Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

UConn commit Dangerfield plays in McDonald's game

UConn incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield had six points, six assists and one steal in 28 minutes in tonight's McDonald's All-American Game.

Dangerfield's East team lost to the West 97-88 in overtime as former UConn recruiting target Sabrina Ionescu had a record 25 points. Ionescu was the lone uncommitted player in the game. She is reported to be down to Cal, Oregon State and Oregon.

UConn holding rally on Thursday

UConn is holding a rally on Thursday before the team heads to the airport to head to the Final Four.

UConn is encouraging fans to arrive outside the north entrance of Gampel Pavilion.  There will be giveaways during the 30 minutes before the team and travel party leaves for the airport.

 Here is a link to the official release

UConn incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield will be getting some air time tonight when she plays in the McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago.

The game will begin at 6:30 p.m. and be televised on ESPNU with Dangerfield playing for the East team.

On Friday her future UConn teammate Kyla Irwin will be playing in the Altoona Mirror Basketball Classic All-Star Game at Mount Aloysius College with the girls' game beginning at 6:30 p.m.

UConn's Auriemma on backlash: "I don't know what the right answer is"

Although you may see posts and tweets proclaiming that Geno Auriemma is laying the blame for the scorn heading his program's way due to their incredible dominance is due to it being a women's sport, that is not an accurate characterization of his comments on today's conference call.

Auriemma actually stated that he has no idea why the dynasty he has created is viewed with a negative connotation by some but did throw out some theories.

Here's what he said

"The easiest answer is it is women's sports so the people who write, for the most part, are men; the people who follow sports a lot who have opinions that are quick to voice their opinions are men," Auriemma said. "So the easy answer, I wouldn't say it is the right answer, but the easy answer is that it is a male bias and that is easy. Because we are in the news when we do something, when we have been in the news and we are thrown out there against a lot of people's wishes so it is as if it is our fault or that the women's game is not a sport, it is a joke."

And then there is this from Auriemma

"The right answer, I don't know what the right answer is, I have no idea," Auriemma said. "We do what we do, the people who appreciate it, appreciate it. It is a constant battle, it is a constant fight to prove we are legitimate, to prove we are worthy of some of the attention that we get but what is the absolute right answer? I don't know but I don't have the right answer. Maybe because it is basketball and it is easy to compare. What other sport are you going to compare it to. If there was a women's professional football league, maybe they would compare it to the (New England) Patriots, if there was a basketball league, they would compare it to the Yankees, I don't know. I just know that what we do is really hard to do, what these three seniors (Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck) in particular and what this team has done is really hard to do. If there are people who don't appreciate it, that is fine I am not asking you to but don't demean those who do appreciate it, that is all."

UConn has won its last 73 games, all by at least 10 points. It is the second longest streak in NCAA Division I women's basketball history with the Huskies also holding the first and third longest streaks. UConn's average margin of victory is 40.3 points just short of the record of 40.6 set by last year's team and the Huskies will have the top six marks in NCAA Division I women's basketball history in scoring margin with four of the top five entries coming in the last seven seasons. The 1995-96 Louisiana Tech and 2001-02 UConn teams are the only women's Division I squads to lead the country in both scoring offense and defense in the same year. The Huskies are attempting to accomplish that feat in back to back seasons.

The conversation has intensified during the NCAA tournament when the Huskies won their first three games by 52.7 points per game before "only" topping Texas by 21 to punch a ticket to the Final Four for a record ninth season in a row.

Time for some women's sports history,

North Carolina won 14 of the first 16 women's soccer championships including nine in a row. As impressive as the 21 national titles won by the Tar Heels from 1982-2012 might be, consider that the seniors on the 1993 national championship team had a 75-0 record in their final three seasons while the Tar Heels lost one game in eight seasons. In softball UCLA and Arizona have 20 national titles between them including 10 in a row while either UCLA or Arizona played for the national title in 21 consecutive seasons. Maryland has 11 women's lacrosse championships including seven straight from 1995-2001 while the Old Dominion field hockey and Georgia gymnastics programs have matched UConn's total of 10 national titles. Then there are the indoor and outdoor track and field programs at Louisiana State which won 11 indoor titles from 1987-2004 while winning 11 straight outdoor championships with 13 of the program's 15 titles coming during those years. Villanova has won nine women's Division I cross country titles including six in a row from 1989-94  Minnesota has won four of the last five women's hockey titles. If Minnesota had won the 2014 title, all 16 titles would have been won by Minnesota, Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth.

"We are not even the most dominant women's program in the country when you look at Penn State volleyball, North Carolina soccer but because those sports, there is not a lot of national television coverage, there is not a lot of talk about it, they get to just do their thing," Auriemma said. "God bless them. I am really happy for them and proud of them because they have set a standard that we should all aspire to be at."

UConn's Auriemma weighs in on Carla Berube's coaching success

Today was and is the annual call with the four Final Four head coaches. Geno Auriemma was up first and naturally there were plenty of big picture type questions but thankfully not too many on the silly "is UConn's dominance bad for the sport" subject.

Auriemma was, for him, somewhat reserved with how he addressed the subject of four male head coaches advancing their teams to the Final Four, why his program's dominance is viewed in a negative way as opposed to some powerhouses in men's sports and of course why UConn played at Colgate and not Syracuse for Breanna Stewart's homecoming game.

Some of his answers will be posted here but first I thought I would give his take on Carla Berube, a key player on Auriemma's first national championship team, leading her Tufts program into the Division III title game.

"When Carla Berube was a player at Connecticut, I think she probably said one word as a freshman, two as a sophomore, three as a junior and then I think she said a sentence once she was a senior," Auriemma said. "For her to go into coaching was an unbelievable shock for me. For her to be a really good coach, I am not surprised because she is really competitive, she is really bright, she is a tough kid. I singled her out to shoot the two free throws that iced the game in the national championship game her sophomore year and we had Jen Rizzotti, Jamelle Elliott, Rebecca Lobo, Nykesha Sales and Kara Wolters and I am not surprised.

"Does she reach out to me? After spending four years with me, very few of my former players who are coaches reach out to me for anything unless they need me to buy dinner when we are traveling.

"What I am most proud of is that they have all gone out and done it their own way and coached (to)their personality. Any of my former players who went into coaching, the biggest mistake they could make would be to 'I am going to do it exactly the way Coach Auriemma did it.' That is not the winning edge and I am really proud of them."

Monday, March 28, 2016

UConn seniors headed back to the Final Four

Coming off a 60-point win in the regional semifinals and facing a Texas team that they dispatched by 51 points in the 2015 NCAA tournament, likely the expectation was that UConn would punch a trip to a record ninth straight Final Four by 50, 60 or maybe even 70 points.

The UConn players, however, realized that beating a team by 51 points especially one with the talent that the Texas team possesses, was not going to result in another laugher.

Had Lashann Higgs' 3-pointer been taken a split second earlier, the Longhorns would have only trailed by two at the end of the first quarter. When replays showed that it was taken after time had expired, Texas was down five at the opening quarter.

"You cant expect these games to be easy anymore," said regional Most Outstanding Player Breanna Stewart. "Texas was a gritty team and they stopped a lot of things that we wanted to do.
"If you lose to somebody by 51 the year before, you are going to come out and make sure that is not the case. They did that, they are a better team this year."
Stewart had 21 points and 13 rebounds as she tied Maya Moore's UConn record with her eighth double-double in the NCAA tournament. Morgan Tuck chipped in with 22 points and six assists for UConn (36-0).

Moriah Jefferson added 11 points and nine assists, Kia Nurse also had 11 while freshmen Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier had nine points each for UConn with Collier delivering key minutes in the first half with Tuck and Gabby Williams on the bench with two fouls each.
Texas was within five points with 7:22 left in the first half before it started to get away from them.
The Longhorns missed 10 shots in a row before Higgs scored with 1:16 seconds left in the half. Her basket did cut the lead to 14 and the Longhorns went into the locker room down by 15.

Trailing  by 12 midway through the third quarter, Texas had a chance to get the lead down to 10 but were unable to corral the rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Katie Lou Samuelson. Morgan Tuck made the Longhorns pay with a jumper and by the end of the third quarter it was a 19-point game.
With 1:38 Stewart, Jefferson and Tuck came out of the game and received a thunderous ovation. Jefferson and Stewart stepped off the court in Connecticut for the final time as college players and Tuck may have as well unless she opts to return for a fifth season of eligibility.

"It was a surreal moment, it doesn't even seem real," Jefferson said. "It's been four years, it doesn't feel like it. It feels like we should have another season this year and we don't."

What the Huskies do have is a chance to win an unprecedented fourth straight national title. It begins on Sunday with a 6 p.m. game against either Baylor or Oregon State.
"It has been an amazing journey and to be able to go to our fourth Final Four," Stewart said. "We don't want it to end any other way (than a fourth straight national title)."

Not only did Stewart and Jefferson receive first team honors with Tuck being named to the second tea, on the Associated Press All-American team, but they were all named to the 10-player Wooden All-American team as well.

Minnesota's Rachel Banham, Nina Davis of Baylor, Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State, Notre Dame's Brianna Turner, Kelsey Plum of Final Four bound Washington and the South Carolina duo of Tiffany Mitchell and A'ja Wilson were also named Wooden All-Americans.

UConn well represented on Associated Press All-American team

Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck came into UConn considered to be one of the most star-studded recruiting classes in women's college basketball history.

Four years later they are closing in on being the winningest class of all time and over the next week or two there should be plenty of individual accolades coming their way as well.

On Monday Stewart and Jefferson were named first-team Associated Press All-Americans while Tuck was a second team selection.

Stewart leads UConn in scoring, averaging 19.3 points per game, rebounding (8.6) and in blocked shots (120). She had blocked a program record 408 shots and her 474 made free throws is also the most in program history. Stewart is the first women's Division I player with at least 400 assists and 400 blocked shots while her 133 double-digit scoring games is the fourth highest total in Division I history. She joins former UConn star Maya Moore, Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw, Oklahoma's Courtney Paris and Duke's Alana Beard as three time first team AP All-Americans.

Jefferson ranks second on UConn's career list with 638 assists and 350 steals and of the women's Division I players with at least 600 assists and 300 steals, she has the best assist/turnover ratio. Jefferson joins Stewart as the only Division I women's players shooting at least 55 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the foul line. She is currently UConn's third-leading scorer with an average of 12.7 points per game and with eight more steals, she will join Nykesha Sales as the only UConn player with three seasons with at least 100 steals.

Tuck is averaging 13 points and 5.9 rebounds and is third on the team with 100 assists.

The trio have combined for more points, assists, steals and blocked shots of any three classmates in UConn history and if the Huskies win the national title, the 151 wins since their arrival would be a Division I women's record.

Former Hillhouse High star Bria Holmes, who scored more than 2,000 points at West Virginia, was an honorable mention selection.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

UConn's Auriemma: "We do what we do"

Ask Geno Auriemma a question and you are rather likely to get an unfiltered response.

So when Auriemma was asked about the comments made by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy about UConn's dominance hurting the women's college basketball game (something that has been uttered rather frequently in the last three seasons) during today's press conference, he didn't hold back.

"He has a lot of comments from up in Boston," Auriemma said. "My (answer) is, 'don't watch.' Don't watch. Nobody's putting a gun to your head to watch. So don't watch. And don't write about it. Spend your time on things that you think are important. If you don't think this is important, don't pay any attention to it. The fact that you have to comment on it, says something about you, doesn't it? We are where we are. We are what we are. You know? We do what we do. We do what we do.

"When Tiger (Woods) was winning every major, nobody said he was bad for golf. Actually, he did a lot for golf. He made everybody have to be a better golfer. And they did. And now there's a lot more great golfers because of Tiger. So, there's a lot better writers than Dan Shaughnessy, but that doesn't mean he's bad for the game."

Naturally he was asked a different variation of the question (with more likely to be coming assuming UConn advances to the Final Four).

"If I put it in that perspective, I think over the last 20 years, we have taken a lot of really good high school players and given them opportunities to be great, and we have been given a job to do, my coaching staff and myself. They said, here's an opportunity and what are you going to do with it?
I think what we have done is we have done our jobs. We have taken this opportunity, and we have done it as well or better than anybody's ever done it in any sport. I think when you try to defend yourself against what she was talking about, the game, you come off sounding like, petty and bitter and all that other stuff, so I certainly don't want to do that.

"If the average person out there would just take a second and think to themselves, ever in my life have I ever been that good at anything that I've ever tried to do, for that long? You know what? They would understand that what we have done, regardless of who we have done it against, what sport we have done it in, what era we have done it in, we have done something that's really, really, really hard to do. And people that care about us, and the people that I care about, really appreciate it.

"Where that stands, where that stacks up ,,, Coach Wooden did something that no one will ever, ever do again. Like you could say a lot of things, nobody's ever going to hit 56 straight games again or whatever. No men's basketball coach is going to win 11 national championships or 10 national championships or seven in a row. You can pretty much make that comment and be true. It happened in an era where it was possible. So we're doing something in an era where it's possible. Will it ever happen again? I don't know. But maybe down the road, some other coach will be sitting up here talking about how in their era, they're the best at what they do.

"Tomorrow night, it could all come crashing down, and then the Boston Globe will write a big front page story about how UConn got their (butts) kicked, and then everybody will be happy."

UConn's reigning national player of the year Breanna Stewart wasn't quite as outspoken when posed a similar question.

"Well, it's funny, I just saw something about that," Stewart said. "I think it's interesting when people say that. If you look at our game yesterday, yeah, there was a huge difference in the score, but the way that we were playing, we were executing everything we needed to execute, and I know speaking for the players, we had a great time.

"People say that women's basketball is boring to watch, but when we're playing at such a high level and because we're beating everyone else, then they don't want to watch it either. So I don't know what they want us to do about it."

Texas assistant, UConn's Jefferson go way back

Texas assistant coach George Washington is not the least bit surprised at the success that one of her former pupils is enjoying.

Before joining the Longhorns' staff, Washington was one of the coaches with the powerful and influential DFW Elite AAU program which has featured players on each of the last five women's Division I national championship teams. The list of prominent alumni includes UConn's Moriah Jefferson.

The two have crossed paths in the Webster Bank Arena hallways in the last few days and greeted each other with huge smiles and a quick hug.

Jefferson is expected to be a first-team All-American for the second season in a row, is closing in on Diana Taurasi's career assists record at UConn and with three more wins she will be a part of four national championship teams with the Huskies.

"At this point it is expected just by her work ethic when she was young, everything she has achieved is expected because she has always pushed herself to the max, that is what she does," Washington said.

Washington invariably found himself snaring rebounds when Jefferson would get some shots either before or after a practice or game. He always appreciated Jefferson's easy going manner off the court but also the intensity she plays with on the court.

"That is just kind of the nature of her family, she is from a sweet family but she has always been like that on the court," Washington said. "I think it is her competitive nature, she has always driven herself to be the best and do whatever it takes, she wants her team to be the best, wants the team to be the best and it is just her competitive nature."

What about a task of game planning for Jefferson as Texas will play UConn in the regionals for the second year in a row.

"It is hard to game plan for intangibles," Washington said. "You are of course impressed by her speed and her amazing ability to shoot the ball. She has always been a great leader but it is her intangibles. She gets up on your ball handler and it is not because it is just her defensive skill, it is her competitiveness. She wants to disrupt and she has always been like that, it is her intangibles that you can't game plan for but have to be prepared for."

Saturday, March 26, 2016

UConn's Tuck on a postseason roll

There have been practices and even an occasional game that Morgan Tuck has need to sit out just so she would be ready to go at this time of the year.

Well, looking at the way Tuck was able to move around the court in Saturday's regional semifinal win over Mississippi State, it certainly looks like the precautions are paying off.

"I don't have to worry about my knee at all, it feels normal and like my other knee," Tuck said of her surgically-repaired right knee. "It feels really good that we finally figured it out and have it feeling great at this time of the year."

Tuck's troublesome right knee led to her being limited to eight games during the 2013-14 season. She was shut down for a couple of weeks with the hope that rest would help her deal with soreness in the knee.

Tuck returned against Tulane on Feb. 3 and five days later played 33 minutes in a win over South Carolina. Tuck has played at least 20 minutes Beginning with a Feb. 27 win over Tulane in each of the last 10 games. After playing 35 minutes in a second-round win over Duquesne, Tuck tied for the team lead with 28 minutes in Saturday's win.

Tuck finished with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. She did nearly all of her damage in the first half as the Huskies took a 61-12 lead into the locker room at halftime.

"Any time Tuck is playing that way we are pretty much unbeatable," UConn senior Moriah Jefferson said.

Day after day the returning Texas players were left to ponder what transpired in the final game the Longhorns would play during the 2014-15 season.

Texas advanced to the regional semifinals only to fall to UConn 105-54. It was a humbling end to an otherwise impressive season.

Thanks to a 72-64 win over UCLA, the Longhorns will meet the Huskies once again as the teams will square off in the regional final on Monday at 7 p.m.

"I think we were very aware in terms of our off season about how we ended our season last year, so we tried to put in the work coming into the tournament and during the season, so we could come in with a higher seed and try to our best to go as far as possible," said Texas senior center Imani Boyette, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds against UCLA. "But we have no clue, so far, about how we're going to play (Monday), because we were focused on UCLA and our opponent today and getting through them. We couldn't try to play Connecticut if we hadn't beat UCLA. We had to respect them, and we did."

Like so many people across the country, the UConn coaches and players were watching Friday night's games when the four  lower seeds won the regional semifinals. A South Carolina and Notre Dame, both No. 1 seeds, fell to Syracuse and Stanford respectively opening things up rather considerably on the opposite half of the bracket.

When the dust settled, No. 4 seeds Syracuse and Stanford advanced along with No. 7 seeds Tennessee and Washington with one of those four teams guaranteed to appear in the national championship game.

"For women's basketball, I think people think they know who is going to win and that is who also wins but for those wins, that is great for women's basketball,"  Tuck said. "It is exciting to watch but we take it as we don't want it to be us."

How rare is it to have all three of the top seeds in a regional eliminated before the Elite Eight? Well, the last time it happened came in 2001 when fifth seeded Missouri State defeated No. 6 seed Washington to reach the Final Four. Now that is the scenario in both the Sioux Falls and Lexington regions.

"As a fan and as a friend, playing USA Basketball with some of them, growing up with some of them, it is sad to see that their careers are over or cut short because when you have really great players, you want to see them do really well in March," UConn senior forward Breanna Stewart said.

"For the younger guys, they are going to have a lot of motivation coming back next year but I am sure that this one hurts."

The upsets did have special meaning to a pair of Huskies.

Stewart's former AAU teammate with the Philly Belles Brittney Sykes had 17 points and nine rebounds as Syracuse upset South Carolina 80-72.

"I just know watching Syracuse, I was really happy and proud of Brittney Sykes," Stewart said. "She went through two ACL surgeries and she is out for almost two years which you don't want to wish on anybody. They did what they wanted to do, they beat South Carolina and now they are in the Elite

Eight, first time in program history and they deserve it. When you have been through a lot like that and things go so well, how could you not wish that on somebody."

Stanford's win hit even closer to home for UConn freshman Katie Lou Samuelson since her older sister Karlie had 20 points in the victory against Notre Dame.

"Well, I got super excited when she banked in that three (late in the fourth quarter)," Samuelson said. "Mo (Moriah Jefferson) is my roommate, she can tell you. She was laughing at me the whole time."

UConn and Notre Dame have agreed to a four-year extension of the home and home series.

This will be the first year that the teams won't meet in the Final Four since 2010. After Notre Dame headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference, they didn't meet in the regular season during the 2013-14 season but played in each of the last two seasons.

The series will begin next season with a game in South Bend.

Friday, March 25, 2016

UConn freshman Collier finding her game, confidence at the right time

There are seven players in UConn history who scored in double figures in each of their first three games in the NCAA tournament as a freshman and six of them happen to be a part of the Huskies of Honor.

While time will tell if Napheesa Collier will one day see her number up there among the program's greats, she could join Paige Sauer, Svetlana Abrosimova, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart with three straight double-digit scoring games in the NCAA tournament as a freshman.

Collier followed up a 14-point, 9-rebound performance against Robert Morris by contributing 11 points and five rebounds in a second-round win over Duquesne. She is playing and practicing with more of a sense of urgency than at any other time this season.

"It is really important so he (UConn coach Geno Auriemma) can trust me in game situations," Collier said. "I am happier than I was in the last couple of games.
"I think it is really important because we need contributions from everyone. The starting lineup can't play the whole 40 minutes so especially next year when the seniors are gone, we need the other players to step up. They are not going to be here next year so everybody has to prove that we are ready for life without them."
There are various attributes that Collier has brought to UConn and perhaps none have been more noticeable during her freshman season than her ability to snare offensive rebounds.
Collier currently had a team-high 79 offensive boards matching the total Gabby Williams had a season ago as a freshman. The last UConn freshman to have more than that in a season was the legendary Moore, who pulled down 104 during the 2007-08 season.
"I think I have always been a rebounder in high school so it has carried over," Collier said. "It has always just been something that I have done, I guess it is a good habit."
A HOT TICKETWhile UConn had to resort to offering free tickets to students to add to the number of fans who turned out in the second-round NCAA tournament game at Gampel Pavilion, there have been no much issues at Webster Bank Arena.
Saturday's regional semifinals are sold out with 8,898 fans expected for the UConn/Mississippi State and UCLA/Texas games.
Tournament officials said that fans of the top teams eliminated could return tickets so there is a chance for tickets to be available for Monday's regional final.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

UConn trio named Wade Trophy finalists

UConn's Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were among 15 players named as finalists for the prestigious Wade Trophy.

Stewart is UConn's leading scorer (19.2 points per game) and rebounder (8.4), has a team-high 115 blocked shots and is second with 131 assists. Jefferson leads the Huskies with 179 assists and 88 steals while contributing 12.8 points per game. Tuck averages 12.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Here is the list of finalists:
Rachel Banham Minnesota Senior Guard
Alaina Coates South Carolina Junior Center
Nina Davis Baylor Junior Forward
Myisha Hines-Allen Louisville Sophomore Forward
Moriah Jefferson Connecticut Senior Guard Brittney Martin Oklahoma State Senior Guard
Kelsey Mitchell Ohio State Sophomore Guard
Tiffany Mitchell South Carolina Senior Guard
Kelsey Plum Washington Junior Guard
Breanna Stewart Connecticut Senior Forward
Morgan Tuck Connecticut Senior Forward
Brianna Turner Notre Dame Sophomore Forward
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough Maryland Junior Guard
Courtney Williams South Florida Senior Guard
A’ja Wilson South Carolina Sophomore Forward

Also, Jefferson was named a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award which is presented annually to the nation's best point guard.

Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen, Niya Johnson of Baylor, Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell and Brene Moseley of Maryland are the other finalists. Jefferson won the award last year and has a chance to join Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins as the only two-time winners of the award.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

UConn's Auriemma named WBCA Coach of the Year

UConn's Geno Auriemma, who stands four wins away from leading the Huskies to their sixth undefeated season and 11th national title, was named the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's National Coach of the Year.

It is the sixth time Auriemma has won the award and the first time since the 2008-09 season.

Here is the release from the WBCA

Geno Auriemma, head coach at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut, is the recipient of the Pat Summitt Trophy presented to the 2016 United States Marine Corps/WBCA NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) announced today. This marks the 34th year since 1983 that the WBCA has presented this honor to a NCAA Division I head coach. It is Auriemma’s sixth WBCA NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year honor.
 "The WBCA is elated to name Geno as the 2016 United States Marine Corps/WBCA NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year," said WBCA Executive Director Danielle Donehew. "Geno had a tremendous season, making an impact with his student-athletes on and off the court, as confirmation by the vote from his respective peers and is very deserving of the WBCA’s highest praise for the coaching profession."
 Auriemma, currently in his 31st season at Connecticut, has guided the top-ranked Huskies to an unblemished 34-0 record. He has guided the Huskies to their 21st 30-win season. He has led UConn to their eighth undefeated regular season and the Huskies are on a 71-game winning streak, the second longest in team and NCAA Division I women’s history. UConn went undefeated in conference play during the regular season, accomplishing the feat for the 12th time in program history. The Huskies also secured the conference tournament title for the 21st time, beating the University of South Florida 77-51.
Auriemma was selected for the third straight year as the American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, earning his 13th overall conference Coach of the Year honor. Auriemma is also a finalist for the 2016 Naismith Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year, which he has previously won six times.
During his 31 years at the helm, Auriemma has accumulated a 951-134 record (.876), which is the best winning percentage in the history of the sport as well as accumulating 10 national championships. Auriemma also owns the record for consecutive Final Four appearances with eight.
The Huskies head to their 24th Sweet Sixteen appearance in the NCAA Division I Tournament where they will face Mississippi State on March 26.
 "The Marine Corps continues to enjoy our long and successful partnership with the WBCA.  For us, one of the major highlights of the relationship is to annually recognize the organization's outstanding coaches," said Lieutenant Colonel Brian Proctor, Assistant Chief of Staff Diversity, Marine Corps Recruiting Command.  "Each of these fine individuals, chosen by their peers to receive this well-deserved honor, exemplifies the Marine Corps leadership values of honor, courage and commitment."
The United States Marine Corps and the WBCA present the Pat Summitt Trophy, named for the legendary University of Tennessee coach, to the United States Marine Corps/WBCA National Coach of the Year annually in each of the six WBCA membership divisions (NCAA Divisions I, II and III; NAIA; junior/community college and high school).
The national coach of the year is selected from a list of finalists composed of the regional coaches of the year, who are chosen by vote of their peers in their respective WBCA membership regions, and were announced earlier this week via social media. They are:
•Region 1 – David Magarity, United States Military Academy
•Region 1 – Muffet McGraw, University of Notre Dame
•Region 2 – Amanda Butler, University of Florida
•Region 2 – Dawn Staley, University of South Carolina
•Region 3 – Geno Auriemma, University of Connecticut
•Region 3 – Kim Mulkey, Baylor University
•Region 4 – Doug Bruno, DePaul University
•Region 4 – Brenda Frese, University of Maryland
•Region 5 – Cori Close, UCLA
•Region 5 – Charli Turner Thorne, Arizona State University

UConn's Stewart, Jefferson, Tuck candidates for WBCA All-American honors

The WBCA announced the all-region teams which is the first step towards selecting the WBCA All-American team.

UConn was well represented with the trio of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck being selected to the Region 3 team as was former Hillhouse High star Bria Holmes.

Stewart is UConn's leading scorer (19.2 points per game) and rebounder (8.4), has a team-high 115 blocked shots and is second with 131 assists. Jefferson leads the Huskies with 179 assists and 88 steals while contributing 12.8 points per game. Tuck averages 12.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Holmes led West Virginia in scoring (16.8 points per game) and has a team-best 130 assists.

Here are the teams
Region 1
Lindsay Allen Notre Dame Junior Guard 5’8”
Adut Bulgak Florida State Senior Center 6’4”
Madison Cable Notre Dame Senior Guard 5’10”
Myisha Hines-Allen Louisville Sophomore Forward 6’2”
Jonquel Jones George Washington Senior Forward 6’6”
Kelsey Minato Army Senior Guard 5’8”
Mariya Moore Louisville Sophomore Forward 6’0”
Adrienne Motley Miami (Fla.) Junior Guard 5’9”
Shereesha Richards Albany Senior Forward 6’1”
April Robinson Duquesne  Senior Guard 5’8”
Leticia Romero Florida State Junior Guard 5’8”
Azurá Stevens Duke Sophomore Forward 6’6”
Shakayla Thomas Florida State Sophomore Guard 5’11”
Brianna Turner Notre Dame Sophomore Forward 6’3”
Aaliyah Whiteside Georgia Tech Senior Guard/Forward 6’0”
Region 2
Alaina Coates South Carolina Junior Center 6’4”
Makayla Epps Kentucky Junior Guard 5’10”
Nathalie Fontaine Ball State Senior Guard 6’2”
Jordan Frericks Missouri Junior Forward 6’1”
Tiffany Mitchell South Carolina Senior Guard 5’9”
Victoria Vivians Mississippi State Sophomore Guard 6’1”
Courtney Walker Texas A&M Senior Guard 5’8”
A’ja Wilson South Carolina Sophomore Forward 6’5”
Region 3
Imani Boyette Texas Senior Center 6’7”
Nina Davis Baylor Junior Forward 5’11”
Bria Holmes West Virginia Senior Guard 6’1”
Moriah Jefferson Connecticut Senior Guard 5’7”
Niya Johnson Baylor Senior Guard 5’8”
Alexis Jones Baylor Junior Guard 5’9”
Brittney Martin Oklahoma State Senior Guard 6’0”
Breanna Stewart Connecticut Senior Forward 6’4”
Morgan Tuck Connecticut Junior Forward 6’2”
Courtney Williams South Florida Senior Guard 5’8”
Region 4
Ameryst Alston Ohio State Senior Guard 5’9”
Rachel Banham Minnesota Senior Guard 5’9”
Nia Coffey Northwestern Junior Forward 6’1”
Kim Demmings Wright State Senior Guard 5’8”
Katelynn Flaherty Michigan Sophomore Guard 5’7”
Danaejah Grant St. John’s Senior Guard 5’9”
Chanise Jenkins DePaul Senior Guard 5’5”
Brionna Jones Maryland Junior Center 6’3”
Kelsey Mitchell Ohio State Sophomore Guard 5’8”
Aerial Powers Michigan State Junior Forward 6’0”
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough Maryland Junior Guard 5’11”
Region 5
Jillian Alleyne Oregon Senior Guard 6’3”
Kristine Anigwe California-Berkeley Freshman Forward/Center 6’4”
Sophie Brunner Arizona State Junior Forward 6’1”
Brittany Crain UC Riverside Senior Guard 5’8”
Temi Fagbenle Southern California Senior Center 6’4”
Ruth Hamblin Oregon State Senior Center 6’6”
Kelsey Plum Washington Junior Guard 5’8”
Jamie Weisner Oregon State Senior Guard 5’10”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When push came to shove, UConn was willing to do both

In the early stages of last night's game, there were shots being left short, cuts that were not being completed and it was evident that the members of the UConn women's basketball team needed a little time to not only adjust to a playing a physical Duquesne team but also how the game was officiated.

When it became clear that the veteran officiating crew was going to let much of the physical stuff go, the UConn players simply looked at each other and said "game on."

"There was a lot of physicality at the beginning of the game and after that first time out, obviously we knew it was going to be an extremely physical game," UConn sophomore guard Kia Nurse said. "We knew they were going to come out and give us their best shot so for us, it was a matter of us playing to how the game was being called, the physicality of (Duquesne) and enforcing our own will on them."

In the early stages Morgan Tuck was the only UConn player doing that but once Breanna Stewart starting rolling, it was time to turn out the lights.

"A lot of teams aren't as physical but when we see that teams are being physical, I think that is when we raise our physicality," Tuck said. "I think it took us that first quarter to get used to that."

That one stretch where Stewart blocked three shots in a span of 14 seconds early in the second quarter set the tone as did the aggressive manner in which Stewart grabbed many of her career high tying 16 rebounds.
"That was a huge possession for us," Stewart said.

The way Stewart, Tuck, Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier were going after rebounds, it was more likely that they would be called for a foul due to the swinging of a wayward elbow than being tied up by a Duquesne player while going after a rebound.

"Any team down the stretch, you know they are going to be physical and especially with me, they are going to do whatever they can to make me feel uncomfortable," Stewart said. "Part of it is realizing 'OK, that is how they are going to play, just flip the switch and get into that mode.'"

I did some checking and this was the third time that three UConn players had 20 points in the same NCAA tournament game. The first game came in 2009 against Florida when Renee Montgomery had 25 points while Tina Charles and Maya Moore had 22 points each. The other game happened so long ago, it is no wonder it slipped my mind as it came in last year's Elite Eight game against Dayton when Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 27 points while Tuck and Stewart contributed 23 each.

Next up for UConn is Mississippi State at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at Webster Bank Arena followed by the UCLA/Texas game. The winners will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

UConn's Big Three win a performance for the ages

Geno Auriemma probably summed up Monday night's events at Gampel Pavilion when classmates Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck combined for 61 points, 25 rebounds, 16 assists and six blocked shots in a 97-51 win over Duquesne.

"It is going to be a long time before we see something like this again," Auriemma said.

The Hall of Fame coach was speaking in general terms about what the trio has managed to accomplish since their arrival but his words also helped capture the essence of the performance put forth by UConn's "Big Three."

Stewart had 21 points, a career-high tying 16 rebounds and five blocked shots (three in one possession). Jefferson had 20 points (on just 10 shots), seven assists, three steals and no turnovers while Tuck chipped in with 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Fittingly they all came out of the game together with 5:49 left to play to a rousing ovation.

"It was like the perfect ending to playing here at Gampel for all three of us to have the games that we had, it was amazing," Jefferson said. "You can't even think about getting emotional and crying with the way that we played, we were all really excited."

During one stretch the trio had 10 straight baskets for the Huskies and had two other stretches when they accounted for each of the five baskets scored by the Huskies as UConn pulled away from the pesky Dukes.
"It was just fun, we were just excited for each other and excited for our team," Tuck said. "It was by far the mot fun we had playing here before so it was nice that our last time playing together here was a great memory."
UConn posted its 71st win, moving into sole possession of second place on the NCAA Division I women's list  and set up a regional semifinal matchup with Mississippi State on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at Webster Bank Arena.

"It was unbelievable," Stewart said. "I think for all three of us to play as well as we did, finish the game together essentially was huge. To receive a standing ovation, there is nothing better than that."
Some notes from the game.

Stewart and Jefferson are now the  highest scoring UConn tandem in not only NCAA tournament history but in postseason history as well. They now have 908 career postseason points moving by the previous record of 897 set by Kara Wolters and Carla Berube from 1993-96 and the 587 points in the NCAA tournament tops the mark of 566 set by Diana Taurasi and Jessica Moore from 2001-04.

Stewart posted her 132nd career double-digit scoring game tying her with Minnesota's Rachel Banham (whose career ended with a loss in the WNIT on Sunday) for the fourth highest total in NCAA Division I history. She could still surpass former Oklahoma star Courtney Paris' total of 134 but the record 149 set by Maya Moore and 146 by Brittney Griner is out of reach even for Stewart.

Stewart has now surpassed the 400 mark in both career assists and blocked shots. Blocked shot totals have only been official since 1988 and I went back a little further to when Cheryl Miller and Cindy Brown played and don't have another player with 400 assists and 400 blocked shots.

Jefferson is now sixth on the NCAA tournament list with 46 career steals and is second in NCAA tournament history with a 51.9 3-point percentage trailing only Jennifer Azzi's absurd total of 55.8. Officially Jefferson won't qualify since a player needs to attempt 1.5 3-pointers per game and she is currently at 1.4 per contest.

There are certainly more statistic notes for the two of them but I'll save that for a later day.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Story of Duquesne's Waskowiak is a true inspiration

Normally it is the on-court exploits of the top-ranked UConn women's basketball team that gets documented in this blog with some WNBA coverage in the summer. However, when I made the decision 30 years ago to pursue a journalism career, it was the desire to tell people's stories that led me down this path.

Today I was given an opportunity to put together a story of a player who has just an amazing story to tell. For nearly 13 minutes I sat in the back end of the locker room that the Duquesne women's basketball team is using and listened to Erin Waskowiak tell her remarkable story.

Landing Waskowiak, who led Bishop Canevin High School in Pittsburgh to the PIAA Class AA title in 2013, was quite the feather in the caps of the Dukes' coaching staff. Waskowiak, who scored more than 1,900 points in high school, figured to be a vital cog in Dan Burt's first season at the helm of the program after Suzie McConnell Serio left to take over at Pittsburgh. All of that changed in a matter of seconds in front yard of her Pittsburgh home when freak accident resulted in Waskowiak being pinned up against a wall by a car driven by her brother.

Waskowiak's left leg was damaged so severely that the initial prognosis from the doctors who treated her believed the best course of action was to amputate the lower part of her leg. Her mother, however, asked for 48 hours before such a life-changing operation would take place. When that time frame passed, there was a surgery performed but the leg had recovered well enough to save it.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years and with her family members watching the NCAA first-round game against Seton Hall, Waskowiak entered Saturday's game with 55 seconds remaining with the Dukes leading by 18 points in the program's first NCAA tournament game. Only 23 seconds later Waskowiak navigated her way through a couple of screens, took a pass from Conor Richardson and drained a 3-pointer. To say that her teammates were excited when that shot went down would be quite the understatement.

"They are all very supportive of me whevever I get into the game coming back from a serious injury for me so it means a lot," Waskowiak said.

The 3 was the second hit by Waskowiak this season but first one that was televised.

"The first 3 that I made when I was at Richmond, they weren't able to see it," Waskowiak said. "When we are back home, I don't get in that much for them to see me but last night when they saw me make that, my phone was going crazy. They couldn't believe it, they were so happy for me."

It is far from the first time that Waskowiak received an outpouring of support.

Not long after her accident a story detailing her serious injury and long road to recovery was on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Waskowiak couldn't even try to estimate how many letters, emails and text messages came her way.

"(Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back) Rocky Bleier (who severely injured his right leg and right foot when being hit by a grenade during the Vietnam war) reached out to me and wrote a letter," Waskowiak said,. "He told me that 'don't let this get to you, I bounced back and you can be (on the court) soon.'

"I had so many people, I had mail coming to the hospital. One of the nurses said 'who is
this superstar on the fourth floor' or whatever floor we were on. We were getting so much mail from people that I didn't even know who followed me throughout high school and were so sad to see what happened to me. A lot of people reached out to me. I had Facebook posts like crazy, mail, so many phone calls and it was crazy.

"I didn't even know that people followed me. Being in the hospital, that made my spirits so much better. It put me in a better mood in the hospital because in the hospital, I was so sad, I couldn't walk. I was so happy to everybody who reached out to me and showed that they cared, it meant so much to me."

Waskowiak's mother did not tell Erin about the discussions surrounding the potential amputation of her leg until about a week later after it was certain that there would be no much procedure.

My mom asked if they could hold off for a little bit, give us 48 hours. Luckily in the 48 hours, I was able to heal and they were able to perform the first surgery.

"She didn't tell me and I guess she didn't want to worry me but if I did know, I probably would have been freaked out," Waskowiak said. "I was already freaked out the first night that it happened, going into my first surgery. I didn't know what was going to happen, if I would be able to play basketball again. The doctors didn't know, she is not going to be able to play so it was crazy. My mom and the doctors didn't tell me that they were going to cut my leg off."

One thing that Waskowiak didn't have to concern herself with was the status of her scholarship. Not one time did Burt or anybody at Duquesne even consider withdrawing the scholarship offer.

"That is not how we operate at Duquesne, very frankly if you are lucky enough for me to offer you a scholarship, that is for life," Burt said. "It is Duquesne for life and that is how we are, that is how we roll.

"She is a tough kid. She had the ACC and the old Big East conference (teams) offering her scholarships coming out of high school. She was a kid who wanted to stay home. We were very fortunate to get her. It hasn't worked out the way she wanted it but it is going to. It is going to be next year. I think she is going to help us because she provides size, a high basketball IQ and she is going to find some minutes."

There were seven surgeries dealing with compound fractures of her tibia and fibula. She also needed a skin graft, taking skin from her thigh to use on the lower portion of her leg.

"It is as devastating as it looks," Burt said. "She has many long nights in the hospital those first two weeks, we were very concerned. Father Dan Walsh is a priest at Duquesne was with her every day. He made a big difference in her recovery."

Those surgeries would have been enough for anybody to deal with but after countless hours of rehab to get back on the court, Burt said she had a tremendous game in a preseason scrimmage in 2014. Any hope that she would be contributing during the 2014-15 season ended at the very next practice when she tore her ACL.

"I was shocked," Waskowiak said. "I was overwhelmed and extremely sad. I didn't know what was going on, I was asking 'why is this happening to me.' I came back, this happened and I was
wondering when it was going to be my time. I have had the worst two years and I had bad luck."

Making matters worse was that there were even those questioning her love for basketball at that time.

 "Whenever I was hurting, people would ask me 'it doesn't seem like you like basketball any longer,'" Waskowiak said. "It wasn't that but it was just that I was going through a hard time. I was thinking when will I be playing, I don't want to be sitting. A lot of times a lot of people would say 'do you want to play.' It wasn't  that, I was going through a hard time and it made it seem like I didn't want to be a part of it. My main focus was being on the court so now that I am actually doing more, I am starting to more (engaged). Now I am challenging myself, look at yourself right now and what you can do."

Waskowiak has only played 14 minutes this season and it is uncertain if she will get on the court when Duquesne plays three-time defending national champion in Monday's second-round game. However, Burt is expecting her to play a major role beginning next season.

"April, May and June as critical months for her because we are going to a specific diet just for her and we have our pro-am summer league where we are really going to work with her to get her confidence back and her rhythm back on a more consistent basis."

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Record-breaking day for UConn's veterans and newcomers

Breanna Stewart was the first member of the UConn team to enter her name into the record books - again.

Stewart's emphatic two-handed blocked shot on the final play of the first quarter was No. 397 in her career as she moved by Rebecca Lobo, the UConn record holder since 1995.

Stewart, true to her nature, said she thinks Lobo should be recognized as the record since she accomplished the feat in 126 games and it took Stewart 147.

She nearly had another record which has stood almost as long. She finished with eight steals, one shy of Nykesha Sales' team mark for steals in an NCAA tournament game. Sales set that mark in the first-round win over Lehigh in 1997. Stewart helped UConn set a NCAA tournament team mark with 21 steals resulting in 50 points off turnovers. UConn was on pace to break the NCAA mark for points in a half in a tournament game. If UConn coach Geno Auriemma had stayed with his starters, the mark of 66 set by Oklahoma in 2014 against DePaul would have been toast but still the Huskies finished with 64 points in the first half.

Wait, there's more.

There have been some high-scoring freshman tandems at UConn but no two rookies combined to score more points in their first NCAA tournament game than Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier.

Samuelson's 22 points are the most for any UConn freshman in their NCAA tournament opener topping the mark of 21 set by Jen Rizzotti against Louisville in 1993 and matched by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis against Prairie View in 2012. Add in Collier's 14 points and that gives them 36 which is two better than Rizzotti and Jamelle Elliott accounted for against Louisville back in 1993. Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson matched that mark against Idaho in 2013.

Here are top scoring freshmen making their NCAA debuts in UConn history
22 Katie Lou Samuelson vs. Robert Morris 2016
21 Jamelle Elliott vs. Louisville 1993
21 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis vs. Prairie View 2012
18 Svetlana Abrosimova vs. Fairfield 1998
18 Nykesha Sales vs. Maine 1995
18 Morgan Tuck vs. Idaho 2013
17 Maya Moore vs. Cornell 2008
17 Paige Sauer vs. Lehigh 1997

Top scoring freshman duos
36 Katie Lou Samuelson (22)/Napheesa Collier (14) vs. Robert Morris 2016
34 Jamelle Elliott (21)/Jen Rizzotti (13) vs. Louisville 1993
34 Morgan Tuck (18)/Moriah Jefferson (16) vs. Idaho 2013
31 Ann Strother (16)'Barbara Turner (15) vs. Boston University 2003

Nurse family continues to find success

The dream of a pair of national championships for the Nurse family came to an end on Friday when the Wisconsin women's hockey team lost to Minnesota 3-2 in overtime in the national semifinals.

Sarah Nurse, Kia's cousin, led Wisconsin with 25 goals this season and there has been some friendly banter back and forth between Sarah and Kia over the course of what has been special seasons for both of them.

"It is exciting to see her have the success she has had," Nurse said. "In terms of hockey, I didn't get those genes. She has been incredible throughout her life. I am really fortunate to have her around. I am really excited for her and her team. We played a lot of hide and seek, ran around with the family a lot. It is a lot of fun to grow in that environment with people who are doing so well. "

With the success Sarah enjoyed and her brother Darnell playing with the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, her generation of siblings and cousins certainly know a thing or two about playing at a high level.

"You have to love it," Nurse said. "It is fun to talk about your family members, people who have made you into the person you are today, I am fortunate to have the family members that I do. It is fun that it is not about one person, everybody has their own success in this thing."

Speaking of success, I am not saying that it has been a long time since UConn lost an NCAA tournament game on campus but none of the current UConn players were born the last time the Huskies lost a home game in the tournament.

UConn has won its last 34 NCAA tournament games in Storrs since a loss to Louisville in 1993 and not one current UConn player was born at the time of that loss.

Overall, UConn is 49-4 in NCAA tournament games played in the state of Connecticut. If only those games were counted, the Huskies would rank only behind Tennessee, Stanford, Louisiana Tech, Duke, Georgia and Notre Dame in terms of NCAA tournament wins, no not home wins in the tournament but total wins.

There's a live blog for the Robert Morris game so feel free checking in

Friday, March 18, 2016

Robert Morris starting duo has fond recollectons of teaming with UConn star

The years have done little to erase the incredible memories of Team Ontario's journey to back to back Canadian age-group national champions for some key figures in tomorrow's NCAA tournament game between Robert Morris and UConn.

Before UConn guard Kia Nurse burst onto the scene as the youngest member of the current Canadian national team program, she was able to play a starring role in undefeated runs in the 2011 U-15 and 2012 U-17 national championships along with Robert Morris starters Mikalah Mulrain and Megan Smith.

In 2011 Nurse was the tournament's MVP while Mulrain was named to the all-tournament team both in 2011 and 2012.

"We spent two years together on the provincial team and it was just an amazing experience," said Smith. "We have known each other forever since we were playing against each (in AAU) but finally we got a chance to be teammates for the first time. We won two national championships together so it was a really great feeling.

"She was definitely one of those players that you said 'she was going to go places.' She had goals of 'this is what she really wants to do. and she is going to get it because of her determination and willpower."

Mulrain, who leads the 16th-seeded Colonials with 46 blocked shots and 85 offensive rebounds, has nothing but positive memories of her time as Nurse's teammate.

"Meeting Kia, she is a really outgoing, fun person and I really enjoyed my time with her," Mulrain said. "Also, playing to represent Ontario and winning every year also made it fun. I was just really excited for her and she was such a hard-working player.

"It was the first time being a part of something like that, play together with a bunch of girls from all over Ontario, it was a really great experience for me and opened up more doors for me in basketball."

Nurse had one of the most remarkable summers any Canadian women's basketball player has enjoyed in recent memory when she led her team to an upset of the U.S. in the Pan Am Games gold-medal game and an Olympic berth thanks to winning the FIBA Americas tournament title. She admits that her experienced with Team Ontario set the stage for her future success with the national team.

"It was awesome," Nurse said. "It was the first summer when I had to be away from home, really focus on basketball and it really led into the national team stuff so for the first year to kind of be there, do that, win the championship and rep your province across your chest was a really fun experience.

"They practiced hard and they played hard, they had their own strengths and they work really well together to make sure  they are successful. They are really great people on and off the floor, they are really easy people to get along with."

While there may be those who groaned at the prospects of being in the same bracket with UConn, Mulrain and Smith were among those excited for the change to face the three-time defending national champions as well as seeing their former teammate once again.

"I was excited when I found out that we were going to play them," Smith said. "It is going to be a good opportunity.

"I wanted to play against Kia one more team, we've old teammates and we get to play on the court one more time.

"All I can remember is me guarding her on the court when we were little and all of a sudden she is on the Olympic team and going to Rio, playing for one of the best teams in the country. I am really proud of her, just so excited to see her grow. She performed unbelievably, she got MVP of the Pan Am Games, she even came out with the Canadian flag at the closing ceremonies so it is kind of a like a proud moment for me to (see Nurse) achieve all of these goals that she set at a young age."

Robert Morris obviously had motivation in trying to win the Northeast Conference tournament to return to the NCAA tournament but the opportunity to send retiring head coach Sal Buscaglia out with a tournament berth made things all the sweeter.

"When knew that this was Coach Sal's last year and we really wanted to make it special for him," Smith said. "I think that is what really motivated us all season. We really wanted to get our seniors out in a positive way and I think we enjoyed that."

With Buscaglia's son Charlie announced as the Colonials' coach in waiting, there is a sense that things won't change too much even with a new person at the helm of the program.

"It is good knowing that things aren't going to be completely different, we are going to have mostly the same routines so I am not scared about any major changes," Mulrain said.

UConn's Stewart, Jefferson quite the productive duo

The ultimate goal is six wins away for Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart as they attempt to be the first two players to be on the court for four national championship teams. However, their impact can also be quantified thanks to their individual statistics.

They are currently fourth on the list of highest scoring classmates in the NCAA tournament in UConn history and third in program history in combined postseason points.

566 Diana Taurasi 428/Jessica Moore 138 (2000-04)
543 Bria Hartley 300/Stefanie Dolson 243 (2010-14)
518 Maya Moore 476/Lorin Dixon 42 (2007-11)
514 Breanna Stewart 324/Moriah Jefferson 190 (2012-present)
511 Kara Wolters 322/Carla Berube 189 (1993-97)
495 Sue Bird 253/Asjha Jones 242 (1998-2002)
492 Breanna Stewart 324/Morgan Tuck 168 (2012-present)
469 Barbara Turner 274/Ann Strother 195 (2002-06)
466 Sue Bird 253/Swin Cash 213 (1998-2002)
463 Sue Bird 253/Tamika Williams 210 (1998-2002)
458 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 374/Kiah Stokes 84 (2011-15)
402 Jen Rizzotti 212/Jamelle Elliott 190 (1992-96)

897 Kara Wolters 565/Carla Berube 332 (1993-97)
863 Bria Hartley 441/Stefanie Dolson 422 (2010-14)
845 Breanna Stewart 538/Moriah Jefferson 307 (2012-present)
803 Breanna Stewart 538/Morgan Tuck 265 (2012-present)
730 Maya Moore 661/Lorin Dixon 69 (2007-11)
728 Barbara Turner 412/Ann Strother 316 (2002-06)
715 Asjha Jones 376/Sue Bird 339 (1998-2002)
686 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 576/Kiah Stokes 110 (2011-15)

Obviously Stewart and Jefferson and pretty high on some NCAA career lists as well. Stewart needs 28 points to move into the top 10 on the NCAA tournament career list, 29 rebounds to break into the top 10 on that list and is currently tied with Sylvia Fowles for third on the career blocked shots list so when she ties Rebecca Lobo's career blocked shots list, she will take over sole possession of third place in NCAA tournament history. Jefferson's 41 steals leaves her one behind Dawn Staley for 10th place on the career list while she ranks third with a 3-point percentage of 46.5.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

UConn's Stewart a finalist for prestigious Sullivan Award

UConn senior forward Breanna Stewart is one of seven finalists for the AAY James E. Sullivan Award.

Stewart, UConn's second all-time leading scorer and on the verge of setting the program record for career blocked shots, is joined by college football stars Keenan Reynolds and Derrick Henry of Navy and Alabama, Nebraska volleyball star Mikaela Foecke, wrestler Jordan Burroughs, speed skater Brittany Bowe and gymnast Simone Biles as finalists.

Joining Stewart as a finalist for the 86th AAU Sullivan Award is Derrick Henry (Alabama football), Keenan Reynolds (Navy football), Mikaela Foecke (Nebraska volleyball), Jordan Burroughs (USA Wrestling), Brittany Bowe (USA Speed Skating) and Simone Biles (USA Gymnastics).

Voting is open to the public at Finalist voting opens today and will close on March 23. The AAU James E. Sullivan Award presentation will be held at the New York Athletic Club on Sunday, April 10.

Football players have won the award three times in the last four years including in 2014 when Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott earned the honor. Twins Coco and Kelly Miller are the last women's basketball winners when they were so honored back in 1999. Former Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw was the winner in 1998, the only other time a women's basketball player earned the prestigious honor.

UConn's Auriemma a finalist for Naismith coach of year award

UConn's Geno Auriemma joins Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw, Dawn Staley of South Carolina and Oregon State's Scott Rueck as finalists for the Naismith national coach of the year.

Auriemma is a six-time winner of the award, most recently being honored in 2009. He has guided the Huskies to a 32-0 record as UConn enters the NCAA tournament with an undefeated record for the eighth time.

The winner will be announced on April 4.

The four finalists for the Naismith women's player of the year award will be announced on Friday.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Definite foreign flavor in UConn's bracket

It was hard to overlook the large number of foreign players while looking at the rosters of the three other teams in the Storrs subregional.

Robert Morris, which will play UConn in the first round on Saturday, features eight players from other countries while Duquesne, a potential second-round foe has seven.

I did the math and the 16 foreign players on the rosters of the four teams playing in Storrs is second only to the 19 in the UCLA subregional. Overall when you look at the four brackets, the Bridgeport regional has 42 players from outside of the United States is easily the most of the four regionals. The Sioux Falls bracket is second with 24 followed by Dallas (20) and Lexington (19).

Here's the list of NCAA tournament teams with the most foreign players
9 Colorado State (Bridgeport)
8 Robert Morris (Bridgeport)
7 Buffalo (Sioux Falls)
7 Duquesne (Bridgeport)
7 San Francisco (Lexington)
7 South Florida (Bridgeport)
6 Albany (Sioux Falls)
6 Idaho (Dallas)

Most foreign players per subregional site
19 Los Angeles (Bridgeport)
16 Storrs (Bridgeport)
11 Palo Alto (Lexington)
10 Syracuse (Sioux Falls)
10 Waco (Dallas)

UConn commit Dangerfield to play in Jordan Brand Classic

UConn incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield was one of 24 players selected for the girls' game at the Jordan Brand Classic.

Dangerfield, a senior guard at Blackman High in Murfreesboro, Tenn., will suit up for the East team.

Dangerfield averaged 23.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals as a senior. She finished her career with 2,186 points, 171 3-pointers, 507 assists and 503 steals. She is a three-time Gatorade state player of the year in Tennessee and the Morgan Wootten Award winner as the McDonald's national player of the year. She had eight 30-point games and 22 games with at least 20 points in 30 games as a senior.

The Jordan Brand Classic will be played on April 15 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Six games stand between UConn and history

The words uttered by Breanna Stewart before she played her first game at UConn weren't too much different than what Swin Cash said before her remarkable run with the Huskies began back in 1998.

Stewart wasn't being boastful when she said her goal was to win four national championships in four seasons. Now that the NCAA tournament bracket has been unveiled, Stewart as well as Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck know what stands between them and an unprecedented fourth consecutive national title.

"I think we talk about it a little bit, more so looking at things that we are about to be done soon and looking at it in that kind of sense," Stewart said after UConn was selected as the No. 1 overall seed. "The other side of it is the other side of it is the motivation to finish it off.

"To have three national championships under my belt and be going for a fourth, I am kind of spoiled. We are able to see a light at the end of the tunnel."

The light at the end of the tunnel kicks off Saturday at 11 a.m. when UConn hosts No. 16 seed Robert Morris in the first round in a game televised on ESPN2. Either Duquesne or Seton Hall would be waiting on Monday night in the final Gampel Pavilion game for Jefferson, Stewart and perhaps Tuck is she opts to leave at season's end rather than taking advantage of a fifth season of eligibility.

UConn won't need to travel far for the regionals as the Huskies are slotted in the Bridgeport region. Texas, UCLA, Michigan State, Mississippi State and South Florida are the other top seeds in UConn's bracket.
"I think it is different because it is the last time, in the locker room the teammates know that watching the selection show," Jefferson said. "Now we know who we are going to play, what time we are going to play so we will stay close and get prepared for that game."

Unlike last year when UConn's bracket was quickly announced, it was the last of the four regions to be shown by ESPN.

"We were kind of guessing around thinking but then when you see the way the brackets are coming out, 'all right let's see who is in our bracket,'" Tuck said. "It is kind of different because last year we were kind of the first bracket announced so we didn't have to wait around for it so seeing how the other brackets laid out, seeing who was playing who gave us a good big picture

"I think once the tournament starts it will feel a little more real because we are getting close to that. Yes, it is six games but it is kind of hard to think three weeks ahead because we have to take it one day at a time because we don't want to look ahead and disrespect the team we are about to play and end up losing. We know we are near the end  and we want to make it last, make it be as special as possible."

Tennessee was mentioned in the first two brackets leading to speculation that the long-awaited UConn-Tennessee rematch could come in this year's NCAA tournament. However, Tennessee was the No. 7 seed in the bracket headlined by SEC rival South Carolina. It wasn't long after that when it became apparent that South Florida would be placed in UConn's region and fellow American Athletic Conference foe Temple did not make the 64-team field.

"You get to the point where USF isn't in and you know they are going to be in your region so it is kind of crazy to see where all the teams fall," Jefferson said.

"This is the best time of the year, you get to play in the NCAA tournament, in front of your home fans, it is your senior year and you have to go out and give it all you've got.

"It is super exciting. It has been a long four years and it is starting to wind down, you really have to come out every day and treat it like it is your last (game) because pretty soon it is going to be."

UConn to open with Robert Morris

The journey to an unprecedented fourth straight NCAA Division I women's basketball championship is entering the stretch run.

UConn earned the No. 1 overall seed for the 11th time and will play Northeast Conference tournament champion Robert Morris in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Mar. 19/20 at Gampel Pavilion with the second-round game against the winner of the Seton Hall/Duquesne game also in Storrs.

This is the 10th consecutive year that the Huskies earned a No. 1 seed and the 19th time in the last 23 seasons the Huskies are a No. 1 seed.

UConn rolled to a 32-0 mark, winning every game during the regular season and in the American Athletic Conference tournament by double digits.

For the recruiting class of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, they are closing in on history.

The trio helped the Huskies win the national titles in 2013, 2014 and 2015 matching the UConn 2001-03 teams and the 1996-98 Tennessee teams.

Tennessee's bid for a four-peat ended with a 69-63 loss to Duke in the 1999 regional finals. In 2005, the Huskies entered the tournament as a No. 3 seed and lost to second-seeded Stanford in the regional semifinals.

UConn has won its last 18 NCAA tournament games held in the state of Connecticut. UConn won't need to leave the state of Connecticut with the regionals being held at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport on Mar. 26 and 28.

Texas, which lost to UConn 105-54 in the 2015 regional semifinals, is the No. 2 seed in the Bridgeport regional followed by UCLA and Michigan State.

Baylor is the No. 1 seed in the bracket opposite of UConn so that could be the national semifinal matchup. South Carolina and Notre Dame are the No. 2 and 3 overall seeds.

A look at UConn's possible opening opponents

My days of trying my own version of bracketology are a thing of the past since the last few times I tried to break down the potential women's basket did not end well.

I will make an attempt to see which team draws the assignment of being UConn's first-round opponent.

Sometimes it isn't too hard to figure out like a season ago when St. Francis (N.Y.) had a losing record, was in close proximity to UConn and had an RPI close to 250 and strength of schedule around 275.

If Sacred Heart had won the NEC tournament, I would have considered the Pioneers as the favorites to be the No. 16 seed in UConn's bracket. Robert Morris, located in Pittsburgh, is far enough away that I don't see geography necessarily coming into play.

Alabama State out of the SWAC has the lowest or highest RPI depending on how you want to look at it, the SWAC is ranked 32nd and dead last in conference RPI and according to the Sagarin ratings, rank 348 out of 349 teams in strength of schedule so all the criteria is there although past selection committees haven't always followed RPI numbers in picking the No. 16 seeds.

Robert Morris and North Carolina A&T are team I would think was in consideration to face the Huskies since they rank just ahead of Alabama State among automatic qualifying teams in terms of RPI and strength of schedule. With NC A&T's campus only about three hours from South Carolina's that would seem to be a natural No. 16 vs. No. 1 matchup.

When I heard that Buffalo won the MAC title as the No. 8 seed, I thought that might be a good fit for the Huskies but the numbers are surprisingly strong for the Bulls as I saw RPI rankings of 106 and 135 for Buffalo and a conference RPI of 10 for the MAC. I also looked at Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun), UNC Asheville (Big South) and Troy (Sun Belt) but believe it will come down to Alabama A&M, Robert Morris and NC A&T.

Here's a quick look at those three teams
Alabama A&M
Record: 18-11
Conference: SWAC
Conference RPI: 32
Head coach: Freda Freeman-Jackson
Top scorer: Britney Wright 14.9 points per game

North Carolina A&T
Record: 17-11
Conference; MEAC
Conference RPI: 31
Head coach: Tarrell Robinson
Top scorer: Aprill McRae 13.3 points per game

Robert Morris
Record: 19-12
Conference: NEC
Conference RPI: 29
Head coach: Sal Buscaglia
Top scorer: A Niki Stamolamprou 13.8 points per game

The brackets will be announced from 7-8 p.m. on ESPN.    

UConn's Jefferson in the running for another Lieberman Award

UConn senior Moriah Jefferson is one of five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, presented annually to the nation's premier point guard.

Jefferson, who won the award in 2015, heads into the NCAA tournament leading the undefeated Huskies with 167 assists and 83 steals and is the team's second-leading scorer with an average of 12.6 points per game.

Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen, Baylor's Niya Johnson, Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell and Maryland's Brene Moseley are the other finalists.

Friday, March 11, 2016

U.S., Canada in same Olympic bracket

The draw was held for the Olympic tournament with the U.S. team, coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma and likely to feature at least four former Huskies, and Canada, led by UConn's Kia Nurse, both landed in Group B as well as Senegal and Serbia and two teams yet to be determined.

The U.S./Canada game is scheduled for Aug. 12.

Pool play runs from Aug. 6-14, the quarterfinals are set for Aug. 17, the semifinals are Aug. 18 with the gold and bronze medal games being played on Aug. 20.

Japan, Brazil and Australia and three teams to be determined through qualifying tournaments are in Group A.

Argentina, Belarus, Cameroon, China, Cuba, France, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and Venezuela are vying for the other five spots in the Olympics so the strength of the pools is hard to gauge until those five team are slotted in.

UConn's Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck on Wade Trophy watch list

The UConn trio of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were among 30 players named to the watch list for the Wade Trophy.

Stewart leads the 32-0 Huskies in scoring (19.2 points per game) and rebounding (8.3), Jefferson has team-high marks with 167 assists and 83 steals and is second on the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game while Tuck averages 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest.

Stewart won the prestigious honor a season ago and figures to join Nancy Lieberman, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore (the only three-time winner) and Brittney Griner as the only players to win the award more than once.

Here is the complete list
Jillian Alleyne University of Oregon Forward Senior
Ameryst Alston Ohio State University Guard Senior
Rachel Banham University of Minnesota Guard RS Senior
Imani Boyette University of Texas Center Senior
Adut Bulgak Florida State University Center Senior
Jordin Canada UCLA Guard Sophomore
Alaina Coates  University of South Carolina Center Junior
Nia Coffey Northwestern University Forward Junior
Nina Davis Baylor University Forward Junior
Diamond DeShields University of Tennessee Guard RS Sophomore
Makayla Epps University of Kentucky Guard Junior
Moriah Jefferson University of Connecticut Guard Senior
Niya Johnson Baylor University Guard Senior
Brionna Jones University of Maryland Center Junior
Jonquel Jones George Washington University Forward Senior
Brittney Martin Oklahoma State University Guard Senior
Kelsey Mitchell Ohio State University Guard Sophomore
Tiffany Mitchell University of South Carolina Guard Senior
Adrienne Motley University of Miami Guard Junior
Kelsey Plum University of Washington Guard Junior
Aerial Powers Michigan State University Forward Junior
Azurà Stevens Duke University Forward Sophomore
Breanna Stewart University of Connecticut Forward Senior
Morgan Tuck University of Connecticut Forward Senior

Brianna Turner University of Notre Dame Forward Sophomore
Victoria Vivians Mississippi State University Guard Sophomore
Courtney Walker Texas A&M University Guard Senior
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough University of Maryland Guard Junior
Courtney Williams University of South Florida Guard Senior
A’ja Wilson University of South Carolina Forward Sophomore

Thursday, March 10, 2016

UConn signee Dangerfield in Tennessee's Gatorade Player of Year

UConn incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield was named Tennessee's Gatorade Player of the Year for the third straight season.

The senior led Blackman High in Murfreesboro to state titles as a sophomore and junior. As a senior she averaged 23.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game.

Dangerfield is the first player named Tennessee's Gatorade Player of the Year three times. Former Tennessee star Glory Johnson is the only other player to earn that honor more than once.

Fresh off winning the Morgan Wootten Award as the McDonald's national player of the year, Dangerfield figures to be one of the leading candidates to capture the Gatorade national player of the year.

UConn recruiting targets Megan Walker (Virginia) and Christyn Williams (Arkansas) were named the winners in their states while the Connecticut winner was Weaver's Shaquana Edwards.

Dangerfield was also one of 10 players named to the WBCA All-American team.

Former UConn recruiting target Lauren Cox, who is headed to Baylor, was named the national player of the year. She was joined on the team by Maryland signees Kaila Charles and Destiny Slocum, Notre Dame commit Erin Boley, Baylor commit Natalie Chou, Texas incoming freshman Joyner Holmes, Ohio State incoming freshman Tori McCoy, Duke commit Leaonna Odom as well as Sabrina Ionescu, the only uncommitted player to make the team.

This is an interesting year when it comes to the national player of the year awards as three different players have won major awards so far counting Notre Dame Jackie Young, the Naismith national player of the year. You have to go back to 2009 to find the last time that happened. That trio of Brittney Griner (WBCA), Skylar Diggins (Naismith) and Kelsey Bone (Morgan Wootten) turned out to be pretty good college players.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

UConn commit Dangerfield named national player of the year

UConn incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield was named the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year.

The 5-foot-6 Dangerfield was one of five finalists for the McDonald's national player of the year as she beat out Baylor signees Lauren Cox and Natalie Chou, Notre Dame recruit Jackie Young and Texas incoming freshman Joyner Holmes for the award.

Dangerfield averaged 23.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals as a senior at Blackman High in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She finished her career with 2,186 points, 171 3-pointers, 507 assists and 503 steals. One of her most impressive stats might be that she shot 164 free throws in 30 games as a senior and 403 in 129 career games so she is not afraid to drive the ball to the basket.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

UConn commit Dangerfield is Tennessee AAA Miss Basketball winner

The awards keep rolling in for UConn signee Crystal Dangerfield.

A day after she was named a first-team Naismith All-American, the senior guard out of Blackman High in Murfreesboro, Tenn., was named the Tennessee AAA Miss Basketball winner.

Dangerfield averaged 23.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game as a senior. She scored in double figures in every game as a senior with eight 30-point games. She finished her career with 2,186 points, 171 3-pointers, 507 rebounds, 503 assists and 362 steals while helped Blackman win state titles during her sophomore and junior seasons.

It was the second year in a row that Dangerfield won the award as she is the first repeat winner since Shacobia Barbee in 2011 and 2012. Barbee played at Georgia before an injury ended her collegiate career.

Monday, March 07, 2016

UConn rolls to AAC title

In many ways, the competitive portion of the American Athletic Conference tournament final may have ended after the 12-3 second-quarter run which gave two-time defending champion UConn a 12-point cushion. Certainly when the Huskies scored 11 of the first 15 points in the third quarter, the Huskies were headed to another convincing win.

Finally, with 2:36 left to play when the trio of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck headed to the sidelines together to a thunderous ovation, it was time to turn the attention to celebrating the second of the three championships the Huskies began the season in pursuit of.

"It is pretty cool to see what us three have done and to be able to do it together, obviously Coach (Geno Auriemma) did it in a way that we could come out together and that was really special," Tuck said.

Stewart was once again the headliner with 22 points, three assists and seven blocked shots (moving her within one of Rebecca Lobo's UConn career record of 396). Jefferson contributed with 12 points and four assists but more importantly played a key role in holding Courtney Williams to two first-half points. Tuck battled hard inside for offensive rebounds and loose balls in the early going when the Huskies were struggling to get going offensively.

UConn improved to 145-5 since the arrival of the trio which ranks sixth place in NCAA Division I women's basketball history. If the Huskies win the national title, they will not only become the first class to win four straight NCAA women's Division I titles but the 151 wins would break the NCAA record of 150 set when Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon were at UConn.

It wasn't all about the veterans stepping up, however.

The impact of Samuelson's eight quick points or the energy provided by Gabby Williams off the bench as well as Kia Nurse's defense turned what could have been a competitive title game into another UConn runaway.

Samuelson's 13 points gave her 46 in the three tournament games which is tied for the sixth most for a UConn freshman in conference tournament play.

"It took me a while to get involved," Samuelson said. "I think that led to me standing and that is why my shots weren't going down. I was just standing on one end, when I went back in there I tried to move a little bit more and I think that really helped. It was good for me personally and for my team. I think we got excited (during the second quarter run) because we came off two good defensive stops and I think everything was kind of showing so we wanted to put them away."

For those wondering, here are the top UConn freshman conference tournament scoring leaders
Stefanie Dolson (2011) 60
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2012) 58
Diana Taurasi (2001) 53
Svetlana Abrosimova (1998) 49
Kara Wolters (1994) 46
Katie Lou Samuelson (2016) 46

Now UConn waits until Monday's ESPN/NCAA Selection Show to see who stands in the way of the Huskies' run for an unprecedented fourth straight national title. UConn will host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, either on Mar. 18 and 20 or Mar. 19 and 21 before moving to Bridgeport for the regionals on Mar. 26 and 28.

USF's Williams climbing the charts, eager for another shot at UConn

It seems like a lifetime ago since the American Athletic Conference media day in Orlando when I caught up with South Florida star Courtney Williams to address a number of topics including the challenge of facing UConn.

"We have to get one, we have to get them at least once," Williams said.

Unless the teams happen to meet in the NCAA tournament, tonight is the last chance.

"Our mindset is they are beatable," Williams said after a win over Temple in the American Athletic Conference semifinals. "We beat them in the first half and we let up in the third (quarter). They made
shots, which they are going to do that, so we have to answer."

Time will tell whether Williams gets that elusive first win against UConn but she has already etched her name in the books as one of the best players to ever face the Huskies.

I went back to the 1996-97 season and she joins Skylar Diggins and Angel McCoughtry as the only players with five 20-point games against UConn. During the same time frame, she is currently fifth in terms of points scored against Huskies with a decent chance of finishing No. 2 on the list.

Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame 2009-13: 251 points in 15 games
Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame 2008-12: 161 points in 12 games
Kayla McBride, Notre Dame 2010-14: 153 points in 10 games
Angel McCoughtry, Louisvile 2005-09: 150 points in eight games
Courtney Williams, South Florida 2012-present: 149 points in eight gamesRuth Riley, Notre Dame, 1997-2001: 128 points in nine games
Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennesee 1995-99: 122 points in six games
Niele Ivey, Notre Dame 1996-01: 117 points in eight games
Cappie Pondexter, Rutgers 2002-06: 116 points in seven games
Kara Lawson, Tennessee 1999-03: 115 points in nine games
Semeka Randall, Tennessee 1997-2001: 111 points in seven games
Tasha Pointer, Rutgers 1997-01: 105 points in nine games

UConn's Stewart a semifinalist for Sullivan Award

UConn senior forward Breanna Stewart is one of 17 semifinalists for the prestigious AAU James E. Sullivan Award.

Stewart, who is UConn's leading scorer and rebounder as a senior, is joined by Derrick Henry (Alabama football), Deshaun Watson (Clemson football), Christian McCaffrey (Stanford football), Keenan Reynolds (Navy football), Ben Simmons (LSU basketball), Nirra Fields (UCLA basketball), Kelsey Minato (Army basketball), Andrew Benintendi (Arkansas baseball), Mikaela Foecke (Nebraska volleyball), Ashleigh Johnson (USA Water Polo), Jordan Burroughs (USA Wrestling), Adeline Gray (USA Wrestling), Jamie Greubel Poser (USA Bobsled), Jordan Wilimovsky (USA Swimming), Brittany Bowe (USA Speedskating) and Simone Biles (USA Gymnastics) for the award

Voting is open to the public at Semi-finalist voting opens today and will close on March 14. Finalists for the 86th AAU Sullivan Award will be named on March 17.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

UConn's defense flexes its muscles in semifinal win

With the way UConn has dispatches both unranked and ranked foes with remarkable ease this season, there has been plenty of time for the Huskies' defense to shine. However, I am not sure I have seen the UConn players more in sync defensively than I did tonight.

Tulane missed its first seven shots, made only six field goals in the first half and 14 in the game.

The Huskies came out in a zone which is highly unusual and threw different looks at the Green Wave on almost every possession.

'We were switching from zone to man pretty much every time down trying to throw some different stuff (at Tulane)," said UConn senior guard Moriah Jefferson,  the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year. "Last time we played them them wasn't good (when UConn trailed 13-2 in the first quarter on Feb. 27) obviously so we wanted to make sure our defense was up to par and we knew shots were going to go in."

Recently Auriemma said that UConn is the worst zone defensive team in the country. Yet, in the regular-season finale against USF (which will play the Huskies in Monday's AAC final) and in both games in the conference tournament, the Huskies have played plenty of zone.

"We have gotten better at it," Auriemma said. "Obviously it is who you have in there sometimes. If you have the right combinations, we have been experimenting with different things, what looks good and what doesn't and we have changed us our defense a little bit so we are tryingto keep the other team off balance a little bit. We have gotten better, the best zone we ever played was at Ohio State and we haven't played it that great since."

The UConn players chuckled when reminded that Auriemma said the Huskies are the worst zone defensive team in the nation.

"He always wants to say something about that but I think our zone has gotten a lot better," Jefferson said. "As long as we are talking in it, we are fine but if we aren't communicating, he is right we (stink) at it."

Kia Nurse, who probably spent the most time guarding all-conference guard Kolby Morgan, had a similar take on Auriemma's comments.

"We worked on different defenses that we don't always get to play," Nurse said. "We did a good job, I think our communication out there was really good and we did a good job of making sure we keyed in on what we talked about in the scouting report. As these games go on and the more zone that we play, we kind of get more reps at it and a lot of times that is what you need. He can call us that but we are working on it and we are getting better.'

For the second year in a row, UConn commit Molly Bent led her Tabor Academy into the NEPSAC Class A title game and for the second straight season Tabor lost to Noble & Greenough in the championship game.

With the 61-45 loss, Tabor Academy finished with a 21-2 record with both losses to Noble & Greenough. In the last two years Tabor had a 43-5 record with four losses to Nobles.

Auriemma has seen Bent play on multiple occasions this year and he loves to watch her play.

"We've had opportunities to see her. I am always impressed with how much she loves to play," Auriemma said. "As much as her skill level, I love how much she loves the game and it shows every time she steps on the court. She fills up the stat sheet in every area, I just think she is going to be great here."

Another milestone for UConn's Stewart

I happened to miss this when it happened in yesterday's game but Breanna Stewart became just the fifth UConn player to score at least 500 points in the postseason.

Maya Moore tops the list (I know, I was shocked a well) with 661 points (185 in conference tournaments and 476 in the NCAA tournament). Diana Taurasi is next with 597 points (169 in conference tournaments, 428 in the NCAA) followed by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (202 points in conference tourneys and 374 in the NCAAs) and Kara Wolters (a program-record 239 points in the Big East tournament and 322 in the NCAA tournament.

Stewart checks in with 181 points in conference tournaments and 324 in the NCAA and there's a decent chance that she joins Moore as the only Huskies with at least 600 points in the postseason.

Stewart can also join Wolters and Mosqueda-Lewis as the only Huskies with 200 points in conference tournament play and if she scores in double figures, she would move into a tie for 7th place in NCAA Division I women's basketball history with 128 double-digit scoring games. Moore holds the mark with 149 followed by Brittney Griner (146), Courtney Paris (134), Rachel Banham (132), Sophia Young (130) and Heather Butler (129).