Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day to remember for UConn seniors Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes

There were no tears to be shed on Saturday at Gampel Pavilion unless it came from members of visiting Memphis during UConn's emphatic 87-24 win in a game that clinched a second straight American Athletic Conference regular-season title for the mighty Huskies.

After seeing the outpouring of emotions from Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley during last year's Senior Day festivities, this year's senior duo of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes were confident enough that their emotions would be shown with beaming smiles and not with a cascade of tears. How confident? Well, they were willing to put money on it.

"Me and Kaleena made a bet, if you cry first you owe me five bucks and that was kind of the fun aspect of it," Stokes said. "We didn't want to go out, be emotional, crying because it is fun and we like to be here. The hard part is going to be whenever our last game is."

UConn could play as many as 10 more games with five of those being in the state of Connecticut. UConn is the No. 1 seed in the American Athletic Conference tournament which starts on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. UConn won't play until Saturday and will face the winner of the Cincinnati/Central Florida at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Huskies will also host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament so there are plenty of games left in Connecticut for Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes to play.

Still, the events on Saturday will stick with the duo for years to come.

Stokes came out first accompanied by her parents. Then it was time for Mosqueda-Lewis, who not only got to hold up a framed jersey which is a long-standing custom at UConn but then became the 16th women's player inducted into the Huskies of Honor.

Stokes made her seventh career start and first since a Nov. 23 game against Creighton while Mosqueda-Lewis made her 93rd career start. When the game began both seniors were tantalizingly close to milestones. Mosqueda-Lewis got there first hitting two 3-pointers in the first 1:14 to become the eighth Husky to score 2,000 points. Stokes happened to assist on both of them as part of her career-high five assists. Then with 14:50 to play Stokes recorded block No. 300 in her career joining Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters and Tina Charles as the only UConn players to reach that mark.

By game's end Mosqueda-Lewis had a game-high 21 points and her five 3-pointers moved her into sole possession of 11th place on the NCAA Division I career list. The only seniors at UConn to top Mosqueda-Lewis' 21 points in the Senior Day game are Nykesha Sales, Tina Charles, Ashley Battle, Maya Moore and Kara Wolters.

"Coach (Auriemma) told me to go out there and play like you know you can play," Stokes said. "I know I can get rebounds and block shots. That is what I really try to do. For Kaleena to get her 2,000th point off an assist from me, it is just awesome. I am glad she made it and it just shows what we have been through that I did my part, I get rebounds she made her shot."

Mosqueda-Lewis made plenty of shots. She was 8 of 11 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point range. She is now 11th on the NCAA Division I career list with 367 3-pointers leaving her 25 shy of the Division I record set by Kansas State's Laurie Koehn and Tennessee Martin's Heather Butler. If Mosqueda-Lewis continues at her current pace and the Huskies reach the American Athletic Conference and NCAA tournament finals, she would finish with 399 career 3-pointers.

Auriemma, who has coached some of the best 3-point shooters the game has ever seen, said Mosqueda-Lewis' shot is the most beautiful he has ever seen.

It is her 3-point ability which played a major role in making Mosqueda-Lewis the 16th women's player at UConn inducted into the Huskies of Honor which came at the end of the Senior Day festivities.

"Hopefully people look at it like they do all the other great players," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I was really happy to see my number go up there."

She also couldn't help but chuckle when her 4-year-old brother Xander, who accompanied her onto the court, broke away and ran into Auriemma's arms.

"I said 'are you excited?'" Mosqueda-Lewis said. "He said 'yeah.' I said 'why? This is my day.' He said 'this is great, share with me.'"

Mosqueda-Lewis was more than happy to do just that and also to share the spotlight with her fellow senior Stokes.

"Kiah is always going to look to help us before she looks for herself," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I think she has taken on that role, embraced the fact that she is going to set screens, block shots and play defense. That is what we expect from her and I am happy that she came out and played so well."

Taking a look at top UConn performances on Senior Day/Senior Night

It's always interesting to see how the players react to the emotion overload that comes when seniors walk out onto the court to greet UConn Geno Auriemma before their final regular-season home game.

I went back as far as 1990 to see how the final numbers shook out. For the trivia buffs out there, Nykesha Sales leads the way with 27 points on Senior Night. I found it interesting that Ashley Battle had as many points on her Senior Day/Night game as Maya Moore and Ketia Swanier had more points than Swin Cash, Shea Ralph or Diana Taurasi and as many as Bria Hartley.

Here is the list
Nykesha Sales   Notre Dame 2-21-98 27 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists in 27 minutes
Tina Charles   St. John's 2-13-10  25 points, 21 rebounds, 3 blocks in 40 minutes
Ashley Battle   Pittsburgh 2-22-05 23 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals in 24 minutes
Maya Moore   Syracuse 2-28-11  23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals in 30 minutes
Kara Wolters   Villanova 2-22-97 22 points, 9 rebounds in 34 minutes
Christine Rigby St. John's 2-21-01 21 points, 6 rebounds in 21 minutes
Bria Hartley   Rutgers 3-1-14  20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists in 36 minutes
Ketia Swanier   St. John's 2-23-08 20 points, 5 assists, 4 steals in 28 minutes
Swin Cash   Providence 2-20-02 19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals in 27 minutes
Shea Ralph   St. John's 2-23-01 19 points, 7 assists in 21 minutes
Kelly Faris   Seton Hall 2-23-13 18 points, 7 assists, 7 steals in 33 minutes
Renee Montgomery  Villanova 2-24-09 17 points, 3 assists in 32 minutes
Diana Taurasi   West Virginia 3-2-04 17 points, 10 assists in 30 minutes
Kerry Bascom   Pittsburgh 2-25-91 16 points, 13 rebounds in 32 minutes
Carla Berube   Villanova 2-22-97 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists in 34 minutes
Jamelle Elliott  Villanova 2-26-96 16 points, 11 rebounds in 31 minutes
Wendy Davis   Pittsburgh 2-26-92 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists in 28 minutes
Asjha Jones   Providence 2-20-02 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks in 27 minutes
Laura Lishness   Pittsburgh 2-25-91 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists in 35 minutes
Rebecca Lobo   St. John's 2-22-95 13 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks in 28 minutes
Sue Bird   Providence 2-20-02 12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals in 27 minutes
Maria Conlon   West Virginia 3-2-04 12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists in 29 minutes
Kathy Ferrier   Georgetown 2-27-93 12 points, 3 rebounds in 24 minutes
Charde Houston   St. John's 2-23-08 12 points, 7 rebounds in 23 minutes
Kelly Schumacher  St. John's 2-23-01 12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks in 25 minutes
Jen Rizzotti   Villanova 2-26-96 11 points, 3 assists, 4 steals in 30 minutes
Barbara Turner   Marquette 2-25-06 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists in 30 minutes
Ann Strother   Marquette 2-25-06  9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals in 35 minutes
Pam Webber   St. John's 2-22-95   9 points, 3 rebounds, 4 steals in 26 minutes
Tiffany Hayes   St. John's 2-18-12  8 points, 3 rebounds in 37 minutes
Willnett Crockett  Marquette 2-25-06  8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks in 22 minutes
Stacy Hansmeyer  Syracuse 2-18-00  7 points, 6 rebounds in 19 minutes
Meghan Pattyson  Pittsburgh 2-26-92  7 points, 6 rebounds in 25 minutes
Paige Sauer   Syracuse 2-18-00  7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists in 17 minutes
Tamika Williams  Providence 2-20-02  7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals in 22 minutes
Stefanie Dolson  Rutgers 3-1-14   6 points, 10 rebounds in 32 minutes
Kris Lamb    St. John's 2-26-90  5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals in 40 minutes
Jessica Moore   Pittsburgh 2-22-05  4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks in 21 minutes

Note: Tina Charles had 33 points and 15 rebounds in the Senior Day game held at XL Center against Georgetown on Feb. 27, 2010. Renee Montgomery  had 14 points on Senior Day at XL Center vs. Seton Hall on Feb. 28, 2009

Pair of UConn commits shine in postseason

UConn incoming freshman Katie Lou Samuelson is known as an extraordinary 3-point shooter but in her quest to lead Mater Dei High School to the CIF Southern Section Open Division title, she is proving to be more than just somebody making a living from beyond the 3-point line.

Samuelson has been awarded 29 free throws in the last two games including 19 during the Monarchs' 59-37 victory over Alemany in Friday night's semifinals. Samuelson finished with 30 points, 16 of them coming from the foul line.

Samuelson's 15th 30-point game of the season set up a rematch against Chaminade in the Open Division title game. Chaminade is the only team to beat Mater Dei, posting a 60-59 win on Nov. 29 despite 27 points from Samuelson.

UConn Class of 2016  commit Crystal Dangerfield had 11 of her 15 points in the second half and finished with six assists to lead Blackman High School to a 67-44 win over Oakland in the Tennessee Region 4-AAAA title game on Friday. Blackman will play either Cumberland County or White County in a sectional game on Monday.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

UConn offering free live stream of Senior Day ceremony

The CBS Sports Network coverage of tomorrow's regular season home finale against Memphis not starting until tip off because the broadcast of the men's game between Lehigh and Colgate runs right up to the 2 o'clock hour. As a result, they will not be televising the pre-game ceremony when seniors Kiah Stokes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will be honored and Mosqueda-Lewis' No. 23 gets inducted into the Huskies of Honor.

UConn announced that it will be offering a free live stream of the ceremony at this link http://www.uconnhuskies.com/collegesportslive/?media=489858 The event is set to start at 1:40 p.m.

\Also, thanks to my trusty iPhone, I will have videos up on my Tout account (available via my Twitter account @NHRJimFuller) as quickly as the internet inside Gampel Pavilion allows that to take place.

NO GOLDEN HORSHOE AWARD FOR KIA NURSE
Freshman guard Kia Nurse was nominated for Golden Horseshoe Award, presented annually since 1995 to the best athlete in the Burlington/Hamilton, Ontario area, for the second year in a row. However, Nurse's bid to become the first basketball player to win the honor since 2006 will have to wait.

Last year it was golfer Mackenzie Hughes who won the award while last night it was announced that the 2014 winner is Laura Fortino, who assisted on the game-winning overtime goal in the gold medal game of the Olympics as Canada defeated the United States to win a fourth straight title.

SEASON OVER FOR UCONN COMMIT
UConn Class of 2016 commit Kyla Irwin's quest for a state title during her junior season came screeching to a half when Altoona's Ali Treglia scored with 3.6 seconds remaining to lift Altoona to a 46-45 win over Irwin's State College team in the Pennsylvania District 6-AAAA title game.

Irwin had 17 points in the game as she scored in double figures in 22 of the 23 games as a junior as she averaged 20 points per game.

Altoona advances to play in the PIAA playoffs.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stokes, Stewart representing UConn on and off the court

A program would be fortunate to have one person in the running for honors like the Senior CLASS Award or Academic All-American honors.

UConn happens to have two such candidates.

Senior center Kiah Stokes is not only one of 10 women's basketball finalists for the Senior CLASS Award which recognizes success on the playing field, in the classroom and in the community, but she is leading the fan voting by nearly 10 percent ahead of the nearest competitor.

Stewart, a junior forward and reigning national player of the year, was named a second team Academic All-American earlier today.

"It is a cool accomplishment and it goes to show that not only is my focus on basketball but also I am trying to do as well as I can in the classroom," said Stewart, who has a 3.3 grade-point average in an individualized major titled sport in society.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma pointed out that UConn is the only Division I women's basketball program with more than one player to be named Academic All-American of the Year. While Stewart did not receive that honor, Rebecca Lobo, Jen Rizzotti and two-time winner Maya Moore have been bestowed with that honor.

“People talk about all these other programs were you can go and get a great education, and this, that and the other thing, and I don’t doubt any of that," Auriemma said. "The reality of the situation is we have had three kids be the Academic Student Scholar-Athlete of the year in the country. No other school since they started the award has had more than one. So I think that says something about, 1. The kids that we recruit, what we look for and the things we think are important, and how good our school is at giving these kids an opportunity to be that successful.”

“Can Stewie reach that level? I don’t know. I hope she does. I will be rooting for her. I hope she can.”

Stewart, like Lobo, Rizzotti and Moore brought a similar desire for excellence to their studies as they did to the basketball court.
"I think it is just competitive nature, you want to do as well as you can both on the court and
in the classroom and you want to be the best at whatever you compete at," Stewart said.

With GPAs 3.5 or better in the last two semesters, that number continues to rise as does her desire to use her time at UConn to make a difference.

"What I want am hoping to do is basically prepare myself so I can learn how to build a non-profit organization when I am done with college because I think giving back to your community is awesome," Stewart said. "Next year my senior year I plan on making a non-profit just on a smaller scale so that is probably going to be the hardest part when I have to do that."

Speaking of making a difference, Stokes is certainly doing her part.

UConn did not return to campus from New Orleans after the Tulane game until about 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday. That night she headed to Hartford to speak at a public hearing in front of legislators to address the impact of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed budget cuts.

"When my advisor asked me to speak, I couldn't say no, it was an honor," Stokes said. "I am glad that they wanted me to talk because I don't just represent the team, I represent the athletic community and the student body. I want to be all of that. The cuts aren't really going to affect me because I am graduating but it is something that is going to impact future players, future students here and it
is something that appealed to me. One of my professors today, he thought was really nice of me. He knew that we got in at 4 in the morning and to do that Tuesday night, that is really crazy a lot of people want to just leave, forget about it and graduate. He was really proud of me and he knows that a lot of the students look up to me, they know I am not just a basketball player I want to help out in more ways."

So what was Stokes' message?

"I just want to tell them I was representing the honors program and the individualized major program," Stokes said. "I wanted to tell them that the funding for both of those programs is really important. The advisors are really flexible, they want everybody to succeed. It is a great thing for the individualized major because you can kind of pick the courses that apply to you. I picked  a lot of business and sport management (classes) because I wanted to do that. I told them that most athletes here are not going to go pro in their sport so you have to have a backup play. It is something I
hope they took away from that."

Auriemma said he was not surprised to hear of Stokes' move to speak in front of legislators nor was he stunned when he checked in with Ellen Tripp, UConn's Associate Athletic Director who is in charge of the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletics, that each of his players who had early morning classes on Tuesday showed up for class.

"She is comfortable in that role," Auriemma said. "That comes natural to her, she is well spoken, she is intelligent, she cares about things more than just basketball and she cares about people. I think when somebody asked her 'would you do this for us?' I am sure there was no hesitation at all.

"She is the absolute epitome of what you would want in a student-athlete, in a kid representing your program. She has everything you want. She is a great human being, she is great teammates, she is a great friend to her friends, she works diligently in school and got a 4.0 (GPA). I don't know if you could ask one person to do more. If somebody said 'hey, Kiah Stokes is the face of your program' I would be like 'yeah, that's pretty good. She kind of represents who we are.'"

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Former UConn star Cash reflects on Senior Day memories

UConn will playing its final regular season home game on Saturday against Memphis and there will be a familiar face handling the studio analyst duties.

Swin Cash won't be in Storrs for the festivities as that will fall to Brent Stover and former Marist star Julianne Viani. But she will be asked to offer her insight during the game as part of the CBS Sports Network crew. The folks at CBS SNT were nice enough to get Cash on the phone for me which allowed me to address a variety of topics with Cash, one of 15 players currently in the Huskies of Honor. The number will reach a Sweet 16 when Mosqueda-Lewis is added to that list on Saturday.

First, I had her reflect on what her Senior Night/Day experience was like.

"I remember Senior Day. I was going through some pictures and saw some pictures of us," Cash said. "It is really an emotional time. The reality is you think about, you never really think when you come in as a freshman there is going to be an end but when you walk out on Senior Night, it really kind of hits you.

I just remember being on the bench and we wanted to make sure we got up and out early. We really wanted to make sure we could sit on the bench and really take it in. I remember laughing, joking on the bench with Sue, 'Mika and Asjha, those are the memories that you take with you. Taking them all in, from her on out it is one of those mentalities of appreciating every single game."

UConn rolled past Providence 106-41 in the final home game for Cash, Sue Bird, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams en route to an undefeated season and a second national title in a three-year span.

Current seniors Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes won't have an undefeated season to shoot at during their final season since the Huskies lost at Stanford in the second game of the season. However, they could leave as members of a national championship squad for the third year in a row.

"I think they are going to have a lot of emotions," Cash said. "I think the great thing for them is they have both been part of not only winning championships but a winning tradition. They are exactly where any senior wants to be in their senior year, in a position to do it again (winning) back to back to back (championships). I think they won't be thinking as much about the moment but they will be thinking about the overall finish because they have had a great legacy so far."

Cash was a key member of one of the greatest women's collegiate basketball teams of all time as her senior year the Huskies were absolutely unstoppable. The four seniors all went in the top six picks of the 2002 WNBA Draft. Cash loves the on-court chemistry she sees from this year's team.

"It is clear that they understand their roles on the team pretty much to a T and that is what kind of separates them from a lot of teams this year," Cash said. "They all really are playing to the best of their ability and not getting going outside of that, it kind of looks beautiful to watch the passes, knowing where each other are on the floor, getting to the right spots on the floor, getting to the right spots."

Cash is especially impressed with the way reigning national player of the year Breanna Stewart works with fellow starting post Morgan Tuck.

"I think one of the most underrated things that people don't understand is that chemistry," Cash said. "Chemistry cam be built by having great leaders on the team that are selfless. I think Breanna and Morgan are both kind of selfless kind of players so having them in that position and here comes Moriah (Jefferson) and how she is playing, you can just see that the chemistry is built. Even watching their practices, how hard they compete in practices that is where the chemistry is built. The games
are just fun."

I had to ask Cash about the transformation of Gabby Williams from high school guard to playing an undersized post as a freshman because Williams' energetic style of play often times reminds me of the way Cash played.

"I am impressed," Cash said. "For any player, it is a hard transition. Asjha and I came in with our backs to the basket, we had to learn how to expand our game a little bit. We had to work with Chris Dailey and Jamelle Elliott on that part. I think the fact that Coach (Geno Auriemma) saw in her an ability, how athletic she was and how willing she was to learn. I think that has really helped her out a lot because her mindset is already open to change. I am sure that the coaches have had a field day with her. You look at what she is doing on the floor, it is really amazing to think she was playing the guard position."

Cash has had the opportunity to work in the studio and also serve as a color commentator. She loves the different experiences she has be subjected to as an announcer.

"I enjoy the studio work," Cash said. "It is awesome because I have been able to go out, see some games, I am able to do some feature pieces and I am really exploring all the options that are out there.
I will be in studio for the next week or so but during the tournament I will actually be at the men's Final Four doing some work there, hopefully I can catch up with the women's (team at the Final Four) as well."

Cash has played for five different teams since being taken with the second overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft. After beginning her career playing six seasons in Detroit and another four in Seattle, Cash has played for three teams in the last four seasons.

While she was not ready to reveal the team she would be playing for in the upcoming WNBA season, she is extremely excited to be coming back for a 14th WNBA season.

"That will be coming out in about a week," Cash said. "We are still in the free agent period right now. I am really excited about the upcoming season. The feeling I have is really good, I am excited to play and there is something to be said about coming into a season without stress, pressure and dealing with a whole lot of baggage so I am excited."

What about the WNBA futures of Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes?

"I think they have a set of skills that help them at the next level," Cash said. "It really just goes to where you are drafted, the system, how the coaches run the system. You have the best players in the world but when you look at players who have had success, it has come down to they been on teams with coaches who have put in systems for them to be successful. I am sure they are going to end up sticking somewhere because at the end of the day people want to have players from Connecticut on their team because they understand that the players have been coached well, they understand about being a pro and they also understand that they are going to work tremendously hard to help you win. I think both of them will be OK."

One last item on the announcing crew, I remember interviewing Viani when she was a senior in high school. She played in a game back in December of 2001 at the Westchester County Center and had 24 points to lead Our Lady of Lourdes High School to a 58-53 win over California power Narbonne, which was led by future UConn forward Willnett Crockett. I couldn't find the story online but she had some nice things to say about Crockett, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds in the game.

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UConn's Stewart an academic All-American

UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-American team.

Stewart, who leads the Huskies with an average of 16.9 points per game, was joined on the second team by Tennessee's Cierra Burdick, West Virginia's Averee Fields, Ruth Hamblin of Oregon State and South Dakota State's Megan Waytasheck.

Stewart has a 3.33 GPA in an individualized major of sports in society.

Yale's Matt Townsend was not only named a men's first team Division I Academic All-American for the second year in a row, but he was named the Academic All-American of the Year.

Unofficially five seeds locked up for American Athletic Conference women's tourney

Although there are still two days of competition left in the American Athletic Conference regular season, by my computations five of the 11 seeds for the upcoming tournament have been clinched.

1. UConn: Although South Florida can still mathematically tie UConn (although it would take the highly, highly, highly improbable circumstances of the Huskies losing to Memphis and USF), UConn would win the tiebreaker based on a better head to head record against East Carolina.
2. USF: Locked into No. 2 seed
3-6: Tulane, East Carolina, Tulsa and Temple are all bunched up with six losses each. The good news is Tulane plays Tulsa and East Carolina meets Temple on Saturday so that will clear things up. East Carolina is in best shape if it wins out since it split the regular-season series with Tulane and Tulsa.  The next tiebreaker would be best quality win and East Carolina would win that by virtue of its victory against South Florida. The only way ECU wouldn't be the No. 3 seed if it beats Temple would be due to a loss to Central Florida on Monday. Tulane would win the tiebreaker with Temple based on its record against Tulsa while Tulsa would win a tiebreaker against Temple since it won the regular-season game between the teams.
7. Memphis: Tigers can't move into the next group and even if they lost the final two games, Central Florida is the only team with the possibility of catching Memphis and the Tigers swept the regular season series
8 Central Florida: The Knights' win over Tulsa would give them a tiebreaker if they finish tied with Cincinnati
9: Cincinnati can lock up the No. 9 seed with a win over SMU on Saturday. It appears that the only way Cincinnati wouldn't be the ninth seed is if SMU beats Cincinnati, both teams lose on Monday and then SMU wins a coin flip since it would be impossible to break the tie any other way.
10: Although Houston could tie SMU, the teams split their regular-season meetings and SMU would win the tiebreaker based on a win over UCF. Only way SMU wouldn't be the 10th seed is if it beats out Cincinnati for the ninth seed,
11 Houston: Locked into No. 11 seed

The tournament starts a week from tomorrow with three games
No. 8 Central Florida vs. No. 9 Cincinnati or SMU, 4 p.m.
No. 7 Memphis vs. No. 10 Cincinnati or SMU, 6 p.m.
No. 6 seed vs. No. 11 Houston, 8 p.m.

The quarterfinals are set for Saturday with UConn playing at approximately 2 p.m. against the winner of the 8/9 game.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pair of UConn legends begin quest for EuroLeague title

With all due respect to what may transpire in the WNBA playoffs, there might not be a higher level of women's professional basketball than what will happen in the coming weeks during the race to crown the EuroLeague Women champion.

The four quarterfinal series begin on Tuesday, game two in the best of three series is a week from tomorrow and the if necessary game will be played on Mar. 11.

A pair of former Huskies are part of the pool of players pursuing championship glory.

Diana Taurasi's UMMC Ekaterinburg team will face fellow Russian team Nadezhda. Another of the series features an all-Turkey showdown as Tina Charles' Fenerbahce squad squares off with Galatasaray.

I haven't been updating the progress of UConn products playing overseas or in South America as much in the past so I decided to do a little catching up and here are the stats for the players still currently playing professionally.


Tina Charles Fenerbahce (Turkey)
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
13 27.6 89-202  1-5  26-33 15.8-7.3-1.5-0.8-0.7 (1.5)
Stefanie Dolson Osmaniye Genclik (Turkey)
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
2 29.5 14-29   0-1   3-3  15.5-6.5-0.5-0.0-0.5 (1.5)
Spartak Vidnoe (Russia) NO LONGER WITH TEAM
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
11 21.7 52-91   0-2  14-17 10.7-4.2-0.6-0.8-0.5 (2.1)
Kelly Faris Adelaide (Australia) NO LONGER WITH TEAM
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
13  19.4  19-57   5-18  6-8     3.8-3-5-1.2-0.6-0.5 (1.5)
Bria Hartley UE Sopron (Hungary) 
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
17 26.1 76-167 26-67 42-55 12.9-2.9-2.6-1.9-0.1 (2.4)
Tiffany Hayes Recife (Brazil)
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
 15 27.9 74-105 22-46 65-78 18.6-4.1-2.5-1.7-0.3 (2.9)
Charde Houston Woori Bank Hansae Chuncheon (South Korea)G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT        PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
33 22.0 236-461 10-45 80-109 17.0-7.4-1.3-0.8-1.2 (2.3)
Asjha Jones Elitzur Ramla (Israel) 
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
9 29.6 53-93   0-0  25-31 14.8-7.9-1.9-0.7-0.1 (2.0)
Kaili McLaren Urla Eka S.K. Izmir (Turkey)G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
8 36.4 57-120  2-15 15-19 16.4-12.1-2.0-1.6-2.1 (2.3)
Maya Moore Shanxi (China) 
G  FG-ATT 3PT         FT   PPG   R   A     S   B  (TO)
21  238-509 44-162 113-142 30.1-8.4-4.1-3.6.-0.8 (1.7)
Renee Montgomery Chevakata (Russia) 
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
15 31.7 77-187 33-84 28-36 14.3-2.7-3.4.1.9-0.1 (2.9)
Ketia Swanier CCC Polkowice (Poland)G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
18 29.9 50-102 18-64 16-23  9.4-5.7-4.1-2.2-0.0 (2.1)
Diana Taurasi UMMC Ekateriburg  (Russia)
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
12 31.4 68-145 32-72 36-42 17.0-4.6-6.2-1.1-0.2 (2.3)
Barbara Turner Orduspor (Turkey) 
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
14 33.5 59-154 33-93 39-50 12.8-6.0-3.4-0.8-0.5 (1.8)
Samarie Walker Gran Canarie (Spain)
G Min   FG-ATT 3PT FT   PPG R    A     S   B  (TO)
6 34.5     18-37   0-0   2-4      6.3-13.0-1.5-2.2-1.3 (1.5)

UConn signee Samuelson is WBCA Player of Year

UConn incoming freshman Katie Lou Samuelson was named the WBCA High School Player of the Year and she was joined on the WBCA All-American team by fellow UConn commit Napheesa Collier.

Samuelson, a 6-foot-3 guard/forward at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., is averaging 29.5 points per game as a senior and has nine games with at least five 3-pointers including a pair of games with 10 treys.

Collier, a 6-foot-1 forward at Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis, is averaging 26.3 points, 12.5 rebounds. 2.4 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks per game as a senior.

De'Janae Boykin, the third member of UConn's incoming freshman class, was named an honorable mention All-American as was Capital Prep star and Maryland commit Kiah Gillespie.

Here is the All-American team
Kalani Brown Salmen High School Slidell, La. Baylor
Napheesa Collier Incarnate Word Academy Bel-Nor, Mo. Connecticut
Te'a Cooper McEachern High School Powder Springs, Ga. Tennessee
Asia Durr St. Pius X Catholic High School Atlanta, Ga. Louisville
Lashann Higgs Cedar Ridge High School  Round Rock, Texas  Texas
Jordan Hosey Manvel High School Pealand, Texas Texas
Kyra Lambert Samuel Clemens High School Cibolo, Texas Duke
Arike Ogunbowale Divine Savior Holy Angels High School Milwaukee, Wis. Notre Dame
Ali Patberg Columbus North High School Columbus, Ind. Notre Dame
Katie Lou Samuelson Mater Dei High School Santa Ana, Calif. Connecticut

Here's the list of honorable mention All-Americans
Kristine Anigwe Desert Vista High School Phoenix, Ariz. California
De'Janae Boykin C.H. Flowers High School Springdale, Mo. Connecticut
Kennedy Burke Sierra Canyon High School Northridge, Calif. UCLA
Jonquanae Cole Paul VI High School Fairfax, Va. North Carolina State
Taja Cole L.C. Bird High School Chesterfield, Va. Louisville
Sophie Cunningham Rock Bridge High School Columbia, Mo. Missouri
Brianna Fraser South Shore High School Brooklyn, N.Y. Maryland
Kiah Gillespie Capital Prep Hartford, Conn. Maryland
Ashley Hearn Sachse High School Sachse, Texas UCLA
Kelly Koshuta James Madison High School Vienna, Va. Virginia Tech
Marina Mabrey Manasquan High School Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. Notre Dame
Aliyah Mazyck Myers Park High School Charlotte, N.C. USC
Beatrice Mompremier Miami Senior High School Miami, Fla. Baylor
Teniya Page Marian Catholic High School Chicago, Ill. Penn State
Jessica Shepard Fremont High School Fremont, Neb. Nebraska
Marta Sniezek Nationa Cathedral School Washington, D.C. Stanford
Faith Suggs Homewood Flossmoor High School Flossmoor, Ill. Duke
Andee Velasco Mater Dei High School Santa Ana, Calif. Loyola Marymount
Destinee Walker Lake Highland Prep Orlando, Fla. North Carolina
Stephanie Watts Weddington High School Monroe, N.C. North Carolina

Lofty praise for UConn signee Samuelson

Jeff Sink is not the first coach to offer words of praise to UConn incoming freshman Katie Lou Samuelson but when you consider the background of Sink, the 2010 WBCA National Coach of the Year who has won more CIF Southern Section titles than any other girls' coach, what he says speaks volumes.

After Samuelson scored 33 points including 25 in the first half to lead Mater Dei to a 77-50 win in the CIF Southern Section Open Division quarterfinals Sink was quoted by the Orange County Register as saying "Katie Lou is the real deal. That’s why she’s going to UConn and is going to be the next Diana Taurasi. Next to Diana, she’s the best kid I’ve seen."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

UConn commits Collier, Samuelson Naismith POY Finalists

UConn incoming freshmen Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson are among five finalists for Naismith National Player of Year.

Collier, a 6-foot-1 forward out of Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis, is averaging 26.3 points and 11.8 rebounds while Samuelson, a 6-foot-3 wing at Mater Dei HS, is averaging 29.4 points per game.

Louisville commit Asia Durr, Tennessee signee Te'a Cooper and Texas commit Lashann Higgs are the other finalists.

A running UConn team is a happy UConn team

It is hardly a trade secret to reveal that the UConn women's basketball team is at its best when it is out in transition.

Whether it is Moriah Jefferson's aggressive drives to the basket or Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis spotting up for a 3-pointer, the Huskies thrive when racing up the court after a turnover or missed shot.

In Monday's win over Tulane no two players were any better executing in the transition game than Moriah Jefferson and Saniya Chong.

Jefferson finished with a season-high eight steals (one shy of her career best) while Chong not only dished out a career-high eight assists but she did so without committing a turnover.

"That is part of their offense, they really want to drive it and kick it out," Jefferson said. "(Assistant coach) Shea (Ralph) told me about it, she had a good scout so I went down there and tried to get some steals."

Six of Jefferson's 11 first-half points came off her own steals and two others resulted after a steal and dish by Morgan Tuck. Jefferson finished with 15 points as she scored in double figures for the sixth game in a row which matched the longest stretch of her career.
"The thing that I like about Moriah right now is she is playing with a lot of confidence, she is making things happen at both ends of the floor," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I thought there were a couple of lapses there late but she has control of the team right now, she has our offense under control. She knows exactly who's where and when and what we need to do."

Chong came into the game with no more than four assists in a game this season and had committed multiple turnovers in each of the last three games. Ten times this season Chong had a turnover-free game but she had just 14 assists in those games. In the second half Chong had seven assists as she played a team-high 19 minutes after halftime.

"She was really crafty with the ball even when she wasn't getting the assists, she was getting it into the lane and getting a nice layup," Jefferson said. "I think she is coming along well and giving us some good minutes."

Auriemma is just happy to see that Chong continues to make positive contributions even when her outside shot isn't there which was the case last night.
"Saniya, I don't know how she does it but in the two years that she has been here she has a way of getting the ball on the rim in traffic," Auriemma said. "Sometimes I would rather Saniya take a contested layup than a wide open jump shot. She has a better chance of making a contested layup but I want her to be consistent, I want her to contribute every day. I think Gabby (Williams) did the same thing. The first possession that she was in the game she made a play and that is what you want. We tried to play our starters extended minutes in a row  so it is not four minutes in, four minutes out. I want them to play a lot of minutes so they get used to playing without a lot of rest and there weren't any fouls called for maybe the first 10 minutes (the first foul was called with 11:34 left in the first half). They had a chance to play without a lot of stoppage."

SENIOR DAY CLINCH
There will be plenty of hugs exchanged when seniors Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes are honored on Saturday as they play their final regular-season home game. The game against Memphis will feature another kind of a clinch, however.

Barring a stunning upset by Cincinnati when the Bearcats play South Florida later on today, UConn will have a chance to secure its second straight outright American Athletic Conference regular-season title with a win over Memphis. It figures to add to an already special day at Gampel Pavilion.

"All senior nights are good, they are all important and it is always a special night at Connecticut," Auriemma said. "By the time you get to be a senior in our program, you probably have been through a lot of great things. You experienced things that a lot of college players never had a chance to experience. Obviously the difference is that it is not the last game to be played but in one sense it is a way to celebrate. That building has been their home for the last four games, they have won a lot of games there, they have celebrated a lot of great moments there. I hope Saturday is everything that it should be for those two and their parents."

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Monday, February 23, 2015

UConn's latest title came with little fanfare

When you are winning your conference games by nearly 50 points per game it can be hard to generate too much excitement about winning a conference championship.

That was certainly the vibe inside of Devlin Fieldhouse on Monday night. UConn's 94-47 win over host Tulane clinched a share of a second straight American Athletic Conference regular-season title. The accomplishment was not one that was even mentioned by the players or coaches before, during or after the game.

It was a much different situation from a season ago when UConn ended the regular season needing to win at nationally-ranked Louisville to avoid sharing the title in the inaugural season of the AAC.

With a two-game lead and two games to play against teams the Huskies have beaten by 46 and 42 points this season, there was no sense of mission accomplished in the visiting locker room at the crowning achievement.

"I think Louisville is one of those cases where you are going to tie or you are going to win the whole thing, you are on the road, it is a great crowd," Auriemma said. "That is quite different than anything else we might face. We are kind caught in between. I know conference championships are important and I know you are always trying to win the championship of the conference that you are in. That is what you play for and that is why you keep standings and at the same time, we know that there are other things that we are focused on."

The main focus for UConn is to constantly improve. The games, especially those against conference foes, have been a situation where if UConn emerges without  serious injury it was a successful venture,

Still, titles are nothing to scoff at.

"I haven't really thought about it before," Moriah Jefferson said. "You want to play well, you want to go into the conference tournament coming off a good conference season."

UConn's Jefferson a finalist for Lieberman Award

UConn junior Moriah Jefferson is one of the 15 finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, presented annually to the nation's top point guard.

Jefferson is averaging 11.7 points to go with team-high totals of 124 assists and 65 steals. She has the top two season marks in assist/turnover ratio in UConn history.

Meriden native Damika Martinez of Iona, who recently became the MAAC's all-time leading scorer, was also named as a finalist.

UConn's Nurse in midst of special debut season

I'm sure when Kia Nurse was doing battle with big brother Darnell, now a defenseman of the future for the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, she never envisioned celebrating her 19th birthday with members of the UConn women's basketball team in the city of New Orleans.

While Nurse certainly has enjoyed her time in the Big Easy, there is nothing easy about Nurse's playing style. She plays with an aggressive nature that reminds me of Kelly Faris on the defensive end. On the offensive side of the ball, she is entering territory that only a few UConn freshmen have ever reached.

Nurse needs 14 assists and four steals to become just the sixth UConn freshman with 100 assists and 50 steals. No freshman at UConn ahead of  her on the single-season assist list have a better assist/turnover ratio than her mark of 1.91. She also has the best 3-point percentage (43.7) of any Husky freshman with at least one made 3-pointer per game.

Nurse can record her 20th double-digit scoring game of the season tonight when the Huskies play Tulane. It would be an incredible understatement to say that Nurse has wasted little time impressing her teammates and coaches.

"When you have a freshman like Kia who starts right away,  something we don't have a lot here, we don't view her as a freshman," UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph said. "She does have ebbs and flows during the season and the most important thing for her is to find consistency in practice and when that happens, the games are like clock work."

Nurse was asked to come in and help fill the shoes of All-American Bria Hartley and play alongside a nucleus of veterans who have as strong of a bond on the court as they do off of it. Her older teammates can speak too highly of Nurse.
"Every freshman is going to have some struggles," UConn senior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. "The issue right now, and it is not really even an issue, just a thing she is struggling with is her confidence and knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot. She is learning the difference between going fast and being our of control but other than that, her intensity, her effort never changes and that is something we need from her."

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UConn's Stewart named American Athletic Conference Player of the Week

After averaging 27 points while shooting better than 70 percent from the field to go with seven rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots per game, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Breanna Stewart would be named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week. That's exactly what happened.

Stewart had 26 points and five rebounds against Houston and then added a season-high 28 points in a win over Tulsa.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

UConn's Stewart can be unstoppable

If Geno Auriemma had his way there would be more performances from reigning national player of the year Breanna Stewart like the one she had in the first half of Saturday's win at Tulsa.

It was during her remarkable sophomore season when Auriemma said he'd be fine with Stewart taking 20 shots a game. Well, 27 games into her junior season she is still waiting for her first 20-shot effort. It certainly looked like she was going to get there against the Hurricanes when she took 15 shots.

Playing just nine minutes in the second half because the Huskies were running away with things, Stewart finished 13 of 18 from the field en route to scoring a season-high 28 points.

"The thing with Stewie is she is not selfish enough to come out here and say 'I am going to prove to everybody on every night that I am the best player in the country,'" Auriemma said. "I wish she was but she is not. I wish she would get 25 every single game but she doesn't, that is not who she is."

The 18 field goal attempts are the second most she has attempted this season as she had 19 in a Jan. 14 win over Temple. That happened to be a similar set of circumstances as Tulsa like Temple started four guards which resulted in some matchup issues with a 5-9 or 5-10 player being asked to defend the 6-4 Stewart.

While Stewart understands there is a lot on her shoulder this season, she also recalls what happened in the second game of the season when some of her supporting cast struggled resulting in an overtime loss to Stanford. It is important to Stewart that she not simply be the only offensive option.

"It is a team game," Stewart said. "Yes, you want to have individual success but going into March, I need this whole team to be playing well, to be playing confident and aggressive. I am going to be aggressive in what I am doing but at the same, it is not 1 on 5, I have teammates out there for a reason."

After the game Auriemma was asked if Stewart was having as good of a season as she did as a sophomore.
"I don't know how you determine whether she is or whether she isn't," Auriemma said. "That is a very subjective evaluation especially when you look at what she did last year and she was player of the year, she is doing the exact same thing.

"When you've done what she has done in her freshman and sophomore year, what is she going to do to get people to say 'she is way better?' All Stewie can do is just help us win every game and whatever happens after that happens. She has gotten better, no question. Maya Moore was maybe the best player in the country as a freshmen, she didn't change much in the four years except the natural progression of getting older, getting more mature, be a better player. It is little things that you see that are better. When we watch her in practice, there are little things that she does that are way better but they may not always show up in the box score."

Her offensive performance in the first half was something special even with the high standard she set during her first two seasons.

"She is one of those rare great 3-point shooters who is 6-4, you see that last shot of the first half and that was an NBA 3, she is bringing the ball up the floor and starting our break,"Auriemma said. "There really are so many things that are a part of her game that people watching, people who watch Stewie play every day they see it all the time but if you only watch Stewie play one time, you don't see it. "

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

UConn's offense steals the show

It's seen some impressive stuff from the UConn women's basketball team but can't recall too many 10-plus minute stretches as overwhelming as the one the Huskies had in today's win over Tulsa.

It was a 28-21 game when Tulsa's Kelsee Grovey hit a 3-pointer with 8:54 left in the first half.

The Huskies then hit the next four shots, had another run of six in a row. When Grovey hit another jumper with 17:44 left in the game, it ended a 34-2 UConn run.

"Our defensive pressure isn't very good," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I think I do it because they don't like to do it but the kind of pressure we put on people by how quickly we score, that is a difficult kind of pressure to deal with."

UConn was 14 of 20 from the field with seven steals, three blocks and three turnovers while Tulsa was 1 of 9 with eight turnovers. Most of the offensive damage was done by Breanna Stewart (13 points of her season high 28 points to go with four rebounds, a steal and two blocks during the run) and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (eight of her 17 points during that stretch)/

"When just one of those guys is going it is a difficult thing but when both of them are going, it is fun to watch," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Those two are pretty special, you are talking about two of the best players in the country. It is very difficult for a team to defend that."

An undersized Tulsa team often times tried to defend Stewart with a player standing less than 6 feet tall so UConn got Stewart the ball in the lane early and often. It was a little surprising how much room they gave Mosqueda-Lewis to shoot and most of her five 3-pointers were pretty wide open.

"Kaleena and myself, whether we are playing a two-man game or she is knocking down shots, when we get into a rhythm, it rubs off on your teammates and more people get more confident."

Mosqueda-Lewis' five 3-pointers moved her into a tie for 13th on the NCAA Division I career list. Her 357 3s ties her with former Penn State star Kelly Mazzante. She is also 25 points shy of 2,000. After the game she reflected on what it's like playing alongside Stewart when they both have it going on.
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"With the confidence we have in each other, if one person or both of us are hot, we can do a pick and roll, we can play inside/outside," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I think we do a good job of feeding off of each other when both of us are doing really well."

UCONN COMMITS ADD TITLES TO GROWING COLLECTION
Eventually Crystal Dangerfield and Andra Espinoza-Hunter will be joining forces at UConn. In the meantime, they will continue to add to their collection of championships.

Dangerfield had 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals as Blackman High defeated Oakland 55-47 to win the Tennessee District 7-AAA title for the second year in a row. Dangerfield was named the 7-AAA regular season and tournament MVP. Next up is the region quarterfinal against Lincoln County on Monday.

Espinoza-Hunter had 19 points as Blair Academy won its fifth straight New Jersey Prep School Class A title with a 72-53 win over Peddie. Bre Cavanaugh, who has signed with California, led Blair with 29 points.

Blair Academy won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League title last week beating that same Peddie school.

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UConn spreading the wealth

Geno Auriemma went on the record earlier this season as saying he didn't think this was a particularly good passing team. Actually, I think something close to horrible or terrible would better bit his thoughts on the matter.

Apparently his latest UConn team's ability to pass is improving in the eyes of the demanding head coach.

"I think we have become a better passing team each year as the season goes on as we become a little bit more familiar and certainly spend a lot of time on it in practice. That is kind of one of the trademarks of our program and it has been for a long time sometimes to our detriment that we don't shoot enough. I think players by virtue of being in our program over a period of time do become better passers."

The last time out against Houston nine different UConn players had at least two assists. I did some checking and the last time that happened at UConn game in an NCAA tournament game against Dartmouth on Mar. 20, 2005.

It's sort of an interesting statistic but looking back, the games with the most players with multiple assists came when the Huskies emptied their bench due to the lopsided score but both back in 2005 and today, getting nine players with multiple assists signifies some good passing post players.

"The worst kind of team that you can't have is post players who can't pass," Auriemma said. "To me if you have a bunch of big guys and they can't help the offense that is where all offenses go to die. The guards do a great job of getting the ball up the floor, they get it to a post player, they are not open, they can't shoot it and they catch it and it is dead. We have had post players who can pass the ball going all the way back to Kerry Bascom, Meghan Pattyson, Kara (Wolters), Rebecca (Lobo), we generally have big guys who can make a play, that is as much of a reason why our offense is at good as it is."

That is certainly the case this season as the starting frontcourt of Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are all on pace to finish with more than 100 assists this season. Even more impressive is that the trio has a 1.7 assist/turnover ratio. There are teams with guards who don't have that ratio. As a team, UConn is on pace to finish with the third most assists in team history trailing only last year's squad and the 2001-02 team. Both of that teams happened to finish as undefeated national championship squads.

"It is really great for us, it shows how unselfish our team is and how much we can rely on other people that when I give them (the ball) they are going to do something good, they are going to knock the shot down," Mosqueda-Lewis said.

MEMPHIS GAME SOLD OUT
UConn announced that the Feb. 28 game against Memphis is officially considered to be a sellout. It will be the final regular season home game. Seniors Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes will be recognized before their game as they play at Gampel for the final time in the regular season (although UConn is hoping the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament).

HUGE GAME FOR UCONN RECRUITNG TARGET
Flower Mound (Tex.) forward Lauren Cox is considered by most to be the best player in the current high school junior class. She certainly played liked it last night. Cox had 26 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a state playoff win against Carroll.

It was the third triple-double of the season for Cox and the other two game against Plano, the team Flower Mound will  on Tuesday in the next round of the state playoffs.

Cox, a 6-foot-4 forward, is averaging 21 points, 15.3 rebounds and 5.4 blocked shots per game this season.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Family bonds run deep for UConn's Tuck

Morgan Tuck will get to experience one Senior Day festivity up close and personal when teammates Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes make that emotional walk out to midcourt to greet UConn coach Geno Auriemma before the Feb. 28 game against Memphis.

However, it is easy to excuse Tuck is some of her thoughts are with another player set to be honored before her final regular-season home game on that day.

Tuck's older sister Taylor has always been something of a role model. She was the person who helped Morgan when she started to get serious about basketball which happened well before she was being sought after by some of the nation's premier programs.

Taylor Tuck is set to be honored in the University of Illinois' final regular-season game against Michigan a couple of hours  before Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes are recognized in Storrs.

"She is really excited," Morgan Tuck said. "Right now she is trying to figure out what she wants to do after. I think it is hitting her that she only has a couple of months left in college."

Her younger sister won't be able to make it to Taylor Tuck's Senior Day event but her parents will proudly be there to offer support. Considering that the Tucks grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois, it would figure to be a short trip for David and Lydia Tuck to make it to the University of Illinois on Senior Night. That is not the case.

"My parents moved to Virginia at the beginning of this year," Morgan Tuck said, "My dad got a promotion so they will go back."

Morgan Tuck has mixed feelings about the fact that when she goes home, it will not be to see old friends in her hometown, just about 30 miles outside of Chicago but in a much different place.

"The house is better which is nice but it is kind of weird for me going back to the house," Tuck said. "It is great for my parents, my dad got a promotion and he deserved it. It is something new."

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

UConn venturing into new territory

This is truly one road trip that will be accompanied by a sense of the unknown.

The days of playing in familiar haunts as part of the conference schedule came to an end thanks to the ever-changing world of conference realignment. As a result the Huskies now play fellow American Athletic Conference teams in North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee.

UConn will leave for a two-game road trip tomorrow. First up will be the Huskies first trip to Tulsa and then on Monday the Huskies play at Tulane.

"We have been to New Orleans a bunch of times (for the Final Foue) but we obviously have never played there, we have practiced there," Auriemma said after Thursday's practice. "It will be a little familiar when we get there but in terms of what to expect game wise, it is like it has been for a number of years when we come in there is a curiosity factor there, they want to see us play, they heard about it. It is an opportunity for us to bring our game to a part of the country they haven't seen. I hope it is a huge crowd at both places, I hope it is sold out at both places. I hope the fans get to see Tulsa and Tulane and I hope they make a lot of new fans because of that. I'd like to come out of this trip 2-0 and feeling like we did a lot to help grow the game and help make our league better."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Allowing no free-throw attempts not one of UConn's defensive goals

The statistic is sort of the basketball version of the Twilight Zone.

Statistically speaking, UConn has some of the top defensive teams in NCAA women's basketball history yet just seven times in program history have the Huskies not surrendered a free throw to an opponent. It happened to occur in each of the last two games.

"We played two teams (Tulane and Houston) that shoot a lot of jump shots, don't really try to attack the lane and push it on the dribble," Auriemma said. "That is just unusual, that just doesn't happen."
But it has.
South Carolina's Aleighsa Welch made one free throw and missed the second one after being fouled by Moriah Jefferson with 2:25 left in UConn's 25-point win over previously undefeated and top-ranked South Carolina on Feb. 9. Since then no opposing player has been awarded a foul shot.
"In the end that is kind of the object of the game, that is why it is called a foul because it is not allowed," Auriemma said. "You would want to try to pay the game where you don't do things that are not allowed. It is not much different from a turnover. You turn it over 18-20 times, everybody is up in arms 'oh my God that is a lot of turnovers.' If you commit 17/18 fouls 'that is all right' That is not all right. We spend a lot of times in practice making sure it is not all right. That is not to say we are going to go into a game saying we are not going to give up any free throws. A goal in our games is to not get into the 1 and 1, that was a goal coming into (Tuesday), that was the game plan and it is the game plan every day. These last two opponents, it just kind of played out that way."
If the Huskies were as adept at not fouling when the season began as they are now they would likely be in position for yet another perfect season. However. in a Nov. 17 overtime loss at Stanford the Huskies allowed Lili Thompson to attempt 12 foul shots while Bonnie Samuelson and Kailee Johnson took six free throws each.

"We probably led the country in fouling 3-point shooters which is like the dumbest thing in basketball that you can do," Auriemma said.  "(Making) 3s are not easy, great 3-point shooters even K (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis), you are only going to make have of them if you are the best 3-point shooter of all time. I don't know anybody who shoots 50 percent from the free throw line, not good players anyway so to me fouling a 3-point shooter has to be the dumbest thing you could possibly do as a player and we were doing that on a regular basis for a while.

"The next thing is fouling two-point shooters who are shooting jump shots so we kind of cleaned that up for the most part  and the rest of the stuff is being aware of what is going on around you. Not being undisciplined to the point that you don' know where you are, you don't know where the ball is and you don't know what is going on. I think over the last month I think we have gotten really good at controlling the things that we can control. We are making teams have to do stuff to make us foul them instead of just fouling them just because we want to. We are not in the giving spirit. Valentine's Day is a pointless holiday, Christmas season we were in a giving spirit."

In the first 12 games of the season Auriemma could not believe how many times his players fouled an opponent in the act of taking a jumper. When the calendar switched from 2014 to 2015, he began to see a difference as the Huskies went from allowing 12.2 free throws per game in the first 12 contests of the season to just seven attempts over the last 14 games.
"Coach has been emphasizing not fouling jump shooters and that has been huge in the last two games," UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart said. "The fact that they haven't gotten into the 1 and 1 in either (half in the last two games) kind of shows that our defense is growing and maturing. Hopefully we will continue to do that. We have gotten more and more comfortable with our defensive rotations. If somebody beats you they are going to have to make a tough shot because the person with help-side (defensive responsibility) is going to come and contest the shot."

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

UConn flexes its muscles in win over Houston

Considering how much Houston has struggled in the rebounding department and in keeping teams from scoring inside, it was only natural that UConn would feed the ball into the post early in often in the showdown between the first and last-place teams in the American Athletic Conference.

The Huskies were able to score at will in the lane in the early going and by game's end UConn had its top margin of points in the paint in the 85-26 victory by outscoring the Cougars 62-8 in the paint.

"We are not a team that tries to identify one player than we normally would do so," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We took enough 3s, we just didn't make any of them (finishing 3 of 17 from 3-point range). We probably would have taken more if some of them went in but it was just the type of game where it was available to us so we took advantage of it."

Stewart finished with 26 points on 11 of 16 shooting, Tuck had 12 points and Kiah Stokes had six points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

"We had the height advantage and we wanted to be aggressive," Stewart said.

PRACTICE PLAYERS HONORED
The importance of the male practice players sometimes flies under the radar but UConn has made it a point of recognizing them when they can. Well that time was tonight when they were introduced before the game for their contributions.

"They have done a lot for this program and they are best team we are going to face every single season and that is every year I have been here," Stewart said. "They work just as hard as we do. They are guys, when you have guys who can play basketball, it is a different level. It is not like they never picked up a basketball before, they know how to play."

TOUGH SITUATION FOR COUGARS
If his track record counts for anything, first-year Houston coach Ron Hughey will turn the program around. He has had success at multiple stops as an assistant coach and has earned a reputation as a first-rate recruiter.

While Auriemma hasn't been on the wrong end of an 85-26 score at any point during his time at UConn, he was asked after the game if he even put himself in the place of the teams being crushed by his squad.
"There are times when I felt the frustration and I can remember where we were, who we were playing and who we were playing," Auriemma said. "When you feel that frustration that no matter what we do tonight, we are not going to win, no matter what we try it is not going to work. I have been there and it is just a really demoralizing kind of feeling. As a coach it makes you stand up straight and say 'OK, if I am in this business I have to learn to put up with it.' This is Ron's first year and he has some work to do so when you are in that situation you look at it and say 'all right , the next time we play those guys it is not going to be like that. I don't know what it is going to be but it is not going to be like this.' That is the way I took it while I was in that situation (of suffering frustrating losses). I was young and I thought I could fix anything and take care of anything. If that happened to me right now I would probably choke myself on that microphone . I don't know if I could deal with it today."

Tale of the tape: UConn vs. Houston

Tonight's game won't be helping UConn's RPI, that's for sure.

Houston is in the midst of trying to turn things around as former Texas and Florida State assistant coach Ronald Hughey is in his first season at Houston but he has plenty of work to do.

It will be first-place UConn facing Houston, the last-place team in the American Athletic Conference.

Houston ranks 300th or lower out of 343 teams in seven major NCAA statistical categories. UConn is No. 1 in four of those categories and in the top five in two others.

SCORING OFFENSE    UConn 1; Houston 315
SCORING MARGIN:   UConn 1; Houston 311
FG PERCENTAGE:     UConn 1; Houston 310
FG PCT. DEFENSE:     UConn 1; Houston 300
3-PT PCT DEFENSE:   UConn 22; Houston 331
REBOUND MARGIN: UConn 5; Houston 330
ASSISTS:                      UConn 2; Houston 309

Monday, February 16, 2015

UConn commit stars in title game

Andra Espinoza-Hunter, a rare sophomore commit, played a starring role as Blair Academy won its fifth straight Mid-Atlantic Prep League title over the weekend.

I didn't see any box scores from Sunday's title game so I watched the replay of the game available on youtube and I had Espinoza-Hunter with 24 points (aided by four 3-pointers and two three-point plays), four rebounds, two assists and four steals in Blair's 65-42 win over the Peddie School.

According to a tweet by Blair Academy coach Quint Clarke, Espinoza-Hunter had 57 points and eight 3-pointers in the tournament as Blair defeated the Hun School 90-68 in Saturday's semifinals and then topped Peddie in the title game. The numbers are all the more impressive when you consider that there are four seniors headed to play college basketball on the team as Batouly Camara (Kentucky) and Bre Cavanaugh (California) are Division I signees, Cy Lippold is also a Division I recruit who is headed to Dartmouth while Lauren Vostal is bound for Williams.

Next up is a state semifinal game against Lawrenceville. If Blair wins, the state championship game is on Saturday.

ANOTHER TOP SENIOR LOST FOR THE SEASON
It has been a rough season for some of the nation's top seniors as Tennessee senior center Isabelle Harrison tore her ACL in a game against rival Kentucky. She joins Minnesota's Rachel Banham and Nneka Enemkpali as the third prominent senior to be lost for the season.

I happened to be watching the early portion of the second half of yesterday's Tennessee/Kentucky when Harrison's right knee bended back in a manner than knees aren't supposed to bend. Harrison, who already had a brace on the knee, was screaming in pain before she hit the floor and had to be carried off the court. Tennessee confirmed what anybody who was watching the game pretty much assumed and that was that Harrison's career at Tennessee was over.

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Awards rolling in for UConn's Jefferson

Junior guard Moriah Jefferson has been named the Player of Week both by ESPNW and the American Athletic Conference after averaging 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3 steals in wins over No. 1 South Carolina and Tulane.

Jefferson was 13 of 19 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3-point range with one of the misses being a half-court heave as time expired in the first half against Tulane. She also had just one turnover in 66 minutes.

Jefferson is the third member of the same recruiting class to earn AAC Player of the Week honors as Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart have received the award twice with Tuck also being named the ESPNW Player of the Week after her brilliant performance in the early December win at Notre Dame. When you add in that Kia Nurse has been named the AAC's Freshman of the Week twice (teammate Gabby Williams has won the award three times) four of the Huskies' five starters have received weekly accolades from the American. The lone exception is Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who has been named to the weekly honor roll three times but has yet to earn player of the week honors.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

UConn's Tuck "most unsung really good player in the country"

A pair of national award late season lists and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson were among the 30 players named to the Naismith watch list and the 20 on the Wooden Award list. Yet, the player who has more double-digit scoring games this season than any other player failed to make either of the lists. I think anybody who has watched even a few moments of UConn's games this season would feel strongly that there aren't 20 players more deserving of receiving national recognition than redshirt sophomore forward Morgan Tuck.

In last night's win over Tulane, it was a classic Tuck performance as she was the first Husky to hit double digits in scoring as she had 10 points and three rebounds when the Huskies raced out to a 25-4 lead. She finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and no turnovers in 21 minutes in the 87-39 win over the third-place team in the American Athletic Conference.

"Morgan may be the most unsung really good player in the country," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the game. "I don't know who is paying attention to Morgan when people are talking about our team. I know that Stewie, K (Mosqueda-Lewis) and Moriah they get all the attention. I don't know if anybody is talking about Tuck but for our team, what we need and as well she shoots the ball, passes it, plays defense, rebounds, inside/outside, she is one of those kids that it is like having more than one player when you have somebody like that. For our team, she is perfect. I don't know where she would fit in with the big picture throughout the country but for our team she is perfect and maybe as important if not more important than anybody we've had this year."

Coming off an impressive win over No. 1 South Carolina, it was important for the Huskies to come out with an aggressive mindset. It was Tuck who led the way, contributing the first points of the game on a 3-pointer just 1:15 into the game.

"I don't know if it was the game plan," Tuck said. "I was just trying to be aggressive and my teammates  did a good job of giving me the ball inside, I just go in there and try to finish."

After the game was over Tuck's work wasn't done. Often times Auriemma has his players take over the post-game duties of hanging out prizes to the UConn students who come out to the Huskies home games. Last night it was Tuck's turn.
"I think it is cool that they can possibly get a prize for coming out and showing support, usually there are more students in the men's game but today we had a lot of students so it is great to see our fellow students supporting us," Tuck said.

A few statistical notes from last night's game.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had three 3-pointers as she moved into 14th place on the NCAA Division I women's basketball career list. She has the highest 3-point percentage of everybody in the top 15. She is also 10th on the Division I single-season list with a 3-point percentage of 51.4 and her career 3-point percentage of 44.9 is 13th on the NCAA Division I list.

Fellow senior Kiah Stokes had two blocked shots as she moved by Stewart and now has the third best single season mark in UConn history. Stokes now has 111 blocked shots and the only marks ahead of are 131 and 122 established by Rebecca Lobo in the 1994-95 and 1993-94 seasons.

Speaking of Stewart, she is now tied with current assistant coach Shea Ralph for 15th on UConn's career scoring list with 1,678 points.

Finally, UConn's opponent failed to attempt a free throw for just the sixth time in program history and first time since an NCAA tournament game against Iowa State on March 28, 2010.

"We try really, really hard to not foul and today both teams tried really hard not to foul," Auriemma said. "My team takes it personally. I have said this 1,000 times since I was 25 years old, there are only two reasons why you foul, one is you are dumb or two you are just not any good. If you have a combination of the two, if you have one or the other, you are salvageable. If you dumb and you are not any good, you foul all the time so to me guys who foul jump shooters, guys who foul with one second left on the shot clock, it is just mindless. I just don't think you can be a good player if you foul."


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Saturday, February 14, 2015

With iconic group of Huskies looking on, UConn rolls on

The game began not long after a touching meeting between the soon to be top-ranked UConn women's basketball team and a group of cancer survivors, a move adding a personal touch to the Huskies' annual Play 4 Kay game. What followed was a performance that made some rather interested spectators proud.

The 1994-95 UConn team was honored at halftime and with eight of the 12 players from that squad sitting in Section 101 with their families inside Gampel Pavilion, the current group of Huskies went about playing in a manner than helped that '95 squad win the first of the program's record nine national titles.

For all the great teams and incredible players UConn coach Geno Auriemma has mentored since that time, there has never been a group of Huskies who averaged more than the 22 1/2 assists the 1994-95 squad put up on a nightly basis. So what better way to pay tribute to the team that helped turn a program from national contender into national powerhouse.

Each of the seven UConn players to see at least 19 minutes of action, each one of them had multiple assists with Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck and Gabby Williams doing so without committing a turnover.

"I had a chance to talk to a bunch of them beforehand and I am going to have a chance to see them afterwards, just getting them back here and talk about what has happened here and how much this place has changed, how different  it is today it is just good to be around them," Auriemma said.

Jefferson had 16 points to lead six Huskies in double figures in the 87-39 win over a Tulane team that came into the game in third place in the American Athletic Conference.

"It is special anytime you can play in games like that, being in front of that crowd and in front of the '95 team, you want to come out and play your best and for the most part we did that," Jefferson said.
"Anytime you get to play in the front of the guys who kind of paved the way, you want to come out and play your best game."


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'95 UConn team allowed Huskies to go national

With two of the oldest, dearest friends in town as well as many members of the 1994-95 team which won the first of UConn's nine national teams back for a ceremony honoring their historic achievement, Geno Auriemma was in a trip down memory lane type of mood.

Often times he tends to stay in the moment, not wanting to allow his focus to wander by reflecting too much on past accomplishments but after Friday's practice, it was a much different situation.

There will be much more of the 1994-95 team after we get the chance to chat with some of the players today but one of the aspects of that team that has always intrigued me is how the recruiting landscape changed after that season.

The 1994-95 team consisted of four players from Connecticut, three from Massachusetts, two from Pennsylvania and one each from Maryland, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. Fast forward to today and the Huskies' starting lineup figures to feature a player from Ontario, one from California, another from Texas and yet another hailing from Illinois.

"When we won that national championship, I am not sure we were aware internally what we were doing and the impact we were having nationally," Auriemma said. "We kind of had an ideal that there was stuff going on because every week there was somebody different. Every week there was somebody from some newspaper around the country or some TV/magazine people who wanted to know what the heck is going on up at Connecticut. We knew something was going on but we didn't know the impact that we had. We probably didn't even know what was going on in the state of Connecticut for the most part. After we won that national championship and the way that season played out, all of a sudden we get Shea Ralph, Stacy Hansmeyer, Paige Sauer and things started to kind of expand. We are still not able to be anybody we want (in 1995) to be interested but we started getting a lot more kids. It is not like today where we have been doing it for so long that it is not too hard to get involved with a kid but it is hard to get a kid to come here."

Auriemma still recalls the recruiting blueprint that he put together in his first season back in 1985.

"We drew that pyramid or triangle (from) Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh over and we thought if we could get the best players in that area or at least most of the best players that year in and year out we could have a nationally competitive team. It wasn't until after that when we started getting kids from around the country. We just got a kid from North Carolina (Ralph), we got two kids from Oklahoma (Hansmeyer and Sauer) and oh my God, they are coming to UConn that kind of changed everything."

Starting point guard Moriah Jefferson is the first player from Texas to play at UConn, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is the latest California phenom to star for the Huskies and another one is coming next year in Katie Lou Samuelson. He reached into Nevada to get Gabby Williams, in the midst of an outstanding freshman season. A quick look at the list of UConn's career leaders indicates how far reaching UConn's recruiting process has become. Top career scorer Maya Moore played her high school ball in Georgia. No. 5 scorer Diana Taurasi is a native of California, Renee Montgomery hails from West Virginia, Mosqueda-Lewis who is quickly approaching Montgomery's scoring number is also from California, Svetlana Abrosimova came from Russia while players like Tiffany Hayes (Florida), Ann Strother (Colorado),  Ralph and Barbara Turner (Ohio) are from areas that UConn didn't recruit before that magical season.

UConn's Nurse thriving from charity stripe

Taking a quick peek at the American Athletic Conference individual statistics, there are some simply staggering numbers.

There's the fact that three AAC players who don't play for UConn have better 3-point percentages in conference play than UConn's team mark of 43.4 percent. Then there is the one where UConn players rank No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 in both field goal and 3-point percentage.

However, the one that caught my eye was that the AAC's No. 5 ranked free-throw shooter is UConn freshman Kia Nurse. Yes,. the same Kia Nurse who was 1 of 6 from the foul line against Notre Dame. Nurse's forgettable showing left her 15 of 28 from the charity stripe. It was a bit of a head scratcher that a player who was shooting 43 percent from 3-point range barely had more free throws made than missed.

What has happened since that Notre Dame game gives a peek into just how competitive of a kid Nurse is. She is shooting 80 percent from the line since that ND game and is at 82 percent in AAC games. She had two stretches when she made seven FTs in a row and goes into today's game against Tulane with a streak of 11 straight foul shots converted. A sign of just how confident she is came at the end of a recent practice when UConn coach Geno Auriemma had the players line up for wind sprints when Nurse volunteered to make a free throw to get her teammates out of the additional running. Nurse calmly stepped to the line and drained the shot. Auriemma then called for freshman Gabby Williams, a 45.2 percent foul shooter, to make a free throw. Williams also converted and the two freshmen, who were already well liked by their veteran teammates, were even more popular.

"It is something we work on every day in practice, we try to put a couple up before practice and before the games," said Nurse. I think it is focus and concentration, those are free points, there is nobody in front of you and you have to make them.

"We do free throws a lot when we are here and a lot of times I didn't get the number I wanted to but I am liking those (numbers) right now."

One interesting aspect of today's game is the number of quality freshmen playing in the game.

There are seven freshmen averaging more than 10 points per game in conference play and three of them will be in action at Gampel Pavilion. Tulane's Kolby Morgan is averaging 11.8 points per game while Nurse and Williams check in at 11 and 10.8 PPG. Morgan leads all players in steals, Williams is No. 1 among freshmen in rebounding and field-goal percentage while Nurse leads all rookies in assists,assist/turnover ratio, free-throw percentage and 3-point percentage.

My initial plan was to focus the advance in today's paper on the three dynamic freshmen but after watching Auriemma turn up the pressure on Nurse, Williams and sophomore Saniya Chong in an intense defensive drill at the end of practice, I ended up writing about that. I did ask him for his thoughts on Morgan.

"Shea's been working on (scouting) Tulane and the kid scores points," Auriemma said. "My hope is that is that as time goes on that there are a lot of freshmen that come into the league like that so you can see the growth that is going to happen in the league because she is really good and they are a good team/"

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Friday, February 13, 2015

UConn's Stokes thrilled for Senior CLASS nomination

Earlier this week Kiah Stokes earned special recognition as one of 20 UConn student-athletes to earn a 4.0 grade-point average in either the recently-completed fall semester or in the spring of 2014. Her hard work in the classroom could earn her a national honor.

Stokes was named one of 10 women's basketball finalists for the Senior CLASS Award which recognizes the senior who combines excellence on the court, in the classroom and in the community.

When Stokes was informed about the prestigious honor, she looked at the list of fellow finalists and seeing the impressive list only made the honor all the more precious to her.

The list includes Duke's Elizabeth Williams, Amber Orrange of Stanford and Iowa's Samantha Logic.

She joked that she could request assistance from the Husky faithful to join 2002 winner Sue Bird, 2011 honoree Maya Moore and last year's winner Stefanie Dolson as the UConn players to win the award.

"I told my fans, vote for me," Stokes said with a laugh. "We will see whether that happens, I don't know.

"I can't play basketball forever so whenever that ends, I need to fall back on something. Being nominated for this, I think it shows a lot about me just because I have been working hard in the classroom and with community service, I want to have something to do after basketball."

Stokes came to UConn with a reputation of being a first-rate student and has lived up to the advanced billing. She said her parents emphasized the importance of doing the work in the classroom but it is also something that she has always prided herself on.

"It is definitely about getting real good grades," Stokes said. "When I was in high school I had a math class and it was the only B I ever got in high school. I failed the test and I was heartbroken over it because I knew the material and I didn't do well on the test. School, it is hard work but I like to excel in school."

Stokes needs 15 rebounds to become the 17th UConn player with 750 in her career and is fourth on the career blocked shots list with 287. She needs two more blocks to take over sole possession of the No. 3 spot on the UConn single season list.

Fans can vote until March 23 at www.seniorclassaward.com with the fan voting one portion of the process of selecting the winner.

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UConn youngsters learning that practice makes perfect

This is lucky season No. 13 that I have covered the UConn women's basketball program. The previous 12 seasons when I was the primary beatwriter, the Huskies reached the Final Four 11 times and won seven of the program's nine national titles. If I have learned nothing else during this time it is that the more unstoppable people outside the program say Auriemma's Huskies are the more difficult he makes life for them in practice.

As I headed up to Storrs for practice the day before the Huskies resume their march to the American Athletic Conference regular-season title, I thought Auriemma was going to be even more hard to please than normal considering that the Huskies were coming off an impressive takedown of top-ranked and previously-undefeated South Carolina the last time out. My suspicions were confirmed as he kept the trio of sophomore Saniya Chong and freshmen Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams on the court for a good 20-30 minutes.

Playing alongside either Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis or Kiah Stokes, they had to come up with defensive stops against a quartet featuring three male practice players and former UConn captain Kelly Faris, who was in the area and took part in some drills.

The drill was not just a case of matching up player for player. The four Huskies had to start with at least one foot in the paint and race out to cover the 3-point threats across the court. The team with the ball was asked to pass quickly and make it so at least one of them had an open shot from the perimeter.

Each time Faris or sweet-shooting male practice player Ryan Probst would drain a shot, Auriemma would rip into his players. If they managed to deflect a pass away or force a missed shot and fail to come up with the loose ball, his frustration would only increase.

In the middle of all of this he said of Probst "I didn't know he could shoot." The reality of the matter is that after practice he said that Probst " is the best, he doesn't miss any shots."

It was no coincidence that his three most vocal players (Morgan Tuck, Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart) were on the baseline and not on the court. Auriemma wanted his young players to learn the value of communicating on the court.

"I think there are opportunities during the season to make a point especially in practice," Auriemma said. "It is not something you necessarily plan for. It is not like 'I am going to there today and I am going to do this.' You have a plan going into practice but today the practice guys were on fire, they were on top of their game.  When they get it going like that, they it is a huge challenge for our guys to get stops. The more they make shots, the harder it is to get stops. The harder it is to get stops, the more I am on them to get stops. It fires up the practice kids to make shots so it just kind of snowballs. One group invariably gets trapped out there and a couple of guys are trapped out there and they are the ones that are constantly giving up buckets so they are the ones that catch the wrath."

After practice Nurse said she understood what Auriemma was trying to accomplish and it is up to her, Williams and Chong to try to learn as much as they can during these practices.

"He always puts us in situations when it seems difficult and you have to do everything perfect just to beat them," Nurse said. "Those are situations you are going to be in at some point in your life and they are things that are going to make us better, force us to do the little things and force us to play the perfect defensive possession."
The upperclassmen have been through all of this before. I wasn't covering the team at the time but I still recall when UConn beat Tennessee in the historic first meeting between the teams back in 1995 and Rebecca Lobo was asked in a television interview what is next for her and the Huskies and she deadpanned "I am going back to being the worst post player in the country." Yes, that was how Auriemma referred to her.

"It is why we play well in big games because we put ourselves in those situations, you have a big game and can't get complacent after that," UConn junior guard Moriah Jefferson said. "You have to play hard through those practices and stay strong.

It is most important to have our guys talk, we are trying to talk. There are times when you are in the heat of the moment, it seems harder than it actually is. At the end of the day, if we just open our mouths we will be better at practice.

"You kind of learn how to grind it out. I am proud of Kia Nurse and Gabby, they really pushed through."

Speaking of Lobo, she is one of the members of the 1994-95 team expected to be on hand when the 1994-95 team is honored at halftime. It is also for Play for Kay game so fans are encouraged to wear pink.

UConn commit Dangerfield finalist for Miss Tennessee Basketball

UConn commit Crystal Dangerfield is one of three finalists in Class AAA for Miss Tennessee Basketball.

Dangerfield, a junior guard who was also a finalist for the award as a sophomore, is averaging 16 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game for Blackman High in Murfreesboro.

Dangerfield's teammate Alex Johnson, a senior averaging 15.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, and Brandi Beasley, a junior guard at Ridgeway HS in Memphis are the other finalists.