Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, January 31, 2014

UConn sharing the wealth

It's not an uncommon occurrence to go leafing through the pages of the UConn media guide to try to put one of the current player's accomplishments into statistical perspective.

Certain Breanna Stewart's 37-point masterpiece against Temple was a perfect example but that was not the only entry in the box score which caught my eye.

With Moriah Jefferson having 12 assists and Bria Hartley dishing out 11 assists, three times in the last 18 games there has been a Husky with at least 11 assists in a game as Stefanie Dolson had 11 assists as part of a triple-double against Oregon.

So how rare is that feat? Well, in the previous 10 seasons UConn had two games when a player had at least 11 assists as Renee Montgomery had 13 against Oklahoma on Nov. 30, 2008 and Ketia Swanier had 11 against Notre Dame on Jan. 27, 2008. The last UConn had three players with at least 11 assists in a game was NEVER. During the 2001-02 season there were three such games but Sue Bird had two of them and Diana Taurasi had the other.

"I didnt look at it that much but when somebody told me that those guys had that many assists, I was really surprised," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I didn't notice it but if you think about it, if one person makes 15 field goals and she doesn't play a whole lot of 1 on 1, those passes have to come from some place but I didn't put it together until somebody mentioned it to me.

"You hope when somebody gets hot like that, you find them but that is kind of unusual that you have two people in double figures in assists. We have become a really good passing team and it does become contagious."

UConn had a starting lineup where all five players have the ability to pile up the assists which helps increase the number of assists.

"It is awesome for them," Dolson said. "For me I wasn't surprised because they do pass the ball so well. Mo has had seven, eight, nine assists in a few games so for her to get (12) and Bria get 11, it was awesome and I was real happy."

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

UConn's Tuck undergoes surgery; Bad News for Williams

UConn sophomore forward Morgan Tuck underwent season-ending surgery on her right knee today as she had cartilage from another part of her knee inserted into the area where she didn't have any in order to prevent future contusions or bone bruises.

"It went well," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after he finished his radio show at Geno's Grille. "We pushed it up. Doc (Dr. Robert Arciero) said today was the best day to do it. If she can't play, let's get it out of the way."

Tuck will have a six to nine month recovery process.

"I haven't talked to (Arciero) because I've been running around today but Rosemary (Ragle, UConn's athletic trainer) said things went well and we will see where we go from here."

Since Tuck played in just eight games and did not play in a game in the second half of the season, UConn is going to apply for a medical redshirt year at the end of the season.

Here is the official statement about the surgery sent out by UConn on Friday

Sophomore forward Morgan Tuck underwent a successful surgical procedure on her right knee on Thursday, January 30 at the University of Connecticut Health Center. The procedure was performed by Dr. Robert Arciero. Tuck is expected to be ready for the start of the 2014-15 season and will apply for a medical redshirt following the 2013-14 season.

Tuck, a native of Bolingbrook, Ill., last appeared for the Huskies on January 7, 2014 against Houston.  She scored 19 points in only 13-minutes of action against the Cougars.

"I am very pleased that the procedure on Morgan’s knee was a success," head coach Geno Auriemma said. "Morgan knows how hard she is going to have to work during the rehabilitation process and I am confident this knee injury will be behind her at the beginning of next season.”

During his show, Auriemma said UConn signee Gabby Williams suffered a partial tear of her ACL and will miss the rest of her senior season at Reed High in Sparks, Nev. The news came a day after Williams was one of 24 players selected to play in the McDonald's All-American game.

Results of the MRI were sent to UConn so they can examine them and she will get a second opinion to see if it is a full or partial tear.

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Passing fancy not limited to UConn

The fact that Moriah Jefferson and Bria Hartley were the first set of UConn teammates to have at least 10 assists in the same game in Tuesday's win at Temple was quite a popular topic during today's media session.

However, it is not as unique of an accomplishment as I thought it was as according to the NCAA, it is the third time it has happened this season.

Baylor's Niya Johnson had 14 assists and Odyssey Sims 13 in a win over San Jose State on Dec. 3 and Western Illinois' Michelle Maher (14) and Rebecca Henricson (13) accomplished the feat against St. Francis (Ill.) on Jan. 8.

UConn's Dolson is "good to go"

UConn senior center Stefanie Dolson was able to practice without restriction on Thursday, two days after she hurt her right foot and ankle in a win over Temple.

"I was good," Dolson said. "I was able to do everything. It is nothing crazy, just a tiny little bruise. It looked and felt worse than it it so I am good to go."

Dolson, who will make her 23rd straight start this season when UConn plays at Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, will get to see Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott (who was involved early in the recruitment of Dolson before heading to coach the Bearcats) perhaps for the final time on a basketball court.

"It is always cool to see Jamelle, just the history she has her and she is such a fun spirit and anytime you see her she is laughing and having a good time," Dolson said. "It (stinks) it is the last time I will see her in this (setting) but we will see each other again I am sure."

Not only will UConn honor its student-athletes who attained a 3.0 grade point average either in the spring or fall semester at halftime of the Feb. 4 game against SMU but there is also a promotion for kids who also take care of business in the classroom.

Kids 13 and under who bring a paper or quiz on which they received an A grade from their teacher, will receive free admission to the game by bringing  their A-paper or quiz to the North Entrance on game day starting at 5:30 p.m.  Any accompanying family members will be able to purchase $10 tickets to the game.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pair of UConn commits to play in McDonald's game

UConn commits Sadie Edwards and Gabby Williams as well as Class of 2014 recruiting target A’ja Wilson were among 24 players selected to play in the girls’ McDonald All-American game which will be played on Apr. 2 at the United Center in Chicago.

Edwards, a Meriden native who is in her second season at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., will become the second Connecticut native to play in the girls’ McDonald’s All-American game. Former Hillhouse star Bria Holmes, now the leading scorer at West Virginia, played in the 2012 game.

Edwards, a 5-foot-10 guard, is averaging 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists as a senior.

Williams, a 5-foot-11 wing, is averaging 19.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 4.2 steals and 1.6 blocks per game at Reed High School in Sparks, Nev.

Wilson, a 6-foot-5 forward, is averaging 36.1 points, 15.9 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 5 blocks per game at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, S.C. highlighted by four games with at least 30 points and 20 rebounds.

Last year was the first time since a girls’ game was added to the schedule in 2002 that a future UConn player did not take part in the game as 22 players who would suit up for the Huskies have played in the game.

There will be no WBCA High School All-American Game at the Final Four although in an email to the Register, Jack Watford of the WBCA said there are hopes of bringing the game back in the future.

Here's breakdown of former and current Huskies to play in previous McDonald's games

2002: Willnett Crockett, Ann Strother, Barbara Turner and Nicole Wolff
2003: Brittany Hunter
2004: Charde Houston
2005: Renee Montgomery
2006: Tina Charles, Kaili McLaren
2007: Lorin Dixon, Maya Moore
2008: Tiffany Hayes
2009: Kelly Faris
2010: Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Samarie Walker
2011: Brianna Banks, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Kiah Stokes
2012: Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck

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Finally a double-double for UConn's Hartley

Bria Hartley has been tantalizingly close to that elusive first collegiate double-double before.

Twice she pulled down nine rebounds and in two other games she had nine assists in a game. Well, the wait came to an end as the senior guard has 16 points and a career-high 11 assists in Tuesday's 93-56 win over Temple.

"I was pretty excited when I saw it," Hartley said. "I've always said I wanted to get a double-double, I have come close a couple of times but I am not a rebounder so it is tough. Assists, you have to count on people making shots. It is really exciting."

Hartley knows a good thing when she sees it and with the way Breanna Stewart was scoring at will, she fed her teammate with passes early and often. Of Hartley's 11 assists, seven came on baskets by Stewart.

Stewart's performance was downright incredible and she scored in every imaginable way. But as impressive as scoring 37 points is, it has been done before. However, I'm not sure that UConn ever had a game when two players hit the double-digit mark in assists as Moriah Jefferson ended up with 12.

On the train ride back to New Haven I started going back through the yearly UConn stats and the last time I found a Connecticut player hitting double digits in assists (before Stefanie Dolson's 11 against Oregon earlier this season) came during the 2007-08 season when Ketia Swanier had 11 assists against Notre Dame and Renee Montgomery had 10 in a win over Providence. But going back to the 2001-02 season I didn't find an occasion when there were two Huskies with at least 10 assists in the same game. Looking back to the 1994-95 campaign, UConn has nearly matched the number of 11-assist games as Swanier, Diana Taurasi (12 vs. Ball State in 2001), Sue Bird (12 vs. Fairfield in 2001) and Svetlana Abrosimova (11 vs. Georgia in 2000) where only ones I found.

"I don't care who shoots it and I don't care at what point, but if can rebound the basketball, if we can force a turnover it would be a shame if we take all those really good offensive players we have and we don't get a quality shot every time down the court," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We've really accomplished that goal."

Before the game it was announced that the Feb. 9 game against Louisville is sold out and only scattered tickets remain for the Mar. 1 game against Rutgers, which will serve as the "Senior Day" game where seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley will be honored before playing in their final regular-season home game. That could be the day when the duo will be inducted into the Huskies of Honor.

Speaking of honors, the Feb. 4 home game against SMU will be the one where UConn recognizes its top student-athletes with a parade of the players in all sports who attained a 3.0 in either the spring or fall semesters.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stewart erupts for career-high 37 in UConn win

During the final flurry of shots fired up by the five UConn starters I watched sophomore Breanna Stewart hit her share of shots but nothing I saw gave me any indication of what was about to take place at historical McGonigle Hall.

Stewart made 12 of her first 13 (10 of 11 coming in the first half) en route to a career-high 37 points in a 93-56 win over Temple.

Twice this season Stewart scored 29 points, matching her best output as a Husky and for a while it seemed as if she was once ago fall just shy of her first 30-point player as a college player. Then in a span of 69 seconds she added eight more points to put the finishing touches on a scintillating performance.

"That is what I thought, I thought I was going to get stuck there but I didn't," Stewart said. "You have to, your confidence builds up every time the ball goes in and then you are not afraid to take even more difficult shots."

Stewart credits a recent conversation she had with UConn coach Geno Auriemma for getting her back on the right track.

After torching California for 29 points last month, Stewart promptly went 7 of 28 in her last two games and even in the game at Baylor, Stewart was clearly out of sync.

That is not the case any longer.

"In practice she gets into grooves that every time she shoots the ball it goes in, it doesn't matter where she is on the floor and she was out of that groove for a stretch and I have noticed in that last 10 days that she is in that frame of mind now in practice, in shootaround, whatever time she touches the ball I am surprised it doesn't go in," Auriemma said. "She is a pretty unique player and I am glad we have her."

Even her teammates, who have seen her erupt offensively in games and during practice, didn't realize just how many points Stewart finished with.

"I had idea she had 37 afterwards and I was like 'really?'" Stefanie Dolson said. "Not to say it was a quiet 37 but it was weird because we do such a great job of getting everybody incorporated that you don't think every time down the court that Stewie is making a shot. She ran the floor great tonight, she got great shots and she was knocking them down."

As for Dolson, she went down in obvious pain when Stewart hit a 3-pointer with 8:02 left. Dolson went to the bench and had her right ankle taped. However, Dolson said it was nothing to be concerned about.

"Kiah and I ran into each other and I stepped on her foot," Dolson said. "I knew it was minor. I wear braces all the time so those always save my ankles and I knew Rosemary (Ragle, UConn's athletic trainer) would tape it up and I'd be fine."

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UConn experimenting with three-post lineup

These days when Geno Auriemma looks down his bench, there aren't too many options. With Morgan Tuck out for the season, Brianna Banks being limited to three minutes in the last two games with a sprained ankle and Saniya Chong missing Sunday's contest against South Florida, UConn had six healthy full scholarship players.

So Auriemma utilized a lineup with Stefanie Dolson, Breanna Stewart and Kiah Stokes playing together for more than 16 minutes. With three outstanding shot blockers, there aren't too many defensive concerns playing the three posts together but what caught my eye is how well they worked together offensively.

Stewart had 18 of her career high tying 29 points while she was playing alongside Stokes and Dolson.

"I like it," Auriemma said. "(Against) some teams I like it better than others. The three of them have gotten pretty comfortable defensively in the last month or so and all three of them are different which helps us, they are not identical and they each can do different things. We just have to figure out how to zig and zag and disguise some of the things we were going instead of being easy to figure out."

Stokes is the player impacted the most by Tuck's prolonged absence and she is getting more comfortable playing alongside Dolson and Stewart.

The biggest thing for Stokes is trying to make an impact sooner rather than later when she is summoned off the bench.

"I used to come in off the bench I would be nervous and not really sure what to do," Stokes said. "Now I know they need me to make an impact whether it is offense or defense, whether I am doing something then he is not as mad because at least you are contributing something."

Here is a link to the live blog that will be running during today's game against Temple.

The inaugural Geno Auriemma Leadership Conference went well enough that it is being done again as it will be held from Oct. 22-23 at the Mohegan Sun Convention Center in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Virtus Investment Partners and Farmington Bank are presenting sponsors for the event.

Major Sponsors returning for the event include Prudential and CBS Radio – CT.

Proceeds from the conference are received by the UConn Foundation and benefit Leadership Education at the UConn School of Business.

For more information about registering for the conference, please visit

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Trip down memory lane for UConn's Auriemma

Geno Auriemma has had the chance to coach in a couple of NBA arenas this season and while he certainly enjoyed both of those experiences, the Norristown-bred boy in the Hall of Fame coach admitted that he is getting a little extra fired up about playing in the historic McGonigle Hall at Temple tomorrow.

"You go back to where you saw a lot of the games, you watched a lot of the players play, it always brings back great memories at a time when college basketball was a little bit different than it was today because it wasn't televised as much as it was today," Auriemma said. "You try to get to as many games in person and McGonigle Hall is one of the all-time greats. You've had legendary coaches coach there in Harry Litwack, Don Chaney, you've had some great players play there.

"I am looking forward to going to that building. I have never coached a game in that building so I am excited about it.

"You play in the big arenas and you lose sight of what the old gyms used to be like. There are a bunch of guys who come to games all the time, we get together the night before and that won't change we will still do that. We will take them to a tour of Norristown and show them the sights, stop and grab a bite to eat in one of those places that I guarantee they have never been to. I enjoy it."

During the road trips the UConn traveling party normally stays in the very best hotels and eats at five-star restaurants. The itinerary is a little different on this trip. Auriemma has a couple stops planned for some hidden treasures, places where the clientele rarely changes from decade to decade.

"It is exciting for me. I don't know if it will be for them.

"It is hilarious. They have bocce court outside with about 40 courts, those guys have been there
for 50 years, they were all friends with my father and I knew all of them when I was growing up. You go in, you get antipasta, a couple pasta dishes, a couple veal dishes, dessert, wine and it is like 30 bucks. It is amazing."

So is Auriemma's recollection of games at McGonigle Hall, a place he has never coached before but at one point knew like the back of his own hand.

"I haven't been there recently so I don't know what they've done to it if they have done anything at all," Auriemma said. "I just remember that the fans are right on top of you, same as the St. Joe's fieldhouse or the old Villanova gym. I'll bet you if you looked back at how many games the Temple men's team lost in McGonigle Hall in the history of that court - not many. It is hard to beat those teams down there, it is like Providence and Alumni Hall, there are just a lot of those old-time places. Temple, the teams that stirred the most passion in Philly were St. Joe's and Villanova. They didn't necessarily always have the best teams but they had the most hatred among each other. Nobody really hated Temple, hated La Salle or hated Penn. Temple when I grew up in the late 50s, early 60s, they were famous for their zones, they played zones Don Casey when he coached there was a zone guru."

Banks returns to practice for UConn

Junior guard Brianna Banks returned to practice this morning and came through fine so barring any setbacks, she should be able to play in UConn's game at Temple tomorrow.

Banks has been slowed by a sprained left ankle which forced her to miss Sunday's game against South Florida.

Banks has played in every other game this season and started eight times when UConn was without the injured Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck. She scored in double digits three times during her eight starts and is averaging 4.8 points per game.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma addressed Banks' situation and potential availability following the South Florida game.

"I think she is going to practice (today)," Auriemma said. "She needs a lot of minutes, she is like Kiah Stokes she needs a lot of minutes so if we can get her back and get her some minutes, I think that would be huge for her confidence. She was playing really well before those other guys were coming back."

Former UConn star Maya Moore was named as a starter in next month's WCBA All-Star game in China. Elizabeth Cambage of the Tulsa Shock joins Moore as a starter on the North squad while Brittney Griner and Sylvia Fowles are set to play for the South team. The game will be played on Feb. 9.

Moore is averaging 39 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5 assists and 4.2 steals for Shanxi. She has scored at least 30 points in 19 of the 20 games she has played in including games with 51, 57 and 54 points.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Stewart, Hartley deliver for UConn

The way things started it seemed as if it might be a long afternoon offensively for the nation's top-ranked team. UConn missed three of its first 11 shots and a couple of the errant shots were absolute head scratchers.

Then the shots began to fall and fall and fall ...

Beginning with Breanna Stewart's 3-pointer the Huskies made nine straight shots including seven from 3-point range to turn what was a competitive game into a runaway.

"With Stef (Dolson) down there they are going to double here a lot and we are going to be open," said Stewart, who had a career-high five 3-pointers and matched her career high with 29 points.

At one point the Huskies were 10 of 11 from 3-point range and as it was, the 10 treys in the first half would have tied for the third best total for the team this season. UConn finished with 14 3-pointers which is tied for the fourth best in UConn history.

Bria Hartley was 6 of 7 from 3-point range which is the best showing for a Husky attempting at least four treys since Caroline Doty was 6 of 6 against Oklahoma on Nov. 30, 2008. Hartley now had two games with six 3s in the last three games. The 55 points scored by Stewart and Hartley is the most for a pair of UConn teammates since Tiffany Hayes had 33 points and Stefanie Dolson 22 against South Florida on Jan. 27, 2012.

"I  think as a team when that is happening, you always realize that whether it is yourself going or somebody else like Stewie going today" Hartley said. "I think we just kind of get excited and try to get those people who are hitting shots the ball more."

UConn also committed just five turnovers matching the best showing in that department this season and it is just the fifth time in program history. The record is three in a Feb. 22, 2005 game against Pittsburgh. It should be noted that turnovers only started being included in UConn's record book starting with the 1994-95 season.

Brianna Banks could return for UConn tomorrow

Brianna Banks, who was limited to three minutes against Memphis and did not play in Sunday's win over South Florida due to a left ankle injury, has a chance to return to practice tomorrow so there is a chance she could be back playing when the Huskies play at Temple on Tuesday.

"I think she is going to practice tomorrow," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She needs a lot of minutes, she is like Kiah Stokes she needs a lot of minutes so if we can get her back and get her some minutes, I think that would be huge for her confidence. She was playing really well before those other guys were coming back."

Auriemma also said that he was surprised when freshman guard Saniya Chong informed him that she was too ill to play against USF. It didn't sound like too serious a deal with Chong so perhaps she will be back at practice tomorrow.

New-look USF team coming to town

With the graduation of the Smith sisters, the South Florida team is still winning games but just doing it in a different fashion.

The Bulls are making two fewer 3-pointers per game than they did a season ago and sophomores Courtney Williams and Alisia Jenkins have emerged into the go-to players. Williams has scored in double digits 13 times this season while Jenkins has eight double-doubles.

The combination of a knee injury which forced her to miss two games and slowed her in others, senior Inga Orekhova has found it more difficult to find room to operate this season. After averaging 12.8 points in her first two seasons, Orekhova has scored double figures six times in 14 games and is averaging 8.2 points per game.

"When people have to guard a lot of them, that is one thing but all of a sudden when the defensive strategy is focused on you, it makes it a little more difficult so she has struggled a little bit with that," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "As they start to figure that out, as they are little by little, that will help them but the way they have compensated for it is they are way better offensive rebounding team than they have been, they execute their halfcourt offense really well. Defensively they keep themselves in the game by not allowing teams to run away from them for the most part so when you graduate two players who have played as many minutes as those sisters did, that is hard to recover."

As we did during the last game, there will be a live blog running during the game. It will mostly feature Twitter posts but I will do my best to answer questions if any come into the queue.

I will insert the link when we get closer to the start time.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

UConn's Morgan Tuck to miss remainder of season

After several days of soul searching, sophomore forward Morgan Tuck reluctantly pulled the plug of the remainder of her sophomore season as she is planning to undergo a season-ending surgery on her right knee.

Tuck missed eight games after undergoing surgery on her right knee on Nov. 12 but was able to return when UConn played at Duke on Dec. 17. She had five straight games playing double-digit minutes highlighted by scoring a career-high 19 points in 13 minutes in a Jan. 7 win over Houston.

However, Tuck felt some discomfort in her knee while going in for a layup in that game and has not played or taken part in a full practice since.

"That surgery didn't fix the problem, it just kind of cleaned it up so this surgery is supposed to fix the problem of the cartilage missing," said Tuck, who is averaging 7.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in eight games. "It is really difficult. I missed a lot of the season so far but I am going to be missing the most important part of the season so that (stinks) ."

Tuck said the issue is that she has part of her knee without cartilage and that was the area where she got the painful bone bruise. She will undergo a procedure where a piece of cartilage from a non-weight bearing part of her knee will be inserted into the area where she doesn't have cartilage. She said that doctors considered doing this surgery back in November but with a six to nine month recovery period, she chose to roll the dice that a scope would make it so she could play this season.

"I felt like if I did the real surgery, the scope could have worked and I missed the season for no reason," Tuck said. "I talked to my parents a lot, coaches, doctors and tried to get the pros and cons and feel like I need to fix the problem instead of trying to delay it.

"There is no guarantee with any surgery but I am pretty confident that after this I will be good to go.

"I never planned  on redshirting and I don't want to redshirt just because I want to be able to leave with my class that I came in with but things happen for a reason and I am going to try to make the most of it."

Now UConn has to wait until the season is over to apply for a medical hardship waiver.

With UConn playing 31 regular-season games, one more than the Huskies normally play, and one game in the conference tournament, she would meet the criteria for a fifth season of eligibility for not playing in the second half of the season and by playing in fewer than 30 percent of the Huskies’ games.

Still, it is up to the NCAA to grant her the additional season which UConn coach Geno Auriemma admits is not a 100 percent proposition.

"Those decisions are made at the end of the season, there is no rhyme or reason to it," Auriemma said. "I have seen kids denied it that you would think it is an automatic so I don't know. Once you play, it is kind of our of your hands. If you never play, that is different, that is easy but once you play and you play the number of games that Morgan has played so we will go through the process and see what happens."

Junior guard Brianna Banks will also miss tomorrow's game against South Florida putting UConn back to seven healthy full scholarship players.

Banks rolled her left ankle during a shooting drill last week and tried to practice and play through it. But after playing three minutes in Wednesday's win over Memphis, she decided to shut it down.

"I still played on i it but the swelling never went down so now it is about 10 days later and it still hasn't gone down and it still kind of hurts," Banks said. "I was struggling during shootaround (on Wednesday) a little bit and I said 'I am going to try to play.' I tried and Rosie (UConn athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle) said 'just sit it out.' The swelling is going down a little bit but they are still concerned about this one area of my ankle that continues to swell. If the swelling doesn't go down by this weekend we are going to take some other precautions.

"I just try to keep a positive attitude, that is what I learned from my ACL; you can't have a negative attitude and then expect to do something positive. If I keep a positive attitude and do everything Rosie asks me to do every day, I will get back on the court and do what I have to do."

So UConn is back to playing with seven scholarship players.

"We went five weeks in a similar situation and we are going to have to do it again for however many weeks are left in the season," Auriemma said. "The fact that we have been already been able to do it, there is a confidence level that we can pick up for her going forward. Obviously it is not going to be as easy when the games start to really matter."

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Friday, January 24, 2014

UConn signee in a holding pattern

UConn incoming freshman Gabby Williams was able to return to the basketball court but until she gets an MRI on her injured right knee, she isn't expected to play for her Reed (Nev.) High team according to her father Matt.

Matt Williams said that the MRI on the knee she injured on Tuesday is expected to be done at some point today but he said she is not likely to play in tonight's game against top rival Reno High.

"She practiced yesterday and said she felt good but wasn't at 100 percent," Matt Williams said. "She could play today but if she is not 100 percent, she is not going to play."

Matt Williams said once the results of the MRI are in then a decision will be made on whether she returns to the court for her high school team this season.

The good news is all signs point to the injury being less severe than the torn ACL she suffered as a junior.

Update: Williams did play against Reno and finished with 16 points before leaving  the game in the fourth quarter due to the troublesome right knee.

Mallory McGwire, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who Williams father recommended that Geno Auriemma take a look at, had 12 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks in Reno's 46-33 win.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

UConn turning up the heat on defense

There's been plenty of attention paid to the shot-blocking prowess of Breanna Stewart, Kiah Stokes and Stefanie Dolson who became the first trio of UConn teammates to block 50 shots in the same season.

However, the Huskies have also picked thing up in a different defensive category.

UConn had 20 steals in last night's win over Memphis marking the second time in the last four games that the Huskies hit the 20-steal mark. How rare is that? Well, I started going back through the season by season statistics and I found two games in the previous 10 season in which UConn registered at least 20 steals. It's rather ironic that they both happened to occur against Hofstra as UConn stole the ball 22 times in a Nov. 27, 2009 game and 23 times on Dec. 22, 2005.

For whatever reason, over the years the steals numbers haven't been tracked with the same amount of energy as blocks, assists, rebounds or steals. There were mistakes in both the single-game steals record and one of the two games listed as having the most steals in program history but you have to go back to 2000 and 2001 to find the last time UConn recorded the number of steals that came up with against Temple and Memphis.

The team record of 27 steals came against Holy Cross on Dec. 7, 2000. UConn had at least 20 steals five times in the 2000 calendar year and did it again against Providence in 2001.

It just so happened that at the last practice the media attended, the drill we got watch was one when UConn's guards were asked to pressure the ball, jump into the passing lanes and come up with deflections and steals so perhaps these steals numbers should come as a huge surprise.

"We really worked om that all week and it was really good to see something that we worked on translate into the game because sometimes that doesn't always happen," said UConn senior guard Bria Hartley, one of 14 players in program history with at least 200 career steals.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said that the presence of three outstanding shot blockers has led to him asking his guards to be more aggressive out top. Nobody has taken that to heart any more than Moriah Jefferson who had nine steals against Memphis, one shy of the single-game UConn record.

"We talked about ball pressure and forcing turnovers and all that stuff," Auriemma said. "If you want to be a great (defensive) team you have to be able to do one of two things, when you pass it you have to steal it or when they shoot it, you have to block their shot., If you can't do one or both of those things it is hard to be a great team and we are fortunate that we are in a scenario where we can do a little bit of both of those things.

"When Dee and those guys were here, we didn't take any chances, we stood there, guarded you at the 3-point line and didn't let you dribble by us so we didn't have anybody blocking shots because we didn't have a shot blocker now we are blocking shots like crazy, guys go by us so those guys should thank me for their 50 blocked shots because we are playing a defense that helps them."

I know this doesn't involve UConn but in my days covering the Yale football team one of the off the field events that I devoted the most attention to was the annual bone marrow drive.

The event began as a way for former Yale women's hockey star Mandi Schwartz and her teammates to try to use her fight against leukemia to help others. There have been more than 4,000 new names added to the national bone marrow donor database and this year's event will be held on Apr. 17. However, tomorrow will be a special day in memory of Schwartz, who passed away on Apr. 3, 2011. Her brother Jaden is a standout winger for the St. Louis Blue and the entire Blues team will be in New Haven. They will hold an open practice at 3 p.m. at Ingalls Rink and then Jaden will help with the ceremonially puck drop before the Yale/Brown women's hockey game at 7 p.m.

No MRI yet for UConn signee Gabby Williams

According to her father Matt, UConn incoming freshman Gabby Williams is still in a holding pattern as she waits to see the severity of her latest knee injury.

Williams landed awkwardly on her right knee in Reed High's 58-37 win over Spanish Springs on Tuesday and is in the process of scheduling an MRI.

Matt Williams said the knee specialist Gabby has seen in the past was all booked up yesterday but the hope is she gets the knee looked at either later today or tomorrow.

Matt Williams said that it looks like his daughter just twisted her knee and she did something similar last week, took a couple of days off and was fine but considering that she is a year moved from ACL surgery, they aren't going to take any chances. Matt Williams said it highly unlikely that Gabby will play in Friday's game against top rival Reno High School.

"She's a little frustrated," Matt Williams said. "She said it's didn't feel like it did when she (tore her ACL). We'll see what happens and hopefully it is just a sprain."

Matt Williams thought it was in his daughter's best interest to take this high school season off to make sure she is fully recovered so she "can win four national championship" at UConn but Gabby is very close to this group of players at Reed High and she wanted to help lead them to a state title.


Little bit of an update on redshirt situation

Wanting to go to the best source to clarify whether sophomore forward Morgan Tuck would be eligible for a medical redshirt season, I reached out to UConn Senior Women's Administrator Deb Corum and after doing some checking around, here is what she emailed to me.

"Depending on what happens the remainder of the season and assuming that Morgan will not play any future games, then we will submit a medical hardship waiver at the end of the season. We cannot submit the waiver to the NCAA until the season is completed."

When I spoke with UConn Geno Auriemma he was concerned that since she played in games after the completion of the fall semester that she might not be eligible for a redshirt season but the fact that UConn is planning to apply for a fifth year of eligibility for Morgan is a sign that they think there is a chance she could be the recipient of another season. According to the UConn compliance department, she would. meet the criteria of not playing in more than 30 percent of UConn's games and not playing in a game in the second half of the season. Of course all of this is merely speculation because it sounds like Tuck hasn't given up on playing this season so if her knee issues show improvement in the next week or two, perhaps she will be able to return to the court. Obviously this is a subject matter that will be addressed at the next media availability session on Saturday.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Is UConn's Morgan Tuck's sophomore season at risk?

Bria Hartley didn't drop the dreaded "redshirt" word  when discussing the season-long struggle that her UConn teammate Morgan Tuck was dealing with this season but did mention the possibility that Tuck could undergo a second surgery on her right knee.

In the last week or two there was always a sense of optimism that Tuck's return to the lineup was just a matter of time. But UConn coach Geno Auriemma was clearly dejected when the subject was raised in the press conference following Wednesday's 83-49 win over Memphis especially since this was the game that Tuck, the coaching staff and players were pointing to as the game when she could return to action..

"We are concerned that the season is starting to get away from us so I know she is very frustrated," Auriemma said, "I know the coaches are frustrated and we will see."

Hartley's words following the game were even more concerning.

"I was talking to her a little bit and she kind of struggled with having to go back and forth, back and forth," Hartley said. "It is kind of the best decision to kind of sit out this year and she can come back, get surgery, recover and then she will be at full strength. You just  kind of have to see how everything goes."

Thankfully Auriemma was still hanging around at that time so I walked with him onto the court and asked him if shutting down Tuck was a possibility.

"At this point in time, it hasn't been thrown around because she wants to play," Auriemma said. "I think there does come a point in time when you have to figure out what is best for this kid and what are we going to do. At some point her, her mom, dad and everybody we are going to figure out what we are going to do. I know know she doesn't want to be in a situation where it is two weeks in, two weeks out, that kind of (stinks)."

Auriemma is not sure that since Tuck played against Houston, which was the 16th game of the season and came after the midway point of the regular season whether Tuck will be eligible to return. Ideally, that is an option he won't need to investigate further as he is holding out hope that she may be able to return to practice in another week or two.

Junior guard Brianna Banks only played three minutes due to an ankle injury she first suffered last week and reaggravated in Tuesday's practice. When it was evident that she couldn't, Auriemma made the decision to sit her for the rest of the game. It sounded like a pretty minor injury so perhaps she will see more action when UConn hosts South Florida on Sunday.

Speaking of knee issues, he spoke with UConn signee Gabby Williams who landed awkwardly on her surgically-repaired right knee in her game on Tuesday night. Williams went down in pain and grabbed her knee but both her high school coach and father are hopeful that it is a minor injury and not another torn ACL and the preliminary reports give hope that could be the case.

"I just got word this afternoon," Auriemma said. "She told me she landed and it felt kind of funny and it hurt but there was no news yet on what it was so I am going to wait until I talk to her later. That is always a danger when somebody gets that kind of an injury, comes back and plays. You keep your fingers crossed all the time and you hope it doesn't reoccur. I keep my fingers crossed with her and anybody else who has to go through that type of injury. 

Williams is a world-class high jumper and there was some speculation in the local media in Nevada that perhaps she is simply too athletic for her body to handle at time.

"That might be a part of it," Auriemma said. "The athletic ability  that she has certainly is unique but I think she is just growing into her body." 

Live blog for tonight's UConn game

We are adding a new feature (well not a new feature but new to our coverage this season) to our UConn women's baskertball coverage as there will be a live blog running during the game. Most of what I will be contributing will come off my Twitter posts.

Injury scare for UConn signee Gabby Williams

According to a report in the Daily Sparks Tribune, UConn signee Gabby Williams left the court after injuring her surgically-repaired knee.

The story said that her high school coach, Reed High's Sara Ramirez, believes that Williams "did not reinjure the knee" but that won't be known until after she meets with a knee specialist today.

"She jumps up so high and comes down with so much force, that’s just the way she plays the game” Ramirez said after the game. “It’s something she needs to get used to, and that’s what the trainer said. Sometimes with the scar tissue coming down, and moving a lot, it hurts worse.”

It is the second time that Williams left a game in tremendous pain within a week of a member of the UConn coaching staff watching her play. Last season she tore her ACL in the game after assistant coach Shea Ralph made the trip out to Nevada to watch Williams in action. Last night's game was exactly a week after UConn coach Geno Auriemma saw her record a triple double in a win over North Valleys.

Williams had eight points, five rebounds, two assists, five steals and a blocked shot in last night's  58-37 win. She is averaging 20.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 4.5 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

UConn spreading the wealth on offense

When the UConn football program made a coaching change and replaced Paul Pasqualoni with interim head coach T.J. Weist, the phrase "All In" became the team's catch phrase.

Wherever you looked inside the Burton Family Football Complex, there were "All In" signs pretty much everywhere. Geno Auriemma isn't a fan of catch phrases and never has been but if he were, maybe those "All In" signs could be put to good use.

A quick look back through the archives and I was unable to find a team of Auriemma's where every scholarship player had at least one double-digit scoring game - until now. Each of the nine players under scholarship have posted at least three games with at least 10 points. Not surprisingly Breanna Stewart leads the way with 17 double-digit scoring games.

In my opinion, that is what sets this team apart. The star players simply don't seem to care who gets the shots as long as they go in. Not only have six different Huskies led the team in scoring, but even more impressively six of them have been the leader in assists.

"It is really helpful. I think the fact that we are looking to pass or looking to set up a teammate kind of hurts us sometimes but we are always confident in everybody being able to knock down shots, that comes from repetition in practice," Stewart said.

Auriemma has had unselfish teams throughout his tenure. He admits that passing ability and the willingness to share the ball rank high on the list of attributes he looks for when he hits the recruiting trail.

"I think you have to be like that when you have five players on a floor, they are all pretty good players and they are all pretty good offensive players," Auriemma said. "We try to recruit kids who are good passers.

"It takes a while for everybody to get their footing and get a feel for what is going on and this group is no different. Stefanie (Dolson) is certainly a big help, K (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis) has become one of our best passers. You always think of your guards as your best passers but we have K, Stewie and Stefanie as three of our better passers."

That passing ability was on display last season when the 798 assists marked the second best total in UConn history trailing only the 846 registered by the 2001-02 team. If this year's team keeps up its current pace, the Huskies would hand out a record 851 assists.

I finally got around to asking Stewart for her reaction to being the youngest player named to the U.S. senior national team player pool after the Rutgers game and her response gives you an idea of just how competitive she is.

"To be named to the pool it is great it shows that good things have happened but at the same time I have to keep working hard because that is not my goal just to be in the pool, I have bigger goals than that," Stewart said.

So when was the first time the dream of playing in the Olympics popped into Stewart's mind?

"I think it was once I started playing USA Basketball," Stewart said. "Before that I didn't really know about that, I knew about the Olympics but I didn't know about the younger levels but once I started to play USA Basketball I said this is cool and I would love to play at the highest level."

When I was up at Blake Arena to see UConn recruiting target Katie Lou Samuelson play in the HoopHall Classic last week, I was able to get a few minutes to chat with Auriemma before I left so he could do what he came to Springfield for - to see Samuelson play. One of the main topics of conversation was his recent trip to see UConn signee Gabby Williams play. I don't always pester Auriemma every time he sees a recruit play but considering that Williams had 35 points as part of a triple-double, I was curious what he had to say.

Perhaps the most intriguing comment he made was how Williams' body type reminds him of Nykesha Sales when Sales was a high school kid. There are few players Auriemma has coached who he holds in higher regard than Sales so it was quite the statement. He talked about seeing Williams play again after the Rutgers game.

"She was really thin and like a little kid when I first saw her a couple years ago and you look at her now and she looks like a college player," Auriemma said. "She is not 100 percent of where she is going to be. When you miss a whole year (with a knee injury) it is going to take a while but I thought she looked great, I am really happy for her. She is really excited about her team this year and I was really impressed with her, I really was."

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UConn's Morgan Tuck iffy for Memphis game

Sophomore forward Morgan Tuck, who has missed the last three games and 11 games overall due to issues with her right knee, did not practice today and only did functional drills on the side. While not ruled out for tomorrow's game against Memphis, it seems likely that she will again have to sit out the game. While UConn does not list injury status of their players, she would have to be considered somewhere between questionable and doubtful for tomorrow's game.

The good news is that according to UConn coach Geno Auriemma, she is making progress so perhaps she will be able to return to the court before the end of January.

A 50-20 game for former UConn star

Maya Moore has put up some sensational single-game performances at pretty much every level she has played at but I'm not sure she ever put up a 50-20 game. But that is exactly what she did on Saturday as she had 54 points in Shanxi Xing Rui Flame's 86-79 win over Guangdong.

Moore went 18 of 36 from the floor (5 of 13 from 3-point range) and 13 of 15 from the free throw line and also had 20 rebounds, two assists, three steals and three blocked shots. Although I don't have Moore's stats from today's 80-69 win over Jiangsu, she is averaging 39.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5 assists, 4.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. She is shooting 60.8 percent on 2 pointers, 42.9 percent from 3-point range and 86.3 percent from the foul line.


Monday, January 20, 2014

No Martin Luther King Day game for UConn

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that on Martin Luther King Day that ESPN would televise a game featuring its women's basketball cash cow.

However, of the three games featuring ranked teams on today's schedule, not one of them involves UConn marking the first time since 1994 that the Huskies will not be playing a game on MLK Day.

It was not a development that was a major deal to UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

"It took to long to figure out what the schedule was going to be for this conference that I am not surprised," Auriemma said after Sunday's win over Rutgers. "Things happen, you can't really fault anybody for it. It is just one of those things so what are you going to do? We've played in it probably more than anybody else and it is somebody else's turn. I am sure we will back at same point."

The marquee women's game tonight is the showdown between Notre Dame and Tennessee which will air on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. tonight.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hall of Famer puts current UConn squad in select company

You never really know what you are going to get when you walk into Rutgers' Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer but I don't recall her putting on a better show with the media as she did after UConn's impressive 94-64 victory.

The 94 points is the most a Stringer-coached team has given up at the Louis Brown Athletic Center and the margin of victory was the third most lopsided in her 19 seasons in Piscataway, N.J.

"It is them and it is everybody else," Stringer said. "They clearly have it, they have the skill and the commitment and they run.

"Without question this is the best team I have seen in all the years that I have ever watched Connecticut. I don't know who we've seen better. You may argue that the point guard isn't as experienced but sometimes but when you are quick like that, maybe you don't have to have experience, you know how to get to the hole and you know how to deliver. Geno's got a great group of kids and I know he has to be happy."

She didn't stop there as she took turns heaping praise on the five UConn starters.

"I don't know I have ever seen two big people function like (Stefanie Dolson and Breanna Stewart),"  Stringer said. "You have seen them, you are talking about 6-5 Dolson and when I saw her in high school the first thing that impressed about her is her passing ability, it is incredible and she obviously worked and this girl is taking a 3 like it is nobody's business. I went to recruit the Breanna Stewart, I went to recruit her too and she is an incredible athlete that shoots very well.

"It doesn't get any better than Mosqueda-Lewis, a great shooter right. We were able to play 55 (defense) on them, we will be be better but we have a trademark for that but do you realize that point guard (Jefferson) she is a one-man press breaker, they have never had anybody like that who can break a press by herself. For four years when we had Tasha Pointer, I forgot how to break a press because Tasha was just that good. That is what they have here. You've got Mosqueda-Lewis dropping in the 3, the best in the land at the 3-point line,. You've got a great talent in a shooter in (Hartley).

Breanna is the No. 1 player in the country, right, the best player in the nation and it shows. You have Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and she is the best 3-point shooter in the nation. It is not to say that they cant be beaten and not to say that but it is say that it is Connecticut and everybody else."

Stringer and UConn' Geno Auriemma made it clear that they would like their teams to play each other even though they will be in different conferences next season. It's unlikely that it will happen next year but with an impressive young nucleus led by freshman Tyler Scaife and sophomores Rachel Hollivay and Kahleah Copper, perhaps there could be a Rutgers/UConn non-conference game in a couple of years.

"I think if you want to be the best, you have to play the best," Stringer said. "If they are the gold standard and measuring stuck, great we need to see (UConn). I would much rather see it earlier (during the season) and that is why in the past I have not been as concerned about our record. There are certain games that we need to keep because that is ever fair to the fans."

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UConn set for final trip to the RAC

Bria Hartley wouldn't have played again at the Louis Brown Athletic Center regardless of Rutgers' departure for the Big 10 but that doesn't mean that the senior guard isn't a little bit sentimental about her final game at Rutgers.

Rutgers has brought in top New York and New Jersey products for years and Hartley can still remember seeing some of Rutgers' great players playing for the Scarlet Knights.

"Cappie (Pondexter), I played with Exodus so I knew Kia Vaughn, Epiphanny Prince and I watched a lot of her career so I have watched them," Hartley said.

"Their fans do really, they are into the game, they are loud so you kind of tune that out when you are playing. I am sure the people watching think it is fun and enjoy it but as a player I think you are more focused on the game and we haven't really played well there so I am sure we will play a lot better."

Rutgers joins Notre Dame as the only teams to post three straight home wins at the expense of the Huskies during Pondexter's time at Rutgers. The rivalry has lost some of its luster in recent years but it is still something that UConn coach Geno Auriemma admitted he will miss when Rutgers is playing in the Big Ten.

"It is definitely one of more challenging environments to play in. I think ever since they entered the Big East, they always had a sense of going down there that was a great place to play," Auriemma said. "Their style of play, has been in the past, grind it out in the game. They are a little more open and offensive minded this year than they have been in the past but it has never been easy to go down there. It didn't matter whether they had a good team or not so good team. It has not been an easy place to play.

"I think the overriding thing is that I think their fans always wanted their team to be as good as our team and their fans always wanted Rutgers to compete for a national championship and we were the ones that got in the way for the Big East championship and we were the ones that got in the way  so just by that nature, we were the enemy and I think had we not been any good, done what we did, we wouldn't have had any of those issues but because of what we represent, it is something I think Rutgers fans want and that is natural, how they go about expressing themselves, it is in keeping with being a native of New Jersey. Everybody is giving Governor Christie a hard time but it is a product of his environment, if this was Philadelphia everybody will say 'what is the big deal?' If they acted a little differently I'd be disappointed."

Cardoza wins battle of former UConn assistants

Emotions were undoubtedly high at Cincinnati's Fifth Third Arena yesterday as Tonya Cardoza and Jamelle Elliott, who became the best of friends during their days as UConn assistants, went head to head in a highly-competitive American Athletic Conference game.

Cardoza's Owls went into Cincinnati and emerged with a 56-47 win over Elliott's Bearcats behind 17 points from Rateska Brown.

Recently I asked Geno Auriemma what he thought it was going to be like when his ultra competitive former assistants led their teams up against each other.

"Let's say Cincinnati is playing Louisville and your best friend, Tonya Cardoza is playing UConn and that phone call at the end of the night it not going to be very good for the most part so now the two of them are playing against each other so one of them is going to lose but one of them is going to win so I like to look at it as it is not ideal, it is not fun but when they get on the bus one of them is going to go 'yeah. this is good, we got a W' and the other one is going to be really (upset)," Auriemma said. "I don't think you can avoid it long term for as many people as we pass through  in our lives. The one thing is good is I think is they both are going to be battling for a bye (in the AAC tournament) at the end of the season. I think both of them are in good shape, if everybody stays healthy everybody is in good shape."

At AAC media day both Cardoza, part of five national championships in 14 seasons on the Connecticut bench, and Elliott, who won five national titles in her 12 seasons as an assistant coach and another one as a player, addressed the conflicted emotions of squaring off each other.

"One of us has to lose, that is probably the biggest thing and we have never been in that moment before," Cardoza said. "Obviously I did it against Coach (Auriemma) but with Jamelle it is a little different because we are best friends, we really do talk to each other about three times a week, we are both very competitive so I know both of us are going to do everything in our power to make sure we beat the other guy. In the end we will enjoy, we will make a bet, winner has to buy dinner."

Obviously Elliott would rather pick up the dinner tab than be on the wrong side of the scoreboard yesterday.

"We both hate to lose," Elliott said. "We are both competitors, we both are self evaluators, what did we do wrong and what do we need to do to fix it. The good thing about Tonya and the most invaluable thing about our relationship is the fact that we know each other."

Former UConn forward Michala Johnson scored a career-high 32 points for Wisconsin but the Badgers lost to Northwestern 74-58 on Saturday.

Johnson was 13 of 16 from the field and made all six of her free-throw attempts but her teammates shot 9 of 40. Johnson also had 10 rebounds but also had nine turnovers.

Johnson is averaging a team-leading 16.1 points per game for Wisconsin. She transferred to play for the Badgers after playing sparingly in two seasons at UConn.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Edwards can't wait to get to UConn

As the final seconds ticked off the clock and Blair Academy improved to 8-2 win Saturday's 57-36 win over Mount St. Dominic Academy, I walked onto the court at Shabazz High in Newark, N.J. with the intention of introducing myself to Blair Academy coach Quint Clarke. However, I never got that far.

I had emailed Clarke last week to verify that date and time of today's game because I was going to use my trip to Rutgers as a chance to catch up with Blair Academy senior guard and UConn signee Sadie Edwards.

Edwards obviously knew I was coming because I was stepped onto the court she came right up to me and introduced herself. As we walked off the court to find a quiet place to conduct the interview she asked me "do you get to go to all the UConn games?" I told her that I did and she said "what a cool job."

Obviously Edwards is pretty fired up about heading to UConn.

"It still feeling unreal," Edwards said. "I am going to college and I am going to Connecticut. I grew up watching Connecticut and the great teams that they have had in the past. I have always been a fan and I have always admired the coaches and players that come through the program. They are not just great players but great people so to be a part  of it is really going to be a blessing."

"I like watching them play every time they are on TV," Edwards said. "It gives me chills, I can't wait to get up there. I know I am going to learn a ton, I know I am going to have a lot of fun and I know it is going to be a great experience. I met Gabby and Courtney on my visit. I haven't met Kia yet but I can't wait to meet her, she is a great player and I think it will be a ton of fun playing with them

"It is an incredible feeling, I think Connecticut has the best fans in the world. I was watching their game against Duke and of course Cameron Indoor, they are known for the Cameron Crazies and it is really loud in there but even through that you can hear the Connecticut fans cheering and that is pretty special. You go all around the United States and Connecticut has such loyal fan base that travels and there are fans all over the country and it is an incredible vibe, an incredible feeling to be around people who really love to support the team.

Edwards is excited to be a part of one of the nation's top recruiting classes as she will be joined by fellow incoming freshmen Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams.

"I think we are kind of similar," Edwards said. "I think we all bring things to the table that may be the same or may be different but I think that we will work together. He (UConn coach Geno Auriemma) always does his best getting his teams to gel and getting the teams to play well together, letting everybody play to their strengths so I will definitely work very nicely.

"They are doing really well. I know Courtney is not playing but Gabby is doing very well and I am glad for her coming off that injury, it is nice to see that she is playing extremely well. I am glad everybody is playing well, that sends a message that we have a really good recruiting class and I think Coach will get the most out of us and help us get to be the best we can be."

Edwards sprained her ankle in a recent game against Potter's House and missed her third straight game although she thinks she will be able to return when Blair Academy plays Lawrenceville on Wednesday. It was impressive seeing how Edwards acted like an assistant coach rather than pouting because she was unable to play. After pretty much every timeout she would gather the five players around her and give them last second advice.

"It is not the most fun to sit out and not be able to play," Edwards said. "Obviously I want to be out there but I think I still try to take as much away rm the game as possible by watching, I think I learn a lot. I learned a lot about my teammates so I think it will help me and I will come back better.

"Even though I am not on the floor I can still try to help my team as much as I can from being on the sideline. I think my teammates listen to me and we try to listen to each other as much as we can so it is very important for me to engage with them as much as I can even though I can't play."

Edwards has made tremendous improvement being a point guard since her freshman season at Mercy High School and she is looking to constantly improve as a player.

"I think I have gotten better with being able to do more," Edwards said, "I think at the beginning of the season, our of our best inside players (Batouly Camara) was hurt so I had to rebound the ball a lot more and now I have become so much a better rebounder and I have learned to just do whatever the coach needs me to do which I definitely think will help me next year."

While it was not easy for Edwards to leave home to first play at Nazareth High in Brooklyn and then the last two seasons at Blair Academy, she knows it made her a better player.

"It has helped me. While I am out here we play against some of the best teams on the East coast so being able to run my team and control the tempo of the game in those situations, being able to score when I need to, being able to get my teammates the ball it definitely is a challenge because we play against very good teams.

"I think what helped me is learning how to be effective being on a team with really good players. When I played in Connecticut I always had the ball in my hands, I was very ball dominant. I have a bigger job of getting them the ball and running the team. If you can be good on a team when everybody else is good, that is how you know you are good so I think that definitely helped me."
Edwards said she is hoping to make it to the Rutgers game on Sunday and she should be able to be in attendance at the American Athletic Conference tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena and perhaps even the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament which UConn will host.

Camara really impressed me and somebody is going to get themselves a pretty talented 6-foot-2 forward who worked hard inside but also showed the ability to step out and hit from the perimeter. Blair Academy freshman Andra Espinoza-Hunter (a former teammate of UConn freshman guard Saniya Chong who is making a run at breaking Bria Hartley's unofficial record for most UConn games attended by the high school player) hit six 3-pointers in the game.


UConn recruiting target Samuelson a scoring machine

A quick look at Katie Lou Samuelson's statistics during her junior season at Mater Dei High gives a pretty good indication of the highly-touted recruit's impressive scoring ability.

Last night's 34-point performance against Archbishop Williams, one of the best teams in Massachusetts, was her 16th game of the season. She has scored at least 20 points in 14 of them and she finished with 19 with the other two.

The way the game started it seemed as if the points were going to be hard to come by. She missed her first four 3-pointers and only one of them was even close to going in. But like all great scorers, she has an ability to go from four points to 24 in the blink of an eye. That is certainly what happened at the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass. last night.

Samuelson was feeling a little under the weather last night. Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan said she was downing Pepto Bismol at a feverish rate so perhaps that contributed to her slow start. Samuelson said she thought she got an upset stomach from eating "something bad from a Subway." UConn fans can breath a sigh of relief as she said it was not from the Subway inside the UConn Student Union.

"It wasn't that bad during the game," said Samuelson, who is averaging 26.9 points per game with 53 3-pointers and she is shooting 96.8 from the free-throw line in 16 games. "I kind of focused during the game and it bother me that much."

Samuelson's line was 34 points on 13 of 23 shooting (5 of 12 from 3-point range), five rebounds, two assists and two steals in little more than 2 1/2 quarters.

Samuelson, who flew in a day earlier with her parents so she could take an unofficial visit to UConn just as former Mater Dei star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis did during her junior season, is rated only behind fellow UConn recruiting target Asia Durr in the Class of 2015 rankings. She certainly knows how to draw a crowd. As the head coaches from four of the seven schools she is considering made the trip to Blake Arena as Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw, Duke's Joanne P. McCallie and Kentucky's Matthew Mitchell were there along with UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and assistant coach Shea Ralph.

When I looked over to the coaches' area, very rarely were they even watching the game. McGraw was texting up a storm, Auriemma was chatting with DePaul coach Doug Bruno but it was more about being seen at the game rather than identifying Samuelson as a top recruit. There was no way the rival coaches were going to let UConn be the only show in town with Samuelson playing about a 45-minute drive from the UConn campus.

Samuelson said Stanford, UCLA and Ohio State join Notre Dame, UConn, Duke and Kentucky as the schools on her list but that the recruiting process has not gotten out of control.

"Coaches, we have asked them if they can only call on Sundays and they have respected that so it hasn't been too overwhelming at all," Samuelson said.

"I just took a trip to UConn, earlier (visited) Notre Dame and I have been to see my sisters at Stanford and UCLA. Definitely want to go back to these schools again and do more (visits), hopefully right after the season we will take some."

So what is she looking for in her college of choice?

"Definitely want to be somewhere where it can make me the best player I can be and just be in a competitive environment where everybody wants to do their best every single day," Samuelson said.

"I want to go to a place where this is where I want to be for four years and where I belong and when I feel really comfortable with my choice."

Samuelson gets a chuckle at the notion that she is destined to land at Stanford simply because that is where her sisters Bonnie and Karlie play. Perhaps that will be her school of choice but the decision will involve more issues than blind loyalty to her sisters.

"My sisters know whatever the best fit for me they are happy with," Samuelson said. "They are not just like 'you have to come play with us. If you want to play with us, that is awesome but I want you to be happy no matter what.'

"I think it (the she is a lock to land at Stanford talk) has lessened but I don't really pay attention that much, as long as my sisters support me it doesn't matter what other people are telling me where to go one way or the other."

Samuelson credits the competitive games against her sisters and not just those involving basketball for toughening her up over the years.

"We have had some pretty intense 1 on 1 games and I became stronger and tougher because they would never take it easy on me," Samuelson said.

I couldn't resist asking Samuelson which one of the sisters is the best shooter.

"I'd have to saw Bonnie is like a robot and she every single time (making) the same exact shot but Karlie can give Bonnie a run for her money when Karlie is on," Samuelson said.

"I think I am kind of similar to them, I am similar to Bonnie and Karlie is kind of a dive after every ball, take charge defensive player and get after everything so I think she does that better than me."

Samuelson was a dynamic scorer when she played at Edison High as a freshman before she and Karlie transferred to Mater Dei. Kiernan said his goal is to make her into more than just a remarkable shooter. So where does Samuelson see as the areas she needs to improve on?

"Definitely need to work on posting up, I need to get stronger and be able to make moves in the post so they can't take me out of the game and try to keep working on my drives and try to finish," Samuelson said.

This is the first season that Samuelson isn't playing alongside one of her sisters. Even though she is just in her second season with the Monarchs, she feels a sense of camaraderie with her teammates. That was never more evident than the way she was beaming with joy watching her teammates play in the fourth quarter even though she knew her night was over due to Mater Dei's commanding lead.

"She loves playing, she loves to practice, she loves to play and she loves to watch other people play," Kiernan said. "She is a very enthusiastic kid and she is fun to be around."

Here's what Samuelson had to say about her Mater Dei team.

"I never felt more of a sisterhood," Samuelson said. "Everyone supports every single player and everyone supports everyone so it is awesome to be able to be watching them.

"It really was one of the greatest moves I ever did because every single person was so welcoming. It is a big part of my life and I am happy to be with them."

Those wanting a quick college decision by Samuelson will be disappointed.

"I don't think I have a time frame," Samuelson said. "I think I am going to wait until after the season for sure and see how it is from there. Probably before (the early signing period in November), don't think I want to drag it out that long."

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Samuelson enjoys her visit to UConn

Unlike Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who knew she wanted to come to UConn by the time she played in the HoopHall Classic as a junior at Mater Dei High School, the recruiting process is going to take a little longer for current Mater Dei star Katie Lou Samuelson.

Samuelson followed the path of Mosqueda-Lewis by coming in early and taking an unofficial visit to UConn before playing the game in Springfield, Mass. She attended UConn's practice on Thursday and came away impressed.

"I thought it was good, it was pretty intense," Samuelson said. "Coach (Geno) Auriemma always has good stuff to say and it is great to see everything that is happening there. It was like a whole different level. If you watch any high school (practice) it is nothing compared to college practice, UConn, they were on top of everything."

Samuelson said she is down to seven schools - Stanford, Notre Dame, UConn, Duke, UCLA, Kentucky and Ohio State but don't expect a decision while her season is going on but she also doesn't plan on waiting until the early signing period starts in November to announce her college choice.

"I don't think I have a time frame," Samuelson said. "I think I am going to wait until after the season for sure and see how it is from there."

Despite not playing in the fourth quarter Samuelson had 34 points (on 13 of 23 shooting), five rebounds, two assists and two steals in an 86-37 win over Archbishop Williams of Braintree, Mass.


High school coach's thoughts on UConn's Mosqueda-Lewis

The powerhouse Mater Dei program played in the HoopHall Classic for the first time since current UConn All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was a junior with the Monarchs. While there will be plenty to come from Kiernan and current star junior Katie Lou Samuelson, I thought I would pass on what he had to say about Mosqueda-Lewis's impressive first 2 1/2 seasons at UConn.

"We knew that was going to happen, Kaleena is awesome," Kiernan said. "The thing about Kaleena is she is very ambitious. She knew what she wanted, she knew she wanted to go to UConn as a junior, she knew how Geno (Auriemma) was and she wanted it. She never shied away from it. There are some nights when she probably regretted it, some timeout when she had her head down and she was getting yelled at but she is just an awesome kid. If you get one kid like that ... I am blessed, I've had a lot of good kids."

Before heading up to Springfield, I asked Mosqueda-Lewis for her recollections of the game she played in Springfield.

"It was a fun experience," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I don't really know anything about the (current Mater Dei) team but I know I had fun when I went up there and played in the game, It was a good experience for me."

Since her mother attended Mater Dei and was a member of the Monarchs' soccer and basketball teams, it was only natural that Mosqueda-Lewis would also head to Mater Dei for her four years of high school. It was a decision she never regretted.

"I think the fact that Coach Kiernan had a lot of expectations for us and he had coached at the college level and really wasn't going to let us not work hard or expect anything less than our best," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I think I was able to take criticism a lot better, listen to what my coach was saying rather than how he said it. I am just to able to continuously work hard, that is what my coach instilled in me."

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4 UConn players on Wooden Award midseason watch list

UConn has four of the 21 midseason candidates for the Wooden Award, presented annually to the nation's premier player as seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, junior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and sophomore Breanna Stewart made the cut.

Notre Dame has three candidates (Natalie Achonwa, Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd) and Duke has a pair of players on the list (Chelsea Gray and Elizabeth Williams) as voting was completed before news of Gray's season-ending knee injury became known.

Minnesota's Rachel Banham, Cal's Brittany Boyd, Iowa State's Hallie Christofferson, FIU's Jerica Coley, North Carolina's Diamond DeShields, Jordan Hooper of Nebraska, Penn State's Maggie Lucas, Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford, LSU's Theresa Plaisance, Louisville's Shoni Schimmel, Odyssey Sims of Baylor and Maryland's Alyssa Thomas also were named as candidates.

Stewart is UConn's leading scorer, averaging 18.1 points per game, is second on the team with 143 rebounds and has a team-leading 49 blocked shots. Hartley is second on the team in scoring (13.9 PPG) and second in assists (79) and steals (37). Dolson  is averaging 13.2 points and a team-leading 9.4 rebounds per game while Mosqueda-Lewis is averaging 11.1 points per game.

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UConn's Geno Auriemma keeps religion out of his daily coaching duties

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma grew up playing basketball in a Catholic school environment and began his coaching career with the boys' basketball program at his alma mater, Bishop Kenrick High School in Norristown, Pa. He also had a stint as an assistant women's basketball coach at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

All that being said, Auriemma said that religion is not a subject he views as something he should be addressing with his team on the daily basis when he was asked for his take on the backlash from UConn running backs coach Ernest Jones recent comments that "Jesus Christ will be at the center of our huddle" a comment that brought a quick response from UConn president Susan Herbst who wanted to make it known that endorsing or advocating a particular religious belief is not an acceptable way of doing business for university employees.

"I think that everybody that goes on national television and why did you (win) 'well, thank God,'" Auriemma said, "like God gives a (darn) that you made 18 jump shots. I always have a problem with showing your religion in public and I don't care what religion it is. It is funny because when I was in high school, we prayed before every game and we prayed after every game and that is a part of the school that you are at and it is part of the religious experience of going to Catholic school. I get that, I did that and I was all in favor of that. If I coached at a Catholic high school right now, I would be doing the same thing. But ever since I left high school and ever since I have been a head coach anywhere, I don't pay any mind to that stuff. We don't pray in the locker room, we don't pray in the hotel room, we don't pray during pre-game. If you asked me what religion all of my players are, I would tell you I have no idea because I really don't care. It is none of my business and I try to keep it that way but all the people that have a heart attack because of what was said by our coach and they should do to whatever church and synagogue they go to and pray for forgiveness."


UConn's Hartley responds to challenge

Bria Hartley didn't need anybody to tell her that her first-half performance against Baylor was below her normal standard of play in big games but that didn't stop UConn coach Geno Auriemma to letting her know that he was expecting more from her.

"I think going in there I already knew I didn't really play well in the first half and I wanted to give my team more," Hartley said. "Everybody always says I play better when I am angry so I have more of an aggressive mentality. I think Coach knows ans that is why he challenged me and I think I was able to come back well."

Hartley had four points, one rebound, two assists, one steal and four turnovers in the first half. She had 13 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and no turnovers in the second half.

"I think it was the way my dad was with me," Hartley said. "He was always hard on me, always challenging me to do better. In one year I took AP chem (advanced placement chemistry) and I got an 85 and I thought that was good and my dad said 'an 85, seriously?' The next semester I came up and got a 90 and working with my trainer back home, he is kind of the same way. He is constantly in your face and I am being challenged all the time so when I am challenged, I try to respond."

Hartley injured her left thumb during a defensive drill late in Friday's practice and did not take part in any more of the drills until the practice-ending 5-spot.

"I don't think it should be (a big deal)." Hartley said. "I am hoping it will be better in a couple of days. I will probably have more movement in it."

Although Morgan Tuck is making progress from her latest knee injury, she will not play on Sunday against Rutgers according to Auriemma.

"She is not playing Sunday but when we get back on Monday, we will see what happens," Auriemma said. "She is day to day. (She's making) a lot of progress."

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

UConn's Jefferson in midst of impressive season

Whether it is fair or not, the body of work of every point guard to play at UConn will forever be compared to the gold standard set by Sue Bird.

So as I watched Moriah Jefferson's outstanding performance in Monday's win over Baylor, I began to wonder how her numbers compared to those put up by Bird during her sophomore season. While the players had different teammates, played against different competition and any simple statistical breakdown can never completely tell the story, what I found was worthy of highlighting.

Through 18 games the two point guards played nearly the same amount of minutes and scored nearly the same amount of points. Bird holds the edge from 3-point range and made the same number of free throws with six fewer attempts while Jefferson holds the edge in rebounds, assists, steals and turnovers.

Before the Baylor game I spoke with Jefferson's parents, who were sitting a couple of rows behind the UConn bench and what they have seen from their daughter is what they were accustomed to seeing from her.

"She has always played like that from the time she was in fourth, fifth grade, heck she was younger than that she played with the boys and always played like that so I am not surprised at all," said Lorenza Jefferson, Moriah's father. "What has happened is she is being herself."

Here are the numbers Bird and Jefferson put up through 18 games

               MIN FG-ATT  3PT     FT     PTS REB ASST STL TO
Bird        500  62-125      35-69 30-32 189     46     79    26     45
Jefferson 504  73-131      11-39 30-38 187     52     84    46     31

                     VS. RANKED OPPONENTS
                             MIN FG-ATT 3PT  FT      PPG RPG APG SPG TO
Bird (8 games)        30.1 29-61    14-33 19-20 11.4 2.5    4.8   1.5     2.6
Jefferson (6 games) 30.0 20-46     5-16    6-9     8.5 3.2    4.5   2.3    1.5

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

UConn's Hartley named to Lieberman Award watch list

UConn's Bria Hartley is among the candidates for the Nancy Lieberman Award which is presented to the nation's premier top point guard.

Hartley is averaging 13.9 points and 4.4 assists per game for the undefeated Huskies. Meriden's Damika Martinez, a junior at Iona and the nation's fourth-leading scorer, is also a candidate for the award.

Former UConn stars Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Renee Montgomery were previous winners of the award.


2014 Nancy Lieberman Award Watch List 
Player Name                        School Name
 Kacie Cassell                            University of Akron
Calli Berna                                University of Arkansas
Odyssey Sims                          Baylor University
Brittany  Boyd                           University of California
 Bria Hartley                              University of Connecticut
 Senee Shearer                           University of Detroit Mercy
 Chelsea Gray                            Duke University
 Jerica Coley                              Florida International University
 Yashira Delgado                       Florida State University
 Damika Martinez                        Iona College
 Samantha Logic                        University of Iowa
 Lexie Brown                              University of Maryland
 Valencia McFarland                   University of Mississippi
 Ashley Deary                            Northwestern University
 Tiffany Bias                              Oklahoma State University
 Fantasia Hilliard                         Sacramento State University
 Keena Mays                              Southern Methodist University
 Amber Orrange                          Stanford University
 Natasha Cloud                          Saint Joseph’s University
 Jamierra Faulkner                      University of Southern Mississippi
 Ariel Massengale                       University of Tennessee
 Jennifer Newsome                     University of Tennessee at Martin
 Jordan Jones                            Texas A&M University
 Andola Dortch                           University of Toledo
 Joanna Harden                          Troy University
 Jennifer Schlott                                     Utah State University
 Chelsea Douglas                       Wake Forest University
 Rebecca Henricson                   Western Illinois University
 Dequesha McClanahan              Winthrop University

UConn signee up for prestigious award

UConn signee Kia Nurse is one of three finalists for the Golden Horseshoe Athlete of the Year award joining golfer MacKenzie Hughes and football player Mercer Timmins. The award is given to the top athlete from either Hamilton or Burlington, Ontario.

Nurse, a 6-foot guard. had 31 points in the championship game victory over Pope John Paul II to lead her St. Thomas More squad to its third straight OFSAA Class AAAA title.

Nurse also played 23 games with Canada's national team in 2013 and averaged 9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game as Canada posted a 17-6 mark. She averaged 10 points, 2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as Canada finished second in the FIBA Americas Championship for Women to secure a spot in the FIBA World Championship for Women in late September and early October in Turkey.

Former Notre Dame soccer star Melissa Tancredi, who led Canada to a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics, was last year's winner.

With the way things worked out, my original itinerary home from Texas had to be altered because a flight delay would have resulted in missing my connecting flight through Charlotte. Plan B wasn't too bad as I was put on a direct flight which got me home about an hour earlier than originally planned. The flight also happened to be the one the UConn team was on. I did not see most of the coaches on the flight and assumed they headed their separate ways for recruiting purposes. I saw a tweet that UConn was at Class of 2015 recruiting target De'Janae Boykins' game last night and Geno Auriemma headed out to Nevada to see UConn signee Gabby Williams play.

Williams did not disappoint as she scored 35 points (shooting 17 of 26 from field) to go with 11 rebounds, 10 assists, six steals and two blocked shots in a 66-24 win over North Valleys and she added . Williams had 19 points in the first quarter and established a new season high for the second time in five days. Williams is averaging 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 4.6 steals and 2.1 blocks per game. She was held out of the season opener as she worked her way back from the knee injury she suffered during her junior season. Reed, out of Sparks, Nev., lost that game but is 9-0 with Williams in the lineup.

I thought it was interesting to read in the Reno Gazette-Journal that Williams' father, a highly-respected figure in Nevada AAU circles, recommended to Auriemma that he keep an eye on another Nevada high school star Mallory McGwire, a 6-foot-4 sophomore and niece of former Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire.

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