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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Days of playing inside casino no longer an issue for UConn

I remember when word came down that there were some unnamed Big East schools raising their objection to the prospect of the conference's women's basketball tournament being held at Mohegan Sun Arena just a couple years back that I wondered how many years would have to pass before UConn would play a game there.

The walls came down a season ago when some of the objectors went out on their own and the American Athletic Conference women's basketball tournament was held at Mohegan Sun Arena. However, today it was a completely different animal as UConn played its first regular-season game at Mohegan. Perhaps even more noteworthy than the game being held here was that it barely caused a ripple around the region or the nation. I guess you can chalk it up to the "how quickly things change" department.

"It is pretty fun," said UConn senior center Kiah Stokes, who had 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots for her first double-double since a Jan. 7 game against Houston. "The arena is really nice. The fans come to support us wherever we play. It is a little far from campus, not as far as Bridgeport (where the Huskies played DePaul on Friday) but it is great to be in this environment, play on a different court because at Gampel we wouldn't have as many fans here because our
student section is at home (during the break between semesters) so getting the chance for other fans to see us play is the best part. It is definitely an adventure, it is a challenge because we are not home and we have been in hotels in two of the last three nights. We came to play, obviously the first half of this game we were kind of iffy but I think coming out in the second half it shows we want to be good. We have stuff to work on but we are going to try to get better every day."

There used to be a provision in the contract that if UConn wanted to play a home game at a site other than the on-campus Gampel Pavilion, it had to be at the XL Center. However, that changed in recent years leading to the Huskies playing regular-season games at Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena in each of the last two seasons and now comes the Huskies' first regular-season contest at Mohegan Sun, the home of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun.

"I think it was just a matter of time because when you start having the CIAC (basketball) championships here, you can't really say you can't have a college game in here," said Connecticut Sun general manager Chris Sienko. "The University of Hartford has played here a long time ago, Central (Connecticut) has played here before and I think it is good.
"It is really exciting. You have to give credit to UConn, (UConn director of athletics) Warde Manuel and for them to say they want to spread the UConn visibility beyond Hartford, beyond Gampel, for them to come to Bridgeport and come here I think it is great. It is really not my doing, it is people on the property's doing, there are a lot of other people that you have to thank including the Basketball Hall of Fame (for scheduling Sunday's Hall of Fame Women's Challenge). It is a
great venue for basketball, a great showcase. It is great that UConn is here and they can play here in front of their home fans."

The contract has already been signed for UConn and Florida State to play at Mohegan Sun Arena next season while Yale and West Virginia are among eight teams playing in an exempt event next season that will conclude with four games at Mohegan.

"I never understood why we couldn't play here in the past, I never understood why we couldn't have the tournament in the past," Auriemma said. "From the University of Connecticut standpoint it makes sense for us to play a game here just like it does in Bridgeport. As long as the fans keep appreciating it and keep turning out, I am sure we will keep doing it."

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