Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Former UConn star Nykesha Sales loving the coaching life

Nykesha Sales' office inside CFE Arena has some memorabilia from her days at UConn and with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun but her focus is very much on helping change the culture of the UCF women's basketball program than spending time pondering her incredible run of basketball success in Connecticut.

Tomorrow Sales, who is in her first season as an assistant coach on the staff of UCF coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, will be on the opposing sideline from her college coach for the very first time. So how does Sales think it will be seeing Geno Auriemma and UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey on the other bench?

"This is the first time," Sales said. "I think if you ask me this next year, I will have a better idea but I don't know. We haven't come up against a team that is as good as UConn and I am curious how our players are going to respond. We (the coaching staff) are going to go out there ready to go but we are not playing. It will be a great atmosphere, I am sure it will a pretty full building so we get to experience that, the players get to experience that and see how you respond. It is a game, it is a competition. I don't expect anything less from them and it is a challenge for us, we have to step up and see how we respond."

Spoken like a true coach.

At American Athletic Conference media day, Abrahamson-Henderson talked about how she saw Sales playing a pickup game on the UCF campus and that started the process of her offering Sales a chance to join her staff.

"It was a conversation," Sales said. "This might be something I could be interested in because she is adamant about teaching me how to coach. I played a lot of years but I wouldn't say I knew how to coach. I wanted to see if I knew how to coach, I didn't just make that expectation that because I played professionally for 15 years, I know how to coach, I didn't come in that  way. With her making me feel confident 'don't worry, I will teach you everything.' That is what made me say that maybe this would be a good idea for me."

The first person Sales called when Abrahamson-Henderson suggested to Sales that she consider joining the UCF staff was Auriemma.

"He was like 'do it, go for it and I think you would be a great coach,'" Sales said. "I know he helped me a lot with that, he made some calls  and I talked to him a little bit about it. He definitely had something to do with it because as soon as I talked to Coach (Abrahamson-Henderson) I called him immediately.

UCF hasn't had a winning season since going 22-11 in the 2010-11 campaign. In the last three seasons the Knights won 10, 9 and 7 games leading Abrahamson-Henderson leaving Albany to take over the UCF program.

UCF started the season 6-1 and currently have a 10-3 record. Getting them to understand how things are done on winning teams has been part of Sales' task along with the other coaches.

"The players have been really good, you can tell they are trying to change their philosophy and style, trying to turn this into a winning program," Sales said. "I haven't really had any problems with them at all. They are a good group but we have a lot to learn, they are not used to winning here. There is a whole different style, mentality you have to play to be a winning program, we have a long way to go but I think they have bought in which is good. It has not taken that long for them to buy in.

"At this point have done completely different things with this program, 10 (wins) would be coming in March if they won 10 or 11 games so right now at 10 in December and that is big for us. For the coaches, we are like 'that is nothing' but for the players it is like 'oh, wow/' We need to get them to understand that there is still a long way to go and we still trying to win a lot more games than just 10. We are trying win a lot more games than that. They are coming from Albany, I am coming from where I came from so we are just used to winning and that is not good enough for us."

Auriemma didn't peg Sales as a person who would naturally gravitate toward coaching but he believes her knowledge, success and personality will serve her well.

"I assume she is doing a great job and she is adding a lot to their coaching staff," Auriemma said.

"She always had that great way about her where people are naturally attracted to her, drawn into her. She can disarm you with part is innocence, part is she has a positive outlook on everything in life. There isn't much that she hasn't accomplished as a player. People don't talk about it because she never won a (WNBA) championship although she came close. I still give her a hard time that she had to make one shop in one game in Seattle for them to win the WNBA championship and I never let her forget about it. I think when she talks to players it is not 'this is what I think.' It is 'this is what I know.' I am sure the players are very receptive to that."

What is interesting is that four core players from UConn's first national championship team are coaching with Sales being joined by Tufts head coach Carla Berube, Cincinnati head coach Jamelle Elliott and George Washington head coach Jen Rizzotti. ESPN's Rebecca Lobo and SNY's Kara Wolters have prominent broadcasting roles meaning a large percentage of that 1994-95 team is still very involved and visible in the world of women's basketball.

"The experiences we had in college were unbelievable and it is hard to walk away from that," Sales said. "A lot of players won't be able to play professionally either at all or for a long time so you still want to be involved. You learn a lot of things early being coached by Coach Auriemma so you feel like you could bring what you learn, what kind of things you need instilled on the team in order to win because all of us have won in college and you are itching to get back into the game. I am definitely not surprised. All of them are doing great things and I think you learn that early. You had such a great college experience, some people don't at all but we all did and we all wanted to bring that to the younger generation and show them how it is really done."

Sales feels fortunate to be working for a coach with similar philosophies as the ones she played for in college.

"When I talk to her, she can tell that she believes in some of the same things that he believes in and what is important," Sales said. "I understand how important it is, I have been through college, out in the real world. I have learned a lot from Coach Auriemma and CD, not just basketball but like skills. That is what I like about her, she is not all about just basketball and recruiting the best players, she is looking for somebody to fit this program. She is all about family before even basketball. That is important. I was fortunate to go 15-16 years but that is not realistic for everybody. You have a good good foundation with your family, you have to realize that academics is everything. If there is a life with basketball, that is a lot of things that Coach Auriemma instills. He is looking for certain players to represent his program, not just get buckets but who is going to represent his brand being a Husky.

"We are looking to do the same things here and we have already. A lot of kids that we have now are not people that we recruited but we are trying to teach them that this is how you have to be in order to be successful now and after college."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

UConn emerges with hard-earned win over Maryland

It is not an uncommon occurrence over these last few years for the UConn team to go on the road against a very good team and walk out of the arena with a resounding victory.

However, there was absolutely nothing routine of tonight's 87-81 win over Maryland before a sellout crowd of 17,950 at the XFINITY Center.

When UConn opened the second half by scoring 14 straight points in a span of  2:37 to go up by 19, it would be easy to think "here we go again."

However, Maryland was not ready to go away quietly. The lead was 13 at the end of three quarters and then it was sliced to six midway through the final quarter. UConn wasn't getting the good offensive looks it did earlier in the game and both starting forwards Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier had four fouls.

Williams, Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson (who was sick enough that UConn coach Geno Auriemma wondered if she was going to be able to play), Kia Nurse and Saniya Chong combined to make enough clutch plays for UConn to post win No. 87 in a row.

"When we were up 19 (in the third quarter) all I kept thinking about is I got a feeling it is going to be 2," Auriemma said. "As the fouls kept piling up, I was really worried. We maybe won because in one way it is Connecticut and they are used to making some of the plays that they made, when we needed a shot we got one, when we needed a stop we got one, when we needed a play to be made we got one. It came from different spots and we needed every one of them. Given the circumstances, the way the game played out and all the issues that we had, this is probably the best win we've had up to this point of the season."

Samuelson picked things up offensively in the third quarter when her teammates were dealing with foul trouble. She said whenever she was asked by either her coaches or the medical staff how she was feeling, she said she was fine even if she did have to throw up before the game.

"I kind of expected to play the whole time," said Samuelson, who admitted to throwing up before the game. "It is such a big game and such a great atmosphere, I wasn't going to miss this."
Nurse finished with 19 points and five assists, Williams had 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists, Collier had 12 points and Saniya Chong had 10 including a huge 3-pointer in the final minute to go with Samuelson's 23 points.
Destiny Slocum had 19 of her 23 points in the second half for Maryland (12-1), Brionna Jones had 19 points and 13 rebounds, Kaila Charles had 18.

UConn goes after its 88th win in a row against UCF on Jan. 1. There was a time when going after win No. 88 would draw an incredible amount of national media considering it would have tied the NCAA Division I basketball record set by the John Wooden coached UCLA men's teams. But having already won 90 games in a row, it is just another number.

Speaking of numbers, if you go by the NCAA record book, the 30th straight road victory would tie the women's Division I record set by UConn from 2007-10 and tied at Notre Dame from 2012-15. However beginning on Feb. 7, 2001 with a win over Virginia Tech and up until Notre Dame bead the Huskies on Jan. 13, 2004 the Huskies won either 33 or 34 straight road games depending on one game that could be ruled as a road game or being played on a neutral court. UConn has reached out to the NCAA seeking clarification but hasn't heard back yet.

This is also the fourth time UConn finished a calendar year undefeated. UConn was 39-0 in 2016. The Huskies were 36-0 in 2002, 38-0 both in 2009 and 2015.

No introductions necessary

There have been times when NFL teams picked up somebody off waivers to take advantage of their knowledge of an upcoming opponent. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma is apparently not a huge proponent of that way of doing business.

Former Maryland guard Chloe Pavlech joined Auriemma's staff as an intern and with the Huskies playing the Terrapins at 6 p.m., it would have been easy for Auriemma to sit Pavlech in a dark room, shine an unbearably bright light into her eyes and demand that she reveals all the tendencies of her former teammates.

However, Auriemma didn't do that when former Vanderbilt guard Jasmine Lister was a graduate assistant and the Huskies played Lister's old school and he didn't do it with the Pavlech this week either.

"I think there is a natural attachment to your old school and your old coaches and your old team," Auriemma said. "I am not going to put her in a situation where I am sitting down - and nether are the other coaches - 'so Chloe, tell me ...' We aren't going to do that. Hopefully there is a part of her that wants Maryland to play great and have a great showing and hopefully there is a big part of her that wants us to win. It was the same thing with Jaz, you are not going to put them in a tough situation like that."

Pavlech had nine assists in last year's UConn/Maryland game so the returning UConn players were aware of who Pavlech was when she arrived on campus.

"Coming into a new environment is always hard but from the first day that I met her, it was always a bubbly attitude, always positive," UConn junior guard Kia Nurse said. "That is something we have seen on the court, every time we need something Chloe is right there to help you out, she has done a great job of bringing a great new energy, a great new presence to this team."

Auriemma has also been impressed with what Pavlech has accomplished since her arrival.

"She has been good," Auriemma said. "It is not easy. The hardest part of going from a player to that position that she is in right now is you are not really a coach and not a player so you are walking around, you are hanging around with the players and the coaches are like 'what's wrong with you?' If you are haning around with the coaches, the players are saying 'shhh, don't say anything.' So you have a tough line to walk until you have been in it for a while."

Speaking of Auriemma's coaching staff, he has had the luxury of having associate head coach Chris Dailey will him every step of the journey since he was hired at UConn in 1985. Assistant coaches Shea Ralph and Marisa Moseley are in their ninth and eighth season respectively.

As a point of contrast, since Moseley was hired in 2009 UConn's football team has featured three head coaches (four if you count interim head coach T.J. Weist), five offensive coordinators and four defensive coordinators. That number will be increasing as both the offensive and defensive coordinator positions as currently posted on UConn's site.

"I thought about that on the ride over, the staff, their families, it is a lot involved," Auriemma said on Tuesday which fell in between the news of Bob Diaco's firing and Randy Edsall's hiring as UConn's head coach. "It is not that simple of going on talk radio, going into a chat room saying 'fire that guy, fire this guy.'  There is a lot more into that."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

UConn's Dangerfield on recent benching: I asked for it

When Crystal Dangerfield was back home in Tennessee for a few days during Christmas she was trying to make up for lost time reuniting with friends and family. However, on the flight back to Connecticut she pondered the events leading to her being benched in the second half of a recent game at Nebraska.

"Overall it is frustrating because I know I can do better and I know they want that from me but at the same time it is not getting too low from it, knowing I have another day or could have another day to bounce back from it," Dangerfield said. "They want to see it from me consistently and that has really been the problem because I will have a few days when I do well and I will have a few days when it is just bad.

"When I was home I wasn't thinking about it too much but on the travel day back, that was what was heavy on my mind just to come back and try to change how things have been going."

When Dangerfield became the first native of Tennessee to commit to play for Geno Auriemma, she knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park. UConn didn't win 11 national titles or produce one All-American after another by setting the bar low. Auriemma knows Dangerfield has a chance to be a difference maker at guard and he is not willing to let her pick and choose where and when that talent comes out.

"It is not that he is picking on me or anything, it is just that he expects more from me," Dangerfield said. "Him doing that, it hurt but I basically asked for it. I just have to go out there and try harder.
At times they see it that if I get down on myself, they see it as I don't want the coaching but other times I know I can do better so other times I know I can do better, I have to change that, it is the body language I want to put out there.

"It is kind of blank out plays, if I am not in a spot where I need to be, that spot would help us get a steal and that is what happened."

Auriemma has not been feeling well so he missed yesterday's practice before returning with a voice that has seen better days. He spoke to the team for quite a while after practice and after practice was over he gave his thoughts on Dangerfield.

"Crystal, I don't know if you can say she is a typical freshman but you always get two sides of Crystal, the one that you go wow and you get the one where she is very immature," Auriemma said. "Patience is a good thing to a point, I think the more patient you are with people, the longer they take. There comes a point when you are a little bit impatient and they hurry up."

Dangerfield started the last three games as senior guard Saniya Chong missed two games with a concussion and came off the bench in her return against Nebraska. Auriemma said as long as Chong is fine physically that she figures to return to the starting lineup.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Samuelson honored; UConn remains No. 1 in AP poll

There are plenty of surprises during this holiday season but what I am about to post would not be among them.

First, UConn sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson was named the American Athletic Conference's Player of the Week after averaging 24.5 points in wins over Ohio State and Nebraska.

Samuelson shot 45.7 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from 3-point range as she had 26 points against Ohio State and 23 against Nebraska.

UConn remained the unanimous No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll while Maryland, which hosts UConn on Thursday, is at No. 4 as the top 11 teams remained the same.

South Florida remained in the poll at No. 23 meaning that the two regular-season games against the Bulls and a Feb. 13 game versus South Carolina are the only remaining ranked teams on UConn's schedule after the Maryland game.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

UConn signee Megan Walker leads Monacan to CBHI title

It was a rather memorable trip to South Carolina for a pair of future Huskies.

Megan Walker was named the most valuable player at the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational after leading her Monacan (Va.) High School team to the title.

In the championship game Walker had game-high totals of 22 points and four steals in a 54-49 win ovr Winder-Barrow out of Winder, Georgia.

UConn Class of 2018 recruiting target Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 16 points and 22 rebounds for Winder-Barrow.

Walker averaged 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3.7 steals to lead Monacan to a 4-0 record including a victory over nationally-ranked Norcross.

Fellow UConn incoming freshman Mikayla Coombs had a pair of double-doubles as the Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners went 2-2 in the tournament. Coombs averaged 19.8, 7.3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals a game. She also recorded the 1,000 point of her high school career in the tournament, a milestone that obviously would have come much quicker had she not suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of her sophomore season.

Nelson-Ododa averaged 21.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game in the tournament  which began Saturday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and wrapped up with four games today.

Walker was named the tournament's most valuable player, Nelson-Ododa was named the most outstanding player while Coombs earned all-tournament team honors.

I'm going to be doing the family thing for the next few days so barring any major developments, I won't be posting here likely until we get close to the Maryland game, With last night's game starting so late, my updated story off the win over Nebraska did not make it into the paper.

Also, here's the story on senior guard Saniya Chong returning to the court after missing the last two games with a concussion.

Since I spent and am spending a decent amount of my day in airports in three different states today, I had time to do a little checking on recent UConn players with eight offensive rebounds in a game since Napheesa Collier accomplished that feat last night.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is the last Husky to do that, hauling down eight offensive boards in a 2014 NCAA tournament game against BYU and she also accomplished the feat in a regular-season game against Baylor during the 2012-13 season. Breanna Stewart's career high was eight against during her freshman season. Maya Moore hauled down nine offensive rebounds in a 2008 game against Syracuse.

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Stifling defensive effort leads UConn past Nebraska

There were plenty of impressive offensive numbers to chew on in UConn's 84-41 win over Nebraska on Wednesday night.
Katie Lou Samuelson had 23 points including three more 3-pointers, Kia Nurse also had three treys en route to 20 points, Napheesa Collier had career highs with 15 rebounds and eight offensive rebounds and Gabby Williams had a much bigger impact than her final line of 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals might indicate.
Here are a couple of other stats of note. Nebraska's leading scorer Jessica Shepard came into the game averaging 19.4 points per game but she was 1 of 13 from the field as she scored a season low three points. UConn had as many steals as Nebraska had field goals.
"She is a great player so to see her miss the shots that she did was surprising but I am happy that we played such good defense today," said Collier, who was a teammate of Shepard’s on the United States team which won the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women.

Williams gives up five inches to Shepard but after winning the opening tip, she pestered Shepard into missing her first five shots of the game. Natalie Butler came into the game and also helped fluster the high-scoring Shepard.

"Gabby gives up a lot of size in the post and she has to make up for it with her quickness, her athletic ability and being smart about what she is trying to do," Auriemma said. "I thought that first quarter she set the tone. When Gabby is playing defense like that, we get a chance to get out a lot (in transition) at times and get some easy buckets. That is the key for any good team, how many easy baskets can you get? We didn’t give them a lot of ones and we got a lot of easy ones. That is a big part of it.

UConn received solid performances off the bench from Natalie Butler, who finished with four points, six rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes while senior guard Saniya Chong returned to the court after missing two games with a concussion suffered in the second half of a Dec. 7 win at Notre Dame and ended up with eight points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and no turnovers in 28 minutes.

"I thought in the first half Natalie gave us some good minutes, she is big enough that she can help us against some of the post players we were facing," Auriemma said. "I think Saniya was anxious to play. She hasn’t played in a while, she hasn’t practiced and was really anxious and she made an impact on the game. With Saniya it has never been an issue of can she impact the game, can she keep having an impact on the team. We’ll go from there when we get back."

If there was a negative in the game it came when Auriemma opted not to play freshman Crystal Dangerfield in the second half. Chong started the second half while Molly Bent was the first reserve off the bench in the third quarter. In the second half Chong played 18 minutes, Bent was out there for 17 minutes, Butler and Kyla Irwin combined for 28 minutes and Tierney Lawlor was on the court for the final 3:18.

Auriemma said he wants to see Dangerfield play with more of a sense of urgency and see a higher work rate from her.

"I am going to hold her to it and that is all there is to it," Auriemma said.. Your guess is as good as mine."

Dangerfield, who started for the third straight game, will have the support of her teammates who have dealt with being benched by the demanding Auriemma.

"She is definitely not the only one, I have been through it," Chong said. "The best players on the team have been through it. Coming back she has to have the mindset of ‘I have to work hard.’"

UConn’s 29th straight road game would be one shy of the NCAA Division I women’s basketball record based on the current NCAA record book as UConn won 30 in a row from 2007-10 as did Notre Dame from 2012-15 but UConn has reached out to the NCAA about a 34-game streak from 2001-04 which would be the Division I record.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

UConn legends Lobo, Rowe on Hall of Fame ballot

Rebecca Lobo, who led UConn to its first national championship back in 1995, and former UConn men's basketball coach Dee Rowe are among those on the Basketball Hall of Fame ballot.

Here is the release from UConn

Donald E. (Dee) Rowe, former head men’s basketball coach at the University of Connecticut, distinguished administrator on the UConn athletics staff for the past 48 years and a lifelong ambassador of the game of basketball, has been listed as a nominee in the Contributor category for consideration as a inductee to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Basketball Hall of Fame, based in Springfield, Mass., on Wednesday announced nominee lists in six separate categories for evaluation by specific sub-committees that will determine honorees to be included in the Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2017.
Rowe is one of 29 nominees listed in the Contributor category. A person is eligible for consideration for enshrinement as a Contributor for significant contributions to the game basketball.
Joining Rowe on the 2017 Hall of Fame nomination list is former UConn women’s basketball National Player of the Year Rebecca Lobo, nominated as a player in the Women’s Committee category. Lobo is in her third year on the women’s nomination list.
Lobo, currently a television broadcaster with ESPN, led UConn to a perfect 35-0 record in helping guide the Huskies to their first NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship in 1994-95. In addition to earning National Player of the Year honors, Lobo was a member of the 1996 USA Women’s Basketball Gold Medal winning Olympic team and was the No. 1 pick of the New York Liberty in the WNBA draft.
A two-time All-American at UConn, Lobo averaged a double-double in her four collegiate seasons, scoring at a 16.9/game clip and adding 10.1 rebounds per game.
An outstanding scholar-athlete at UConn, in 2008 Lobo was inducted into the College Sports Information Directors Academic All-American Hall of Fame.
A native of Worcester, Mass., Rowe played scholastically at Worcester Academy and during his collegiate days at Middlebury College (A.B. 1952). He also earned a M.Ed. at Boston University in 1953.
For 13 years from 1955-69, Rowe was Director of Athletics and head coach of men’s basketball and baseball at Worcester Academy. His basketball teams won nine New England Prep School Championships and he compiled a 180-44 overall record.
In March of 1969, Rowe was named head coach of men’s basketball at the University of Connecticut and directed the UConn program for the next eight years, winning 120 games. He was named New England Coach of the Year twice (1970, 1976), led UConn to a pair of NIT berths (1974, 1975) and guided the 1975-76 UConn team to the ECAC New England Championship, a berth in the NCAA Tournament and UConn advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rowe was part of numerous coaching and clinician activities including: in 1973 representing the U.S. State Department Partners of Americas Basketball Exchange Program throughout Brazil, serving as an assistant coach at the 1975 U.S. National Team Inter-Continental Cup Games, coach at the 1976 U.S. Olympic Basketball Trials and assistant coach for the 1980 Big East Conference All-Star tour of Yugoslavia.
In 1980, Rowe experienced what he calls “the greatest thrill of my personal basketball life” when he represented his country as assistant coach of the United States Men’s Basketball Olympic Team, joining head coach Dave Gavitt and fellow assistant coach Larry Brown. Rowe’s close personal friendship with Gavitt began in 1960 when Rowe hired Gavitt as his assistant coach at Worcester Academy in 1960.
In 1979, Rowe played a pivotal behind the scenes role for UConn when Big East Conference founder and Commissioner Gavitt invited the Huskies to leave their New England athletic roots and become one of the seven charter members of the newly-formed Big East.
Rowe was a key member of two UConn search committees in the mid-1980s that brought Geno Auriemma (1985) and Jim Calhoun (1986) to the University of Connecticut. Auriemma, now in his 32nd year in charge of the UConn women’s basketball program, has won an all-time college record 11 NCAA Championships, and was enshrined as a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2006. Calhoun, who retired as UConn men’s basketball head coach in 2012, coached the Huskies for 26 years, winning three NCAA Championships (1999, 2004, 2011) and being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.
In 1978, after stepping down as head coach, Rowe launched the fund-raising arm for UConn Athletics and for the next 13 years became a national leader in collegiate athletic fund-raising, generating millions of dollars to support the mission of UConn Athletics. Rowe personally directed the effort to raise more than $7 million in private donations to support the building (1987-90) of the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion/Sports Center Complex on UConn’s Storrs campus.
For the past 25 years, since his official UConn “retirement” at the end of calendar year 1991, Rowe has remained actively involved at the school in his emeritus role as Special Adviser for Athletics.
Rowe has been the recipient of numerous honors during his long and distinguished professional career.
In February of 2007, Rowe was one of the members of the inaugural class of inductees to the UConn Basketball Huskies of Honor. Also in 2007, the University of Connecticut awarded Dee Rowe with the University Medal, one of the school’s most prestigious honors established by the Board of Trustees to recognize individuals who have had a significant influence on the University.
Rowe received the Gold Key from the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance, was a member of the inaugural class of honorees in the New England Basketball Hall of Fame and was honored by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) with its Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015, the ECAC honored Coach Rowe with its highest honor, naming Dee Rowe to the ECAC Hall of Fame.
The Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 will be formally announced on Monday, April 3, during the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Final Four in Phoenix, Arizona.
Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement festivities for the Class of 2017 will take place in Springfield, Mass., September 7-9, 2017.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

UConn recruits shine in S.C.

UConn signees Mikalya Coombs and Megan Walker as well as Class of 2018 recruiting target Olivia Nelson-Ododa are putting on a show at the Crescom Bank Holiday Invitational at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Walker, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, hit the game-tying and game-winning foul shots with 4 seconds left to play to lead Monacan (VA) to a 58-57 win over Norcross (GA). Walker had eight of her 22 points in the final 10:02 as Monacan, ranked 19th in the latest USA Today national poll, handed No. 6 Norcross its first loss of the season.

Walker had 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocked shots as Monacan opened the tournament with a 78-27 win over Prairie View (CO).

Coombs and Nelson-Ododa went head to head in a game earlier today. Nelson-Ododa had 27 points (on 10 of 12 shooting) along with seven rebounds as Winder-Barrow topped Wesleyan 65-60 in an all-Georgia matchup. Coombs had 24 points, 10 rebounds and hit four 3-pointers.

Coombs had 22 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot as Wesleyan opened play in the tournament with a 58-35 win over Franklin County. Nelson-Ododa had 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocked shots in just 18 minutes in a 63-37 win over Dreher (S.C.) in the opening round.

Monacan and Winder-Barrow are each a win away from playing in the championship game.

UConn's Dangerfield learning on the job

Geno Auriemma must fight the urge to burst out laughing when he hears the comparisons between UConn freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield and two-time All-American Moriah Jefferson.

Yes, they are both undersize, athletic true point guards so some of the skill sets that Jefferson has he can see in Dangerfield. But when it comes to personality traits, he believes the two couldn't be more different.

Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff remarked about how impressed he is with Dangerfield's poise. Auriemma's response to Dangerfield's poise was yet another "did he actually just say that" moment.

"I would say she is comatosed out there at times so I guess she is poised," Auriemma deadpanned.  "She has a personaliy type, a demeanor that is very (even keel). There are no spikes. Moriah would be like you let the air out of a balloon, Crystal is more like .... She doesn't get the highs and the lows so so I think that helps her."

With Saniya Chong missing her second straight game as she is still going through the concussion protocol steps, Dangerfield got the start again against a talented and deep Ohio State team. Perhaps the greatest tribute to her talent is that McGuff seemed reluctant to utilize a full-court press or even a three-quarter court one while Dangerfield was on the floor.

Dangerfield had eight points, three rebounds, five assists, one steal and two turnovers in 34 minutes. While her numbers paled in comparison to what she did against Baylor (19 points, five assists, two steals and one turnover) even the hard to please Auriemma had to admit it was a solid showing.

"Pretty decent," Auriemma said. :She is way better than that. Slowly but surely we are getting there with her. She will make some tough shots and she loves these little runners, throwing them off the glass. She does some stuff where you go 'wow, I didn't know that she could do that.' She tied her career high for steals, she got one (actually she has three games this season with two steals), Gabby (Williams) got six and she got one. Somebody that quick and that athletic, you are thinking come on, get involved a little bit. We are trying to get her be way more involved. The more she gets involved as time goes on, she is going to be really good."

The number that bothered Dangerfield the most were the two turnovers.

"The two turnovers I did have were unforced," Dangerfield said. "I feel like so I am not really happy about it."

So what was she happy about?

"Just being able to play the game that I did and stay poised in that kind of a game," Dangerfield said. "There were times when I did get rattled but being able to look at (her teammates), they calmed me down, help us make runs and stay in the game."

There were a couple of those runners that she banked off the glass that she has shown a knack for pulling out of her bag of tricks but the one play that stands out the most to me was an amazing pass on the fast break to Gabby Williams. When she threw the pass, I thought it was going to land out of bounds but she led Williams perfectly so she could catch the ball without breaking stride. Had Williams finished the layup, it would have been a highlight shown nation wide. Still, Williams did get a trip to the foul line out of it.

"I saw an opening for her," Dangerfield said. "We made eye contact and just being able to trust that she was going to be able to outrun whoever that was and go get the ball, go make a play."

With each passing game Dangerfield is getting a better understanding where her teammates like to receive the ball which should only help her and her team play at a higher level moving forward.

"She is that person on our team to lead the offense, hit a shot when we need it but also make the right passes," Katie Lou Samuelson said. "I think she showed that today and she is showing that more in practice slowly, it is big for her as a freshman to be that solid player and do something different on the court every day. Even if she isn't going to be that one to lead in scoring, she is going to be somebody who is going to impact the game in a different way."

Monday, December 19, 2016

UConn's Auriemma pays tribute to Craig Sager

There have been plenty of tributes since the death of respected former NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma won't pretend to have known Sager as well as the NBA players and coaches who have weighed in on social media since Sager's death on Thursday but he was impressed enough with Sager's work that he - acting on a suggestion from his wife - wanted to pay tribute to Sager.

While he didn't have a jacket in his collection anywhere near as colorful as the ones Sager used to don, Auriemma wore the closest thing to a colorful blazer that he owns for tonight's game against Ohio State.

"It was my wife's idea so blame her," Auriemma said. "It was kind of like last minute and I thought about it and it was the best that I could come up with."

Auriemma's dealing with Sager came during the Olympics and while Sager was not a part of the broadcast team for the 2016 Olympics due to his fight with leukemia, he was there four years early when Auriemma coached the U.S. women's team to the gold medal.

"We played eight games and he was there for all eight of them," Auriemma said. "He was as into those games as he was as if it was an NBA playoff game. He knew the players, he treated them  the same as he would treat the best NBA players. He didn't mail it in, he didn't pretend it wasn't important and I really appreciated the interest that he took in our players, in our team. He just had a way about him and he was so disarming. TV people get a little bit full of themselves sometimes and he always knew what was important and I appreciated that.

"He is part of the fabric of the NBA and the thing that I took from it listening to what the players had to say, here is a guy who had a tremendous love for the game and for the people in it, he was always a gentleman about it. You didn't see him getting involved with players where it was hostile. It was 'I have a job to do, you have a job to do' and he made it easy for you to do your job. I enjoyed watching and listening to him because he was a real professional."

200-200 VISION
During Auriemma's time at UConn, you could count the number of players with at least 200 points in the first 10 games of a season on one hand - Maya Moore (who did it twice), Kerry Bascom, Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi. Now you can add current stars Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier to the list.

Samuelson's 26 points gives her 204 points, the fourth highest total of a Husky since Auriemma's arrival in 1985 while Collier is sixth with 202 points.

Here's the list

Maya Moore (10-11) 10-240
Kerry Bascom (88-89) 10-212
Breanna Stewart (15-16) 10-206
Katie Lou Samuelson  (16-17) 204Diana Taurasi (03-04) 10-203
Napheesa Collier (16-17)  202Maya Moore (09-10) 10-200
Collier and Samuelson combined for 53 points, 39 coming in the second and third quarters. They had a chance to set a record for most points by UConn teammates through the first 10 games of a season but had only seven points between the two of them in the final quarter in the Ohio State win.

The total of 410 set by Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes during the 2010-11 season still stands while Samuelson and Collier have 406 points between them.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

UConn's Collier/Samuelson climbing the charts

Watching sophomores Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson get off to rip roaring offensive starts got me to wondering the last time the Huskies had two players putting up as many points as UConn's current dynamic duo.

Normally when I get to "wondering" it means it is time for research and this time it is no different.

If they have a typical game, they would post the second most points for UConn teammates through 10 games trailing only Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes during the 2010-11 season.

They could also finish among the top 10 player through 10 games since Geno Auriemma's arrival in 1985

410 Maya Moore/Tiffany Hayes 2010-11
377 Maya Moore/Bria Hartley 2010-11
365 Tina Charles/Maya Moore 2009-10
364 Tina Charles/Maya Moore 2008-09
361 Breanna Stewart/Morgan Tuck 2015-16
358 Renee Montgomery/Maya Moore 2008-09
353 Napheesa Collier/Katie Lou Samuelson 2016-17

Maya Moore (10-11) 10-240
Kerry Bascom (88-89) 10-212
Breanna Stewart (15-16) 10-206
Diana Taurasi (03-04) 10-203
Maya Moore (09-10) 10-200
Nykesha Sales (97-98) 10-199
Maya Moore (08-09) 10-192
Kerry Bascom (90-91) 10-190
Nykesha Sales (97-98) 10-187
Kara Wolters (93-94) 10-186
Kara Wolters (95-96) 184
Breanna Stewart (13-14) 10-178
Katie Lou Samuelson (16-17) 9-178
Svet Abrosimova (98-99) 10-178
Renee Najarian (87-88) 177
Napheesa Collier (16-17) 9-175
Diana Taurasi (02-03) 9-175

Nationally they hold up pretty well as well.

Only Washington's Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor and Syracuse's Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes combine to average more points than the 39.2 Collier and Samuelson are contributing.

Washington Kelsey Plum 12-364 Chantel Osahor 11-151       12-515-42.9
Syracuse     Alexis Peterson 11-237 Brittney Sykes 11-195     11-432-39.3
UConn Katie Lou Samuelson 9-178 Napheesa Collier 9-175    9-353-39.2
South Florida Kitija Laksa    8-166 Arladna Pujol 8-144          8-310-38.8
Old Dominion Jennie Simms 8-213 Destinee Young 8-93        8-306-38.3
Northern Illinois Courtney Woods 9-173 Ally Lehman 9-168 9-341-37.9
Duke Rebecca Greenwell     11-228 Lexie Brown 11-187       11-415-37.7
California Kristine Anigwe 9-212  Courtney Range 9-113       9-335-37.2
North Carolina Stephanie Watts 10-200 Paris Kea 10-172     10-362-36.2
UCLA Jordin Canada 10-182 Monique Billings 10-172          10-354-35.4
James Madison Precious Hall 8-201 Kamiah Smalls  8-89      8-290-36.3

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UConn's Chong to miss some more time

Freshman Crystal Dangerfield set to make another start in place of Saniya Chong
There was no sign of senior guard Saniya Chong at the portion of today's practice open to the media so it wasn't too hard to figure out her status for tomorrow night's game against Ohio State.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma confirmed that Chong won't play tomorrow and her status is up in the air for Wednesday's game at Nebraska.

"She is doing some of the stuff you have to do, it is just taking a really long time," Auriemma said. "She is not going to be ready for tomorrow night obviously and probably not Wednesday either so perhaps the time we get back from the holidays, hopefully she will be ready to go."

Freshman Crystal Dangerfield should make her second consecutive game as Chong is slated to miss another game due to concussion-like symptoms after she was hit in the head in the second half on a Dec. 7 win at Notre Dame.

That leaves UConn with an even thinner bench than normal. Neither Molly Bent nor Kyla Irwin played against Notre Dame and got in for just the final 1:29 against Kansas State so it will be interesting to see how early they are called upon against a deep Ohio State team.

"It is a big problem and you saw some of the problems when we played K-State, we just don't have a lot to go to but we are going to have to figure it out," Auriemma said. "We had a conversation with some of those young guys that we have to figure out a way to get you involved. I think they want to be involved but if you watch them every day you just kind of shake your head so you might have to just close your eyes, throw them out there and see what happens."

The timing couldn't be worse for Chong to be injured. Unlike Kansas State, a team which preferred to run the clock down and didn't put very much pressure on the UConn guards, Ohio State likes to extend defensive pressure and figures to do even more of that with the Huskies being shorthanded.

"If you remember last year Pheesa and Lou didn't get a lot of playing time at Ohio State, they weren't quite ready for something like that," Auriemma said. "Now they aren't that much different than they were last year to be honest with you, they've added some pretty good pieces with  Sierra Calhoun, Tory McCoy and (Stephanie) Mavunga an they have gotten a lot, they have (Linnae) Harper playing so they have a lot of bodies that they can put out there, obvoiusly they want to go up and down and want to create as much of a high scoring game as they can. Controlling the tempo is going to be really important. Not that we want to walk it up and play 50-45 game but our starters are going to log a lot of minutes tomorrow but we are going to need some help from our bench and that is a big concern."

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Dangerfield reflects on first start at UConn

This was certainly not the way Crystal Dangerfield wanted to make her first career start.
Since arriving on campus, the highly-touted freshman guard has been grateful for all the assistance she has received from senior Saniya Chong. However, after being hit in the head in Wednesday's win at Notre Dame, Chong was suffering from concussion-like symptoms resulting in her being left at home when the Huskies made the trip to play at Kansas State on Sunday.
Dangerfield played 37 minutes and six points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals in the 73-58 victory.
"It is my first college (experience)," Dangerfield said after playing 61 combined minutes in wins over Notre Dame and Kansas State. "Mentally for me just trying to pick out the things I need to work on and listen to my coaches, listen to my teammates and just coming out 9-0 is huge for us and I am happy about it.
"Just being able to adjust to certain things, continue to adjust to them, see if things are technical and I need to go into the gym to work on them or if they are mental and just go back to it," Dangerfield said.
Dangerfield, who erupted for 19 points against Baylor in her second collegiate game, is in the midst of growing pains every freshman who has played for UConn coach Geno Auriemma have experienced.
One teaching moment came when Dangerfield was over aggressive in leaving Kansas State's top 3-point shooter Kindred Wesemann to help on defense only to give up a wide-open 3-pointer to the K-State senior.

"The first time we went zone in the game, the kid has the ball and passes it," Auriemma said, "The kid (Dangerfield) runs 30 feet away from her, she makes a 3 and she is like 'oh yeah.' So what we did in the second half is we didn't help off of her as much, as a matter of fact, we didn't help off of her hardly at all so by limiting  how many times she touched it, when she did get it, she wasn't kind of (ready to shoot)."
Dangerfield heard it from Auriemma after her defensive lapse and played better defense on Wesemann in the second half.
"Just knowing that I have to stay on her and know where she is," Dangerfield said. "They harp on me about my defense so I just wanted to be able to guard her."
It's been a grueling stretch for UConn with five games at five different arenas and in three different states in a two-week span. Even some of the veteran players showed signs of mental fatigue so it could be an even more daunting task for a young player like Dangerfield.
"At some points it was but now I think I will be used to it, after the finals we are back at it," Dangerfield said.
The team will practice sparingly during final exam week. The hope is that when the Huskies reconvene and begin preparations to host nationally-ranked Ohio State that Chong will be able to return to the court.
"Saniya, she took an inadvertent elbow to just about her eye and I knew she was pretty shook up during the game," Auriemma said, "It didn't really present itself until we got home so our medical stuff felt it would be best if we left her back and hopefully she will be able to play in the Ohio State game on the 19th, more important I hope she is OK because this is finals week starting so it is a big week for our players."

If Dangerfield maintains her current pace and the Huskies were to reach the American Athletic Conference and NCAA tournament title games, she would break Renee Montgomery's program record for assists by a freshman. While Chong figures to return to the starting lineup when she is cleared to return, Dangerfield will have plenty of other opportunities to start during her time at UConn.

"She did well," Napheesa Collier said "It is always kind of scary starting your first game especially as a freshman so I give her props."

Collier was named the American Athletic Conference's Player of the Week for the second straight time.

Collier averaged 21 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game while shooting 70.8 percent from the floor and 88.9 percent from the foul line in wins over Notre Dame and Kansas State.

UConn signees Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Megan Walker were among nine players to earn WBCA Player of the Week honors.

Espinoza-Hunter is averaging a staggering 43.6 points per game for Ossining (N.Y.) High School after scoring a season-high 51 points in Sunday's win over Our Lady of Lourdes while Walker already had three 30-point games for Monacan (Va.) High School.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

UConn signees lighting it up

Not only is UConn rolling along with five wins over ranked teams but the highly-touted quartet of incoming freshmen are also in the midst of impressive seasons.

Mikayla Coombs had two 25-point games for undefeated Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. Coombs wasn't listed as one of the top scorers in a 75-8 win over WD Mohammed but in the other seven games Coombs is averaging 18.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.7 steals per game.

Coombs has been flirting with triple-doubles all season with 11 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five steals against Effingham County, 25 points, six rebounds and six steals versus Tattnall County. In her most recent game, she had 16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 steals and 2 blocked shots in a 56-18 win over St. Pius X.

Andra Espinoza-Hunter has scored at least 40 points in three of the first four games at Ossining (N.Y.) High School. Thanks to her coach Dan Ricci updating his team's stats on MaxPreps, I can pass on more information that I have for the other three incoming freshmen.

She had 40 points in a season-opening loss to Roland Park Country and games of 49, 38 and 40 in
wins over Hathaway Brown, Scarsdale and Albany.
Also, 17 appears to be a preferred number for Espinoza-Hunter as she has 17 3-pointers, 17 assists and 17 steals in the four games.

Lexi Gordon began the season by scoring 20 points in each of the first five games for LD Bell in Hurst, Texas and has nine 20-point performances. I don't have the individual scoring totals from a 47-43 loss to Cedar Hill, but in the other 14 games she is averaging 20.5 points per game.

Megan Walker has three 30-point games in the first four games of the season and since she is showing up as not having scored in a win over Clover Hill, I am going to assume that she didn't play in that game.

In the other three games she has scored 30, 36 and 31 points and is averaging 32.3 points and 10 rebounds per game.

There's a chance Coombs' and Walker's teams could meet in the upcoming Crescom Bank Holiday Invitational but since Wesleyan and Monacan are in opposite parts of the bracket, it wouldn't happen until the championship game or late in the consolation bracket.

Wesleyan faces a 4-1 Franklin County team out of Frankfort, Kentucky in the first round on Saturday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Franklin County is led by Xavier signee Princess Stewart.

Monacan's first game is against Prairie View out of Henderson, Colorado with a potential game of ranked teams awaiting in the second round if No. 19 Monacan and No. 6 Norcross (Ga.) win on Saturday.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

One UConn winning streak flying under the radar

Plenty of references have been made in this blog about UConn's various record-setting and adjective-defying winning streaks. However, one of the streaks I haven't focused on as much as I probably should have is the road winning streak.

The win at Notre Dame was the 27th consecutive road win in a row and ironically, the streak also began against Notre Dame on Dec. 6, 2014. The Huskies would win their final 10 road games in the 2014-15 season (the Maggie Dixon Classic game against St. John's in Madison Square Garden counts as a neutral-court game), 15 more wins would follow last season. According to the NCAA record book, that would be tied for the third longest streak in NCAA Division I women's basketball history. However, I went over this time after time and for some reason the 33-game road winning streak the Huskies had from 2001-04 isn't listed.

This is all very unofficial because anybody who has read this blog on a regular basis knows my math isn't always reliable but here's a look at the longest road winning streaks in NCAA Division I women's basketball history.

1. UConn 33 (started on Feb. 7, 2001 at Virginia Tech, ended at Notre Dame on Jan. 13, 2004)
2. UConn 30 (started on Feb. 9, 2007 at Seton Hall, ended at Stanford on Dec. 30, 2010)
2. Notre Dame 30 (started on Nov. 23, 2012 at Creighton, ended at Miami on Jan. 8, 2015)
4. Baylor 28 (started on Feb. 27, 2011 at Oklahoma, ended at Kansas on Jan. 5, 2014)
5. UConn 27 (started on Dec. 6, 2014 at Notre Dame)
5. Stanford 27 (started on Xavier on Nov. 25, 2011, ended at UConn on Nov. 11, 2013)

Friday, December 09, 2016

Different kind of challenge awaits UConn on Sunday

Watching Florida State hoisted up two potential go-ahead jumpers in the final 8 seconds in UConn's season opener made it clear that things were going to be a little different this year.

The Huskies, playing their first regular-season game following the departure of All-Americans Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, seemingly had control of the Nov. 14 game with an eight-point lead and less than 2 1/2 minutes left to play.

Napheesa Collier's clutch block enabled the Huskies to turn a one-point lead into a two-point cushion but still, Imani Wright's buzzer-beating 3-pointer didn't miss by much or else the Huskies would have returned home with a loss.

With the next game against Baylor as well as contests against fellow ranked teams DePaul and Texas to say nothing of the one on the road against preseason No. 1 Notre Dame, it seemed more like a case of when and not if the Huskies would taste defeat for the first time.

UConn is sitting pretty at 8-0 after beating three ranked teams in a week's time and the Huskies are back at their familiar perch atop the Associated Press poll.

The Huskies have shown toughness that some, even their own head coach, wondered if they possessed. Geno Auriemma questioned his team's toughness and admitted that he wanted to see nothing more than to see somebody take down his team.

"His response was definitely appropriate, we weren't showing that toughness," UConn junior forward Gabby Williams said. "At times we don't and it is hard to be for 40 minutes (in games) and every day in practice. We just have to suck it up and say if we want to do something great, we are going to have to be."

More ranked teams await with Ohio State coming to Hartford on Dec. 19 and the Huskies playing at Maryland on Dec. 29. There will also be a February date with South Carolina and two games with South Florida, which recently broke into the top 25.

Before all of that, however, UConn needs to play on the road against undefeated Kansas State, a team that beat North Carolina State by 17, LSU by 15 and nationally-ranked Auburn by five. Oh, the Huskies will also be playing in front of more than 12,000 fans on Sunday.

There's likely to be some sort of emotional release after the impressive win over Notre Dame but not being 100 percent focused on Kansas State would be a major mistake. With two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman have averaged the most minutes per game this season, this is going to be a test of the Huskies' maturity against a Kansas State team featuring one of the nation's best shot blockers in Breanna Lewis as well as Kindred Weserman, who heads into the weekend tied for 20th nationally with 28 3-pointers.

"It is a process and we have done a good job of making sure we are taking huge steps forward while minimizing the steps we take back," UConn junior guard Kia Nurse said.

Playing five games in five different arenas in a span of 13 games, there's no question that the UConn players are probably a bit tired especially mentally. Sunday's game will be a perfect chance for the team to prove to their demanding coaching staff and to themselves how far they have come even since the season opener.

"It means a lot in terms of seeing where we are at in the season," Williams said. "At the end of the day, there are 30 more games that we have to play so I think this is a good marker for where we are. We can be physical, we can handle that kind of pressure."

Thursday, December 08, 2016

UConn/Notre Dame game a ratings hit

Last night's UConn/Notre Dame game drew some impressive ratings.

I heard back from ESPN earlier this evening and was told that the ESPN2 broadcast had live viewing audience (counting TV viewers and those who checked out ESPN3's live stream) of 739,000.

The highest market was Hartford/New Haven with an 8.9 rating, which is the highest rating for a women's basketball game in this market so far this season according to ESPN. It should be noted that ESPN only had four of the first eight UConn games and it is unlikely that a non-UConn game would outdraw one involving the Huskies in the state but it is still a noteworthy number.

I also did a little checking and going back to the 2002-03 season, the only players with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in a game are Maya Moore (16 points, 14, rebounds, seven assists, five steals vs. Syracuse on Mar. 7, 2010), Kelly Faris (13 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, five steals against Georgetown on Jan. 5, 2013), Stefanie Dolson (12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals against Memphis on Jan. 22, 2014) and Gabby Williams (19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals against Notre Dame).

I spent a few extra minutes with Williams after the game and got some stuff from her about being more than just a dynamic player and athlete. I'm going to turn it into my advance for Sunday's game at Kansas State so stay tuned.

A couple of other notes that I never got around to posting.

First, since I spent plenty of time researching how many games and shots it took Katie Lou Samuelson to reach 100 3-points and where it ranks in program history, I did get her reaction to needing fewer shots than anybody not named Sue Bird to reach triple digits in made 3-pointers.

"It is really exciting, my teammates pass me the ball so it is on them so hopefully I will continue to shoot more 3s," Samuelson said.

Finally, as I was watching the 5-foot-11 Williams and 6-foot-1 Collier combine for 39 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals and 2 blocked shots in the win over Notre Dame, I couldn't help but wonder how things will look next season with 6-foot-5 Azura' Stevens and 6-2 Batouly Camara eligible after sitting out this season per NCAA transfer regulations as well as the Huskies adding highly-touted 6-1 signee Megan Walker.

I spoke to Camara last month after the National Letters of Intent were signed by Walker, Mikayla Coombs, Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon since Camara was a former teammate of Espinoza-Hunter's at Blair Academy. I also asked her about what it is like not being able to play this season.

"It was more and everything that I expected," Camara said. "It is as challenging as I thought it would be but that was exactly what I wanted, I am excited about the season.

"Going through preseason and you started in practice, you see the competition that we have so we want to do our best for our teammates so we try every day to make practice as hard as we can. We go to war with them every day in, you can watch the games and support them."

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

UConn's defense steals the show in No. 1 vs. No. 2 showcase

It wasn't that long ago that Hall of Fame UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma questioned his team's toughness. Well, those questions disappeared on an early December night in South Bend, Indiana.

With starting forwards Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams giving up two and three inches to Notre Dame's Brianna Turner and Kathryn Westbeld, UConn actually outrebounded the Fighting Irish, had more points in the paint (42-30), more second-chance points (15-14). Most impressive of all, the Huskies attempted 20 free throws to just eight for the Fighting Irish (would love to know the last time that happened in a Notre Dame home court).

The result was a 72-61 UConn victory, the Huskies' 83rd in a row.

"What we needed were guys who were going to be physical, guys who were going to work hard and that is going to be our identity," Williams said. "We are going to beat teams by being smarter, being tougher and making those hustle plays."

UConn won even without Collier for the final 11:24 of the first half after she was whistled for two fouls. Still, Collier finished with a team-high 20 points, Williams had 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, five steals and two blocked shots (I'm going to have a project with some time out this way before Sunday's Kansas State game researching the last time UConn had a player lead the team in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in the same game). Auriemma not known for dispersing of compliments in his player's direction called Williams' performance "magnificent." Katie Lou Samuelson had 18 points with many of them around the basket instead of simply firing away from the perimeter. Kia Nurse had eight points and four assists but her greatest role came in holding Marina Mabrey scoreless until the final 11 seconds.

"I know this is December 7 and I know there is a long way to go between now and then but we purposely tried to put together a schedule this year that going into March there would no doubt to what we can and can not do," Auriemma said after the Huskies won their 83rd game in a row. "I think up to this point we have passed every test, I don't know that we got 100 on every test but we passed every test and the tests are going to keep coming, they are not done yet but if weren't undefeated, if we hadn't won this game, it wouldn't make me feel any different about our team but the fact that we are we are, I am kind of surprised."

Word is that talented Notre Dame freshman Jackie Young suffered an ankle injury so her prognosis is better than what I thought I would be hearing after she needed to be helped off the court late in the game.

Brianna Turner now has two double-doubles in two games against UConn (injuries forced her to miss the regular-season meetings during her freshman and sophomore seasons) as she finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Turner was 2 for 8 from the field after three quarters and had eight points in the final quarter after UConn was comfortably in control of the game.

Notre Dame/UConn set to be reunited

When it comes to women's basketball non-conference games, it doesn't get much better than UConn and Notre Dame.

When I came onto the break in the late 1990s, it really wasn't much of a rivalry as the Huskies won the first 11 games when they were conference rivals. It all began to change on Jan. 15, 2001 when Notre Dame topped UConn 92-76. UConn would win the rematch in the Big East tournament before the Fighting Irish took the one that mattered the most  in the 2001 national semifinals.

Other than wins in 2004 and 2005 when UConn was between the Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore eras, UConn reestablished its dominance winning 16 of 18. The tide turned again during the Skylar Diggins/Kayla McBride years as Notre Dame won seven of eight.

UConn has won the last four meetings including three in national championship games heading into tonight's game/

What I have always appreciated about this game is how similar the head coaches are. They tend to not only recruit the same types of players but the same players.

Notre Dame recruited UConn's top two scorers - Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier.  On the other end of things, UConn was involved in the recruitments of Brianna Turner, Kathryn Westbeld, Arike Ogunbowale and Erin Boley and other than Boley, they are slated to start tonight.

There are so many keys to tonight's game but none might be more pivotal than how the game is officiated.

UConn has worked around early foul trouble with Gabby Williams and Samuelson among the key players seeing playing time limited due to a whistle or two going against them. Teams like Baylor and Texas have made it a priority to force the issue against a smaller UConn frontcourt but shockingly went away from that strategy. Something tells me that if Notre Dame has success scoring in the paint tonight, Fighting Irish coach Muffet McGraw won't stop going inside.

It should be a good one.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Collier, Williams holding up well as UConn's latest dynamic frontcourt tandem

When Morgan Tuck opted not to come back for another season, the Huskies bid adieu to a pair of All-American forwards.

Certainly there is no way that Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams, who played so much on the perimeter during their high school careers, were going to be able to match the production of Breanna Srewart and Morgan Tuck, right?

Well, the numbers of Stewart and Tuck during their senior seasons are certainly more impressive than what Collier and Williams have put up but if you compare the statistics from Stewart's and Tuck's junior season, it is pretty close to what Collier and Williams have put up through the first seven games of the season. The 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons isn't included because the numbers weren't close to the other seasons.

Year       Players             Min FG-Att 3PT   FTs    Pts  Reb A  Stl Blk (TO)
16-17 Collier/Williams   408  87-142    6-13 25-37  205-  97-45-27-18 (29)
15-16 Stewart/Tuck         434 103-180 15-38 52-68  273-103-54-20-25 (25)
14-15 Stewart/Tuck         398  82-163  14-43 37-48  215-  84-33-16-  9 (31)
13-14 Stewart/Dolson     408  88-160 12-33 48-61   236-110-53-17-36 (36)
12-13 Stewart/Dolson     344  83-139   8-23  32-42  206- 89-34-16-18 (28)
11-12 Moore/Dolson       326  88-160 14-37 40-45   230- 81-43-22-12 (22)
10-11 Moore/Charles      345 104-170 11-28 40-53  259-113-37-24-19 (30)
09-10 Moore/Charles      357 103-169 11-27 41-59  258-121-41-22-27 (32)
08-09 Moore/Charles      305  95-144  5-13 26-49    221- 96-32-19-24 (22)
07-08 Charles/Houston   317  72-126  0-0  19-41     163-105-23-18-25 (27)
04-05 Turner/Houston     286  55-99   1-7  37-60     148- 60-21-12-14 (29)
03-04 Turner/Moore        357  68-117  3-7  33-56    172- 83-32-11-11 (29) 
02-03 Moore/Turner        265  46-81   1-3  15-23     108- 73-11-12-5  (23)    
01-02 Cash/Jones            319  85-148  1-2  27-41     198- 92-19-12-15 (26)

I also found it interesting that Williams is tied for the team lead with 32 assists and half of the helpers have come on baskets by Collier which is a remarkable ratio.

UConn jumped to the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press poll yesterday, passing former No. 1 team Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish did remain No. 1 in the coaches poll receiving 18 of the 32 first-place votes to edge out UConn by three points after UConn finished two points ahead of Notre Dame in the writers' poll.

Perhaps you have noticed more cameras than normal at UConn games. Not only are SNY or ESPN cameramen there getting footage but so those from HBO.

It was kind of being kept quiet - until now but HBO will be airing a documentary on UConn the season after the graduation of the top recruiting class in NCAA women's basketball history.

Here is the release from HBO

HBO Sports, a trailblazer in sports reality programming, is teaming up again with IMG’s Original Content unit for an unscripted series chronicling the 2016-17 season of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s pursuit of a fifth consecutive national championship. UCONN HUSKIES: THE MARCH TO MADNESS debuts WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) with a special hour-long edition, followed by half-hour episodes debuting on subsequent Wednesdays.

UCONN HUSKIES: THE MARCH TO MADNESS spotlights the players, coaches and support personnel, chronicling the hard work and high expectations game-by-game in the American Athletic Conference as they seek to continue their extraordinary run of berths in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. Scheduled to run through the conclusion of the Huskies’ season, the show features exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, offering a unique look at the personalities who shape the powerhouse program headquartered in Storrs, Conn.

The reigning national champions, the UConn Huskies have achieved unprecedented success in women’s college basketball and are on the verge of surpassing the UCLA men’s basketball record of 11 NCAA national championships. Under head coach Geno Auriemma, in his 32nd season with the team, the Huskies have earned berths in 28 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, going to 16 Final Fours and 11 national championships. Last spring, the team captured its fourth consecutive national championship, going undefeated for the sixth time.

 “We are always looking for fascinating stories that will appeal to our subscribers, and this project will shine a spotlight on one of the most successful athletic programs in America,” says Rick Bernstein, executive producer, HBO Sports. “Under Coach Auriemma, the University of Connecticut has built a tremendous program that excels year after year. Our goal is to explore why this program is so accomplished and to tell the backstories of the student-athletes who are committed to carving out a remarkable piece of history on the college basketball landscape.”
“The Huskies’ program is the gold standard in college basketball: outstanding leadership, a legacy of dedicated players and the ability to make history time and time again,” says Mike Antinoro, senior vice president, Programming and Production, IMG. “We are excited and honored to share their unique story in partnership with HBO.”
“We are absolutely thrilled to be involved in this project,” says UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma. “Knowing the kind of high-quality content that is showcased by HBO, I am already looking forward to watching the first episode. This offers a tremendous opportunity for a lot of people to get an inside look at our university and to see just what goes into building a championship team.”
Journalist Harvey Araton has written, “Perfection, or near perfection, has become a virtual state of Connecticut grace.”

For more than a decade, HBO Sports has been responsible for some of the most compelling unscripted sports programming, with a stylish and contemporary approach keyed by unrestricted access. “Hard Knocks,” launched in 2001 in partnership with NFL Films, has won 14 Sports Emmy® Awards, and the groundbreaking all-access reality franchise “24/7” has earned 18 Sports Emmy® Awards.

UCONN HUSKIES: THE MARCH TO MADNESS marks HBO Sports’ second foray into a reality series spotlighting a college sports program. Last year, HBO and IMG teamed up for “Gonzaga: The March to Madness,” following that team’s march to its 18th consecutive NCAA men’s basketball tournament berth.

The show will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.

UCONN HUSKIES: THE MARCH TO MADNESS is executive produced by Will Staeger, Mike Antinoro and Fred Christenson. For HBO: executive producer Rick Bernstein; supervising producer, Bentley Weiner.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

UConn moves into No. 1 spot in AP poll; Collier honored by AAC

UConn coach Geno Auriemma wondered out loud about the rarity of his team going on the road as a lower ranked team and facing the No. 1 team in the country in a hostile environment.

He'll have to wait to see that happen again. It does figure to be a raucous crowd waiting for UConn on Wednesday but the Huskies will head into the game ranked first. Notre Dame, previously ranked first, dropped a spot to No. 2.

"It is going to be fun these next couple of days preparing," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "That is still one of my favorite things to do is prepare for a really good team especially on the road. Those two days leading up to the game are a lot of fun, sometimes it can be more fun than the actual game. I am looking forward to seeing how we, as a team, look in these next two days. I think they will be excited."

For the sake of full disclosure, I voted UConn behind South Carolina and Notre Dame since the preseason. However, with South Carolina's loss to Duke I had a decision to make. I looked at the fact that UConn has beaten four ranked teams already while Notre Dame has played just one ranked squad this season.

UConn received 18-first-place votes and finished with 809 points while Notre Dame had15 first-place votes and had 807 points.

Also, UConn sophomore forward Napheesa Collier was named the American Athletic Conference's player of the week.

Collier averaged 21.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 3 steals and 1.7 blocked shots per game in wins over Chattanooga, DePaul and Texas.

Collier was 30 of 39 from the field in the three games and is shooting 66.7 percent this season. Collier is second on the Huskies in scoring averaging 19 points per game and leads the team in rebounding (7.1 per game and blocked shots (13).

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Inactivity does not agree with former UConn star Morgan Tuck

Morgan Tuck has always been focused on the next practice and the next game so that has made the last few months a little surreal for her.

If the former UConn star emerged from her rookie season with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun with a clean bill of health, she would have been playing in the WKBL in Korea (where her Sun teammate Jonquel Jones is the league's leading scorer and rebounder).

Instead, her days are spent doing daily rehabilitation sessions as she looks to return to the court after seeing her rookie year cut short due to yet another knee injury.

"It gets boring, because I am living by myself," Tuck said. "I will go do rehab and then I am at home. I am just kind of watching TV and trying to find something to do. At the same time, it is good. I have never had this much free time. I can go home if I want. I can go back to Illinois and visit people. I am going overseas tomorrow to visit a friend that is playing overseas. I get to visit Bre (Breanna Stewart) in China. It is good, because I don’t have something like I have to go to work and can’t do anything. It is really flexible. But at the same time it is boring, too."

Tuck's trip overseas will be a brief one because she actually does have some work to do. Work conflicts will keep former UConn point guard Deb Fiske from being the analyst on all the women's basketball game on the UConn Radio Network so Tuck will be filling in during three or four games beginning with the Dec. 11 game at Kansas State.

"I am excited to see how it goes," Tuck said. "I have never called a game before. I have tried to practice at home like watching it. I listen to people about what to say and how it kind of flows. I’m sure it will be a little rough, but I will get used to it.

"Honestly when I was in school, I never thought about going into any kind of broadcasting. My major was business management. I took a few communications classes, but not many. I think what got me interested was when I got to do the halftime report on ESPN. I got to do a few of those games and realized I really enjoyed it. This opportunity came up, so I took it."

There's a chance that Tuck could revisit this broadcasting thing in the future, well in the future.

"I think it is something I will pursue more once I am done playing, just because I am not going to pass up overseas to do it. I really want to go overseas. I think it is something where I want to kind of build up those opportunities and kind of show people if I am good or not. Then hopefully in the future I will get more of those opportunities."

Tuck would love for ESPN to come calling again in the coming months.

"I hope so," Tuck said. "ESPN is kind of like the pinnacle of broadcasting for sports so I think you have to show you could do it. I honestly wouldn’t be real confident in myself going into to commentate an ESPN game right now, but hopefully as I keep doing it and do better at it, it will come up."

Tuck said she is expected to be fully recovered before the Sun begins training camp. That's a good thing because with the recent news that Chiney Ogwumike underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon, Tuck's role could be increasing with the Sun in her second season.

"I feel good," Tuck said. "I don’t have any pain or anything. I just rehab every day pretty much.

"My plan is to be cleared where I still have time to work out before the season starts so I am not getting cleared right when training camp starts.”

Tuck has had plenty of experience recovering from knee surgery. Now she can actually compare the experiences.

"It is pretty similar to the last one I had," Tuck said. "This one honestly feels better. It actually feels good. That could be because the other one I played on it hurt for a long time before I got it fixed, but it feels really good. When it is just a normal day walking around, it doesn’t even feel like I had surgery. My left leg is still skinnier than my right so that is a little weird when I put pants on and stuff, but besides that it is feeling good. It is really similar to the last one I had.

"It was the exact same surgery so the rehab is pretty much the same, six weeks non-weight bearing and a slow process. The benefit though is that it wasn’t in the winter so there wasn’t any slipping or something like that. Honestly having the last one helped a lot, because I know exactly what to do. When I go to rehab is it not like someone has to watch over me and make sure I am doing it right, because I know what you have to do.”

Sun  coach Curt Miller is hopeful that Tuck, fellow 2016 first-round pick Rachel Banham, former WNBA All-Star guard Allison Hightower and Jillian Alleyne, acquired in the trade that sent Kelsey Bone to Phoenix, will be healthy for the start of training camp/

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Milestone awaits for UConn's Samuelson

The next 3-pointer Katie Lou Samuelson hits will be the 100th of her career.

The sweet-shooting sophomore from Huntington Beach, California won't be the first Husky to reach that milestone but she will get there faster than nearly any other player.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis owns the mark for fewest games needed to reach 100 3-pointers as it took her only 40. Diana Taurasi is next with 43 and if Samuelson had drained one more 3-pointer against DePaul she would have tied Taurasi for second place in that category. Next up on the list is Maya Moore, who needed 54 games to get there so it seems like a safe assumption that Samuelson will be No. 3 on that list.

If Samuelson hits one of her next three 3-point attempts, she will get to 100 needing fewer shots than any Husky other than Sue Bird.

Here's the list (I don't have play by play for all the games of the players on this list which is why the number of 3-pointers may be more than 100 on the list)

Player                                   Games    3PT-Att Milestone reached 
Sue Bird                              60            101-225 Old Dominion Jan. 18, 2001
Diana Taurasi                      43           104-243 Louisiana Tech Jan. 29, 2001
Maya Moore                       54            100-247 DePaul Jan. 13, 2009
Bria Hartley                        55           100-255 North Carolina Jan. 16, 2012
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis  40           100-256 Texas A&M Nov. 18, 2012
Jen Rizzotti                         60           102-256 Auburn Mar. 20, 1994
Mel Thomas                        62           102-257 Georgia Mar. 26, 2006
Ann Strother                        61           102-281 Providence Feb. 25, 2004

Samuelson, set to play in her 44th career game, is 99 for 239 from 3-point range