your shots weren't falling like last night. What were some of the things you were doing to counter that?
We were trying to do other things. Just because the offense might not be there, I can�t shut it down. I definitely tried to play really good defense, so even though I wasn�t really helping much on offense, I definitely wanted to help on defense.
On the team's defense:
It was probably one of our best team efforts. We definitely played really great team defense. Everyone listened to what coach said. Everyone was mentally focused. Everyone was into the game.

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Update on non-conference schedule

With ESPN announcing its Big Monday schedule for the upcoming season we now have all the dates for the non-conference schedule as well as the added bonus that UConn will end the regular season with a Mar. 4 game at Notre Dame (starting at 7 p.m.)

Nov. 2  vs. Indiana (Pa.)
Nov. 7 vs. Holy Family
Nov. 11 vs. College of Charleston
Nov. 18 at Texas A&M
Nov. 22 vs. Wake Forest (at Paradise Jam), 6:15 p.m.
Nov. 23 vs. Marist (at Paradise Jam), 8:15 p.m.
Nov. 24 vs. Purdue (at Paradise Jam), 8:15 p.m.
Nov. 28 vs. Colgate
Dec. 3 vs. Maryland (Jimmy V Classic), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Dec. 6 vs. Penn State
Dec. 19 vs. Oakland
Dec. 22 at Hartford
Dec. 29 at Stanford
Dec. 31 at Oregon
Jan. 21 Duke, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Feb. 18 vs. Baylor, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

Geno not interested in 2016 Olympic gig

UConn coach Geno Auriemma, meeting with the media on Thursday for the first time since he returned from London as the head coach of the gold-medal winning U.S. squad, said he is not interested in being the U.S. Olympic coach in 2016.

"Right now, zero," Auriemma said on the chances of him being the Olympic coach in four years. "Everybody has heir own reasons for doing what they do. I was honored, I was thrilled that I did and ecstatic that I was able to experience it. I had the perfect blend of players, they did everything I asked them to do but if you were to ask me right now, today, I would say it is somebody else's time.

"There are too many factors that go into it, too many variables," Auriemma said. "The way I feel right now is I want to spent the next four years working with the group of players that I have right now because we have a chance, especially in the next two years with Bria (Hartley) and Stefanie (Dolson) being juniors I think these next two years could be something really special. Not that we havenb't had some really speciual teams before but I want to spend all my time and energy worried about that and make that as good as it can be. It would be pretty hard to top London."

Auriemma has no concerns about 11-player roster

A year ago the thought was that the 2012-13 could be one of the deepest UConn women's basketball teams in a while with only Tiffany Hayes moving on and three prized recruits coming into the program.

However, with the offseason departures of Michala Johnson and Lauren Engeln, the Huskies will have an 11-player roster as they did last season. That is fine with UConn coach Geno Auriemma who said having a smaller roster is not an issue at practice because of the use of male practice players.

"We need a lot of guys to get a lot of minutes," Auriemma said. "Unfortunately or fortunately, for Michala and Lauren not to be here is kind of a blessing for them and blessing for us because they weren't going to play. Now we have 11 players who for the most part are going to play and in some way, shape or form are going to be deserving to play. I think that makes practices even better and even more competitive. I am looking forward to that. We haven't had that in a while.

"You take a chance on kids when you are recruiting them. They are not all Jamelle Elliotts or Meghan Pattysons or Jessica Moores. Some kids who take a chance on and they get here and it doesn't work out. While they are here and it is not working out, it is a drain. I know everybody loves to see them in the last two minutes 'oh aren't they cute and why aren't they playing more?' They don't realize it is a drain because they can't keep up with everybody at practice and it make it difficult so going into the season feeling like it is going to be more competitive than ever."

As for this UConn team Auriemma said the players should start returning to campus as early as this weekend and he is excited about the potential of the group. He went as far as saying that he doesn't see himself as a candidate to coach the U.S. Olympic team in 2016 because he wants to devote all of his energy on coaching UConn for the next four years and that the next couple of seasons could be "special."

Auriemma was asked if any of his current UConn players could be in the mix for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. First, he expressed hope that three-time Olympians Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi will be around to play on that team but if that is not the case any players with previous USA Basketball experience could find themselves in the equation.

"Four years in a long time, a lot can happen between now and then," Auriemma said. "I think the beauty of USA Basketball is  you start paying it at age 15 or 16, thwey don't do that just because they don't know what to do. They try to identify the best 16 year olds and say 'OK, how many Olympians do you think we can develop?' If you see kids moving through the system and they are still key players then that is what USA's goal is to bring kids through the system so when the Olympics come around they have a pool of players that they know are going to fill the bill. As long as our guys keep playing USA Basketball, keep being effective and keep bringing home gold medals then they've got a chance. Anybody who has ever won a gold medal at any level like Morgan (Tuck) has, like Breanna (Stewart) has, like Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) has as Stefanie (Dolson) and Bria (Hartley) have obviously is in the mix but what happens over the next four years is anybody's guess."

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nice start for UConn freshmen in U-18 tournament

UConn freshman Morgan Tuck had 23 points (hitting 8 of 11 shots from the field and all seven of her free-throw attempts) while Breanna Stewart had 14 points and three blocked shots and Moriah Jefferson added eight points, five rebounds and four steals as the United States opened play in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women with a 99-26 win over the Dominican Republic.

Next up for the U.S. is a preliminary round game against Argentina. The U.S. wraps up play in Group A on Friday. The top two teams in each of the two group advance to the semifinals which begin on Saturday with the championship game set for Sunday at 8:15 p.m.

Each of the four semifinalists qualify for the 2013 FIBA World Championship. Here are quotes from Jefferson and Tuck courtesy of USA Basketball.

Moriah Jefferson
What was it like for you to play in your first international competition after missing out the last few summers?
It’s an honor. It’s great to be able to play with the teammates that I’m going to be with at (Connecticut), and then all these guys that I’ve grown up playing with. It’s just an honor to be able to wear USA across my chest.
On the USA’s slow start:
That’s just nerves. It’s the first game and everybody’s excited and trying to do too much. That’s all, but we got into our flow.
What did coach talk to you about between the first and second quarters?
Just to slow down and do what we know we can do. We trust each other, so don’t get rattled about anything.
How hard is it to maintain that intensity after being up by so much?Honestly, you have to be mentally prepared because if you go down, that’s when teams start coming back up. If we play a different team with a different score, we have to be mentally prepared the whole game. We just worked on things we’ve been trying to do in practice.

Morgan Tuck
On today’s game:
I felt pretty good. We started off a little slow. I think the nerves were there a little bit, but we picked it up as the game went on.
On her point production:
I think it was just that we play together as a team and running the floor, it just comes sometimes. When everyone’s playing as a team and you’re there to get some layups, they give it to you in the right spot. When you have people not being selfish and letting the game flow, I think that’s what happened.
How were you able to settle down and pull away in the second quarter?
We picked up our defense a little bit. We were playing a little unsure on defense, so we definitely tried to make our defense more intense and that helped with our offense.
On her 6-0 run in the second quarter:
The coaches said before the game that the posts need to dominate. So, that’s what I pretty much tried to do. I think that the guards were on board with that and really tried to get it into the post.
On the USA’s intensity level never dropping, despite the point differential:
We did that because we’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks now and everybody was ready for a game. Even if the team wasn’t as good as us, we definitely wanted to show that we are a great team and not play down to the competition.

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Lobo to be honored; Moore back with Sun

Here are a couple of items from the Connecticut Sun (who play New York tomorrow in the first post-Olympic game).
First, former UConn star Rebecca Lobo will receive the inaugural Margo Dydek Award when the Sun host the New York Liberty on Saturday at 7 p.m.
That game could also mark the home return of former UConn forward/center Jessica Moore, who was signed by the Connecticut Sun. The Sun cut rookie Chay Shegog to make room for Moore.

Speaking of honors, UConn coach Geno Auriemma will receive a lifetime achievement award by the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame event on Oct. 9 at Westover Country Club in Jeffersonville, Pa.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

UConn AD reacts to naming of Big East commissioner

UConn director of athletics Warde Manuel, who was a member of the committee which ultimately selected Middletown native and television executive Mike Aresco as the new Big East commissioner.

The choice of Aresco was met with Manuel's stamp of approval.

 "I like it, I like it a lot," Manuel said on Tuesday during UConn football practice. "I think it is an excellent choice. I was a part of the committee and part of the process and I am excited and thrilled for the Big East and looking forward to getitng to know Mike a little better.

"I knew of him, I knew of him and his reputation and from the start I thought he would be an excellent person for us to talk to. I think it is an excellent choice for us and I am excited about what he is going to bring to us. He brings a great dimension. His experience in terms of television, the media but his extensive knowledge to collegiate athletics are deep and I think will be very helpful to UConn and other institutions within the league, I think he bring a lot to the table and from my perspective it is a home run."

Manuel also talked about his experience watching six former UConn players and current UConn coach Geno Auriemma lead the U.S. women's basketball team to the Olympic gold medal for the fifth straight time.

"London was awesome, it was the first time I had the chance to meet the ladies, to see what they did and they way they carried themselves the way that they won on the international stage was impressive," Manuel said. "I saw us play Australia (in the semifinals) and championship game against France and it was just wonderful to watch. I am glad that six of our former (players) were on the team and to see Geno work his brilliance on the international stage was really phenomenal."

Tina Charles, Asjha Jones reflect on Olympic experience

The events of the last month or so will remain etched in the minds of former UConn stars Tina Charles and Asjha Jones forever.

 The Connecticut Sun teammates were both first-time Olympians and they met with the Connecticut media this afternoon to reflect on the run to Olympic glory.

 "It was awesome," Charles said. "It was great. At the opening ceremonies that is when it hit me that I was here and that the team had arrived. Just to be walking alongside of Sue, Swin and Dee who went through it and them saying it's unreal, it is going to be great."

The real emotions, however, happened after the U.S. won the gold medal for the fifth straight time and the players had their gold medals draped around their necks as the national anthem played.

"To see Dee, Swin and Sue those guys have been through it before, it doesn't get old," Jones said. "It was my first time and it really sunk in. This is like a dream come true for most people."

Charles, like so many of her teammates, was overcome with emotion during the medal ceremony.

"I think I got emotional," Charles said. "Diana was tearing up the whole time and she as been through it a couple of times. That is the (image) you see at the Olympics with athletes with their hands on their heart so when they played the anthem it was great."

Monday, August 13, 2012

With Olympics over, the next generation are in spotlight

With the UConn-dominated United States squad successfully winning the Olympic title for the fifth straight time it's now time to take a look to the future.

We won't have to wait long. The U.S. Under-17 team, which includes UConn recruiting targets Linnae Harper, Erica McCall and Brianna Turner, recently won three international friendlies in preparation for the FIBA U-17 World Championships which kicks off with six games on Friday in Amsterdam.

UConn freshmen Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck headed to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. over the weekend for a U-18 training camp. They are members of the U.S. team which will play in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships. The U.S. kicks off play in the tournament on Wednesday against the Dominican Republic in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

UConn rising junior guard Bria Hartley will head to Colorado Springs on Friday for final preparations before heading to Athens, Greece for the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship which begins on Aug. 23.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

U.S. rolls past France to win fifth straight Olympics

UConn's all-time leading scorer Maya Moore (right) has a chuckle as fellow
former Husky Sue Bird bites into her Olympic gold medal after the UConn
dominated U.S. team won its fifth straight Olympic championship.
(photo courtesy of USA Basketball and NBE/Getty Images)

Six former UConn stars and UConn head coach Geno Auriemma will be returning from London with gold medals after the United States women's basketball team won its fifth straight Olympic gold medal with a 86-50 win over previously undefeated France on Saturday.

Former Tennessee star Candace Parker led the U.S. with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Former UConn stars Sue Bird (11 points, three assists) and Diana Taurasi (nine points, six assists) also played starring roles as they won their third consecutive gold medal. Former Huskies Maya Moore (six points, seven rebounds), Asjha Jones (four points), Tina Charles (four points) and Swin Cash (three points) were also members of the U.S. squad.

It is the second gold medal for Cash while Moore, Charles and Jones were first time Olympians. It is also the second gold medal for Auriemma, who was an assistant coach on the 2000 squad (even if he doesn't actually receive medals).

The overall tournament scoring champions were former Cheshire Academy star Johannah Leedham of Great Britain as well as Brazil's Erika de Souza who each averaged 16.2 points per game. Taurasi finished as the top scorer for the United States as she averaged 12.4 points a contest.

Here are the stats for the six former UConn stars

Bird: 6.1 points, team-leading 4.5 assists
Charles: 10.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists
Cash: 3.3 points, 1.4 rebounds
Jones: 3.1 points, 1.7 rebounds
Moore: 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.5 steals
Taurasi: 12.4 points, 3 rebounds, 2.9 assists (had 15 of the U.S. 32 3-pointers)

Proving it was a team-first approach, there were no U.S. among the tournament's top 10 scorers however here is where the U.S. players ranked in other categories

Rebounds: Candace Parker 4th; Charles 5th
Assists: Bird 2nd
Steals: Angel McCoughtry 2nd; Tamika Catchings 6th; Moore 8th
Blocks: Parker 7th
FG percentage: Parker 6th
3-point percentage: Taurasi 9th
Double-doubles: Charles and Parker tied for 1st

Here are quotes from Auriemma and the six former Huskies courtesy of USA Basketball.
You know, you go into every game thinking that there’s going to be some things that you have to do, and if you do those things you’re going to have a chance you can win it. You know, France was probably playing as well as anytime I’ve ever seen them, since I’ve been the coach anyway. And when you’re going into it the way they’re playing, they got a lot of confidence. And we tried to really disrupt them and get them into the kind of game they weren’t comfortable playing, and I think we did that right from the beginning. When Candace Parker came in the game, the game changed completely. You know, I thought she was the biggest difference in the game tonight. We all just kind of took that and ran with it. We beat a really good team, but we’re a great team.
On why Candace Parker shined tonight:
You know, as coaches we know a lot about a lot of things, but that’s a question I can’t answer. I think that Candace (Parker) would be better able to answer that question. Candace has a lot of skills, and some nights she really tries to use them and other nights she forgets the kind of skills that she has. Luckily for us, tonight she remembered.
On if this is the best U.S. Women’s team to-date:
You know, I hate to say it was the best; it’s like comparing your children because I didn’t coach those other teams. If I did, I would probably say yeah, this was the best because you always get attached to the one you’re coaching. I’m sure every other coach thought that the team they coached was a great team, but you know, the United States has had unbelievably great teams since 1996 and I think we’re just another one on the list. Down the road if people want to make those comparisons, you know, it’s okay, but right now we accomplished the same thing they did, so I don’t know that that separates us from them. I think it just makes us equal with them.
On the French team:
Sometimes a team just finds itself during a tournament, and I thought the French team was the team of the tournament. I think if you take us out of the tournament, honestly I’m partial to our team; I thought France was the team of the tournament. The way they played consistently from day one all the way to the end, and I thought Celine (Dumerc) was the most important player and the most impactful player in the tournament, and I just want to say congratulations.
On the competitiveness of women’s basketball to U.S. fans versus sports like soccer and gymnastics:
Yeah, I mean, you can’t apologize for being really good. The reason they don’t think there’s any competition is because they don’t have to be here playing. We know what the competition is, we know how good these other teams are, and we know how hard we have to work to make it look easy, because it’s not as easy as it looks. We do what we do in the United States and we take great pride in our basketball program. It doesn’t matter who the coach is, it doesn’t matter who the players are, there’s a certain level of expectation when you coach and play for USA Basketball. That expectation is to win, and we take it very seriously. Maybe in those other sports, there isn’t that same expectation in the United States that you’re going to win all the time, but we’re not going to start losing just to make them feel better back home.
On what he appreciated about this experience:
You know, I appreciate how smart some of these coaches are over here. Everybody has this impression that because we invented the game, that we’re the only ones who know how to coach it. I’ve been unbelievably impressed with how much you have to prepare to beat these guys because, because like Celine (Dumerc) said, they spent every summer together for five years. We’ve been together 10 days, 12 days of practice, so they know exactly what they’re doing and they know how to do it, and they capitalized on their mistakes. They have great strategies; they have great schemes on offense; they know how to use their players. I’ve been really, really impressed. And again, if you took our team out of the tournament – if you took our team out of the tournament and took Angola out, the top team in the tournament and the team that lost probably by the biggest margins – if you took those two teams out, you’d have a hard time separating the other 10. So, that’s a heck of a tournament – it really, really was. I’ve been impressed with the level of play every single night out.
On what he learned from this team:
You know what the funny thing is about professional basketball players? They think they’re smarter than you are. That just boggles my mind, because, if they were, why would USA Basketball have coaches? So, I’m constantly amazed by some of them, how much they think they know. It’s a warning for me, as a college coach, to see that no matter how good some of these players are that play professionally, they need coaching. They need direction, and you know what, the great ones want direction. They want to be kind of guided and driven to another place. I always thought that, but this kind of proved it to me – that idea that pros have you go step on each others toes, don’t like to be told what to do, don’t like to be coached. I’ve found just the opposite – they think they don’t want it, they think they’re really smart, they think what they’re saying makes sense. I wish I could tape them and play it back to them, so hopefully they learned something, and I know for a fact that I learned something – no question.
On the relationship between the men’s and women’s USA Basketball teams:
You know, the players probably have the most respect for each other of anybody else. They know exactly what each other has to do to be prepared and what it took to get here. So, the players on the men’s team, they probably appreciate the women’s team more than anybody back in America. I know that our players appreciate and interact with the guy’s players like they’re peers. Part of that is because we’re all Team USA and the other part is because I think they respect each other’s talents. So, that’s been great. It’s really been a lot of fun for me to watch. I know Coach (Jim) Boeheim really well – he and his wife Juli – so that’s been really easy for me and my staff. I got to know Coach (Mike) D’Antoni a few years back, so getting reconnected with him is great, and I’ve known Coach (Mike) Krzyzewski for a long time. For me, we’re just one team – Team USA. We’re not men’s basketball and women’s basketball, we’re Team USA.

On what this gold medal means:This team was so talented and so deep and it really felt like we had the shortest training camp of any other Olympics that I’ve been in. They are all short, but this one seemed extra short. So for us to kind of put it together the way we did it’s very, very gratifying and for me it is my third and in a sense nothing really beats your first, but at the same time my role has really changed and I’ve had to become one of the older players, a veteran, a leader, and to have that evolution occur and to be where I am now, it feels good to win this one as well.
On whether it was important to create her own shot:
As a point guard you’ve got to take what the defense gives, especially on this team where there is so much talent … it’s the easiest job in the world, let’s be honest. I basically have to pass to the best shooters and the best post players that there are and let them go to work. But occasionally openings do happen for me too and I have to be ready to knock them down because as a point guard I can score as well, as well as Lindsay can.
On what the key was to handling adversity:
I think our depth is by far the biggest key for us. We are able to wear teams down. Not very many teams go 12 deep and with that over a two-week tournament, these teams they have to play a lot of minutes ... seven, eight players play a lot of minutes and I think none of us have to. So we are just able to wear teams down and by the end for the most part you can see, teams get tired and that’s where we really capitalize.

On how tonight was different from other games in the tournament:I think it was business as usual. I think we all understood what the task was at hand, and the expectation. I think Coach (Auriemma) just really summed it up. He was saying that people come and play in these games for a reason, you know, and there wasn’t much needed to be said up to this point.
On what Coach Auriemma said to the players after the game:
Just that he was really thankful that all of the coaching staff and everybody who don’t usually get to experience this big moment were able to be a part of it.
On the performance of Candace Parker:
I thought it was great. I thought she was just being Candace and playing at a high level and I was really proud of her.

On what the gold medal means for the country and for women’s basketball:It means everything. It means they put a great group of 12 girls together to go out there and get the job done and we did.
On what it means for her:
It’s awesome. It’s everything. I don’t even think it hit me yet.
On the game vs. France:
We just came out with a determination to get the gold tonight. I think just every game that we played, every practice that we had all put it together in this game and we dominated France.
Did you ever think a gold medal game would go like this?
I never even envisioned winning a gold medal. I never envisioned being on an Olympic team but with hard work and perseverance, just me having my faith, I was able to get it done.
Has it hit you yet what you accomplished?
It still hasn’t. Maybe tonight when I sleep and wake up with it on my neck, I’ll feel it.
How was the gold medal ceremony for you?It was really cool. That moment was really epic. When I was watching Lisa Leslie and them, when they stepped up all together, have their hands up and wave. That was really nice.

On winning the gold with some of her college teammates and college coach:It’s amazing; it’s an amazing feeling. I’m just really proud to be here, proud to be a part of all it. And just excited to watch how well we played all together.
On her thoughts when she received the gold medal:
I don’t know. It was surreal for me. It was my first time, and I just can’t believe I was here. You dream about this stuff when you were a little kid and I to live it is a dream.
On what she is going to do with her gold medal:
I’m going to sleep in it. I’m going to take it off to shower … probably. But I am going to live in it.

On the hard work it took to reach this goal:I think you have to look at our overall schedule in order to appreciate this month of what we just put together. We go from … overseas for us, European League or Asia and you plat for six to eight months, and then you hop right in to the WNBA season and you play for five straight months in the most intense basketball in the world, and in between that you’ve got some USA Basketball training camps when you are supposed to be vacationing. So we choose to come in and train and work hard and compete against each other and then squeeze in some Olympic games in between our WNBA games when we could have been relaxing for a little while. But we came together and put it on the line for our country because we re are so blessed to have the opportunity to play in the United States of America and around such great talent and such great coaches a place that actually develops us as people and as basketball players. I think of all that and to have this moment to kind of put the icing on the cake, it’s very sweet.
On how important it is to put individual goals aside:
It’s hard. That’s why team sports are so much fun to watch because it’s really an artwork of and a game of how can you fit these pieces together knowing that anyone of us could score 30 if we had to, but we don’t have to. So it’s kind of hard to do what you are usually not called on to do. But we made it work and it was beautiful.
On Candace Parker’s performance:
When she’s aggressive she is going to get anything she wants. I think one of her best abilities is to start the break. She’ll get a rebound, start it in transition, give it up and get it right back. Or come off of a screen-and-roll, Diana or someone will draw someone’s attention and find her and she’ll finish inside. She really has so many ways to score in her game. When she brings it like that it is almost impossible to beat our team.

On the impact of Candace Parker tonight:
She had a really good game. I know she was really disappointed after her game the other night. I think today she came out with a little bit more energy and a lot more force, and it showed throughout the game.
On the versatility of Candace Parker:
She’s one of those players that can really do anything on the court, and that’s what separates her from a lot of players. I think that’s just another example of how great this team is that any given night, someone can step up and kind of take charge of it. You can probably go back to the game logs and (look at) the leading scorer in each game … I think that’s what coach has preached and, the team, that’s the way we wanted to play. Tonight, looking up and down, we had a lot of people contributed and that feels good at the end of the day.
On winning an Olympic gold for the third time with Tamika Catchings and Sue Bird and on if Tamika will play in Rio in 2016:
I mean, we shook on it, so she’s in. You know, I usually don’t get very emotional when you win something, but for some reason when we walked into the arena afterwards, it kind of hit me that this might be my last, it might not be, but after three golds, they’re really hard. Even if you win a game by 30, if you win by 10, the whole process is really difficult to try to get 12 really good players to kind of just buy into one thing. It takes awhile; it takes a lot of effort. By the end of it, I think we succeeded in what we wanted to do, we were lucky enough to win a gold medal doing it.
On if it ever gets old winning championships:
No, I mean this tournament was a lot different than the other ones. I think mainly just the way we set up, because we did play Australia in the semis and I think coming in, probably against France, I don’t think they were playing the best basketball in the tournament. So, I think coming into this game we were, not scared, but we knew that this team was going to be playing really well. I think for those first 20 minutes, they probably matched our intensity, and, you know, over the course of the game, we kind of wore them down. I don’t think it gets old. To see how happy Maya was, to do it with Coach (Auriemma) this time, you know, everyone has had a different element to it. To see Sue (Bird) and (Tamika) Catchings – this is our third one. It’s different and it feels really good.
On winning again with Coach Auriemma and their special bond:
I mean, there’s really no better feeling. I wouldn’t want to be up here with anyone else. Coach (Auriemma) knows me more than any person on this earth, including my family, so it means a lot.
On the dynamic of her and Sue Bird:
You know, we just work really well on the court. We just find a way to really control the game in a lot of ways. When you get on these teams, you have so many great players and so many great scorers, we’ve really taken the role of more facilitators, getting people in the right spots. We’ve been lucky enough to play for Coach (Auriemma), and he’s really taught us how to manage a game in more ways than just scoring. I think we just understand each other really well on the court. We’re best friends and that all has helped us in our careers, here with USA Basketball, in Connecticut, overseas, just having a great feeling of synergy on the court.
On the flow of the game with so many contributors:
Well, we knew it was going to be a difficult game. We all knew the French team really well. We know how hard they play on every possession, how physical they are, how they pride themselves on defense, starting with Celine (Dumerc) over here. We know how difficult it is, and they don’t let you get anything easy. I think we just try to really share the ball and make that our strength and I think that throughout the 40 minutes we did that.
On whether Diana will play in Rio in 2016:
Oh yeah. If it was up to me, I would be on the team, but four years is a long time. It’s a long time and you don’t know what can happen in four years, but would I love to be on the team again? Sure. There’s no better feeling to putting on the jersey and representing your country. It’s one thing I always look forward to.

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UConn recruiting target stars for U-17 squad

Class of 2014 UConn recruiting target Brianna Turner had 16 points and five rebounds as the U.S. U-17 squad beat their Brazilian counterparts 80-34 in an international friendly on Friday in Caorle, Italy.

Notre Dame commit and former UConn recruiting target Taya Reimer led the U.S. with 17 points while UConn Class of 2013 targets Erica McCall (2 points, 2 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) and Linnae Harper (2 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals) helped the U.S. to the easy win.

It was the first of three exhibition games for the U.S. in preparation for the FIBA U17 World Championships as games against Australia and Italy are planned for Saturday and Sunday respectively.

The U.S. opens play in the World Championships against South Korea on Aug. 17.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Strong second half lifts U.S. into gold medal game

Australia gave the United States everything it could handle - for a half because the U.S. stepped up defensively and wore down the Opals with its superior depth en route to a 86-73 win in the Olympic semifinals.
Former UConn star Tina Charles led the U.S. with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Former Huskies Diana Taurasi (14 points despite dealing with foul trouble) and Sue Bird (13 points) also scored in double figures as the four-time defending champion advances to Saturday's gold-medal game to face France, which posted an impressive 81-64 win over Russia.

Maya Moore, one of four former UConn stars in the starting lineup, added nine points and three assists.

Former Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen came off the bench to score six straight points during a third-quarter run which allowed the U.S. to take back control of the game. Seimone Augustus and Candace Parker were other reserves who played key roles in the second half.

Tamika Catchings, the only non-UConn product in the starting lineup, finished with seven points and seven rebounds and provided some hustle plays in the first half to keep Australia from getting up by more than seven points.

Liz Cambage scored all 19 of her points in the first half while Lauren Jackson finished with 14 and 17 rebounds for Australia which has been eliminated from the Olympics for the fourth straight time by the United States.

Here are quotes from U.S. and UConn coach Geno Auriemma and former Huskies Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Asjha Jones, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi courtesy of USA Basketball.

I thought the game was played exactly the we thought it was going to be played terms of the intensity level and physical level of the game and how hard both teams were going to compete. We have played a lot of basketball in the last month and I don’t think anyone has played better against us then Australia did in the first half. That was an impressive display of basketball and we had no answer for that. It was incredible what they did to us. I really have a lot of admiration for them and tremendous amount of respect for them and their coaching staff. I am really proud of the way we responded in the second half, how we came back and did some things that USA Basketball is known for. I am really proud of my players
On Liz Cambage:
She is not even the same player we saw during the 2010 World Championships. She was good but she was not like this. The amount of progress she has made in two short years is quite remarkable for someone that young. She is pretty amazing.
On Maya Moore:
Maya is the youngest players on our team by a lot and this is her first experience at the Olympics and she kind of played the way she did when she was freshman at Connecticut. Every time she touched it, she shot it because then you really don’t have to know what to do because you are just shooting. Today she did that and it helped us and it hurt us. Other players reminded her that because she was so hyped up and wanted to play so well. Maya made Maya plays today, a couple of defensive plays, and the strip she got at the high post. When you watch Maya play you have to admire how hard she competes on every possession and that is probably why everywhere she goes there are championships that follow her around because there is just something about her that leads to winning. Hopefully she has one more win in her on Saturday.
On this game being looked at as a Gold Medal Game:
Everybody on the outside always talks about the US and Australia as if we are the only two teams in the tournament that are any good. That is certainly not the case. We knew coming into the tournament that at some point if you want to win the Olympic gold medal that you have to beat Australia. We knew that and whether you have to beat them in the semifinals or the final, it doesn’t matter you still have to beat them. The gold medal game is Saturday night. Hopefully our players don’t think this was the gold medal game because it was the semifinal game. To Australia’s credit and not a lot of people are talking about it but they are missing a great player. You have no idea what Penny Taylor brings to that team and the difference that she makes on that team. For them to be in a position where they were minus a player that I respect so much and think is a great player, I think that says a lot about them.
On the performance of Lindsay Whalen:
We talked about that in the locker room after the game. You know, we’ve got some players sitting on the bench that are pretty good players and they’re not great at everything, but they’re pretty good at a couple things. When Lindsay (Whalen) and Seimone (Augustus) both came off the bench, they did exactly what they are good at. Lindsay’s the kind of player that probably doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition. Sue (Bird) is one of the best scorers in the world and so is Diana (Taurasi), and Lindsay just kind of was there. But this whole tournament, she’s been great and today – more so today in that second half, because we really needed to go on a little bit of a run and it looked like she made three straight baskets. That’s Lindsay.
On halftime locker room commentary:
You know, that’s kind of a USA thing and even in college. Coaches generally don’t go into the locker room until there’s about 10 minutes left or at some point, so you hope you have people in the locker room setting some kind of tone for what just happened and what’s going to happen. I’m not surprised that Sue (Bird), Diana (Taurasi) and Tamika (Catchings) were able to convey to their teammates what happened and what needed to happen. If it’s just always the coaches coming in and saying this, that and the other thing, then you know what, it’s not going to work. Players have to take ownership of it and with USA Basketball they always have and hopefully they always will.
On the decision to move to a two-three zone in the second-half:
I would love to say that it was really strategic on my part, but it was more out of desperation. We couldn’t guard her – there was nothing we could do. We had a couple of our bigs in foul trouble, and their two bigs were just killing us. So, we had played it a little bit this tournament and we were actually pretty bad for not having spent a lot of time on it. That and making a couple shots on the other end proved to be the difference.

On defending Elizabeth Cambage:Clearly, Cambage was able to get a lot of deep posts, really just putting our post players on her back and sealing them, which created easy buckets for her, I mean, 19 points in the first half. Obviously, we discussed that a lot. Really, just putting in the work early, not letting her get so deep. And when she did catch it, really helping off, trying to get it out of her hands, make her pass kind of thing. I think Tina did a great job on her. I think Asjha Jones came in, for being undersized, did an amazing job on her and really it was about making her catch it further out.
On how the team handles being down, usually being up so much in these games:
I don’t know about anybody else, but I don’t win by 40 every basketball game I play. I’ve been down before, I’ve been in close games before. We all have. And there was really no panic. We took what you could probably call Australia’s best shot, 61 percent, one player with basically 20 points in a half. Things couldn’t have gone any better for them, and we were only down four. So, we took that as a positive. Obviously, not happy, but we weren’t deterred, nobody had their head hanging low or anything like that. We were ready for the next 20 minutes to see what would happen. But, we knew. We knew these games would be like this. Everybody thinks we’re going to be steamrolling. Go look at previous Olympic box scores. That’s not always the case. Yeah, it happens occasionally, but that’s not always the case.
On Cambage again:
Obviously, that was one of the first things we talked about. Not letting her get deep. When she’s running the floor, doing your work early. Jamming her up early, so she doesn’t get that deep. She’s a big girl, and when she gets you sealed on her back that low, what are you going to do. It’s almost impossible to stop here. Basically, the post players just need to do their work early. They were great in their adjustments. And, of course, we needed to help as well. It’s not one on one in this game. So, we had to help as well, and, offensively, just to take our time. We have so much talent. Nobody should ever have to take a hard shot. It should be open shots the whole game. Just find the open man and let them go to work. But, I thought everybody really stepped up. Seimone, I thought, was huge in the second half. Lindsay came in and did a great job. Asjha on defense did a great job. I mean, you could go down the line. And, that’s where we have an advantage: our depth.
On the Olympic newcomers helping get a lead:
They’re not rookies. We’ve talked about this since Day One. These are not rookies. These are not 21-year-old kids who have never played international basketball. And, once again, that is where our advantage lies.
On how they matchup with the remaining two teams:
I see a tough game either way. I see a team in Russia, they tend to, as tournaments go, get better and better. They always seem to peak at the right time. They’re not easy to play against. We obviously know them very well. I obviously know them very well, playing in Russia. And Becky’s a pain in the butt, too. They definitely present a problem. And then France is a team that’s also very talented. Probably just as, if not more talented than Russia. They seem to have a buzz about them right now. They seem to be playing with a lot of confidence. They’re a team nobody really talked about heading into the tournament, but personally I knew that was going to be a team we might have to face.

On Team USA’s 16-6 run:
We all know our role; we all know what we can do collectively. It’s just a great thing. We just went out there and we stayed patient and we got it done.
On how Team USA responded to the challenge:
Us being pros, playing in different games, we’ve all been in this situation before. Collectively, we have a great coach in Coach Auriemma and a great staff; and we had a game plan and that was to stop Cambage and to just be more patient on the offensive end.
On what Coach Auriemma told the team at the half:
We had to stop Cambage (laughter). That was the man thing; she had 19 at the half. So we had to slow her down, stop at her at the free throw line, don’t let her run all the way to the block, don’t let her get deep in the paint. Little things like that.

On whether this was the toughest game of the Olympics:
Well, we have one more game left fortunately. So, you’re going to have to ask me that after the next game (laughter). But thus far, yes, yes it was.

Talk a little but about the effort in the second half and what you were trying to do out there?I think we wanted to make it tougher for them in the post. In the first half Cambage had 19 points and that’s just way too many. She got it around the basket where she was comfortable and we wanted to make her uncomfortable and whatever they got in the first cut that out in the second.
What was the locker room like at halftime?
Probably just a reality check. They shot 61 percent, but they were only up four points. So for us that was like a sense that where good, where OK. We made a ton of mistakes in the first half. We gave them everything they wanted and they are only up four. So we realized that we cut a few things out and play smarter and harder, it was our game.
What’s it going to take to win the gold medal game?
I think just sticking with things. It’s the gold medal game so it’s going to be physical. We aren’t going to get any calls from the referees. You have to know that going in and when you get hit you got to keep playing. I think that was big for us in the second half we just stuck with it, we didn’t complain too much when something happened we just kept playing. I think that’s going to be the nature of the game in the finals.

On opening up the lead in the third quarter:That was fun. I remember that group, because we were getting after on defense. Seimone would get a tip. Asjha was in the group, too. Try to get a steal. Lindsay was pushing it in transition. I think we made some really smart decisions on the offensive end. We ran our stuff, some quick hitters that we knew would get us a good look. And the shots started falling, but I think our defense started it.
On her own performance:
I tried to look for ways to make up, because I know made plenty of mistakes in the first half, so I know I had to play some catch up to make for some of the things I did in the first half. I just try to contribute to my team, whether that’s getting a steal or setting a screen, making sure someone else doesn’t get a rebound. And, next game, I’ll do even better.
On the stress level with Australia keeping it very close:
I think we stayed pretty even keeled. I think we got better. It wasn’t a case where we panicked and turned on each other. We stayed together. The leaders on the team, the captains, they said what they needed to say. It was right on the money, as far as making sure we set more screens, played harder on defense, just some more things on the offensive end that we needed to be doing, and we came out and did it. Everyone that stepped into the game contributed. I was really proud of Seimone. She came in and did exactly what she’s supposed to do. She used her length, got some deflections, some rebounds, we all got some loose balls, knocked in shots and tried to wear them out.
On Asjha Jones:
She comes in, and she does her job. I have so much confidence in her. She’s somebody who I think brings a sense of ease to every situation, because she doesn’t rush, and always plays within herself, always plays at her pace. I’m not saying it’s a slow pace, but she plays in her rhythm, and she makes you play at her rhythm, when she’s guarding you, it’s so fun to watch that poise. That’s the word. She plays with poise. It really made a different for us in that fourth quarter, to really extend the lead. I was really happy that she came in and did that for us.

I spoke to Asjha Jones and she said a lot of your demonstrative histrionics are just as a means of getting the refs to call what needs to be called. Is she right? They (messed) me up for a whole possession and then I go like this (presumably gestures). That’s just the way it goes in European basketball. It doesn’t bother me. I just go right through it.
What were you saying (when you were yelling at the team)?
There were some things that were glaring that we weren’t doing that needed to be done for us to be successful. They’re a really big team, and if you think you’re going to come down and just play one-on-one against them, you’re out of your mind.
But you weren’t supposed to be playing one-on-one against them, were you?
I mean, sometimes you think your advantage is greater than the team’s advantage against someone else. I think that in the second half we showed that our advantage is when we play together and make people, especially your teammates, better. I think we did that in the second half.
Your team seemed to have a lot more assists on made baskets in the second half than in the first.
I don’t know if the number was greater but it sure looked different. You have to give credit to Australia. They played tough. They played physical. They get in your way. They do a lot of stuff. In the second half, we did a better job of countering that with some different sets, getting people into different spots, and I think we saw some better things in the second half.
Asjha said that she was pretty sure that you told Coach Auriemma to put her in the game.
I gave him a little nod. At that point in the game, we needed someone to come in and stick Lizzie (Cambage), which, I think, Tina, if there was one person that changed the game, it was Tina taking it upon herself to stop Cambage. And I think Asjha took it upon herself to guard Lauren (Jackson) in a way that made it difficult for her to get some things off.
I think Cambage only hit one shot in the second half, that three-pointer with the shot clock winding down.
Obviously, that was a lot of Tina’s work, but I think it was a chain reaction.
You just amped up your defense.
And sometimes it takes a little bit longer to get into the flow of the game. Everyone wants to, from the jump, come with this crazy energy which, I think we did, but it took us out of a lot of things on the other end. So, I think we just figured out along the way, and that’s what you want. There are no easy games from here on out.
No concern or panic?
I mean, concerned maybe. But I never panicked. Not once during the game. Panic doesn’t really get you anywhere. If anything, we needed to settle down and think the game a little bit more. In the second half, we did that.
If a casual fan was watching, it’s a close game late in the third quarter, you picked up your fourth foul. We’ve spoken about depth.
That’s the beauty of this team. It doesn’t matter who is on the court. We just all have to be on the same page, whichever five it is. You saw what Lindsay did off the bench in the second half. You saw what Seimone did, Asjha, I mean, they did a great job for us. That’s why they’re here. That’s why they’re all here. We have that confidence in each person.

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