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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Playful side of UConn emerges

It's certainly never boring when Geno Auriremma is accompanied at post-game press conferences by seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley.

While it was enjoyable dealing with many of the recent seniors, players like Tina Charles, Tiffany Hayes, Kelly Faris and even the great Maya Moore didn't let their guard down in their dealings with the media as much as the engaging duo of Dolson and Hartley.

It fit with the easy-going personalities of the two seniors that they were serenade Auriemma with a chorus or three of Happy Birthday as Auriemma was being interviewed by ESPN after the 87-44 win over Prairie View in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"I didn't even know it is birthday," Dolson deadpanned at the post-game press conference. "It is always special to win on Coach's birthday. We've sung to him a few times so he should be a lucky man for that one. Thankfully we didn't make him skip around the arena tonight."

You would probably have to go back to when Diana Taurasi and Maria Conlon were seniors in 2004 to find a senior duo willing to have as much fun with their Hall of Fame coach publicly as Dolson and Hartley do on a regular season.

"It is just the experience that we have, playing for four years and we have played a lot so the experience of learning as we go, it is (important) to really lighten the mood when Coach is really getting on us," Hartley said. "I think it has worked out really well for us and we want to continue to keep doing that.

"Stef's more open with it, I am more (like that), if we are together. We enjoy playing the game and having fun. We just want to make sure everybody else is having fun too."

When UConn plays Saint Joseph's in the second round on Tuesday night (7 p.m., ESPN2), it will be the final home game for the two seniors.

Auriemma will certainly miss the contributions of Dolson and Hartley on the court as well as off of it.

"That is a big thing about having a good team, there might not be things that are more important," Auriemma said of how the seniors ease some of the pressure because of their personalities. "I can gauge in November or early December if we have a mature team or not by how it takes for us to take the team picture. When you are dealing with 12 year olds, it takes an hour to take the team photo because the guys won't shut up, they don't know when it is time to be serious and when it is time to screw around and other times it takes exactly 35 seconds for the team picture. For this particular group, since the beginning I have not seen them go overboard on anything or get down in the dumps about anything which is not easy to do for five months to stay on the same plane. A lot of that has to do with our seniors, they are like that. Stefanie Dolson has not had a bad day of practice in four years. There is not one day that she has come to practice and coaches say 'what is your problem?' Not once and I don't know if you know how hard that is."

When Moriah Jefferson flipped the ball behind her back to teammate Breanna Stewart before crashing into the scorers' table, she was hoping that Stewart would finish off the magical play with a dunk.

Instead, Stewart was a recipient of a flagrant foul and only got a pair of free throws off Jefferson's alert hustle play.

"I was trying to get a steal and saw Stewie there, I just just threw it behind my back," Jefferson said. "I wished she would dunk it but she was being a baby and got fouled."

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