Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, February 28, 2014

AAC tournament tickets on sale

The American Athletic Conference announced that individual session tickets are now on sale.

To order tickets by phone, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. In addition, tickets can be purchased
online by logging on to the Mohegan Sun Arena website at or the Ticketmaster
website at Tickets can be purchased through all Ticketmaster outlets.

Tickets can also be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena Box Office. Box office hours are 10 a.m. - 8
p.m. daily. All ticket purchases are subject to additional convenience fees.

Here are the session tickets:
First Round (Session 1) – March 7 (6 p.m., 8 p.m.) – $20
Afternoon Quarterfinals (Session 2) – March 8 (Noon, 2 p.m.) – $25
Evening Quarterfinals (Session 3) – March 8 (6 p.m., 8 p.m.) – $25
Semifinals (Session 4) – March 9 (1 p.m., 3 p.m.) – $30
Championship (Session 5) – March 10 (7 p.m.) – $30

The cost for an all-session pass is $99.

The American has also arranged for a bus service to Mohegan Sun Arena for the tournament. The
round trip price from Manchester or Westport. is  $30 and tickets can be purchased by
calling (401) 272-9108 or by emailing Pickup and departure times and
locations can be found on the American women’s basketball championship page at

UConn has a bye into the quarterfinals. UConn is currently in first place although Louisville is just a game back and hosts the Huskies in Monday's season finale. If UConn earns the No. 1, the Huskies would play the winner of the game between the teams seeded 8th and 9th at 2 p.m. on Mar. 8, would play in the first semifinal (with a win) at 1 p.m. on Mar. 9. The championship game is set for 7 p.m. on Mar. 10. If UConn ended up being seeded second, the Huskies would play in the 6 p.m. quarterfinal and 3 p.m. semifinal.

It's been a crazy ride for UConn seniors

There are few things that Geno Auriemma cherishes more in his players that reliability and accountability which is going to make bidding adieu to seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley all the more emotional.

Some of that emotion figures to be on display when Dolson and Hartley take part in Senior Day festivities before tomorrow's game. They will also be inducted into the Huskies of Honor since Hartley earned All-American honors as a sophomore and Dolson did the same as a junior.

"I hear people talking about it all the time, this person is special, that is a special person, that is a special player and anybody who gets 20-10 one night is a special player. I think you prove who you are and what you are over a period of time," Auriemma said. "Bria and Stefanie have proven over the course of four years how special they are in the way they carry themselves, how they come to practice every day and what they have brought to our games, how much they have done from day one. It is not to say anything negative about anybody else, we have three guys right now who are coming off the bench and you look at their situations and look back at Bria and Stefanie's and you go those are what normal people do and what Stefanie and Bria did was special."

When Auriemma thinks of the two seniors, joy and exuberance is what he thinks of when Dolson's name is mentioned while passion and competitiveness are the attributes he admires the most in Hartley.

"There may have been times when Bria came to practice, very few and didn't feel right, was upset about something that happened and it carried over," Auriemma said. "There were some days like that but given normally what you face, Bria's been pretty consistent that's why the numbers are what they are. With Stefanie, I don't know how many practices we've had but how ever many practices we've had and however many days that she's had, that is how many good days that she has had and I am going to miss that."

Dolson and Hartley originally came in as part of a five-player class. Samarie Walker transferred to Kentucky midway through her freshman season while Lauren Engeln and Michala Johnson left for Boston College and Wisconsin after their freshman seasons.

"Of the court, whenever either of us had down moments or anything was going on in our head we had each pother to lean on and talk to," Dolson said. "It has helped us a lot and helped us on the court. We have grown a lot closer and because of that we have a better chemistry on the court, we make better decisions. This year we can help each other lead, we complement each other well and we can bounce ideas off of each other and that translates onto the court."

Dolson will move into a tie for ninth place on UConn's list for career games played and she will move into a tie for fourth with her 142nd game started. She needs five rebounds to become the fifth Husky with 1,000 career rebounds and the fourth with 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds.

"I think a lot of people have different stories," Dolson said. "I think a lot of girls come in with confidence and they know I am going to be an All-American, I am going to be on that wall and I am going to do this, this and this. For me, yes I wanted those things but I wasn't sure. I had doubts in my mind."

Hartley needs to play 32 minutes to move by Tiffany Hayes and into fourth place on UConn's career minutes played list. She is currently 10th in scoring, 10th in assists, 13th in assists and sixth in 3-pointers.

Still, she is doing her best not to think about the finality of it all since she could still play 10 more games AFTER Saturday.

"I want to stay focused on the game and what I have to do instead of all that senior stuff because I don't want to get too focused on that and get distracted during the game," Hartley said.

"You have to go through the hard time to get to the good times and even last year when I went through you kind of have to work through that stuff, it builds character, makes you become a better person and a better player. I try to keep that mindset. Me and Stef both went through that and we both have those values and even when things aren't going our way we aren't going to give up and we are going to keep working towards it and in the end we usually do well."

Usually do well is putting it mildly. UConn is 132-11 in games Dolson has played,131-11 when Hartley is on the court.

Fittingly, they have a chance to secure at least a share of their first conference title since their freshman year with a win against Rutgers.

We will be running a live blog during tomorrow's game against Rutgers.

The blog will go live at 3:30 p.m.

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Could a dunk be in Breanna Stewart's future at UConn?

I'm not sure Breanna Stewart completely understands the buzz created by a short video of her dunking in a practice during the recent trip to Texas but the video generated more attention than anything else that happened in UConn's wins at Houston and SMU.

The largest crowd for a women's basketball game at SMU's Moody Coliseum began to rumble a little bit when Stewart stole the ball near mid court and raced in alone. If ever the 6-foot-4 sophomore was going to dunk in a game this season, this might have been the ideal time. However, she played it safe.

"It all depends on the situation of the game, when I got the steal I could hear the crowd (rumble) like they were expecting something but we weren't up by too many at that point," Stewart said. "If I can do it clean like I did it the other day, why not? I can't be afraid to try it, I just have to make sure it is the right time when I do it."

Stewart was pleasantly surprised at the ease that she was able to dunk with during practice in Dallas. She is also aware that the video has made the rounds on the Internet.

"I think a lot of people thought it was cool," Stewart said. "I was really surprised at how easy (the dunk) was going down, it is not always that easy and my legs felt good so it was nice to do."

Towards the end of Thursday's practice teammate Stefanie Dolson said "dunk it" as Stewart came in alone during a full-court drill. However, Dolson admitted that she doesn't think Stewart will attempt a dunk.

"She can do it, I tell her that all the time," Dolson said. "It is not sure it is something the coaches would like. Coach (Geno Auriemma) is always teasing her that if she does it, she had better make it. I would go crazy if she did it."

Stewart admits that dunking is pretty low on the list of skill she is working on during practice.

"I don't even worry about it because it is just the same as a layup, it is a lot more efficient to be throwing the ball throw the rim but there are other things I want to get better at," Stewart said.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis "I'm playing" against Rutgers

While UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he wanted to see how junior All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis looks at tomorrow's practice and Saturday's shootaround before proclaiming Mosqueda-Lewis good to go for the first time since Feb. 9, Mosqueda-Lewis had no such question marks as she confidently stated "I'm playing."

Mosqueda-Lewis returned to practice today after missing the last four games with mononucleosis and she was worked into practice with the other players and looked pretty good for somebody who has been out for 2 1/2 weeks.

"I felt like I was little bit rusty but I got some of the kinks out and I did better towards the end of the practice," Mosqueda-Lewis.

"I missed it a lot playing with them but I didn't realize how much I missed it. I feel fine and I don't feel tired, more tired than I am supposed to."

Mosqueda-Lewis admitted sitting alone in her apartment watching UConn play against Houston and SMU was not the easiest thing she has ever done and she found herself yelling at the screen more times than she cares to admit.

Based on what Geno Auriemma said about Mosqueda-Lewis' test results after Saturday's game at Houston, I was not stunned that she was cleared to return to practice. However, I was not expecting her to play at the level she showed today. The casual observer would never have known she missed the last four games with the way she was draining 3-pointers and making other players.

"I missed playing with them a lot but I didn't realize how much I missed it," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I feel fine and I don't feel tired, more tired than I am supposed to."

Her teammates are obviously thrilled to see her back on the court and not stunned to see her already hitting consistently from the perimeter.

"She is one of the key players on our team, does a lot for us and just to see her getting involved and back on the court is great," UConn sophomore forward Breanna Stewart said. "I am looking forward to playing with her on Saturday. As a player once you see a few shots go in , it is muscle memory thing and it just comes back from that."

Mosqueda-Lewis back at practice for UConn

While we haven't gotten the official word yet on the tests of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' latest medical checkup, she is currently out on the court going through drills and doing much more than just the shooting on the side stuff.

We'll get an update from Geno Auriemma after practice is over.

Mosqueda-Lewis has not played since Feb. 9 as she has missed the last four games after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

It remains to be seen if she will play against Rutgers on Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, highlights of the Senior Day ceremony will be live streamed on

Three UConn players among 10 semifinalists for Naismith Trophy

The 10 semifinalists were announced for the prestigious Naismith Trophy and UConn's Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley and Breanna Stewart all made the cut along with Notre's Dame's Jewell Loyd and Kayla McBride, Maggie Lucas of Penn State, Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike, Shoni Schimmel of Louisville, Baylor's Odyssey Sims and Alyssa Thomas of Maryland.

Stewart is averaging a team-leading 19.4 points per game, leads the team with 75 blocked shot and is second in rebounding (8.1 per game).

Hartley is averaging 16 points per game, is second on the team with 116 assists and with 54 steals while Dolson is averaging 12.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Four finalists will be announced on Mar. 21.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

UConn's Breanna Stewart a model of consistency as a sophomore

The more time that passes on the more it hits me how much Breanna Stewart is cut from the same cloth as the person she is most often compared to.

When Maya Moore played her final game at UConn most people are aware that she is the only player in program history to score 3,000 points. However, Moore also finished second all-time with 311 3-pointers, second with 1,276 rebounds, third with 310 steals, fourth with 204 blocked shots, sixth with 544 assists and most importantly to her, an NCAA Division I record 150 wins as  a player.

It is that all-around type of career that Stewart is in the midst of.
With 563 points she is one point shy of Svetlana Abrosimova and Diana Taurasi for the fifth best total as a sophomore as UConn, her 232 rebounds rank ninth and the 82 blocks as a sophomore is the third best total. She also has a chance to join Rebecca Lobo as the only Huskies with 100 assists and blocks in the same season.

Her consistency can be highlighted by the fact that she scored in double figures for the 20th straight time which is the longest streak for a Connecticut player since Moore’s impressive run of 53 straight double-digit scoring games.

“Not that the points aren't important but just showing that I am producing out there, helping my teammates out and just having that killer instinct that no matter who we play you want to go out and have a good scoring night, have a good rebounding night and have an overall good night,” Stewart said.

There have been people who said that Stewart would be taken with the first overall pick if she were eligible to be picked by the Connecticut Sun with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s WNBA draft. Still, her coach is asking more from his superstar.

“A kid like that she should be in double figures in every half, in double figures in rebounds,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She is a really good passer, she blocks shots. There aren't a whole lot of things that she can't do but like any other college player, you see stretches when you kind of shake your head and say 'what the hell is she doing?' It is not like she is the finished product, she and Bria (Hartley), I thought at the beginning of the season that Stefanie Dolson was the only one who understood exactly what we needed and how we needed it to be done and now we've got three players who understand everything we are trying to do all the time.”

There’s no questioning that UConn has a dynamic starting five when Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is on the court with the Huskies but there have been questions about how much productions the Huskies would be getting from the under the radar players when the postseason rolls around.

Saniya Chong wasn’t at her best in the wins over Houston and SMU but she still averaged 6 points and 4.5 assists per game and Kiah Stokes averaged 5.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3 blocks per contest.
Brianna Banks had a bigger impact in the SMU game than her final stat line of six points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and four turnovers would indicate.

When UConn ended the first half on a 15-0 run, Banks was in the middle of things as she proved to be a disruptive force on defense which enabled the Huskies to be out in transition.

“We are always encouraging her but Brianna Banks doesn't always do that, she plays a little cautious at times,” Auriemma said. “When you bring the quickness and the kind of speed she has up and down the floor, I wish she would take more chances because she would get involved more on the defensive end. She has been doing that and that is why she has been playing more. I think she knows that the more she does that, the more she is going to play.”

We should hear more about where Mosqueda-Lewis stands as she recovers from mononucleosis as UConn’s medical staff will take a look at her tomorrow. While it is a little ambitious to expect to see her taking part in regular practice drills at tomorrow’s practice, if she gets the thumbs’ up perhaps she can start doing some basketball-related activities this week.

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Major honor for UConn recruiting target

UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target A'ja Wilson has been named the WBCA National Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-4 Wilson was averaging 34.4 points, 14.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 3.1 steals and 5.1 blocks per game after Heathwood Hall's 79-42 win over Porter-Gaud in the SCISA Class AAA quarterfinals on Tuesday with seven 40-point games and five games with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. Next up for Wilson (who had 33 points in last night's win on 14 of 19 shooting, 20 rebounds and seven blocks) and Heathwood Hall is Friday's semifinals.

 UConn signee Sadie Edwards was an honorable mention All-American after the Meriden native led Blair Academy to the New Jersey Prep Class A title.

Here is the 10-member All-American team
Ariel Atkins Duncanville High School Duncanville, TX Texas
Sierra Calhoun Christ the King High School Brooklyn, NY Duke
Jordin Canada Winward School Los Angeles, CA UCLA
Gabby Green Saint Mary’s College High School Oakland, CA California
Alexis Jennings Sparkman High School Madison, AL Kentucky
Alexa Middleton Riverdale High School Murfreesboro, TN Tennessee
Kelsey Mitchell Princeton High School Cincinnati, OH Ohio State
Brianna Turner Manvel High School Pearland, TX Notre Dame
Jatarie White Providence Day School Charlotte, NC South Carolina
A’ja Wilson Heathwood Hall Episcopal School Hopkins, SC Undeclared

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hartley, Stewart lead UConn past SMU

Almost as if they drew lots to determined when it was their time to take over, the duo of Breanna Stewart and Bria Hartley made certain the Texas swing would have an ending that both could hang their hats on.

It was Stewart who took control early on with 10 points in a span of 6:06 to provide the majority of the Huskies' offense in the early going.

Hartley erupted for 17 of her game-high 25 points after halftime including eight points in 80 seconds in the Huskies' 81-48 win over SMU.

"She (Stewart) was really active and when Stefanie came out of the game, Stewie and Bria were the only ones who were looking to score," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "As long as one of those two guys are on the floor I feel really good.

"She (Stewart) is getting better all the time but right now Bria Hartley is the one who has got it going. She is really playing at a high level right now at both ends of the floor."

For the second time this season Hartley has scored at least 20 points in three straight games while Stewart has scored in double figures in the last 20 games which is the longest streak for a Connecticut player since Maya Moore's run over 53 straight double-digit scoring games in 2010 and 2011.

"My teammates did a good job of screening and I tried to be aggressive," Hartley said.

"We didn't really start well these last two games but at least we finished well. I think we can be proud of the way we finished games and that is going to help."

There could be more help on the way. Auriemma reiterated that All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will be reexamined on Thursday to see how close she is to returning to the court after a bout with mononucleosis.

UConn sophomore guard Moriah Jefferson finished with nine points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot playing about 20 minutes away from her Glenn Heights, Texas home.

"There were a lot of people who came and showed a lot of support," Jefferson said. "It was a lot of fun."

UConn also tied the single-season program record by blocking its 250th shot of the season. Kiah Stokes did the honors with 3 minutes left the play.

"That is special," Stewart said. "With our lineup, we have a lot of length. Kiah gets a lot of blocks, I get a lot of blocks and Stef is on the right with the blocks. It is special to be able to break records and have that opportunity."

Flower Mound (Tex.) High star Lauren Cox, considered to be one of the top high school sophomores in the country, was among the 4,091 in attendance at the game.

UConn on top of another ranking

UConn continued to be the runaway No. 1 pick in both the national polls (although Notre Dame did receive a first-place vote in the coaches poll) and the Huskies also lead the way in the UPS Team Performance Index.

The Team Performance Index is a number crunching project with categories in Offensive Measure, Defensive Measure, Rebounding Percentage, Ball Handling (which factors in assists and steals both offensively and defensively), Overall Miscue Measure (turnovers not including steals and fouls per game factored in) and Success Measure (winning percentage).

UConn leads the way in Offensive Measure, Defensive Measure, Ball Handling and Success Measure. Not surprisingly UConn leads the overall index by nearly 10 over No. 2 Notre Dame. Stanford, Baylor and South Carolina round out the top five. Louisville, which will host UConn on Mar. 3 in the regular-season finale checks in at No. 8. The next American Athletic Conference team is Rutgers at No. 39.

There will be a live blog running during tonight's game featuring Twitter posts from a few different outlets including my account.

The blog will go live at 7:30 p.m.

Update on UConn practice facility update

UConn has sent out some information clarifying what it taking place after  stop work order signs were posted at UConn's basketball practice facility.

Here's the release from the university.

UConn learned over the weekend from its general contractor, Daniel O’Connell’s Sons, that a representative of the Department of Labor had visited the site and issued stop-work orders relating to two companies that were subcontract to perform specific, limited work there.

The orders to “stop work” pertain specifically to those subcontractors – Intex of Glastonbury and the subcontractor it brought in, J&V Construction – and not to Daniel O’Connell’s Sons or any other subcontractors.

 Those entities had been brought in by another subcontractor to help it catch up on work involving taping the edges of sheet rock together.

 Neither UConn nor its general contractor were aware of the violations alleged by the Department of Labor, nor would we condone any such work practices.

 The two “stop work” orders pertain to those two entities, and all others on site are continuing to work. The job site is not shut down, and the removal of those two entities is not expected to affect the schedule or budget. columnist: UConn's Stewart would be No. 1 pick this year

When Maya Moore was an underclassman at UConn it was a popular exercise to speculate what would happen if she were eligible to enter the draft as a sophomore or junior.

Breanna Stewart, who is challenging some of Moore's marks, is getting the same treatment. Paul Nilsen wrote on that if Stewart were among the players the Connecticut Sun could take with the first overall pick that she would be the obvious pick.

Time for UConn overseas report

Other than an occasional update on how Maya Moore is lighting it up in China I realized I haven't been updating how former UConn stars are doing playing internationally so it is time to change that.

Here's what I came up with former Huskies as well as some former local products and how they are doing as of yesterday's games. Speaking of Moore, I don't have her individual stats but her Shanxi team lost to Beijing in game one of the WCBA championship series 88-86 earlier today.

Here's the list. Players in bold no longer with team listed

Sue Bird UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia) 13.3-2.3-5.6-1.4-0.0
Tina Charles Dynamo Moscow (Russia) 15.1-9.0-2.0-0.7-0.6
Lorin Dixon Energa Torun (Poland)         13.4-4.5-4.4-1.4-0.1
Kelly Faris UE Sopron (Hungary) 7.1-4.0-2.0-1.5-0.3
Megan Gardler T71 Dudelange (Luxembourg)  18.9-8.4-2.6-1.6-0.4
Tiffany Hayes Sport Recife (Brazil)        12.5-5.2-1.7-1.8-1.5
Charde Houston Bichumi (South Korea)        21.9-9.7-1.8-1.7-2.1
Charde Houston Uni Gironi (Spain)             19.6-7.1-1.5-2.2-1.5
Asjha Jones Spartak Vidnoje (Russia) 9.7-5.9-1.6-1.1-0.5 
Kaili McLaren  Petah Tikva (Israel)               17.3-7.9-3.3-1.7-1.8
Renee Montgomery Tarsus (Turkey)        10.1-2.3-3.1-1.1-0.2
Renee Montgomery Chevakata (Russia) 14.7-3.0-1.7-0.3-0.0
Maya Moore Shanxi (China)         38.7-12.2-4.9-4.1-1.3
Kelly Schumacher Rivas Ecopolis (Spain)   4.1-2.3-0.1-0.1-0.3
Ketia Swanier Wilki Morskie  (Poland) 12.1-4.5-3.9-2.8-0.0
Barbara Turner Botas (Turkey)         16.8-4.1-2.6-0.7-0.3
Diana Taurasi UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia) 14.3-4.3-6.6-1.1-0.1

Chantell Alford (Wilbur Cross) Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus)   8.6-3.1-2.0-1.7-0.3
Ashley Prim (Kolbe) Muharraq (Bahrain) Statistics unavailable
Rachel Roberts (Mercy) WIT Wildcats (Ireland)            19.9-5.4-2.8-4.8-0.1
Bianca Simmons (Mercy) Freiburg (Germany)               20.5-4.3-3.3-1.3-0.2

Monday, February 24, 2014

UConn's Jefferson not concerned about foot issue

It's become something of a trend for key UConn players to be dealing with foot issues at this time of the year.

Kelly Faris and Stefanie Dolson were both hobbled, although still able to play with similar ailments. So when sophomore guard Moriah Jefferson came to meet with the media after Saturday's Houston game sporting a protective boot on her left foot, it certainly caught my attention.

Jefferson downplayed her foot issues so her practice time has not been limited due to her foot.

"It is just the wear and tear and it is to make sure it doesn't get worse," said Jefferson, who needs three assists and one steal to join Jen Rizzotti as the only UConn players to have at least 150 assists and 75 steals in their sophomore season. "For the most part I am going full (speed in) practices, I am able to practice and in the games nothing is going to stop me in the games."

Jefferson is also one of 10 Division I women's players with at least 100 more assists than turnovers. Jefferson is right on that mark and I find it noteworthy that three of the 10 play their basketball in the state of Connecticut. Here's the list

Player School                           G  AST TO
Gillian Abshire Quinnipiac         28 192 50
Callie Berna Arkansas              27 188 63
Sharnea Boykin Mercer            26 170 59
Natasha Cloud Saint Joseph's  26 199 86
Felicia DaCruz Fairfield            27 145 44
Jamierra Faulkner S. Miss       26 218 117
Moriah Jefferson UConn      28 147 47
Niya Johnson Baylor                27 173 45
Jordan Jones Texas A&M       28 181 81
Samantha Logic Iowa              28 209 103

For those wondering, there have been just three UConn players to finish with 100 more assists than turnovers in a season. Jen Rizzotti did it as a senior during the 1995-96 campaign with 222 assists and 115 turnovers. In the 2001-02 season both Sue Bird (231/93) and Diana Taurasi (208/83) accomplished the feat.

There will be a live blog running during tomorrow night's game against SMU for those who are interested.

The blog will go live at 7:30 p.m.


Hartley, Jefferson make cut for Lieberman Award

UConn's Bria Hartley and Moriah Jefferson and Meriden's Damika Martinez are among the 22 semifinalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award presented to the nation's premier point guard.

Five finalists will be announced in in March and the winner will be announced at the NCAA Final Four in April.

Hartley is averaging 16.3 points and 4.3 assists per game and she moved into 10th on UConn's career scoring list during Saturday's win over Houston.

Jefferson is averaging 10.1 points and with 147 assists, she is on the verge of joining Diana Taurasi, Renee Montgomery, Sue Bird and Jen Rizzotti as the only UConn players with 150 assists as sophomores.

Martinez is averaging 24.9 points per game as a junior as she is shooting a career-high 46.1 points from the field and has set career bests with 90 3-pointers and 105 free throws made.

2014 Nancy Lieberman Award Candidates
Odyssey Sims              Baylor University
Jerica Coley                  Florida International University
Yashira Delgado           Florida State University
Damika Martinez            Iona College
Ashley Deary                Northwestern University
Tiffany Bias                  Oklahoma State University
Fantasia Hilliard             Sacramento State University
Amber Orrange              Stanford University
Natasha Cloud              St. Joseph’s University
Joanna Harden              Troy University
Brittany Boyd                University of California, Berkeley
Bria Hartley                  University of Connecticut
Moriah Jefferson            University of Connecticut
Samanta Logic              University of Iowa
Valencia McFarland       University of Mississippi
Lindsay Allen                University of Notre Dame
Jamierra Faulkner          University of Southern Mississippi
Heather Butler               University of Tennessee at Martin
Jennifer Newsome         University of Tennessee at Martin
Andola Dortch                University of Toledo
Jennifer Schlott             Utah State University
Dequesha McClanahan Winthrop University

Sunday, February 23, 2014

UConn gets to foul line in Houston victory

Heading into the locker room at halftime UConn coach Geno Auriemma was pretty annoyed with what he saw from his team's offense in the first half - with one notable exception.

UConn attempted 19 free throws in the first half, which is more than the Huskies have attempted in 20 of the first 27 games this season. By game's end UConn attempted 31 foul shots, the most by the Huskies since a 2012 NCAA tournament game against Kentucky.

So was this a case of UConn being more aggressive in attacking the basket or benefiting from whistle-happy officials?

"I think a little bit of both," Auriemma said. "I think the Houston kids they have a little bit of quickness out there and they play hard, they are competing out there, they want to play and they want to play well. We made a concerted effort to put the ball into the lane whether it was throwing it inside or drive it to the basket."

Bria Hartley matched her career high with 10 free-throw attempts and Stefanie Dolson shot nine free throws.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

1,000th game no big deal to UConn's Geno Auriemma

There were plenty of things Geno Auriemma occupying Geno Auriemma's mind heading into Saturday's game against Houston but coaching in the 1,000th game since he was hired as the Huskies' coach was not among them.

The press conference after UConn's 92-41 win over Houston began with a couple of inquires about the milestome game which predictably brought a lukewarm response.

"You go one at a time and see what happens and take it from there," Auriemma said.

The players did have a little fun with it after the game, however.

"We talked about it in the locker room and when they came in we did a little cheer," UConn sophomore guard Moriah Jefferson said. "We are really focused on the season."

Here's what senior guard Bria Hartley had to say about game No. 1,000.

"I don't think the coaches really cared," Hartley said. "You know Coach, he goes out there and it is just another game and the rest of the coaching staff didn't (care) either. We were aware of it but we were going out there and focusing on playing, we play to win and we come out here to play better. I think it was awesome we were able to get as win in Coach's 1,000th game and I am excited to play for him."

Now for a few notes from the game.

Hartley moved by Tiffany Hayes and into 10th place on UConn's career scoring list and she also passed Hayes for the 13th spot for career steals.

Stefanie Dolson was 8 for 8 from the field. Only Rebecca Lobo (who was 11 for 11 in a game against Iowa), Nykesha Sales (10 for 10 against Notre Dame) and Shea Ralph (9 for 9 against Old Dominion) made more shots in a game without missing than Dolson did. Ralph also had an 8 for 8 shooting game against West Virginia.

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Encouraging news on UConn's Mosqueda-Lewis' recovery from mono

Geno Auriemma said he was encouraged by the reports he got after junior All-American guard/forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was reexamined on Friday.

Mosqueda-Lewis missed her third straight game due to mononucleosis and did not make the trip to Texas for either the Houston or SMU games but Auriemma said there is more to be encouraged by rather than discouraged after being in contact with the UConn medical staff back in Connecticut.

"She is making great progress, no setbacks," Auriemma said. "We are going to take a look at her again on Thursday and see where it goes. If she looks good we will get her back out there and if not we are going to wait. All the information I got its really good."

Geno Auriemma's journey to 1,000 games by the numbers

Here a look at some numbers worth digesting as UConn plays its 1,000th game since the arrival of Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey

Wins: 866
Losses: 133
National titles: 8
Final Fours: 14
Conference titles: 37
30-game winning streaks: 6
Undefeated seasons: 4
Undefeated conference seasons: 9
Wins over ranked teams: 204
Consecutive weeks ranked in AP poll: 380
Weeks as No. 1 team in AP poll: 175
Losing seasons: 1
Winning seasons: 28
Consecutive winning seasons: 28
National players of the year: 7
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame players: 2
WNBA No. 1 overall picks: 4
WNBA first-round picks: 13 
WNBA draft picks: 26
Led Division I in winning percentage: 9
Led Division I in scoring margin: 11
Led Division I in scoring offense: 4
Led Division I in scoring defense: 3

Dolson is Miss Reliability at UConn

When the ball is tipped off tonight senior center Stefanie Dolson will become just the fifth UConn player to start 140 career games.

The only games that Dolson hasn't started since she arrived at UConn where the ones against Holy Cross and Lehigh during her freshman year.

Ann Strother was the first Husky to start 140 career games as she was in the starting five 142 times.Renee Montgomery broke Strother's record and currently holds the program record by starting 148 games. Maya Moore (144) and Tina Charles (143) are also members of this select group.

For those wondering, the NCAA record for career starts is 150 set by former Stanford star Kayla Pedersen. Montgomery and Baylor's Brittney Griner are tied for second with 148 career starts with former Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw starting 147 times during her collegiate career.

Speaking of Moore, she has been collecting championships almost from the first time she picked up a basketball court.

She won a state title at Collins Hill High, national AAU titles with the Georgia Metros, two national crowns at UConn, a FIBA world title, Olympic gold medal and two titles in her three WNBA seasons, a EuroLeague title with Ros Casares and now she has a chance to win her second title in as many seasons in China's WCBA.

Moore had 42 points, 21 rebounds, five assists and five steals as Shanxi Xing Rui Flame defeated Brittney Griner's Zhejiang squad 80-72 in the third and deciding games in the WCBA semifinal series to set up a showdown with the Liz Cambage led Beijing squad in a best of five championship series which begins next week.

Moore averaged 41.7 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists and 5,3 steals in the semifinal series and her season numbers are 38.7 points, 12.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 4.1 steals and 1.3 blocked shots.

There will be a live blog for the Houston game which will be up and running by 4:30 p.m.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Geno Auriemma's path to 1,000 games has impressed many

It is easy to look at the last 29 seasons that Geno Auriemma has paced up and down the UConn sideline and get caught up in the numbers and there are too many gaudy statistics to list here.

Whether it is the eight national titles, 14 Final Four appearances, four perfect seasons, 14 WNBA first-round draft picks, six winning streaks of 30 games or more Auriemma’s run with the Huskies is something to behold.

However, there’s a risk of looking at Auriemma’s resume in a two-dimensional world. Who couldn’t win nine out of even 10 games with Kerry Bascom, Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters, Jen Rizzotti, Nykesha Sales, Svetlana Abrosimova, Shea Ralph, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Diana Taurasi, Renee Montgomery, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Stefanie Dolson or Breanna Stewart on your team?

Well, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, who knows a thing or two about coaching at a high level, said meshing great players into a cohesive unit is not as easy as Auriemma makes it look.

“He has to be really proud,” Stringer said. “I think it speaks to excellence over a long period of time and he is to be admired. He settles for nothing other than that, his kids play for nothing other than that and people in Connecticut have nothing but great pride in the way he executes. They think that it is easy, it is not. You can get a bunch of gosh darn knuckleheads who thinks this is easy. It is not easy coaching great players. Sometimes it is difficult coaching people who are trying to be great so he's done a great job.”

Two of the aforementioned players agree with Stringer’s take on Auriemma’s greatness.  

“I think he really deserves it,” Sales said. “If you had the opportunity to be coached by him you would see that he puts a lot of hard work into what he does. He is very observant and he makes sure whatever he has for them works well, there is a lot of studying and a lot of intelligence when it comes to the game

“When you have a lot of great players and a lot of them are trying to do different things it can be a clash but he first earns you respect and that comes straight from recruiting. When you get there you respect his style and you have to because he is really good at this. He has always had  four or five players who are super talented and can play on any team. He studies, he observes and he makes sure everybody is involved equally. Being on a professional level for a long time it can be tough coaching different personalities and styles of players who are really, really good but every year it seems like everybody gets along, there is never any trouble or clashing on the team and he comes up with a million W's so I have to give him a lot of credit for that.”

Fast forwarding to the present day, current UConn co-captain Dolson has an appreciation of Auriemma’s ability to bring in top-flight talent and get them to pursue the team goals rather than get caught up in individual accolades.

“It is one of his strengths bringing in those all-star players and making sure he gets the most out of them and they don't just come through and think they are so great that they don't need to get better,” Dolson said. “I think another of his strengths is he takes players that people don't expect to be All-Americans and turns them into players who are on people’s radar and people take a second look at. He is a great motivator to get people to do what they can do.”

Dolson is also quick to credit another person who has been there with Auriemma since the first day – associate head coach Chris Dailey.

“She is kind of behind the scenes,” Dolson said. “She is that coach that teaches you the basics, teaches you how (hard) to go and always gets your butt in gear and make sure you are doing the right things. Sometimes the rules she has are tough for people but she keeps people in line and have them focus on the same goal so they are working together so I think the things that CD does are just as important if not more as the things that Coach does.

“It is incredible how well their relationship has worked for so long, they balance each other out. They bicker and it is always fun to watch the two of them because they are like two little kids who pick on each other. One will pick on the other and the next day the other one will pick on the other and it is constant banter back and forth. It is a lot of fun. It goes back and forth. They are both hard on us but if Coach is really getting on us in practice, CD will let up a little bit and make sure she is supporting us and doing the right thing. Sometimes Coach is going through drills and CD will make sure she is on us, make sure we are going hard and running, doing the right things and staying together as a group.”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Second time as a starter the charm for UConn's Chong

Saniya Chong knew for two days that she was going to make her first career start but was told not to spill the beans to anybody.

Well, we certainly know that Chong can keep a secret as she did not tell a soul - not her high school coach and not even her mom.

Wait, she didn't even tell her mother?

"No. I'm not really into bragging about my accomplishments," Chong said in her typical manner of fact fashion.

Chong's first start was not very memorable as a player who averaged 35 points a game as a high school senior, was reluctant to even look at the basket. It goes without saying that Chong's second start, which came Wednesday against Central Florida, was significantly more productive.

Chong had career highs with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the 83-35 win over Central Florida.

After missing her lone field-goal attempt and pulling down a pair of rebounds, Chong was taken out of the game just 4:43 into the game. After sitting for just 1:24. Chong was put back into the game. Just 16 seconds later Chong was rewarded with a strong back-door cut with a perfect pass from Stefanie Dolson. The layup was the first in more than 60 minutes of action for Chong.

That seemed to take the pressure off and Chong added a pair of transition layups en route to scoring nine first-half points.

"I got back to playing like I did when I was in high school," Chong said. "It felt good to come out and play like this."

Numbers don't always tell the story

Yesterday's game against Central Florida was all about number crunching.

Breanna Stewart scored her 1,000th point in as many games as UConn legends Svetlana Abrosimova and Rebecca Lobo, Bria Hartley became the third Husky with at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists and when you go a category further, only Hartley and Maya Moore hit those landmarks in addition to recording 200 career steals. Saniya Chong posted career highs with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

However, the numbers did not tell the entire story. UConn shot 54.1 percent from the field in the first half and 46.7 percent in the second half. Yet., UConn coach Geno Auriemma was much happier with what he saw offensively after halftime.

"I asked them one time if I had accidently stepped into a Nike Nationals game where they show up in Augusta, they run up and down and whoever has the ball shoots it so the college coaches can go (wow)," Auriemma said. "We talked a lot at halftime that you want to be the kind of team that has some kind of balance, you want to score in the post, you want to score taking it to the basket and getting to the free-throw line, make some shots on the perimeter and get out in transition and I thought we were just transition and jump shots and I thought we did a little bit better job in the second half of getting more balance in our offense."

Some of the unsteady play in the half-court offense could probably be traced to an ineffective Moriah Jefferson. She just seemed to be a little bit off and as a result, Auriemma played her just four minutes in the second half.

"She was hobbled a little bit in practice," Auriemma said. "She was complaining the other day, nothing serious so I figure why bother. We are going to be traveling a lot, playing a bunch of games down the road and the one thing I have to be conscious of is that when you practice a lot, they have been going since September 10 so that is a long time to take a pounding on your legs, your feet, your knees so anytime I can get a chance (to rest), the big guys I don't know if they take as much of a pounding as the guards do so with Brianna Banks back I thought it would be a great time to get Mo a little bit of a rest."

Speaking of Banks, it is starting to become evident that her tender left ankle had little to do with her being limited to mop-up duty in Sunday's game against South Florida but Auriemma didn't like the way she was practicing. While he didn't come out and say that specifically after Banks played 25 minutes last night, his quote about her extended playing time certainly made it clear that he wants more out of her in practices.

"Brianna Banks probably can play as many minutes as she wants," Auriemma said. "When she doesn't play at all, that is what she deserves and when she plays 25 minutes, that is what she deserves. She is her own worst enemy. When she comes out and practices well, it carries over to the games. When she practices lousy, it carries over to the games. Of those 25 minutes, she earned those and I hope she can keep doing that because that is a huge benefit for us especially at this point in time."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Positives abound for UConn after UCF win

It would be hard for thing to have gone much better for the top-ranked UConn women's basketball team on Wednesday night.

Breanna Stewart became the fifth sophomore to score 1,000 points before the end of her sophomore season when she grabbed a Bria Hartley miss and banked home a shot in the lane 42 seconds into the 83-35 win. Before the first media timeout Hartley joined Maya Moore as the only UConn players with at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 200 steals.

Perhaps even more soothing to the Huskies' collective psyche was Saniya Chong rebounding from failing to score in the last 2 1/2 game and registering career highs with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Brianna Banks playing 25 minutes, the most since a Dec. 5 game against UC Davis.

"If I had gotten my 1,000th point and we had lost I don't think I would care that I got my 1,000th point but the fact that we played well tonight, we got a  lot accomplished and then (attaining) the individual accomplishments that is just great."

Stewart seemed to take particular joy in getting her 1,000th point on an offensive rebound since she has been challenged by UConn coach Geno Auriemma to become a better offensive rebounder.

"It is fitting," Stewart said. "He will probably get a kick out of that but I am just trying to be active rebounding wise."

After the game Auriemma said that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will not make the trip to Texas when the Huskies play at Houston and SMU as she continues to rest as she recovers from a bout with mononucleosis.

That will mean that Chong figures to get her third straight start.

"I think it should really help me after playing well tonight," Chong said. "I got back to playing like I did when I was in high school."

UConn's Stewart about to enter rarely chartered company

This much is certain - when Breanna Stewart scores her first two points tonight she will join Svetlana Abrosimova, Maya Moore and teammates Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis as the only UConn players to hit the 1,000-point plateau as sophomores. She will also fall eight games shy of the program record for fewest number of games needed to hit the 1,000-point mark.

After that there's still more research to be done.

You may have seen it reported that Stewart will join Abrosimova as the second-quickest Husky to 1,000 points (needing just 63 games). That is only partially accurate. I did a little checking and discovered that Rebecca Lobo also hit the mark in just 63 games. The question is whether Chris Gedney or Kerry Bascom did it in 63 games or even quicker than that.

Unfortunately, it is significantly more challenging to find box scores from the 1980-81 and 1989-90 seasons. What I have determined is that Gedney was at the 943-point mark after 58 games going into her senior season. If she matched her season scoring average of 16 points per game, she would have needed only four games to get there which would mean she needed only 62 games to reach that milestone. As for Bascom, I was able to research the fact that she had 945 points through 59 games but I am still in the process of trying to get my hands on her scoring totals from the Manhattan, Colgate, Dartmouth and Central Connecticut games during her junior season to see if she was able to get to 1,000 in 62 or 63 games. While I won't have that information tonight, I am hoping to get that information sooner rather than later.

As for some of the other UConn scoring sensations here is a list of how many games they needed to reach 1,000 points
64: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
70: Shea Ralph
72: Kara Wolters
74: Bria Hartley, Nykesha Sales
75: Tina Charles
77: Diana Taurasi

There will be a live blog running during tonight's game, going live at 6:30 p.m. Most of the content will come from Twitter feeds (including mine) but I will attempt to answer any questions if there are any.

UConn signee ends high school career in style

UConn incoming freshman Sadie Edwards had 13 points and seven assists to lead Blair Academy to a 58-47 win over Peddie in the New Jersey Prep A tournament title.

"She has been the heart and soul of this team over the past few years," said Blair coach Quint Clark told the Newark Star-Ledger after the game "She's off to UConn next year. She's going to be an extremely tough kid to replace. We are going to have to replace not only her scoring, but her rebounding and passing as well."

Blair, which defeated Hun 72-50 in the semifinals, won the title for the fourth year in a row.

Next up for Edwards is the McDonald's High School All-American Game.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pair of UConn recruiting targets named Naismith finalists

UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target A'ja Wilson, Class of 2015 target Katie Lou Samuelson and former recruiting target Brianna Turner were named finalists for the Naismith Trophy Girls' High School Player of the Year award.

Wilson, a 6-foot-4 forward at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, S.C., is averaging 35.1 points. 14.2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3.2 steals and 5 blocks per game. Wilson, who is shooting 69 percent from the field, has scored at least 24 points in every game this season with a high of 56 (on 19 of 22 shooting) in an 85-82 loss to St. Joseph Central.

Samuelson, a 6-foot-3 forward/guard at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., has five 30-point games as a junior and is averaging 24.5 points per game and has 70 3-poiinters for the Monarchs, the No. 2 team in the USA Today national high school poll.

The winner will be named on March 20.

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UConn's getting closer to full strength

With Morgan Tuck out for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis currently sidelined due to a bout with mononucleosis, it's kind of surreal to be writing about UConn getting some good news in the health department but that is exactly what I am about to do.

One of the most surprising aspects of Sunday's win at South Florida was that Brianna Banks was healthy enough to play but yet she only got mop-up minutes late in the second half.

Due to the latest batch of snow to hit the area, we did a conference call rather than have media availability after watching the end of practice and UConn coach Geno Auriemma said "hopefully we will get more minutes out of her tomorrow night. It was just a decision that I made, I can't put my finger on any (reason)."

The good news is it sounds like Banks has put together back to back strong practices.

"She did a really good job of making sure she is communicating," UConn senior center Stefanie Dolson said. "A big thing when you get injured or you are out a little bit you feel like it is hard to really come back and feel like you are a part of (things) but she did a really good job today and yesterday of really talking being a part of the team out there, making good decisions on the court offensively and defensively, I saw a lot of aggressiveness that she had and I am definitely impressed with where she is."

With Banks playing just two minutes, freshman Saniya Chong played 37 minutes while making her first career start.

Nobody had to remind Chong, who averaged 34.4 points a game as a high school senior, that she has not scored since late in the first half against SMU. But the media on the call did just that, asking Chong, teammates Bria Hartley and Dolson and Auriemma about Chong's recent offensive struggles.

"It was the whole mindset and I have to make sure I come out aggressive and try to get to the basket as much as I can," Chong said. "It is all a mindset of me not trying to make mistakes. That is something I have to get out of my head, stop thinking that way, be aggressive and just give it my all."

Chong is not the first freshman to have struggles and certainly won't  be the last. The good news is that Chong's practice habits have remained rock solid all season long so it should be just a matter of time before that translates into more production during games.

"She looked real good for that whole week that we had off (between games)," Auriemma said. "She has to get over this mental block that she has developed a little bit about being tentative and little by little she is going to get over that. I know that she has confidence in herself. She knows she is a good player and I know she knows she is a good offensive player. I want her to trust her instincts and go play. We are going to try to get her back to that point sooner rather than later."

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Banks eager to get back on court for UConn

After missing the last two games due to continuing issues with her troublesome left ankle, Brianna Banks returned to the practice court with a new ankle brace and desire to put her ankle issues behind her.

After practicing on a limited basis on Wednesday when she was prohibited from taking part in defensive drills, Banks practiced with fewer restrictions on Friday and is set to go full speed ahead today before returning to the court when UConn plays at South Florida on Sunday.

"I'm taking all the precautions I can and we have a new ankle brace so I am not planning on spraining it anytime soon," Banks said.

One of those precautions is a different type of brace as the one she was wearing simply wasn't getting the job done.

"It is more of lace up one to give me more support around the whole ankle instead of just on the side of the
ankle," Banks said.

With Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis out indefinitely due to mononucleosis, Banks has a chance to start in her place as she did earlier in the season.

"Stuff does happen and we always seem to get hurt around the same time but I am just looking to get back on the court and get some minutes," Banks said.

With a week between games, Banks had a few extra days to get the treatment on her ankle she needed to return to practice.

"Everything felt good. I guess it came at the perfect time," Banks said. "I could afford to sit out instead of us having a lot of games. I am not even thinking about my ankle right now. I am trying to develop my game and get right so I can play for my teammates so I can help them win."

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Friday, February 14, 2014

UConn's Auriemma reflects on death of the legendary Betty Jaynes

There a few people in the women's basketball world that Hall of Fame UConn coach Geno Auriemma holds in higher regard than former WBCA executive director Betty Jaynes.

He always admired that she treated him that same when he was a little known assistant coach at the University of Virginia as she did when he was leading UConn to eight national titles. It goes without saying that Jaynes' death on Monday hit him pretty hard.

"I knew she had been ill. I knew she had not been healthy for a while and I was unbelievably surprised when (her death came) that quick," Auriemma said. "From the time I was at UVA (University of Virginia as an assistant coach) and even before Betty has been a constant in her time at JMU as a coach, as an administrator and all the work she has done... I understand that little by little we are losing a lot of the pioneers of our game and certainly nobody has been a bigger pioneer than she was

"I think her legacy was how much she cared for the coaches of the game. Obviously the players are the heart of the game but what she did to try to make the coaching profession better, educate coaches into being better teachers, being better citizens, better stewards of the game and her legacy is that did more for other people than she ever did for herself. That is an enduring legacy for sure."

Auriemma also reacted to the news that the powerhouse Immaculata teams of the early 1970s and former Wayland Baptist coach Harley Redin were among the finalists for induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield.

"That is like telling some of the guys that watch ESPN that LIU, NYU, CCNY and all the great, great programs back in the day in men's basketball you are talking about the beginning of the game," Auriemma said. "For me the beginning of the game was Immaculata in the 70s because that is where I grew up and I knew a lot of those people personally. If you dig deeper, Delta State, Wayland Baptist, you are talking about the origins of the game. There's a special place for those people who were around when the game first took hold."

UConn placed items up for bid to raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and the jersey of senior center Stefanie Dolson drew a winning bid of more than $1,700 which is more than three times what Bria Hartley's and Breanna Stewart's jerseys drew.

"House is going to smelling, do they wash those things?" Dolson said with a laugh. "I think that is awesome. It is an honor to be the highest auction item (teammates Bria Hartley and Breanna Stewart's jerseys drew bids between $500-600) and for the money to be going to the (Kay Yow Foundation). I never thought they'd pay the most for my jersey."

Last but certainly not least, Auriemma discussed the health of USF coach Jose Fernandez who had been hospitalized due to a delayed allergic reaction to his prescribed medication to deal with an inflammation of the large intestine. He spent three days in the hospital to deal with the same issue which resulted in him missing the opening game in the 2009-10 season.

"I knew he had been struggling with it but I was as surprised as anybody when I heard he had been to the hospital," Auriemma said. "I talked to him about when we get there tomorrow and when we could get together for a little bit and then I as surprised when he went back into the hospital. I told him that K (Mosqueda-Lewis) has mono and we are not 100 percent healthy and he could himself a favor, everybody a favor and just stay in the hospital, get rest and get healthy. He could let Jeff Osterman coach the team. His response was something unprintable and 'no, he is 0-2 (as the interim coach) so I am not letting him coach anymore games. Even if he is in a wheelchair, Jose is going to be on the sidelines (when UConn plays at USF on Sunday)."

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UConn's Mosqueda-Lewis hoping to return to court soon

Having already had one unplanned hiatus from basketball due to an injured elbow, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is hoping with all of her heart that her return to the court is closer to the three-week mark than the six-week one because of a bout with mononucleosis.

The best-case scenario would have Mosqueda-Lewis miss the rest of the regular season but be able to be back in time for the American Athletic Conference tournament. If she is sidelined for six weeks, she may struggle to be back in time for the Final Four.

“Hopefully I will feel better in two weeks and they can have a look at my spleen and I can come back earlier than three weeks,” said Mosqueda-Lewis, who is averaging 12.2 points per game. “I just want to get out there as soon as possible. I was finally starting to get the ball rolling again.”

Mosqueda-Lewis first spoke with UConn athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle on Feb. 7 because she was feeling congested. She has not practiced since Sunday’s Louisville game and she will not be making the trip to Tampa for Sunday’s game against South Florida.

“I never went in there saying I am tired and I think I have mono so if I am tired I assume I have been playing a lot and I am tired,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I never really went in saying I was tired and I can't do this. I was feeling pretty good and feeling like I was energized in practice and throughout the game so I would never have thought I would have had mono.”

Mosqueda-Lewis missed eight games earlier in the season with a right elbow contusion. She was able to return in time to lead the Huskies to an impressive win at Duke on Dec. 17 and was just starting to return to top form before she injured her left elbow late in the first half of Sunday’s win over Louisville.

The good news is that junior guard Brianna Banks returned to practice after missing the last two games and three of the last five games due to a sprained ankle. Banks seems like the most obvious choice to replace Mosqueda-Lewis in the starting lineup, something she did during the first stretch of games Mosqueda-Lewis missed this season.

“We’re taking all the precautions I can and we have a new ankle brace so I am not planning on spraining it anytime soon,” Banks said

UConn (25-0) has a stretch of five straight games against unranked opponents before playing at No. 3 Louisville on Mar. 3.

“Since November there's been a lot of headshaking, a lot of weird things that have happened that are unusual and that is kind of what has been what is happening with us,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “It does get a little bit frustrating but only because of what we can and don't do in practice. You know how bad they want to play and how competitive they are but in terms of our ability to win games there's nobody on our staff and nobody on our team who feels it is going to have any effect on our ability to win games.”

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Mosqueda-Lewis out with mono

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn's leading scorer during her first two seasons, will miss the next 3-6 weeks with mononucleosi adding a new chapter to what has been a frustrating junior season for the All-American.

The junior forward had missed eight games earlier in the season due to a right elbow injury and she injured her left elbow in Sunday's win over Louisville, although she was able to return to the game in the second half against the Cardinals.

Mosqueda-Lewis is averaging 12.2 points, and 4.6 rebounds per contest while shooting a team-best 42.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Mosqueda-Lewis was averaging 15.5 points and shooting 43.5 percent from the floor in her last six games and was named as one of the 30 midseason candidates for the Naismith Trophy earlier this week..

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Four UConn players on Naismith midseason list

Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart were among the 30 players named to the midseason list of candidates for the Naismith Trophy.

Stewart, a 6-foot-4 sophomore forward from Syracuse, N.Y., leads the 25-0 Huskies in scoring averaging 19.7 points per game and is averaging 8 rebounds and had a team-leading 66 blocked shots.

Hartley, a 5-8 senior guard from North Babylon, N.Y., is second on the team in scoring (15.7 PPG), assists (113) and steals (51).

Dolson, a 6-5 senior center from Port Jervis, N.Y., is averaging 12.6 points and a team-leading 9.3 rebounds a game.

Mosqueda-Lewis, a 6-foot junior guard/forward from Anaheim Hills, Calif., is averaging 12.2 points per game.

UConn leads the way with the four midseason candidates. Notre Dame has three players (Natalie Achonwa, Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd)

UConn's Dolson, Napier Senior CLASS finalists

Stefanie Dolson is one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS award in women's basketball.

Dolson is UConn's leading rebounder, averaging 9.3 per game, the third-leading scorer (12.6) and third in assists (87) and blocked shots (61).

UConn's Shabazz Napier is one of the 10 men's finalists as the Huskies join Iowa State as the only school with both men's and women's finalists for the prestigious award recognizing work on the court and in the classroom.

Fans can vote by visiting the Senior CLASS official site.

Monday, February 10, 2014

UConn at its best with diverse offense

While it is dangerous to get too caught up in crunching numbers, the halftime box score of yesterday's UConn/Louisville game was proof of the type of balance UConn coach Geno Auriemma is looking for from his team.

Determined to not have his team become too 3-point happy, he has been stressing to them to importance to getting the ball inside either with driving or crisp passing and also get to the free-throw line.

Well, if you take away the two free-throw attempts due to the Jeff Walz technical foul since that had nothing to do with anything UConn accomplished, the Huskies hit the preferred landmarks of two 2-point attempts for every 3-pointer attempted and one free-throw try for every 3. In the opening 20 minutes UConn was 12 of 22 from inside the arc, 9 of 12 from foul line (not counting the FTs on the technical) and 3 of 11 from 3 (after opening 0 for 8).

"Coach always said we can't rely on one thing," UConn senior guard Bria Hartley said. "There are times when we are (playing) South Florida and we are hitting all of our 3s so that is all we wanted to do and there are games like this when you are not. He always tells us in practice to have a good combination of shots, driving or get it into the post, mid-range and different combination of things so it is hard for trams to defend."

As previously mentioned, UConn missed its first eight 3-pointers but countered that with some tremendous work in the high-low post offense as 24 of the 44 first-half points were scored in the paint.

"We've got to always be better at balancing at how we are getting our points," Auriemma said. "You saw that one stretch in the second half when we blew the game open and it was a couple layups over here, a couple of 3s over there, pull ups over there and it was a little bit of everything. That is what makes you a great team when people can't say 'let's take away Connecticut's 3s and we can beat them.' We don't want to be that kind of team. I thought we had a huge advantage in the lane and we tried to go to that spot as often as possible  knowing eventually that as the floor starts shrinks offensively, we are going to get a lot of opportunities to score 3s. We had two different kinds of offenses. We ran one in the first half to take advantage of some stuff and ran something completely different because of the adjustment that they made."

UConn sophomore forward Breanna Stewart was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week after averaging 22 points, 9 rebounds and 4.5 assists in wins over SMU and Louisville.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Yet another monster game from UConn's Breanna Stewart

Louisville Jeff Walz, never one to hold back from delivering a one-liner, couldn't help but retort that the injury-plagued UConn women's basketball team is in such dire straits because Geno Auriemma has to play Breanna Stewart 37 minutes.

He was certainly not laughing when the national player of the year candidate drained a pair of 3-pointers 32 seconds apart to break open what was a five-point game.

Stewart finished with a game-high 24 points and added 10 rebounds and six assists in the 81-64 victory.

"She is a special player, she is the best player in the country in my opinion," Walz said. "What she does is when you have breakdowns, she makes you pay for them. We cut it to a five-point game in the first half, we allow her to catch the ball at the free-throw line, catch it and shoot it. We tell our kids either keep a hand in her face or let her drive it and make her shoot a contested pull-up because that is not her strength. We had our hands down and we got caught on a pin down when a kid fell down and she hit the back to back 3s, it is big-time shots.

"Our goal was to have it a five or six point game either way and we had it right there until we gave them back to back 3s. What you have to do is get it to 10 minutes to go in the second half where they shots still matter because when you are up 15, everybody can make a shot but if it is a 5-6 point game all of a sudden that basket becomes a lot smaller and the pressure starts to build. That is something that they have not had to face yet so that was our goal."

The first of Stewart's back to back 3s was one that only a select few players could have made. She caught the ball with her back to the basket, turned and hit the 3.

"I was faking a handoff," Stewart said. "I wanted to see how the girl was playing me. If she wasn't up on me on the handoff so I knew once I turned I would be able to get the shot off. When the first one went in I was feeling a little bit more confident, looking to make an aggressive play."

With the 24 points Stewart now has 983 points and could  become the 39th player (and fifth sophomore) to score 1,000 points.

But in the eyes of her head coach, it is not how many points she scores but when she scores them.

"Some people score a lot of points, she scores them exactly when you need them," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You look at the end of the game and somebody got 24 points, 16 of them were meaningless. Everyone of her points seem to mean something. It is like a guy who hits two home runs when the score is 12-3, who cares. She hits three-run homers when we are down two and that is what separates her from everybody else."

UConn senior guard Bria Hartley needs one assist to become the 10th UConn player with 500 career assists and with seven rebounds she will join Maya Moore as the only Husky with at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 200 steals. Among active players, only Winthrop's Dequesha McClanahan and UT Martin's Jasmine Newsome are in that club although Louisville's Shoni Schimmel needs six more rebounds to hit that plateau.

Speaking of Hartley, with her 33 minutes played against Louisville she passed Diana Taurasi to move into sixth place on UConn's career charts for minutes played. Hartley has 4,213 minutes played in 139 games. Next up is Kelly Faris at 4,258 which could happen in the next home game against Central Florida.

During his time at UConn he has not had any issues with his players getting into shoving matches with opposing fans but that doesn't mean that Geno Auriemma doesn't have an opinion on what happened between Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart and Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr.

"In general student-athletes are held to a different standard than normal people. It is neither fair or unfair, it just is," Auriemma said. "You get a scholarship to play basketball, football or any other sport it is like all of a sudden you sign away whatever freedoms you thought you had in college. Now you can't react like a normal human being. If somebody says something, you can't react. If somebody does something, you can't react. This kid wants to go out one night and have a good time, you can't go with him. All of a sudden people, especially adults, can say and do whatever the hell they want to a college kid on the floor knowing that kid has no recourse, they have to take it. I don't necessarily agree with that but that is the world and somebody pays 20 bucks to watch a college basketball game and they think it gives them the right to be an idiot. If you're an idiot, you don't need to pay 20 bucks to prove it, that is my take on it. I feel bad for the kid."

Smart was suspended three games for pushing Orr.

Injury to UConn's Mosqueda-Lewis doesn't appear to be as serious

The sellout crowd at Gampel Pavilion was brought to absolute silence when junior All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis crashed to the court and injured her left elbow late in the first half.

The injury was similar to the one she suffered on her right elbow against Stanford on Nov. 11 and forced her to miss the next eight games.

However, Mosqueda-Lewis was able to come back into the game with 13:56 remaining and played the next 6:37 before coming out of the game for good.

"I don't think it is as bad as what happened last time. It is in a similar spot just on a different elbow," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.

UConn seemed out of sorts early on in the second half but senior guard Bria Hartley didn't think it was lingering from the concern over the health of their teammate.

"I don't think we were rattled but we were worried about how she was," Hartley said. "She came back and said she was OK. I remember she came back into the game and kind of holding her arm and I said 'are you all right? If you are not all right get out of the game.'"

Although Mosqueda-Lewis did not score in the second half, she did have a rebound and assist during her time on the court. Without a game until playing at South Florida and no ranked teams on the schedule until the March 3 rematch with Louisville, there will be no rush to bring Mosqueda-Lewis back but we'll see what happens.

UConn/Louisville set for national championship game rematch

The last time UConn and Louisville squared off the stakes were significantly higher.

With Breanna Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis combining for 41 points and 18 rebounds UConn won the program's record-tying eighth NCAA title with a 93-60 victory in New Orleans.

Today the Huskies and Cardinals will meet again at a sold-out Gampel Pavilion. It will mark just the 24th time during the NCAA era that a regular-season game will feature a national championship game rematch. This will be UConn's ninth such game, trailing only the 13 Tennessee has taken part in. It should not come as a shock to hear that either UConn and Tennessee have been involved in 18 of the previous 23 rematches. The defending champs have won 14 of the first 23 meetings and in the chart below the title-winning team is in all caps.

12-11-1982: LOUISIANA TECH 60, Cheyney State 45
1-3-1984: Louisiana Tech 75, USC 66
1-8-1985: Tennessee 71, USC 60
11-29-1986: TEXAS 89, Usc 69
2-15-1988: TENNESSEE 76, Louisiana Tech 74
2-3-1990: TENNESEE 76, Auburn 65
1-6-1996: UCONN 59, Tennessee 53
12-8-1996: Georgia 94, TENNESSEE 93 (ot)
2-7-1998: TENNESSEE 85, Old Dominion 61
11-30-1998: TENNESSEE 92, Louisiana Tech 73
12-30-2000: UCONN 81, Tennessee 76
2-1-2001: Tennessee 92, UCONN 88
12-6-2001: Purdue 70, NOTRE DAME 57
12-1-2002: UCONN 73, Oklahoma 60
2-5-2004: UCONN 81, Tennessee 67
1-8-2005: Tennessee 68, UCONN 67
1-13-2007: Duke 81, MARYLAND 62
2-18-2007: Duke 69, MARYLAND 57
2-11-2008: TENNESSEE 59, Rutgers 58
12-28-2008: TENNESSEE 79, Stanford 69
2-7-2010: UCONN 84, Louisville 38
12-30-2010: Stanford 71, UCONN 59
12-5-2012: BAYLOR 73, Notre Dame 61

There will be a live blog running during today's game featuring mostly the Twitter feeds from me as well as the UConn and Louisvillle official women's basketball accounts.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Special honor for UConn legend

The calls would come on a pretty much yearly basis.

The organizers of the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame would reach out to former UConn star Nykesha Sales and said they've love for her to be a part of a late April Hall of Fame induction class. Unfortunately, Sales would always have the same answer as her playing responsibilities overseas kept her from being around for the ceremony.

Now that she is retired, it is time for her to be part of the Hall of Fame class.

Sales will be part of the seven-member Class of 2014 as Hartford athletic director Pat Meiser, referee Fran Vandermeer, New Fairfield coach Joe Russo (who coached Rizzotti in high school), former Southern Connecticut State star Kate Lynch, former Southington High great Jen Gombotz and ex Bristol Eastern standout Chryssandra Watts will be inducted in an Apr. 23 ceremony at Cascade in Hamden.

“This year now that I officially retired last year, I am able to come to the ceremony, accept it and celebrate,” Sales said. “When they told me I was of course extremely excited and proud. I know there have been some great people who have been inducted in the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame so I am just honored to be a part and finally be able to make the ceremony.

“It always means a lot to an athlete who tries to achieve and succeed at the highest level and was able to get it done. A lot of times it is not just the player, it has to do with your surroundings, your coaches, your other teammates and AAU was a big part of that. It feels good that after it was all said and done be rewarded. Not a lot of players get rewarded when you are finished, a lot of them always get rewarded while you are playing or after you accomplish something but this is one of those retired awards where you can still be proud of what you have done especially for the state of Connecticut in being able to accept an award.”

Sales is one of the rare athletes who was able to blaze trails at the high school, college and professional levels in the same state.

Sales was named the national high school player of the year by USA Today after capping a brilliant career at Bloomfield High School. She helped UConn win its first national title in 1995 when she was a freshman and still holds UConn’s record for career steals. She is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun franchise and now serves as a community liaison for the team.

“I think I am really proud of Nykesha,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. First she did a tremendous amount for high school basketball in this area to be the national player of the year, I think she brought an awful lot of attention to Connecticut basketball, the state of Connecticut high school and obviously her freshman year she was instrumental in us winning a national championship and it carried over to what she did to the Connecticut Sun to get their franchise off and running. There have been a lot of people who have contributed a lot to the sport in the state of Connecticut but I don't know anybody who has contributed any more than Nykesha has.

“She has grown up. She has grown up, she has become a spokesperson for the game which is ironic because when she was here she used to give a little fist pump when the media didn't want to talk to her. That is part of growing up and part of understanding your role in the game. I don't know if there is a nicer person in the entire world. I don't know if there is anybody that has fewer enemies, if she has one, than Nykesha.”

Sales said she revels in her role working with the community and it is a sign of her maturity as a person.

“I have turned into a people person,” Sales said. “When I was in college I was pretty shy and laid back but through the years that is one of the major things I have gotten out of basketball was to learn how to be in the community and be around people. For me that is an easy next step, I go out and speak about my experiences and help people understand about our program and try to get them involved in coming to games. Not a lot of cities have the opportunity to have WNBA teams and it is exciting to have professional teams in a state when women's basketball is so big. I am glad to be back and be a part of it. I am from Connecticut. I get to be home for half of the year and I think the welcome has been awesome and the fans still have a lot of respect for me and this game.”

While Sales is not sure what the next stage of her work as a community liaison is going to be, she knows her playing days are behind her.

“Sometimes I do help out a little bit and jump into practice with the girls or I just play around with them and challenge them on certain things but trust me I have no desire to lace up and play,” Sales said. “When I am retired, I am retired. It is good to think back and kind of dig up some old memories of playing but I have no desires to lace up.”

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Mosqueda-Lewis finding her game at UConn

After putting together one of her most complete games of the season against Southern Methodist, a confident Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said all the right things about how it is time for her to deliver.

"I have been in a funk for a little bit and it is time for me to get out of it," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We are (approaching) the conference tournament and after that it is going to be (NCAA) tournament time."

Well, it was not idle chatter as UConn coach Geno Auriemma raved about how well she has been practicing in the last week.

"She has been really good the last week, really, really good," Auriemma said. "I can just tell by the way she carries herself right now how she is handling certain things that come up, all the things she is doing on the court instead of just shooting the ball. She may not be completely back but she is there.

"There was a period of time when K was playing like three players. She was playing like the best 3-point shooter in the country, she was playing like somebody who could get to the basket, she was playing good defense and she was posting up some smaller guards, rebounding the ball. She was doing a whole bunch of things so it was like was playing a whole bunch of different spots on the floor and then she went through a (stretch) when all she did was stand there and wait for the next 3-point shot which didn't help anybody including her so when the real Kaleena who was playing all those positions and doing all those things, obviously that changes our team dramatically. I think we have proven over the last two or three weeks we are a really good 3-point shooting team, we haven't shown it all the time this year but we are a really good 3-point shooting team and she hasn't even gotten started yet so I am anxious to see what we are like when Breanna Stewart, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Lewis all have their A games going."

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A piece of basketball history UConn's Auriemma wants no part of

Geno Auriemma thought he had seen just about everything that could happen on a basketball court until he stumbled upon the wild scene taking place between the Los Angeles Lakes and Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

With injuries leaving the Lakers with eight available players. With injuries sidelining two more players and Chirs Kaman fouling out, Los Angeles had no more substitutes to insert into the game. So when Robert Sacre fouled out with 3:31 left to play it was time for chaos to take over.

With NBA rules preventing teams from playing with less than five players, Sacre was allowed to stay in the game but the Lakers would be assessed a technical foul with each foul he committed. Cleveland got to shoot a free throw following Sacre's sixth foul but he did not commit another foul the rest of the way as the Lakers would win the game 119-108.

With the UConn women's basketball team down to seven scholarship players until junior guard Brianna Banks returns from her latest ankle injury, I was curious what the Huskies might have been thinking while watching those circumstances unfold.

"I don't think I have ever seen that in all the time I have watched basketball," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I don't know what the rule would be. You never say never but I hope we are never in that situation."

I spoke to a college official who said that the playing with a disqualified player is a NBA only rule so if this where to happen to the Huskies or any other college team, they would have to play with however many players they had remaining.

UConn senior center Stefanie Dolson had a game when that actually happened.

"I don't think about that but hopefully we are smart and we won't foul that much because we know teams are gong to do that (try to foul out the UConn players)," Dolson said. "I am sure they didn't expect on that at all. It could happen with us. I actually played with that at one time, I was in high school and everybody fouled out, it was both teams though. It was like a rec thing and both teams were fouling people out and it ended up being 3 on 3 at the end. It was terrible. I think I fouled out I was there for the 4 on 4 but then I fouled out."

Friday, February 07, 2014

UConn's Stewart not dwelling on last game vs. Louisville

There's no question that Breanna Stewart was born with more than her share of God given basketball ability but she is more than just a talented prodigy. Stewart's competitive fire is what has allowed her to make such an impact at just a young age.

Right on cue I asked Stewart to reflect on her monster game (23 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots) in the 2013 national championship game which also happens to be the last time UConn and Louisville have met.

In classic Stewart fashion, she was more focused on what she didn't do on that night in New Orleans.

"I have watched the national championship game and obviously that was a good game and I look at the things I was not so good at," Stewart said.

"I am really looking forward to it. Obviously we are doing as much as we can in these last couple of days to prepare for them but really just come out and be aggressive. It should be a great environment, a sold out crowd and it will be a lot of fun."

Stewart had some ups and downs during her freshman season as two of UConn's four losses came when she was held in single digits in points. But she figured things out in the nick of time as she averaged 26 points (going 19 of 31 from the field and 7 of 8 from 3-point range) in the Final Four. Her teammates get a chuckle at how the announcers made it seem as if she stumbled her way through the entire freshman season before putting it all together at the end.

"I was watching the game and they couldn't stop talking about her," UConn senior center Stefanie Dolson said. "You would have thought she was the worst player in the world, you would have thought she was terrible (before the Final Four)."

Those back to back monster games gave an indication of what was to come from Stewart, who is now on the short list of national player of the year candidates. 

"She has gotten better in every aspect of her game," Dolson said. "She knows how to play through physicality, she is smarter with her passes, with what she does with the ball and she takes better shots. She is growing as a player and defensively, she is so long she gets into passing lanes. She has gotten a lot more muscle so obviously you can tell she has gotten bigger. She is battling, she would post up and give up but she is really fighting for position and making sure she can get open and get herself open because she knows how hard people are going to play her."