Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

More honors for UConn stars

Another day and additional honors for the stars of UConn's Final Four team.

Breanna Stewart was named to the Associated Press All-American team, Moriah Jefferson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis were second-team selections with Morgan Tuck earning honorable mention honors.

Also, Jefferson, Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart were named to the USBWA All-American team.

Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart each earned their second career nods to the squad, becoming the sixth and seventh different Husky players to receive multiple USWBA All-America honors.

Stewart, a 6-foot-4 junior, looked every bit like the reigning national player of the year in leading UConn into the Final Four for the eighth straight season, averaging 27 points and 14 rebounds in wins of Texas and Dayton. She is averaging a team-leading 17.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. She also needs four blocked shots to become the first player in program history with two seasons with at least 100 assists and 100 blocks.

Mosqueda-Lewis set the NCAA Division I women's career 3-point record during the second half of Monday's night's regional final. She is averaging 15.2 points per game and she tied her own UConn single-season record with 118 3-pointers.

Jefferson leads the Huskies with 181 assists and 96 steals and is averaging 12.3 points per game. She is also the team leader with a 50.5 3-point percentage.

Tuck is contributing 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game to help UConn head into the Final Four with a 35-game winning streak.

Stewart was joined on the AP first team squad by Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd, Tiffany Mitchell of South Carolina, Minnesota's Amanda Zahui B. and Nina Davis of Baylor.

Here is the list of the AP All-American teams

First Team=
Jewell Loyd, Notre Dame, 5-foot-10, junior, Lincolnwood, Ill.,  (35 first-team votes, 175 total points).
Breanna Stewart, UConn, 6-5, junior, Syracuse, N.Y. (35, 175).
Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina, 5-9, junior, Charlotte, N.C.,  (27, 159).
Nina Davis, Baylor, 5-11, sophomore, Memphis, Tenn., (21, 136).
Amanda Zahui B., Minnesota, 6-5, sophomore, Stockholm, (20, 129).
Second Team
 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn, 5-11, senior, Anaheim Hills, Calif.,  (7, 104).
Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State, 5-8, freshman, Cincinnati, (6, 97).
 Elizabeth Williams, Duke, 6-3, senior, Virginia Beach, Va.,  (6, 91).
Moriah Jefferson, UConn, 5-7, junior, Glenn Heights, Texas.,  (6, 87).
Brittany Boyd, California, 5-9, senior, Berkeley, Calif., (3, 48).
Third Team
Lexie Brown, Maryland, 5-9, sophomore, Suwanee, Ga., (1, 42).
Samantha Logic, Iowa, 5-9, senior, Racine, Wis.,(38).
Jillian Alleyne, Oregon, 6-3, junior, Fontana, Calif., (2, 32).
A'ja Wilson, South Carolina, 6-5, freshman, Hopkins, S.C.,  (28).
Ruth Hamblin, Oregon State, 6-6, junior, Houston, British Columbia, (1, 24).
Reshanda Gray, California, 6-3, senior, Los Angeles, (24).
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)
¶  Lindsay Allen, Notre Dame; Morgan Bailey, BYU; Adut Bulgak Florida State; Cierra Burdick, Tennessee; Blake Dietrick, Princeton; Lexi Eaton, BYU; Makayla Epps, Kentucky; Tia Faleru, Mississippi; Chelsea Gardner, Kansas; Dearica Hamby, Wake Forest; Alex Harden, Wichita State; Isabelle Harrison, Tennessee; Brittany Hrynko (1 first-team vote), DePaul; Niya Johnson (1), Baylor; Ashia Jones, UT-Martin; Jonquel Jones (1), George Washington; Jordan Jones, Texas A&M; Betnijah Laney, Rutgers; Vicky McIntyre, Oral Roberts. Mariya Moore, Louisville; Amber Orrange (1), Stanford; Kelsey Plum (1), Washington; Aerial Powers, Michigan State; Shereesa Richards, Albany; Porsha Roberts, Stephen F. Austin; Stacia Robertson, High Point; Leticia Romero, Florida State; Ka-Deidre Simmons, Seton Hall; Morgan Tuck, UConn; Brianna Turner, Notre Dame; Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State; Courtney Walker, Texas A&M; Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Maryland; Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina; Courtney Williams, South Florida.

Monday, March 30, 2015

UConn defense turns up the heat in second half to clinch Final Four berth

UConn headed into Monday's Elite Eight game against Dayton leading the country in scoring defense, field-goal percentage defense and ranking seventh in 3-point defense. Well, they looked like anything but a defensive terror in the opening 20 minutes.

Dayton, which dropped 99 points in stunning Kentucky on its home court and then eliminating two-time NCAA finalist Louisville to advance to the regional final for the first time in program history, showed no sense of intimidation facing the heavily-favored Huskies. What the Flyers did display was an ability to make shots.

Senior Ally Malott, who was on UConn's recruiting radar until it became clear that she was going to stay close to her Middletown, Ohio home, was 4 of 4 from 3-point range and had 14 points - by halftime. The Flyers were 7 of 10 from 3-point range and one of the misses was a half-court heave by Andrea Hoover that didn't miss by much.

"I am glad all of those guys made all of those shots because  it reinforced to our guys that 'if I put my hand up, I put it up and if I don't, I don't, it doesn't matter.' It does matter and they learned that tonight. In the second half there was a lot more and they learned that tonight. In the second half there was a lot more of a sense of 'here is how we are going to guard those ball screens and everybody is going to guard them like that.. They worked really hard. That first 10 minutes of the second half we got every loose ball, we rebounded, we contested shots, we forced turnovers. I think we took their legs out from them a little bit, they weren't able to just cleanly look at those 3s."

Malott had a simpler explanation.

"We knew they were probably getting yelled at a little bit (at halftime) and we knew that they were going to come out flying and maybe go on a run which they did."

Dayton did not attempt its first 3-pointer of the second half until more than seven minutes had elapsed. The first made 3 came with 11:55 left in the game.

"We were getting shots and we were making buckets," Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. "I thought we weren't going to be able to shoot it like that in the second half because we were on fire and I knew they were going to make adjustments. As I walked into the locker room I had to try to figure out what do we have to adjust to our offense because they are going to make some adjustments. They started switching all ball screens and we had a real hard time getting open in the second half."

Dayton shot just 37 percent from the floor in the second half and made just three second-half 3s.

The 21-point winning margin didn't truly indicate how competitive the game was.

Auriemma said he "I was sick to my stomach all day today" about the prospects of facing an offensive team like Dayton that has players who can score both inside and out. He called Dayton one of the best teams the Huskies have faced in the last five years.
"This is the best way to send us to the Final Four," UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart said. "It is a game when we really had to compete for the whole 40 minutes. Dayton never really gave up. We knew that they were a good team, they are in the Elite Eight for reason as everybody saw in the first half and for the whole game. they are better than everybody thinks and we didn't want to undeestimate them."

Malott credited the defense of Morgan Tuck for shutting her down in the second half. Tuck was happy to step up to the challenge.

During the game Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis became the NCAA Division I career leader in 3-pointers made. She needed five to move by former Kansas State star Laurie Koehn and Tennessee-Martin great Heather Butler. She ended up with seven. She also moved by Skylar Diggins, Alana Beard, Cheryl Miller and Candace Parker and into ninth place on the NCAA Division I tournament career scoring list. She also moved into sole possession of third place on the NCAA tournament 3-point list.

"My challenge was to try to limit her touches with the ball and when she did get it, I tried to guard it as hard as I could," Tuck said.

Stewart was the Albany Regional's Most Outstanding Player after averaging 27 points and 14 rebounds in the two games. Mosqueda-Lewis joined her on the all-tournament team and the duo were named to the Wooden Award All-American team along with Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd, Tiffany Mitchell of South Carolina and Baylor's Nina Davis.

Tuck, Malott and Hoover were also named to the all-tournament team.

UConn players moving up NCAA lists

It seems like I could spend my day doing nothing else but updating where the UConn players stand on the NCAA career lists.

I finally decided to make it a one-stop shopping list for all these sorts of things so here you do

Maya Moore  657
Diana Taurasi  597
Kara Wolters  568
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 508
Tina Charles  502
Breanna Stewart  442
Renee Montgomery 435
Bria Hartley  431
Stefanie Dolson  408
Barbara Turner  406
Asjha Jones  376

1 479—Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee, 1996-99
2 476—Maya Moore, Connecticut, 2008-11
3 444—Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Stanford, 2009-11
4 428—Diana Taurasi, Connecticut, 2001-04
5 403—Brittney Griner, Baylor, 2010-13
6 388—Bridgette Gordon, Tennessee, 1986-89
7 372—Seimone Augustus, LSU, 2003-06
8 367—Candice Wiggins, Stanford, 2005-08
9 352—Alana Beard, Duke, 2001-04
10 348—Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame, 2010-13,
11 333—Cheryl Miller, Southern California, 1983-86
12 332—Candace Parker, Tennessee, 2006-08
13 328 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn 2012-present
13 324—Jayne Appel, Stanford, 2007-10
14 322-Kara Wolters, Connecticut, 1993-97
15. 312—Janice Lawrence, Louisiana Tech, 1982-84

Most Three-Point Field Goals
61—Diana Taurasi, Connecticut, 2001-04 (23 games)
59—Maya Moore, Connecticut, 2008-11 (22)
42—Shanna Zolman, Tennessee, 2003-06 (21)
42—Candice Wiggins, Stanford, 2005-08 (16)
42- Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
39—Sue Bird, Connecticut, 2000-02 (17)
37—Renee Montgomery, Connecticut, 2006-09 (19)
37—Bria Hartley, Connecticut, 2011-14 (22)
36—Kristi Toliver, Maryland, 2006-09 (16)
35—Jeanette Pohlen, Stanford, 2008-11 (22)
29—Jennifer Azzi, Stanford, 1988-90 (10)
29—Ivory Latta, North Carolina, 2004-07 (15)
28—Jennifer Rizzotti, Connecticut, 1993-96 (16)
28—Shannon Bobbitt, Tennessee, 2007-08 (12)

105—Brittney Griner, Baylor, 2010-13
62—Alison Bales, Duke, 2004-07
52—Sylvia Fowles, LSU, 2005-08
50—Stefanie Dolson, Connecticut, 2011-14
43—Courtney Paris, Oklahoma, 2006-09
43—Tina Charles, Connecticut, 2007-10
42-Elizabeth Williams, Duke  2012-15
40—Candace Parker, Tennessee, 2006-08
40 Breanna Stewart, UConn 2013-15
39—Ruth Riley, Notre Dame, 1998-01
38—Rebecca Lobo, Connecticut, 1992-95
37—Cheryl Miller, Southern California, 1983-86
37—Nicky Anosike, Tennessee, 2005-08
35-Kiah Stokes

There will be a live blog running during the game relying mostly on Twitter feeds including mine. If you are so inclined, feel free to check it out.

Dayton's Johnson familiar with March Madness success

UConn's experience in national championship games has been well documented as nine of the 12 Huskies have played in either the 2013 or 2014 title contest games. Dayton also has a player who knows what it is like to cut down the net at the end of the national tourney.

Johnson, a Philadelphia native, was a member of the Louisburg (N.C.) College team which won the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national title in 2013.

"It was fun, nobody expected us to win," said Johnson, who had 15 points and seven rebounds in a 75-65 over Mesa (Ariz.) CC in the championship game. "It was us preparing, we were able to win the (title).

"Just winning it with the team, thinking about grinding, the 6 a.m. workouts and things like that and we finally did it. That was the most memorable moment, it is surreal when it happens but after a while you just think 'wow, we really did it.'"

Obviously going up against UConn is a different level of basketball but Johnson has tried to pass on what she learned during the title run during her sophomore season.

"Since I do have the experience of being a senior and a leader on and off the floor, I can talk to the freshman point guard or anybody else on the floor," Johnson said.

Johnson, who is averaging 2.1 points and 1.3 rebounds, is thrilled to be experiencing postseason success again.

"It is a great way for me to end my career at Dayton, we are playing really well and we don't want to keep on playing so keep winning," Johnson said.

"Our goal from the beginning of the year was to get to the Sweet 16. We had the drive and the passion to get here."

Freshman year been a trying one for UConn's Ekmark

Courtney Ekmark has 53 points, 39 rebounds
and 19 assists in 26 games as freshman at UConn
This was not how Courtney Ekmark was expecting her freshman season to go.

The highly-touted 6-foot guard from Phoenix figured to add another perimeter shooter to the UConn lineup. However. after recording three rebounds, two assists and three steals in 19 minutes in a season-opening win over UC Davis, any hope Ekmark had of immediately building on that performance were slowed when she was sidelined due to a stress reaction in her right foot.

It was a month and a half before she would appear in another game. But even she was able to get back on the court, the sweet-shooting Ekmark struggled to find the range both in practice and in games. She was 2 for 3 from 3-point range in a Jan. 7 win over Tulsa and 2 for 2 in a Feb. 23 win over Tulane but in the other games she was 5 for 30 from 3-point range before hitting a trey in Saturday's win over Texas.

"Getting the injury was unfortunate and unlucky but it has been an awesome experience here so far," Ekmark said. "

"Everybody has days when their shots aren't falling so it is important to do other things to help the team to win, do different stuff on the court that can help the team get better. The good news that the shots start coming back, you will be doing all the other stuff as well."

It has been a special season for the other two remaining freshmen.

Kia Nurse's 108 assists is the eighth most by a freshman in UConn history and she needs eight points to move into 10th place on the single season freshman scoring list. Williams has been an instant producer off the bench as her 217 rebounds is the ninth best total for a UConn freshman.

"I am really happy for them because they both work hard," Ekmark said. "Gabby and Kia deserve it and they are doing really well."

There's been plenty of attention focused on the blowout wins by the Huskies this season.
While there's not much UConn can do about the 18 American Athletic Conference games it plays each season, there has been an attempt to beef up the non-conference schedule as much as possible.
While not all of the contracts have been signed, UConn is in negotiations or have finalized deals to play seven of the top 15 teams which advanced to the regional semifinals in either the 2015-16 or 2016-17 seasons or both seasons in some instances.
UConn recently signed a home and home deal with Texas which will start during the '16-17 with a game at Mohegan Sun Arena. That same season will be the back end of the home and home with a Florida State team which came up just short in its bid to qualify for the Final Four. Deals with Notre Dame, Stanford and South Carolina have previously been reported. UConn is expected to begin playing Louisville in a non-conference series, perhaps as early as the 2016-17 season while there have been talks with Arizona State about playing as well.

TUCK THRILLED FOR FORMER TEAMMATEThere's no question that while the prospects of a Tennessee/UConn game doesn't have the same pull as it did during the glory days of the rivalry between the rivals, a matchup between the Lady Vols and Huskies in this year's national semifinals would certainly create a buzz.
Perhaps nobody would be more excited to see that happen than UConn redshirt sophomore forward Morgan Tuck, who played with Tennessee senior guard Ariel Massengale at Bolingbrook (Ill.) High School.
Massengale played a major role as Tennessee rallied from 17 points down to beat Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 setting up a regional final with Maryland.
"I was really happy for her that she could do that in a game like that," Tuck said. "It is her last year, she has a little bit left of college and for her to be such an impact playing her best basketball and I am really happy for her.
"Playing with her for as long as I can remember, that is the kind of player that she is. She wants to be in that pressure situation because she wants to be the one to make the plays that is going to help them win."

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Dayton seniors cross paths with UConn again

Andrea Hoover and Ally Malott were given an introduction just three games into their collegiate careers when their Dayton team headed to UConn's Gampel Pavilion to play three games in three days at the 2011 World Vision Classic.

Now they meet up with the Huskies with a Final Four berth on a line. What a small world we live in sometimes.

"UConn is a great team and if you play against them in the NCAA tournament you know you went pretty far," Hoover said. "What I remember from that game is that they have a way that they do things, they do everything so hard, they run their offense so fluidly, it is something that every offense wanted to be like. We are going to go out there, give it our best shot and that is all we can ask."
The chance to play close to home for a solid mid-major program was enough to lure Hoover and Malott to Dayton even if some bigger programs were showing some interest in them.
Early on in the process UConn was among the programs making inquiries about Malott, a versatile 6-foot-4 senior from Middletown, Ohio.
"It was the early stage of recruiting, they called and (sent) a couple of letters," Malott said. "It was an honor to be recruited by them but I knew I wasn't going that far away.
"I knew I wanted to stay close to home, Dayton is only 35 minutes away so my family can come and watch me play. I loved everything bout the campus, the team, the coaches and I fit in so well. They were already starting to build a reputation and program. Andrea and I wanted to come build on that and take it to the next level."
Hoover, a fiery 5-foot-9 guard from Bellbrook, Ohio, and Malott had a little bit of experience playing in AAU but it wasn't until they suited up for the Flyers that their on-court chemistry really began to blossom.
"We have been playing together for so long and we even played AAU together for a couple of games," Hoover said. "The flow of the offense, I always know where she is and she always knows where I am. We play so hard and we wanted it so bad for this program, now we are in the Elite Eight and it is kind of hard to believe right now."
Dayton coach Jim Jabir believes in scheduling games against the major conferences to challenge his team. This year is no different as the Flyers played Gonzaga and Iowa teams that advanced to the Sweet 16. Although Dayton lost those games as well as one to Washington State, being thrown into tough non-conference games helped when they had to try to close out favorite Kentucky and Louisville teams in the NCAA tournament.

"That is why we schedule our non-conference games so tough," Malott said. "We had a couple of struggling games earlier in the year and I think we learned a lot from that games, obviously we used it to our advantage."
Now, win or lose, Hoover and Malott know they will leave the Dayton program better than they found it.
"It is a really good way to end the year, end our careers here," Malott said. "I think we put a lot, like all of our teammates, into this program, we have gone through a lot together and it is a really good ending."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dayton not sneaking up on UConn

UConn did not make it to the last seven Final Fours by counting their victories before they took place.

The Huskies and their coaches are fully aware that most people are expecting a similar score to the 105-54 beat down of Texas when the top-seeded Huskies meet No. 7 seed Dayton in the Albany Regional finale.

Dayton has 23 games with more turnovers than assists this season and lost three times to George Washington. On paper it looks very much like yet another UConn blowout. However, the UConn players have been reminded on multiple occasions that Dayton was supposed to lose to second-seeded Kentucky and certainly had to be considered the underdogs in the regional semifinal against No. 3 seed Louisville. Yet, here are the Flyers in the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph, who had the scouting responsibility for the Albany Regional final, saw a grittiness in the Dayton players that she couldn't help but admire.

"The biggest thing with them is that they can score," Ralph said. "They are tough kids. Four of them (starters) can shoot 3s, they run ball screen offense and if you make a mistake they score. At this point of the year we are not going to face a team that is not any good, they deserve to be here, they are a great team."

UConn senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has few memories from the game the Huskies played against Dayton when she was a freshman even if she did drop 23 points on the Flyers as the Huskies won 78-38 in the only previous meeting between the teams.

However, Mosqueda-Lewis said the Flyers have the Huskies complete and undivided attention with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

"They have been overlooked and have continued to prove themselves by beating teams that people didn't think they could beat," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "For us, we are not going to overlook them and think 'it is just Dayton, maybe they got lucky.' They haven't, they have been playing great throughout the tournament."

Teammate Morgan Tuck echoed Mosqueda-Lewis' sentiments.

"They play really hard and they kind of play with a chip on their shoulder because a lot of people underestimate them and are going to underestimate them because they are Dayton and that means they are not as good," Tuck said. "I think they are playing with that chip that 'we are going to let people know who we are and make our name out there.'"

With Dayton expected to start a pair of 6-4 players, the Flyers do have some size to throw at the Huskies but it is a much different style of play from the post players than what the Huskies faced against Texas.

"The biggest difference is they have post players who can play outside and aren't really just post players so I think it will be a much different look than the Texas post players did," Tuck said.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said the Dayton's style reminded him of a Green Bay team that was tied with the Huskies with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half in a game earlier this season. UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey sees similarities to another team the UConn fans might be more familiar with.

"It is a different kind of a style," Dailey said. "It reminds me of us in some ways, they play hard, they execute, they make 3s and have guys who come in off the bench and make 3s. They are a good team, a really good team."

Dayton also starts two seniors and two juniors. That experience was a major factor against a Louisville team whose top two scorers during the regular season where freshmen.

"Anytime you have experience it is an advantage, it just helps you become better prepared for games," Dailey said. "I think it helps because the experience and the older players on the court are like an extension of the coach, you know there is not a lot that is going to happen that you aren't going to prepared for and that allows your team to flow freely."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Star players live up to advanced billing for UConn, Dayton

Geno Auriemma has been known to say that this is the time of year when your best players need to be your best players.

Well, at the Times Union Center on Saturday, there was no question who the resident superstars are.

Breanna Stewart had 31 points (her highest scoring total in the NCAA tournament) to go with 12 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three blocked shots to lead the Huskies to a 105-54 win over Texas. The 51-point winning margin is the largest at the regional level in NCAA Division I women's basketball history.

"Breanna Stewart shot the ball really well today from every spot on the floor," Texas coach Karen Aston said. "She is a matchup nightmare and we don't have an answer for that. We knew that, we wanted to get Imani (McGee-Stafford) in to help and get our other players in to help so they can help in certain situations and it opened up things for other people."

Stewart missed her first two shots from the field and finished the game making 11 of 14. She scored by getting to the foul line eight times, making a pair of 3-pointers, scoring in transition and with mid-range jumpers. There was one stretch when she had a crossover dribble leading to a jumper and then hit back to back 3-pointers.
"I am making different shots whether it is in the post, on the outside and that is the kind of (balance) you (want) so we can have that inside/outside game," Stewart said.

For Dayton, it was Andrea Hoover who stole the show. She was 15 for 15 from the line (the most free throws attempting without missing at the regional round of the tournament). She had 26 points, five rebounds and five assists in an 82-66 win over Louisville.

Hoover went 6 for 6 from the line and also had a jumper after Louisville pulled within two points with 8:40 to play.

"At the beginning of the year we were kind of rushing our offense so one of the biggest keys is once we don't get anything in transition, to really ground it out and get the shot we want,' Hoover said.

"UConn is a great team and if you play against them in the NCAA tournament you know you went pretty far."

When Dayton arrived in Albany the story angle generating the most interest was head coach Jim Jabir promising to get a tattoo since his team reached the Sweet 16. Now it is the gritty play of a team that has knocked out second-seeded Kentucky and No. 3 seed Louisville.

"I thought the Kentucky (win) was the best day and now I think this is the best day," Jabir said. "In November if people said you are going to be in the Elite Eight, people would have laughed at you and maybe our guys would too.

It is about the journey and to have a group of people all fall in line, fight and trust for the same purpose. It doesn't even have to be in the Elite Eight, it could be a CYO team, or could be a knitting club and I am really proud of our guys."


Familiar faces to cheer on UConn's Chong

Dan Ricci, who coached UConn sophomore guard Saniya Chong at Ossining High School, has been a regular visitor to the Huskies' home games over the last couple of years.

Ricci is expected to be in attendance at today's regional semifinal at the Times Union Center but he will not be alone. With the Ossining team playing Long Island Lutheran in the Federation Tournament of Champions semifinals in Albany last night, the plan is to have the entire team including plenty of former teammates as the top five scorers on this year's team (Jalay Knowles, Shadeen Samuels, Stefanie Svoboda, Abby Squirrell and Madison Strippoli) played on the 2012-13 Ossining team that Chong led to first of three AA state titles.

"They are coming to the game so he said he bought a pretty good amount of tickets so the players are going to be coming to watch," Chong said. "That is pretty cool, even with our distance we still find each other and I think it is pretty amazing."

There are those who figured Ossining would not reach the level of success it did during Chong's time there. However, they won state titles both in 2014 and 2015.

"It shows me how much the program has been amazing, that senior year and ever since then," Chong said.

"He helped me so much. I think my game has definitely improved. He has taught me things on and off the court."

With freshman Gabby Williams being converted into a forward, there aren't too many guard options off the bench for the Huskies. Chong has had a quietly effective sophomore season averaging 6 points per game and adding an impressive 73/41 assist to turnover ratio. However, those numbers don't indicate where she has made the largest strides and that is on the defensive end of the floor.

"I think that since the beginning of the (season), that was a huge issue," Chong said. "We all talk about the Stanford game and how my offense was good but at the end of the day my defense wasn't so great. It was pretty upsetting and I know ever since then I have been working really hard and I have grown since then. Obviously I have a ways to go but ever since then, it has been something I really want to improve in.

"A lot of times it is not about the points but it is about what else you can do to impact the game. I think my defense will impact the game. I don't want the other team to thinking give the girl I am guarding the ball and just score all the time. I want to help contribute to my team."


Journey to Sweet 16 quite the experience for Texas

If a team was rated merely on how they handle adversity, Texas would be the favorite heading into today's regional semifinal against UConn.

The Longhorns have endured more twists and turns this season than most teams encounter in a decade.

The season began with an impressive string of 13 wins in a row including one over the Stanford team responsible for UConn's lone loss of the season. Then, after the loss of leading scorer Nneka Enemkpali, the Longhorns lost eight of 10 games and were being written off. However, the resilient Texas squad rediscovered its swagger just in time and now face UConn in the Sweet 16.

"It has been interesting," Texas coach Karen Aston said. "I feel like the team has been reinvented a couple of times, that is the best way I know to describe the season. We started off with a team that didn't have all of its parts because Imani (McGee-Stafford) and Nekia (Jones) were out earlier in the season We felt like we were getting a couple of our parts back and then a couple others get injured along the way Ariel (Atkins)  and Bri (Tayor) and of course the major loss was Nneka Enemkpali who was having such a phenomenal season. That was such a blow to us from a personal standpoint that it took a little bit of time. The reinvention was really everybody accepting some different roles, accepting a little more responsibility for leadership which was a challenge because Nneka was the leader of our basketball team. I thought we started to reinvent ourselves in a positive way and we are playing good basketball right now."

Looking at the numbers when Enemkpali was on the court and when she was sidelined, the only player who has made a dramatic jump in terms of minutes played and increased production is junior Imani McGee-Stafford.

"I don't think it is pressure, I think my injury took me out of a lot of things," McGee-Stafford said. "When Nneka got hurt, I was probably playing 10 minutes a game. I was fully cleared (after missing time earlier in season) , Coach was just trying to bring me along (slowly) until she was able to let me go.

"We have never been 100 percent healthy. In the beginning of the season when we went on that 13-0 run, I was out. As soon as I came back, Ariel went out, Bri went out and as soon as we got everybody, Nneka went down, Nekia is out.

"On the outside it seems a lot easier 'oh so and so went down, you can replace her.' We do have a deep bench but it is not like that, we have people who have to learn a new position. We have players who learn 'I am not a post player but I have to be a post player.' I think it is much easier to say you should be able to regroup than to actually do it."

Enemkpali did a little bit of everything for a pretty young Texas team so losing a player like that hurts more than anybody outside the program could truly realize.

"Playing with Nneka, you just feel so comfortable because you know if you miss a shot, she is going to and get that rebound because that is the type of player she is," Texas sophomore Kelsey Lang said. "You just feel really comfortable when you are playing. You are not worrying about missing your shots so when she got hurt, somebody needed to fill that rebounding role and I think that each one of our guards and our post players have stepped up. We all feel more comfortable now that everybody has taken a little piece and we are playing very, very confident right now."

Nobody might be more impressed with what the Texas coaching staff has done this season more than UConn's Geno Auriemma.

"Everybody knew this year or next year that they were going to be very good," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "They just recruited really well the last couple of years. When you start the season, you think you have a certain team and then one kid is gone, then another team is gone and everything that you prepared for has to change. You have to start all over again, starting all over again on Oct. 15 one thing, but starting over in the middle of the season is totally different.

"Their coaching staff has done a great job of keeping it all together, playing well at the right time. They went through a stretch when they really, really struggled but like CD (UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey) said, they have really found themselves and they are playing as well as anybody right now."

Friday, March 27, 2015

UConn's Nurse not only Hamilton native in Albany

When looking at the rosters of the four teams playing in the Albany Regional semifinals, the only town/city with more than one player represented isn't even in the United States. It happens to be Hamilton, Ontario.

What's interesting is that UConn freshman guard Kia Nurse and Dayton sophomore center Saicha Grant-Allen almost never crossed paths on the basketball court until they became teammates on a couple of Canada's junior national team.

"She actually played in a different club team than me," Grant-Allen said. "We are both from Hamilton but I played for Oakville and she played with Transway so we both ended up playing against each other."

So what does she think about two players from Hamilton in the same regional site?

"It is crazy," Grant-Allen said.

Grant-Allen said that Nurse's best attribute is that "she was always aggressive on both ends of the floor."

The best moment the two of them shared came when they led Canada to a third-place finish at the 2012 U17 World Championship for Women when Nurse was the team's top scorer and Grant-Allen led Canada in rebounding.

"I think Canada has made some huge steps in terms of the development and even upcoming players have made some huge strides these last few years so that is a building block moving forward," Grant-Allen said.

For Dayton's Jabir, the ink can wait

A year ago Jim Jabir promised his Dayton team that if they reached the Sweet 16 that he would get a tattoo.

Considering that much of the nucleus of that team is the same, he revisited his deal. Well, thanks to an upset of second-seeded Kentucky, Jabir and the Flyers have indeed made it to the regionals and he is ready to be true to his word - in true time.

I patiently waited for a few questioned to be asked of Jabir during Friday's press conference but when none of them included any inquiries about his tattoo and I did not see a skull and crossbones on his forehead, I decided to be the one to bring up the question that I am sure most of the people in the room would have eventually asked.

Jabir joked that he was going to respond by getting up, dropping his trousers to show off the artwork but instead he played it straight.

I don't have it yet," Jabir said. "We are going to get together as a team and watch me get a tattoo when all the fun is over.

"It is going to be so small, you'd have to really search for it and it will be very discreet. I am a 52 year old man , I don't need to be walking around getting tattoos."

Texas assistant big fan of UConn's Moriah Jefferson

There is no way of accurately estimating how many times that Texas assistant coach George Washington would snare rebounds and dutifully feed the ball back to UConn junior point guard Moriah Jefferson when both of them were members of the powerhouse DFW Elite AAU program.

While Washington wasn't always directly involved in coaching the team Jefferson was on, the two of them developed enough of a teacher/student relationship that Jefferson's parents still regularly communicate with him.

"She is a reflection of them," Washington said before the Longhorn's practice at Times Union Arena. "She has always had a positive outlook on everything, when things don't go her she just gets back in the gym, she doesn't pout about stuff and say 'I can't do it.' She just gets back in the gym.

"She is a different type of kid because she was always in the gym. She was always looking to get in whatever was a weakness in her game and she is a complete gym rat. She trained with boys all the time. The guy who worked with her always would come in and there would be a group of guys who trained really hard and she was always in there and she gave them all they could handle."

Jefferson is fully aware that Washington and the other coaches in the DFW Elite have played a huge role in her now being considered among the best guards in women's collegiate basketball.

"He was around all the time during the summers," Jefferson said. "We used to work out and hang out together so I have a really good relationship with George.

They were in Houston and we were in Dallas so sometimes he wasn't there but when he was, he gave me pointers.

Jefferson struggled during her freshman season but the fact that she has developed into an All-American candidate is not a surprise to Washington.

"I didn't expect anything different," Washington said. "Coaching the team in the summer, being on the bench and on those teams it is same Moriah that I am used to. Her first year in college, it was kind of a freshman adjustment but she is giving everybody exactly what I expected from her."


Thursday, March 26, 2015

UConn freshmen making an impact in NCAA tournament

There are so many gaudy numbers associated with the UConn women's basketball program's performance in the NCAA tournament that I could blog nothing by statistical breakdowns every day and not run out of material for years to come.

However, there are some numbers that jump to the top of the list and certainly breaking down what Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams did in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament ranks with any freshman duo in program history.

The only set  of freshman teammates with more points in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament are current seniors Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes.

55: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (36)/Kiah Stokes (19), 2012
46: Kia Nurse (20)/Gabby Williams (26), 2015
45: Asjha Jones (20)/Tamika Williams (25), 1999
45: Stefanie Dolson (23)/Bria Hartley (22), 2011
44: Carla Berube (19)/Kara Wolters (25), 1994
41: Maya Moore (41)'Lorin Dixon (0), 2008

Williams had 15 points against St. Francis (N.Y.) and 11 against Rutgers. If she reached double digits in points on Saturday against Texas she would join a select group of UConn players to score at least 10 points in each of their first three NCAA tournament games as true freshman.

Paige Sauer, 1997 (17 vs. Lehigh, 13 vs. Iowa, 10 vs. Illinois)
Svetlana Abrosimova, 1998 (18 vs. Fairfield, 16 vs. George Washington, 12 vs. Arizona)
Tina Charles, 2007 (10 vs. Maryland Baltimore County, 22 vs. Wisconsin-Green Bay. 17 vs. North Carolina State)
Maya Moore, 2008 (17 vs. Cornell, 24 vs. Texas, 25 vs. Old Dominion)
Bria Hartley, 2011 (12 vs. Hartford, 10 vs. Purdue, 17 vs. Georgetown)
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, 2012 (21 vs. Prairie View, 15 vs. Kansas State, 12 vs. Penn State)
Breanna Stewart, 2013 (14 vs. Vanderbilt, 17 vs. Maryland, 21 vs. Kentucky)
- Note: Stewart missed 2013 NCAA opener against Idaho so games shown are No. 2, 3 and 4 played by UConn) 

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UConn's Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart Wade Trophy finalists

UConn senior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and junior forward Breanna Stewart are among 12 finalists for the Wade Trophy, presented annually to the national player of the year.

Stewart leads the 34-1 Huskies in scoring, averaging 17.1 points per game, and is also the top rebounder at 7.2 per game. She ranks second on the team with 111 assists, 89 blocked shots and 54 steals.

Mosqueda-Lewis is averaging 15 points per game and with 109 3-pointers, is the first player in program history with two seasons with more than 100 3-pointers. She needs seven more assists to become the first UConn player with 100 assists and 3-pointers in the same season.

Here's the list of finalists

Brittany Boyd California Senior Guard
Nina Davis Baylor Sophomore Forward
Reshanda Gray California Senior Forward
Dearica Hamby Wake Forest Senior Forward
Brittany Hrynko DePaul Senior Guard
Jewell Loyd Notre Dame Junior Guard
Tiffany Mitchell South Carolina Junior Guard
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis Connecticut Senior Forward
Breanna Stewart Connecticut Junior Forward
Courtney Williams South Florida Junior Guard
Elizabeth Williams Duke Senior Center
Amanda Zahui B. Minnesota Sophomore Center

UConn's Jefferson admires fighting spirit of Texas team

When the Texas women's basketball team went into a tailspin after the team's leading scorer and rebounder suffered a season-ending knee injury, more than a few people wrote the Longhorns off.

UConn junior guard Moriah Jefferson, who happens to be the first Texas native to play for the Huskies, was not one of them.

Jefferson played with plenty of the Texas players on the AAU circuit and got to know them  while growing up in Texas. So to see Texas in the Sweet 16, Jefferson is not shocked about that.

"I know all of those guys," Jefferson said. "I know they all have really big hearts so I am not really surprised. I knew a lot of their guards would step up and post players would come in to make the big shots in games so I am not surprised."

Looks like there will be a few more people in the stands for UConn's next game than for the two NCAA tournament games held in Storrs.

As of Wednesday at noon, 6,785 tickets have been sold for Saturday's regional semifinals with 5,966 sold for Monday's regional final.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

LSU, UConn agree to home and home series

LSU and UConn squared off six times between 2006-2010 but haven't met since. That is about to change.

The schools have agreed to a home and home series beginning on Dec. 21 with a game in Connecticut.

The last meeting between the teams came on Nov. 28, 2010 with the Huskies winning 81-51. There were a couple of barnburners when UConn played in Baton Rouge in 2007 and 2008, winning the two games by a total of six points.

Another confirmed date is the Colgate game as UConn will play in Hamilton, N.Y. in the homecoming game for Breanna Stewart on Dec. 2.

UConn trio on WBCA All-Region 1 team

UConn's Moriah Jefferson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart were named to the WBCA Region 1 team making their eligible for the WBCA All-American team.

Stewart leads UConn in scoring with an average of 17.1 points per game, is also the Huskies' top rebounder (7.1 per game) and second in assists, steals and blocked shots.

Mosqueda-Lewis, who averages 15 points per game, is the first player in program history to make more than 100 3-pointers in two different seasons.

Jefferson leads the team with 169 assists and 89 steals while contributing 12 points per game.

Former Hillhouse star Bria Holmes, a junior guard at West Virginia, is a member of the Region 5 team.

Also, UConn's Geno Auriemma was named the WBCA's Region 1 Coach of the Year making him eligible to be named the WBCA National Coach of the Year for a sixth time.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

UConn's Auriemma thrilled to see recruit finish in style

Everybody I've spoken to about UConn incoming freshman Napheesa Collier can't speak highly enough about one of the three recruits signed by the Huskies.

The folks at USA Basketball including those who coached her rave about her performance on the court and way she carries herself off the court. Incarnate Word Academy coach Dan Rolfes obviously has loved coaching Collier for the last three seasons.

The UConn coaches haven't been shy is expressing their praise of the 6-foot-1 forward.

Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal Inquirer and I gave UConn coach Geno Auriemma another chance to talk up his incoming freshman after one of the press conferences at the subregional held at Gampel Pavilion.

Collier completed a dominant four-game run to lead Incarnate Word out of St. Louis to its third consecutive Missouri Class 4 title (one for each year Collier played there). Collier averaged 30 points (scoring 31, 31, 28 and 30 points in the tournament), 14.8 rebounds, 5.8 offensive rebounds, 3,5 assists, 4.3 steals and 5 blocks per game. She had a triple-double aided by a 10-steal game and another game with nine blocked shots. In the last three games of the tournament she was 40 of 50 from the field.

Obviously Auriemma was kind of busy here in Connecticut but he has seen Collier play enough that her postseason performance was not a surprise to him.

"She is a tremendous kid and their team wasn't as good as they were last year," Auriemma said. "They have a fabulous coach, he does a tremendous job and those kids are really lucky to be coached by a former college coach. I just think that goes a long way and they play really well together. she just kind of pulls it all into place because she is so versatile and so unselfish. I just love her as a person. She is a leader by nature, it just comes naturally to her and she is able to do it and it is kind of effortless. Some people have to work really hard at being (a leader).

"When you watch her play, you are amazed that she plays both ends of the floor equally hard. It is not some kids I see in high school, they do play both ends of the floor. You heard me say when they are on offense on this end, they play offense and when they are on offense  on that end, they play that end but rarely at the same time. She is one of those few kids who competes and competes really hard on both ends of the floor."

Collier finished her senior year averaging 26.7 points per game (shooting 70 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line), 13 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 4.1 steals and 4.1 blocked shots per game.

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UConn role players stepped out of comfort zone in 2nd round win

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson combined for 42 points
as UConn pulled away for 91-55 victory over Rutgers on Monday night
Often times it looks all so routine.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis starts hitting 3-pointers from seemingly everywhere, Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart take turns setting up the other for layups while Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse attack the basket with controlled abandon.

However, Stewart was on the bench with two fouls, neither Mosqueda-Lewis nor Nurse were involved in the offense as the Huskies found themselves with few answers and a precarious five-point lead as the NCAA second-round game approached the midway point of the first half.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer is a Hall of Famer in large part due to being one of the top defensive minds in the history of women's college basketball and she was not about to make things easy for the Huskies.

For one of the few times this season, the Huskies seemed to be a bit rattled. Ill advised passes resulted in turnovers, poor shot selection contributed to some empty possessions. There wasn't much help coming from the bench either so for stretches it basically was Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck playing 2 on 5 on the offensive end of the court.

What followed next was seeing players contribute in different ways.

It started with freshman Gabby Williams, a 44 percent free-throw shooter, going 3 of 4 from the foul line. Then Mosqueda-Lewis, who had fallen into her old habit of standing in one spot waiting to fire up a 3-pointer, began to move with purpose. She hit a jumper in the lane, added a rebound, assist and steal before capping an 11-0 run with a 3-pointer. Kiah Stokes ripped down offensive rebounds with authority and before long, the Huskies were well on their way to another convincing win.

"You never know when somebody is going to go down, either get hurt or get into foul trouble so you have to be ready to step up at any time," said UConn junior guard Moriah Jefferson, who had 19 points including the 1,000th of her career. "We needed (somebody) whether it was me or K (Mosqueda-Lewis) to step up and make the shots to get us into a rhythm and onto a
"I think games like this are really fun. When Stewie went out, I think a lot of people stepped up and that isn't even saying anything about Gabby, she was killing it. I am just excited for my team."
Williams had 11 points and 10 rebounds as she became the ninth UConn freshman to score in double figures in both the first and second round games. Stokes contributed more to the winning effort than her final line of four points, eight rebounds and two blocks would seem to indicate. Saniya Chong's stat line of two points, four rebounds and one turnover is not an indication of the impact she had. There was one flurry when Chong made the perfect defensive read to prevent a transition layup by Rutgers. Then UConn came down the court and Chong alertly vacated the area near Mosqueda-Lewis leading to one of her five 3-pointers.

"You have to be ready when you name is called," Stokes said. "You don't know when people are going to get into foul trouble like Stewie did. It is not a thing of hang your head because you're not starting or you are not the first one off the bench. When your name is called you have to be ready. I have taken that to heart. I have come in during certain games throughout my whole career and given the spark we needed. I know when my name is called I need to come in, block shots and
get rebounds. As long as I am doing that, I know I am doing my role."

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UConn senoors have perfect farewell to Gampel

So many of the games Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes have played at Gampel Pavilion over the last four years have been decided even before the first shot had been taken or first assist was ever recorded.

That was certainly not the case in Monday's NCAA second-round game.

Playing in their final game at Gampel Pavilion, Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes did what they do the best. Mosqueda-Lewis made some key shots, some from 3-point range and some from inside of it. Meanwhile Stokes was ripping offensive rebounds away from the tall, aggressive Rutgers players and also blocked a couple of shots.

Facing a Rutgers team drawing confidence from the fact that the Huskies' resident superstar was on the bench for most of the first half with two fouls, the Scarlet Knights were within six points as the game approached the midway point of the first half.

The final score (91-55) doesn't completely paint a picture of how interesting things may have gotten had the Huskies, led by their most experienced players, turned up the pressure.

"Today was pretty impressive when you consider how the game was played," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Stewie only played four minutes in the first half and it didn't look like we missed a beat. I was just really proud of the way we handled ourselves. I thought Moriah (Jefferson) was in charge of the game the whole time. I couldn't be happier or this group, they worked really hard and they deserve it."

Coming off a game when she scored a NCAA tournament low two points, Mosqueda-Lewis seemed to be disconnected from the events transpiring. Then in a span of 2:01 she hit two jumpers including a 3-pointer, had a rebound, assist and steal during an 11-0 run.

"Coach tried to emphasize that we kept moving, looking for open spots in their zones and making sure I was doing a lot of things was a key for us today," Mosqueda-Lewis said.

"It is good to go out on a high note specially with everybody playing so well. It is definitely how you want your last game at Gampel to go. Everything is going well for your team, everybody is playing like they have been practicing all year an everything is going right. It was like Coach said, it looked like everybody was connected."

Mosqueda-Lewis had 23 points and had five 3-pointers. She now had 386 in her career, six shy of the NCAA Division I career record. She also moved into fifth place on the NCAA Division I tournament career list with 40 3-pointers and is 14th on the NCAA Division I tournament career scoring list.

Stokes, who had four points, eight rebounds and two blocks, became the 16th Division I player with 140 blocks in a season. However. she was more concerned with helping her team to another trip to the Sweet 16.

"It is kind of tough thinking about it," Stokes said. "This is basically the last time I will walk off Gampel in a game setting. It was definitely emotional and it has kind of hit me that this is not really my home anymore and I have to move onto other things."

The seniors weren't the only players to reach milestones as Jefferson scored the 1,000th point of her career in the game.

Now UConn advances to play Texas at noon on Saturday in Albany in the regional semifinal. Louisville and Dayton will play at about 2:30 in the other regional semifinal.

Also, Morgan Tuck had her 100th assist of the season during the game to become the fourth UConn player with at least 100 assists during the game.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer said focus is on coaching not salary

Her Sunday morning press conference had come to an end but Rutgers' Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer wasn't done talking just yet.
The Asbury Park Press reported that Stringer was the third-highest paid state employee in the state of New Jersey in 2014 when she earned $1.6 million. A couple of reporters from New Jersey were interviewing Stringer about the reported $500,000 bonus she would receive if she were to beat two-time defending national champion UConn to advance to the Sweet 16, she took the opportunity to try to set the record straight.
"You guys have it all wrong in terms of my (salary) figures," Stringer said. "My pay has been cut in half so let's not get it twisted. When you talk about that (bonus), Vivian is trying to earn her way back. I would have to win a God-darn (national) championship to get the money I was getting before. It bothers me because I am just trying to win a basketball game. I have been trying to think about basketball, I don't know where you get those figures but it is not right and it needs to be straightened out because I don't want the people in the state thinking I am getting 1.6 (million). I am not getting 1.6 million. You give me some of that and I will give you some of it because that is not what is happening because my pay has been cut in half and for me to get anywhere near my pay, I would have to win a championship.

"I am just trying to win a basketball game. On the personal side, that is called an incentive. If you get a Pulitzer Prize, you get an incentive.  Why is it all of a sudden if you win the first round, you are going to win this (bonus)? That sends a bad message to the fans and to the kids. When I was at Cheyney State, I didn't get paid one dime, I still took the team to the Final Four, I still had one of the best records in the country. I was going to do it anyway, it is something I love. I hate the fact that you guys attach money to it because that is not the case. Do I like that my pay got cut? No, nobody likes to have their pay cut but I am grateful for the opportunity to earn it back. The truth of the matter is I would be busting my tail to win a national championship no matter what (she got paid), how much more clear do I have to be?"

Emotions on hold as UConn seniors set to play final game at Gampel

Neither Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis or Kiah Stokes know what the future has in store for them but one thing they are certain of is that they won't play at Gampel Pavilion again after tonight's NCAA second-round game against Rutgers comes to an end.

I've always found the whole concept of the emotional Senior Day/Night festivities to be rather interesting because invariably there are still conference and NCAA tournament games to be played in Connecticut after they play their final regular-season game at Gampel. However, both Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes admitted that going through the Senior Day festivities helped them deal with all of the emotions so they can focus fully on the survive and advance side of things once the NCAA tournament comes around.

"I am just thinking about the tournament and I am not thinking about it being my last game (in Connecticut)," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I kind of got that out of my system after Senior Night.

"I think it does help you get it out of the way and lets you focus on what is really important."

Stokes had a similar take on things as she prepares to step onto Gampel Pavilion for the last time as a Husky.
"It is one of our last games," Stokes said. "It is not a sad time because you still have hopefully we have five more games left so we have to keep on pushing until then. It is not over until we play our last game and we are just trying to make sure that isn't our game (today) or the weekend after that.

"It will definitely be weird because I will be practicing on it for four years and now tomorrow is going to be our game at Gampel. It is definitely emotional but right now I am trying not to think about it like that. I am just trying to make sure it is a great game tomorrow."

Both players have a chance at some milestones tonight.

Stokes has a UConn single-season record 138 blocks and she is two away from becoming the 16th Division I women's player with 140 blocked shots in a season.

Mosqueda-Lewis is currently eighth on the NCAA Division I women's career list with 381 3-pointers. Next up will be former Louisville star Shoni Schimmel and former James Madison standout Dawn Evans, who are tied for sixth with 387 3s. She needs five points to become the 18th player with at least 300 career points in the NCAA Division I tournament and is currently tied for ninth on the career 3-point list in the NCAA tournament. She has 35, one behind Maryland grad Kristi Toliver and two behind former Huskies Bria Hartley and Renee Montgomery.

Last but certainly not least, today is the last day to vote for Stokes in the balloting for the Senior CLASS Award. Stokes leads the voting at 29.4 percent followed by Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison (17.4) and Iowa's Samantha Logic (13.6). The voting is just one of the criteria for selecting the Senior CLASS Award winner which goes to the player who is successful on the court, in the classroom and also is a positive contributor to the community.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

UConn's Auriemma: Attendance for NCAA opener "embarrassing"

It didn't seem too long ago that 5,000 fans would show up hours before the one of the UConn women's basketball Midnight Madness events. Call it the SuperShow, First Night or whatever you like, the mere opportunity to see the players who figured to contend for a national title would always draw a crowd.
Then came the rows and rows of empty seats at Saturday night's NCAA tournament opener against St. Francis (N.Y.). The final attendance number was 3,666, the lowest for an NCAA tournament game at Gampel Pavilion since 2,585 showed up for the UConn/Clemson tilt back in 1990. Factoring in the large amount of fans from St. Francis, Rutgers and Seton Hall and the seemingly indifferent
response from Husky Nation resulted in a much lower turnout than most people expected.
"It is not indicative who our program is and what we have done to get to this point," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It is kind of embarrassing. We took great pride in who we are, what we have done and how we have done it for all of these years. For that to happen, I am not pointing a finger at anybody but I just think it is embarrassing. I am not blaming anybody but I just know that in 2002 there would have been 3,600 people (at a UConn NCAA tournament games)."

From 1994-2003 UConn soldout every NCAA tournament home game. Yet, here were the Huskies being outdrawn by fans at Oregon State, South Florida and Florida State among others.

Some of the issues are a result in the change in how the subregionals are awarded and marketed. The days of being given a subregional and putting tickets on sale months in advance ended when the NCAA opted to have the top 16 seeds host the first and second rounds. When you add in UConn getting 9 p.m. start times both on Saturday and Monday and there was a recipe for a low attendance number. Auriemma believed some of it is just a case of UConn winning so often and by such large margins that coming to opening round NCAA tournament games isn't the hot ticket it used to be.
"I think it is indicative of all sports," Auriemma said. "Hey, let's go check it out and after a while 'oh, I'll watch it on TV.' I don't think that is any different whether that is in baseball, football or whether it is in any sport. There comes a point when 'what's the point? They are going to win.' Then they look for excuses why. It is the tickets are too expensive, it is what time the games are, it is the parking, it is where I am sitting, it is anything that you can imagine to justify it and who's to say they are wrong."
Auriemma wasn't the only person at UConn a little miffed at getting the latest start time on both Saturday and Monday.
"I don't know how all of those things are done. I would assume the TV networks said 'hey, we want UConn on at 9 p.m.,'" Auriemma said. "We have the same deal with SNY. If SNY says Saturday's game is going to be at 2, we play at 2. If they say it is at 4, we play at 4. There is no answer. If you are looking for an answer, there is no answer.
"It makes no sense to me and my fans. Somebody said to me before the tournament what is your ideal situation? I would have said Saturday at 4 and Monday night at 7 if it has to be Saturday/Monday or Friday at 7 and Sunday at 2. You look or windows where you know who our fan base is and get 8, 9 or 10,000. I don't make those decisions."


Full speed ahead for UConn's Mosqueda-Lewis

Watching Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis misfire on a couple of open 3-pointers and miss a couple of shots in the lane, it was pretty clear that something was a little amiss with the senior forward.

The UConn coaching staff felt the same way because she played just 16 minutes in last night's win over St. Francis (N.Y.), her lowest total for an NCAA tournament game. Mosqueda-Lewis' streak of consecutive NCAA tournament games scoring in double digits ended at 17 as she had just two points in the 89-33 win.

Mosqueda-Lewis was back on the practice court today and downplayed any health issues.

"My tape job was too tight on my Achilles," Mosqueda-Lewis said before UConn hit the practice court. "I just got taped for the first time in a long time, it probably wasn't the best thing.

"It was more so my tape that was hurting me and making my Achilles hurt than anything. It felt like someone was slowly snipping at my Achilles. I had new shoes and didn't feel like my ankles were supported so I wanted to get them taped so it ended hurting me."

Mosqueda-Lewis, fifth all-time at UConn in postseason scoring, is not accustomed to sitting for more minutes than she plays during March Madness.

"It was weird but my team ended up taking care of me so I didn't have anything to worry about," Mosqueda-Lewis said.

Here are some statistical items of note

Morgan Tuck had 26 points and eight assists as Sue Bird is the only other UConn player with at least 25 points and eight assists in the same NCAA tournament game as Bird had 26 and 11 in a 2002 game against Old Dominion.

Gabby Williams had 15 points and Kia Nurse added 12 as they became the fifth set of UConn freshmen to reach double digits in the NCAA opener.

Back in 1993 Jamelle Elliott had 21 points and Rizzotti added 13, in 2001 Diana Taurasi (12 points) and Morgan Valley (11) accomplished the feat, four years later Mel Thomas had 13 points and Charde Houston added 10 and most recently Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley had 12 points each in the 2011 NCAA opener.


Not just another night at the office for UConn's Tuck

Certainly Morgan Tuck will relish the memories of having her best scoring game at UConn but the reality of it is dishing out a career best eight assists in the 89-33 win over St. Francis in Saturday's first-round NCAA tournament game.

"I think that is our team, when you get a lot of assists you get more excited than if you get points or rebounds just because that means you are making the right plays," Tuck said after handing out eight assists.

Tuck had a hand in eight of the first nine baskets in the game with five hoops, all in the lane, and four assists

She ended up 12 of 13 from the field as she topped her best scoring output which she established on the road against rival Notre Dame earlier this season.

With Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis dealing with some minor bumps and bruises and clearly off her game and the focus on stopping Breanna Stewart, Tuck and freshman Kia Nurse picked up the slack early on.

"I think it is important because it frees thing up for Kaleena and Stewie," Tuck said. "When other people are making shots, Kia (Nurse) is making shots, Gabby (Williams) coming in and making shots, getting rebounds and finishing it makes teams play more honest."

Although Tuck returned to the postseason when she played three games in the American Athletic Conference tournament, she admitted that playing in the NCAA tournament is a completely different animal.

"It is different, your season is over (with a loss) and everything you have done this whole year, this is what it is for," Tuck said. "We look at it as this is a much bigger deal."

While UConn was advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the 22nd season in a row, a couple of players who will be suiting up for the Huskies were also taking part in March Madness.

Napheesa Collier had 30 points, 19 rebounds and five assists as Incarnate Word Academy won its third straight Missouri Division 4 title with a 60-27 win over MICDS.

Meanwhile, Katie Lou Samuelson's late-game heroics enabled her to finish her storied high school career playing for a state title.

Samuelson had 16 points, the lowest for any full game she played in as a senior but it sounds as if she never came up bigger than she did in this game. Samuelson she had a clutch 3-pointer to tie the game and two late free throws as Mater Dei advanced to the CIF Open Division title with a 48-44 win over the Chaminade team which handed the Monarchs both of their losses this season. Mater Dei will face St. Mary's-Stockton in the CIF Open Division title on Mar. 28.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Special day for UConn incoming freshmen

It won't be long until Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson will be joining De'Janae Boykin as part of a highly-touted freshman class at UConn.

However, Collier and Samuelson have some business to take care of first.

Collier will try to lead her Incarnate Word Academy team to a third consecutive state title later on today when IWA plays Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School in the Missouri Division 4 title game at Mizzou Arena at 4:50 p.m. (5:50 p.m. here in Connecticut).

Then at 9 (around the time UConn tips off against St. Francis in its 2015 NCAA opener) Samuelson's Mater Dei High School team will look to keep its hopes for a California Interscholastic Federation Open Division title alive against the team which handed the Monarchs both of their losses this season when Mater Dei meets Chaminade in the Southern regional final.

Samuelson already broke the single-game Mater Dei scoring record formerly shared by current UConn star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis when she dropped 42 on Palisades in the first round of the CIF tournament. If she makes three 3-pointers, something she did 21 times in 30 games this season, she will break Mosqueda-Lewis' single-season 3-point school record. Mosqueda-:Lewis had 116 as a senior while Samuelson currently has 114.
"It is all right because it is going to a worthy person," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I am glad that she has (the records) and hopefully they will win against Chaminade."

Mosqueda-Lewis is fully aware of the pressures of playing at a program the caliber of Mater Dei and believes Samuelson, who has played for the Monarchs for her final three season, will be better prepared for what is in store for her when she arrives in Storrs.

"There is a lot you have to get ready for coming to Connecticut so I think it will help her get ready for Connecticut."

Obviously the UConn players and coaches will be a little busy at the time of the Mater Dei/Chaminade game but they have been keeping tabs on a player who just recently was named the Gatorade national high school player of the year.

"I thought the picture of her surprise (when WNBA star Elena Delle Donne presented Samuelson with the award) was priceless," UConn associate coach Chris Dailey said. "Her mom had told me she was going to get it and it was going to be a surprise. She works really hard, she is a winner, she wants to win so I wasn't surprised she was chosen. She has a big game so hopefully she will win that as well.

"All three kids that we are bringing in (are accustomed to winning). De'Janae's senior year has been a little bit different because of the injury, she had surgery on the wrist but certainly Napheesa and Katie Lou are enjoying a lot of success as seniors because their teams win. You can score a lot of points but if you are not winning, it doesn't feel as good. Those two in particular know how to win and hopefully they will both win a championship."

Another remarkable season at the helm of the Tufts women's basketball program came to an end for Carla Berube.

Berube, a key member of UConn's first national championship team, led the Jumbos to a second straight Division III Final Four. Tufts cut a 17-point Thomas More lead down to six points on three occasions before losing 62-52 in the national semifinal.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

UConn's Mosqueda-Lewis a proven postseason performer

With some free time on my hands this week I was able to complete my research on the most prolific postseason scorers in UConn women's basketball history.

It shouldn't surprise too many people to see Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi ranking No. 1 and 2 on the list. However. current senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is currently fifth on that list and barring could very well move by Tina Charles and into fourth on that list during the next few days.

"It is my favorite time of the year," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "It is the time you wait for and once you start your basketball career in college, what you dream about it is March Madness and being a part of it. It is what I get the most excited for."

Here is the list with the conference tournament point total listed first followed by NCAA point production

Maya Moore        181-476 657
Diana Taurasi      169-428 597
Kara Wolters       242-322 568
Tina Charles        192-310 502
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 
                            180-293 473Renee Montgomery
                            138-296 435
Bria Hartley        131-300 431
Stefanie Dolson  189-219 408
Barbara Turner   132-274 406
Asjha Jones        134-242 376
Breanna Stewart 164-212 376
Rebecca Lobo     155-190 345
Swin Cash          125-218 338
Nykesha Sales    112-222 334
Carla Berube      143-190 333
Tamika Williams  126-201 327
Tiffany Hayes      90-228 318
Ann Strother      121-195 316
Kerry Bascom   200-110 310

Also, Mosqueda-Lewis is tied for ninth in NCAA tournament history with 35 3-pointers in NCAA tournament play and is 19th in career NCAA tournament scoring.

479—Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee, 1996-99 (22
476—Maya Moore, Connecticut, 2008-11 (22)
444—Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Stanford, 2009-11 (21)
428—Diana Taurasi, Connecticut, 2001-04 (23)
403—Brittney Griner, Baylor, 2010-13 (18)
388—Bridgette Gordon, Tennessee, 1986-89 (18)
372—Seimone Augustus, LSU, 2003-06 (19)
367—Candice Wiggins, Stanford, 2005-08 (16)
352—Alana Beard, Duke, 2001-04 (17)
348—Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame, 2010-13, (20)
333—Cheryl Miller, Southern California, 1983-86 (16)
332—Candace Parker, Tennessee, 2006-08 (16)
324—Jayne Appel, Stanford, 2007-10 (19)
322-Kara Wolters, Connecticut, 1993-97 (19)
312—Janice Lawrence, Louisiana Tech, 1982-84 (14)
310—Tina Charles, Connecticut, 2007-10 (21)
300—Bria Hartley, Connecticut, 2011-14 (22)
296-Renee Montgomery, Connecticut 2006-09 (19)
293—Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut, 2012-14 (17)291—Penny Toler, San Diego St./Long Beach St., 1985,
87-89 (13)

Most Three-Point Field Goals
61—Diana Taurasi, Connecticut, 2001-04 (23 games)
59—Maya Moore, Connecticut, 2008-11 (22)
42—Shanna Zolman, Tennessee, 2003-06 (21)
42—Candice Wiggins, Stanford, 2005-08 (16)
39—Sue Bird, Connecticut, 2000-02 (17)
37—Renee Montgomery, Connecticut, 2006-09 (19)
37—Bria Hartley, Connecticut, 2011-14 (22)
36—Kristi Toliver, Maryland, 2006-09 (16)
35—Jeanette Pohlen, Stanford, 2008-11 (22)
35—Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut, 2012-14 (17)


UConn's Stewart a finalist for Naismith Trophy

UConn's Breanna Stewart, the reigning Naismith Trophy winner, was one of four players named as finalists for the 2015 award.

Stewart. who would join Chamique Holdsclaw and former UConn greats Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore to win at least one Naismith girls' high school player and two Naismith Trophies.

Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd, Tiffany Mitchell of South Carolina and Minnesota's Amanda Zahui B were the other finalists.

For the 11th consecutive year, fans will have the opportunity to vote for the player of their choice beginning March 23 and running through April 4 fans can cast their vote through the online and mobile optimized site The fan vote represents 25
percent of the selection process.

Familiar haunts for Rutgers' C. Vivan Stringer

There was no need for anybody affiliated with UConn or the NCAA to show Hall of Fame Rutgers coach C/ Vivian Stringer the way to her team's locker room inside Gampel Pavilion.

She has played more than her share of games in Storrs, that is for sure.

Stringer chose her words carefully when discussing any potential annoyance at being sent to play in the subregional at UConn.

"Shazam, the NCAA said 'come back to UConn, Shazam,'" Stringer said. "Interesting.

"I am familiar, I even knew where I was supposed to go in the locker room."

Rutgers will play fellow former Big East and American Athletic Conference member Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

"I am really happy for our team to get an opportunity to witness to experience that great crowd support, that is trusting and hoping that we can get past Seton Hall, that is not a given," Stringer said. "What are the odds of that we would play Seton Hall again in the first round of the NCAA just like we did in the WNIT. I think it is exciting, our players are somewhat familiar with those players. The NCAA people probably said 'this would be really great' because we can get all of the fans so I am looking forward to that. It is close it is a bus ride and we can play UConn as well."

A year ago at this time it appeared as if UConn and Rutgers would meet in the regular season even after the Scarlet Knights headed to the Big Ten before that fell through.

"Let me say it like this, we have also had discussions about their being mandates for Seton Hall and Rutgers to play," Stringer said. "Do you know how many teams there are in the Big Ten? 14 or something like that. This makes sense where we are (to play) Seton Hall and Connecticut so yes, I am sure we are in the process of doing that. Everything will be taken consideration. Our RPI will be helped by a Connecticut game, our RPI now will not be at all hurt and perhaps helped with a Seton Hall game as well so that is possible. Quite honestly I would like to have some warm weather as well so I'd like to play with that too. It is nice to take a trip to North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida so all of those things are taken into consideration.

"Let me say this, if you look at all the teams that were part of the Big East were powerful as they left. Look at what happened at Notre Dame, they dominated that conference and Geno is going to dominate the world so that happens. Same thing with DePaul, not one of those teams that was a part of that Big East were slouches. We did have the most powerful basketball conference in the country but you wouldn't have found Muffet (McGraw, Notre Dame's head coach) asking could be please play Connecticut again and again and again. Now that we split up it is probably good for the basketball fans across the country. These teams that have been a part of the Big East and have been separated will have a chance to get together on a national stage probably at an Elite Eight level or something like that."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

UConn commit Collier to play for another state title on Saturday

UConn incoming freshman Napheesa Collier had 28 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocked shots as Incarnate Word Academy defeated Bolivar 78-55 in the Missouri Class 4 semifinals.

Collier, who was 11 of 14 from the field, teamed with junior Abbey Hoff (29 points and 7 of 9 from 3-point range) to outscore Bolivar in the second semifinal at Mizzou Arena.

Collier will attempt to lead Incarnate Word to a three consecutive state title on Saturday when Incarnate Word faces fellow St. Louis power Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School for the title. When the teams met during the regular season Collier had 36 points, 18 rebounds and three blocked shots in a 53-45 victory for Incarnate Word.

Former UConn star Carla Berube national coach of year finalist

Carla Berube, a key component on UConn's first national championship team, is one of 10 finalists for the Division III national coach of the year.

Berube, in her 13th season, has led Tufts to a 30-1 record and second straight trip to the Division III Final Four.

Here is the list of Division III regional coaches of the year

Region 1 – Carla Berube, Tufts University
Region 2 – Lauren Hall-Gregory, New York University
Region 3 – Karin Harvey, Montclair State University
Region 4 – Kelly Lewandowski, Salisbury University
Region 5 – Darrin Travillian, Maryville College
Region 6 – John Ross, Calvin College
Region 7 – Kent Madsen, Wheaton College (Ill.)
Region 8 – Ruth Sinn, University of St. Thomas

In addition to the regional winners, the following NCAA Division III Final Four coaches (Jeff Hans, Thomas More College and Michael Meek of George Fox University) are also included as at-large finalists for the national coach of the year.

Berube's Tufts team will play Thomas More College in the national semifinals on Saturday at 5 p.m.

UConn commit Samuelson is Gatorade national player of year

The honors keep coming for UConn incoming freshman Katie Lou Samuelson.

A week after being named the Naismith national player of the year, the senior at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., was named Gatorade's National Girls' Basketball Player of the Year. It is the fourth major national player of the year award as she was also honored by the Women's Basketball Association, Naismith and McDonald's (Morgan Wootten Award).

The 6-foot-3 Samuelson is averaging 30 points per game for Mater Dei, which playing in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Region final on Saturday against the Chaminade team responsible for both of Mater Dei's losses this season.

Samuelson set the Monarchs' single-game record with 42 points in the first round of the tournament. She broke the mark first set by current UConn star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, matched by current UCLA guard Nirra Fields and also by Samuelson in a December game against Skyline High out of Dallas. With 114 3-pointers she is two away from Mosqueda-Lewis' single-season Mater Dei record. Samuelson, who set Mater Dei records for field goal percentage, free throw percentage and free throws made as a junior, will also break the school record for points in a season which she also set during the 2013-14 season.

Samuelson is now in the running for the Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award last won by a UConn women's basketball recruit in 2012 when Breanna Stewart received the honor.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

UConn's Auriemma a finalist for Naismith Coach of Year award

UConn's Geno Auriemma is one of the four finalists for the Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year, an honor he has received six times.

Auriemma has led the top-ranked Huskies to 31 straight wins and a 32-1 record as UConn is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament for a record 10th time.

Florida State's Sue Semrau, South Carolina's Dawn Staley and Courtney Banghart of Princeton are the other finalists.

Auriemma won the Naismith Coach of the Year honor in the 1994-95, 1996-97, 1999-2000, 2001-02, 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.


A little rest does wonders for UConn

Geno Auriemma has a knack for knowing when the push his team to the limit and when to back off a little bit.

With the way the Huskies barely had to break a sweat during games, especially in the American Athletic Conference portion of their schedule, he really turned up the pressure in practice. However, realizing that it is a long journey from the first official practice in mid October to the national championship game next month, Auriemma gave the Huskies three basketball-free days after the conclusion of the AAC tournament.

"It was good for our team, especially playing three games in three days in a row is kind of tough on your body at this point in the season," UConn senior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We definitely needed a break mentally and physically."

UConn won't play on back to back days for the rest of the season. The first and second round games will be played on Saturday and Monday and the Albany Regional is also on a Saturday/Monday schedule with the Final Four  featuring Sunday semifinals and a Tuesday championship game.
"Three days off and then we got back into the gym," UConn junior guard Moriah Jefferson said. "It lets your body recover. You play three games in a row, you start trying to get fast break points and your legs start to feel the after affects of that.

"I think for the most part practices have been really good, we have done a lot better within these couple of practices. We know we are far from perfect. We have to go back and look at that, see the things we were doing wrong and fix them."

Perhaps no player needed a couple of days off more than freshman guard Kia Nurse.

She had multiple training camps with the Canadian national team heading into the FIBA World Championship for Women where Nurse was a starting guard during Canada's surprising run to a fifth place finish. When she got back to campus, she had plenty of catching up to do especially academically. Then it was straight into the grind of a long season.

Nurse played a season low 14 minutes in the AAC title game and it was the only time this season that she failed to score. Perhaps three days away followed by scaled back practices will be just what Nurse needs to return to playing like she did when she was inserted into the starting lineup before the third game of the season.

"A couple days off here and there, unwinding, kind of getting back into the (cycle) of rejuvenation and it just makes practice better and we are ready to go," Nurse said. "We are just focusing on what we are good at right now, perfecting that and making sure that is going really well."

At this time of the year the amount of national attention the UConn basketball programs get tends to increase.

Right on cue, Sports Illustrated did a 48-photo slideshow featuring a familiar face at Gampel Pavilion. However, it wasn't a member of either the men's or women's basketball team but cheerleader Kristi Pratt who was honored as SI's Cheerleader of the Week.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

UConn signee Samuelson with another big game

Katie Lou Samuelson's junior season at Mater Dei High School ended with a loss to Long Beach Poly in the California Interscholastic Federation Open Division tournament.

The UConn incoming freshman made sure that history did not repeat as she had a game-high 30 points to lead Mater Dei to a 60-44 win over Long Beach Poly.

With the win and Chaminade's 79-40 win over Clovis West, Samuelson and the Monarchs will get to play the Chaminade team responsible for both of the losses this season when the teams play in the Southern Regional Final on Saturday at 6 p.m. (9 p.m. here in Connecticut). The winner of that game will play the winner of Miramonte and St. Mary's for the CIF Open Division title on Mar. 28.

The game was streamed by Mater Dei and after the game Samuelson spoke about getting revenge against LB Poly, the upcoming game against Chaminade and her decision to commit to UConn.

"We knew coming in that Poly was tough and we were going to have to fight every possession and that is what is came out to be, my teammates did a really good job being poised the whole time and dealing with tough Long Beach Poly is," Samuelson said. "I think we played awesome defense and that is what won us this game.

"Last year was tough. They came into our gym and kicked out butts. They came in and beat us down so we were really excited to play this game and go against them again. We got the ending we wanted this time.

"We lost twice to them (Chaminade) by one point. We kind of gave the game to them at the end. We went up and let them beat us on a shot so I think we will be more prepared for this game and not get too comfortable. We got too comfortable with our game in the last game and they beat us so we will be ready."

Samuelson, playing in her final home game, posted her 18th 30-point game of the season

"I wanted to go to a place where I knew that as a player I could get overall better and I know that Coach Auriemma can do that for me. I am very competitive and I want to win, I want to go to a winning school and I am really happy that I did."

Samuelson, who broke one of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' Mater Dei records when she scored a school record 42 points in a first-round win over Palisades, is closing in on another of her marks. Samuelson hit five 3-pointers to give her 114 this season which is two shy of the record 116 Mosqueda-Lewis made during the 2010-11 season.


March Madness is favorite time of the year for UConn's Stewart

Don't take this the wrong way because Breanna Stewart is a second-team Academic All-American so she is not merely enrolled at UConn to play for the juggernaut of a women's basketball program.

However, she is somewhat giddy at the prospects of being able to watch the wall to wall coverage of the first two rounds of the men's NCAA Division I basketball tournament with few interruptions.

Certainly the Huskies, who earned the No. 1 overall seed in the women's Division I tournament for a record 10th time, will have some spirited practices leading into the first-round game against St. Francis (N.Y.). But with UConn currently on spring break, there are no classes for Stewart or her teammates to go to until next week.

"I am just happy because Thursday and Friday are my favorite days of the year, all the basketball going on and it is nice I don't have to have class and I can just watch," Stewart said.

Long before she became the best high school player in the country she was just another basketball crazy fan in Syracuse who could barely wait for the NCAA tournament to kick into high gear.

"I don't even know when I started doing that," Stewart said. "It even got to the point where I would beg my parents to let me stay home for these two days so I could watch these games. Some days I won that battle, sometimes I lost but it is so much excitement with how ever many games are playing during the day, the upsets."

Stewart is known for being in attendance at the UConn men's games as well. Along with teammates Morgan Tuck and Kiah Stokes, she received plenty of air time at the nationally-televised American Athletic Conference men's championship game. UConn's quest to win the title and earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament came up short but it was still a memorable experience for Stewart.

"It was fun," Stewart said. "To have the American Athletic Conference tournament hosted at XL Center was cool, just to see how many UConn fans were supporting our men even though they came up short, I think everybody is proud of how they fought back."

There have been plenty of interesting stories over the years about how one teammate will barter to another to get a particular number to wear. So when Kia Nurse started wearing the No. 11 that was donned by Briana Pulido last season, I was curious is there was a bit of negotiating necessary.

As it turned out, that was simply not the case.

Other than her time with the Canadian national team Nurse said "I have always been 11 on any basketball team I have ever played on."

So when the coaches asked her if she had a number preference, she never hesitated.
"When they emailed me and asked for what number, I didn't know how it worked here but I said I would like No. 11 but if that is not possible, that is no problem," Nurse said. "I was fortunate enough to get it. Polly (Pulido) is really cool like that."

Pulido didn't think giving up her number was a big deal so she changed to No. 24 without giving it a second thought.

"The coaches said to me 'Kia would like to use No. 11.'" Pulido said. "I was like 'OK.' I picked another number and that was it. It wasn't a big deal for me. I chose 11 on my own, I had never been 11 at all and 24, it was just a new number."

UConn incoming freshman Napheesa Collier happens to wear No.  24 so if she asked for that number would Pulido change uniform numbers again?

"Sure," Pulido said again without hesitation.

Tickets for the first and second round of the 2015 NCAA tournament went on sale today at

Tickets are priced per session at $20 for adults and $15 for youth and seniors.
Tickets can also be purchased at the UConn Athletic Ticket Office in Storrs or by calling 1-877-AT-UCONN between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Parking will be available in the North and South Garages for $5 per car.

Chad Hibdon, the coach of UConn Class of 2016 commit Crystal Dangerfield at Blackman High in Murfreesboro, was named one of eight WBCA District High School Coaches of the Year.

Hibdon led Blackman to a 32-2 record and second straight Tennessee AAA title. Here are the winners who are eligible to be named the WBCA National High School Coach of the Year.

District 2 – Dawn Karpell, St. John Vianney
District 3 – Scott Allen, Paul VI High School
District 4 – Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins High School
District 5 – Bob Hanson, Dowling
District 6 – Daryl Fimple, North Little Rock High School
District 7 – Will Gray , Desert Vista High School
District 8 – Carl Buggs, Long Beach Poly
District 9 – Chad Hibdon, Blackman High School

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