Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Former UConn assistant Cardoza not shocked that Huskies are still undefeated

Quick come up with a list a people who played a starring role in knocking a Geno Auriemma coached UConn team out of the NCAA tournament, served on his coaching staff and now coaches against him every year.

Yes, Temple coach Tonya Cardoza would stand alone in meeting those parameters so who is more qualified to weigh in on how the Huskies have rolled right along even after the graduation of All-Americans Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck?

I caught an early train to Philadelphia in large part so I could catch up with Temple junior Tanaya Atkinson of New Haven (who will be the subject of my advance for tomorrow's UConn/Temple game) and spent some time with Cardoza as well who many of you probably know was Virginia's leading scorer with 16 points in a win over UConn in the 1991 Final Four and then was an assistant coach on UConn's first five national championship teams.

At American Athletic Conference media day, Cardoza said she didn't expect to see the Huskies being brought back to the pack as many as many of her peers were predicting. Cardoza's prediction is looking pretty good these days as UConn is the last of the undefeated women's Division I teams with victories over No. 2 Baylor, No. 3 Maryland, No. 6 Florida State, No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 12 Texas, No. 14 Ohio State, No. 17 DePaul and No. 20 South Florida.

"People were saying, 'they are losing the Big 3 and obviously they have a great recruiting class coming in (next year headlined by Megan Walker),' Cardoza said before Tuesday's practice. "I'm like, 'that means nothing. He knows what to do and how to get his players ready.' Sure enough they are undefeated at this point beating everybody in the top 25. It is a credit to him and his staff but more importantly his players putting in the time and effort. Most of these kids on the team were role players on the team last year, they had to sit and play their role. Now they are asked to step up and be the superstars and that is what they do.

"I watched us play them last year and I am watching (Katie Lou) Samuelson miss wide open shot after wide open shot and we are leaving her open. Well, there is no way you leave her open this year. Same with Gabby (Williams), she just played a role where she came in and worked hard. Now she is dominating games on both sides of the basketball. Napheesa (Collier), you didn't even know who she was last year and it is just a credit to them. I know they spent all summer working on their game because you could totally tell. It is credit to Geno, I am sure he put the pressure on all of them, 'everybody thinks this is the year' and sure enough they turned it into something you certainly didn't expect if you were from the outside world."

Cardoza is impressed at how the Huskies starting five can interchange positions on both offense and defense at the snap of a finger.

"Their starting five, any one of them can play any position, any one of them can handle the basketball that is what makes them even better this year is because of their athleticism," Cardoza said. "Napheesa and Gabby both being so long and being able to sit down and guard a guard, that makes it really difficult than any one of them can take you into the post and post up. The most important this is they make shots, they shoot a high percentage every single one of them, they don't miss open shots. You have to take care of the basketball, they are long and athletic and you have to take care of the basketball. You have to make sure you don't let them get out into transition because that is where they kill you.

"They are running the same offense, same situations but they are same UConn. There is nothing different about them and there is no drop off. You lose three (high) caliber players like they did and there is no drop off.

"This is the mastermind, he knows how to motivate, how to get the most out of his players and who he is recruiting. They wouldn't be on his team if he didn't think they had the potential to step up and do that."

Speaking of Cardoza, she recently passed former college teammate Dawn Staley to become all time winningest coach in Temple women's basketball history.

Staley was among the first people to reach out and offer her congratulations.

"I got messages from a lot of people but especially from her just kidding me about it," Cardoza said. "Obviously it is a big deal because you know she set the bar. Dawn is an amazing coach and she built this program. The fact that we were able to break the record, it is a players, the coaches putting in the time and effort and having some pretty good teams. It is a big deal but one day it will get broken too."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Nurse pointing the way to UConn's success

On the surface it was a rather meaningless play in yet another routine conference victory.

However, when Kia Nurse saw freshman Kyla Irwin sprinting the floor to put herself to score in transition she instinctively gave a point of encouragement to her younger teammate.

After the Huskies' 91-42 win over Houston I asked Nurse about her supportive gesture.

"The pointing thing is something I learned with the national team and they would always point at me when I was the young guy," Nurse said. "It is definitely a confidence boost, just an acknowledgement that 'great run' she ran the floor really well on that play and just having that acknowledgement, having the confidence, having them understand that they can come in and make a positive impact in some way is important for us."

Irwin has scored a career high seven points in each of the last two games. The production has come well after the game has been decided but production is production and there have been some promising signs from Irwin and some other reserves.

The bench figures to be even more productive with freshman Crystal Dangerfield expected to play in Wednesday's game at Temple after missing the last five games due to a stress reaction in her left foot. She went through drills before the Houston game looking like somebody who was ready to play.

"Taking Crystal out of our equation really hurts us because she is somebody that when we bring her in, we are not sacrificing anything," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She is going to be able to score and she is going to be able to make things happen for others as well. We need her back and that automatically make our bench production much better. *(Against Houston),they were not bad but I would like to see a little more of that."

Temple suffered its first conference loss despite rallying from 16 points down in the fourth quarter and having multiple chances to either tie the game or take the lead in the final minute in a 55-51 loss to South Florida.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

UConn overcomes ugly opening quarter to win 95th straight

Many of those outside of the UConn women's basketball don't really comprehend how the Huskies have ascended to the top of the women's basketball world.

There will be those who read my game story off a 49-point victory over Houston and see the focus on UConn coach Geno Auriemma and his players' unhappiness with the effort and wonder "how many points do they need to win by." That is not and has never been the point. Margin of victory is not nearly as important to the Huskies as quality of play. The reality is that the quality of UConn's play in the first eight minutes is not up to the Huskies' standards.

Thirteen times in the first 19 games UConn shot better than 50 percent in the first quarter and as a result, UConn did not trail in its last 10 games.

UConn shot 6 for 20 in the first quarter and two of those basketball came immediately after offensive rebounds. It was the worst opening-quarter shooting display since a Nov. 20 game at LSU.

Part of the problem is that sophomores Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier (who by game's end would combine for more points through 20 games than any other teammates in program history) were a combined 1 for 6 from the field with some of the misses truly defying explanation. They have been so good and so consistent that it did not make for an attractive brand of basketball.

"You start to think that is guaranteed that is going to happen every game and that is not always the
case," Auriemma said. "Sometimes you have to figure out a different way to do it. I was not particularly thrilled about how our ball movement was in the first quarter and that was probably why it was so different. We just didn't get the kid of ball movement and people movement that we wanted to get and that was a big reason why it looked like it looked. It wasn't pretty as all, there was a lot of standing around in that first quarter."

UConn obviously got things going after that shooting 58 percent in the second quarter, 55 percent in the third quarter and 53 percent in the fourth quarter to extend the longest NCAA basketball winning streak to 95 games.
There was still plenty of positives to come out of the game.

UConn's 29 assists is tied for the second most this season and this was the fourth time this season UConn had at least 20 bench points.

Kia Nurse had an impressive 8-assist, 0-turnover performance, Gabby Williams had another impressive all-around game . If not for Williams' eight points and six rebounds in the opening quarter, I can't imagine what the opening 10 minutes would have looked like.

It was encouraging before the game seeing how aggressively Crystal Dangerfield was moving and cutting. A casual observer might have thought she was going to play but UConn stayed on schedule and plans to have Dangerfield play a limited number of minutes on Wednesday at Temple.

"She is anxious to play and I think she is probably a little disappointed that it has taken this
long. she is probably disappointed that there is going to be a limit on her minutes Wednesday night
but that is where it is right now," Auriemma said.

As regular readers of this blog know, I've been doing lots of research this week on the best individual 20-game starts in program history (or at least during the Auriemma era).

Samuelson and Collier have combined for 807 points, the most by any pair of teammates through 20 games of the season topping the mark of 788 set by Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes during the 2010-11 season.

Samuelson also matched the mark for most 3-pointers through game No. 20 with 72 which was also accomplished by Wendy Davis during the 1991-92 season. Samuelson also reached the 150 mark for 3-pointers in 57 games matching a program record. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who happened to come from the same Mater Dei (Calif.) High program that Samuelson spent her final three seasons at, also got to 150 3-pointers in 57 games.

Maya Moore (66 games), Diana Taurasi (67 games), Mel Thomas (84 games), Ann Strother (85 games) are next on the list while Sue Bird and Jen Rizzotti each accomplished the feat in 88 games.

I will have more on this in my second-day story off the game but Samuelson is the youngest of three daughters born to Karen and Jon Samuelson. Not only have all three of them have played or play Division I basketball but all have at least 150 career 3-pointers. I reached out to the NCAA to see if they have records of players with at least 150 treys to see if other sister combinations have accomplished that feat but was told that before 2002 3-point records are somewhat incomplete.

Another 20 games in stat of note, Williams has 107 assists and the only players in UConn to have more in the first 20 games are Sue Bird (134 in the 2001-02 season), Jen Rizzotti (129 in the 1995-96 campaign) and Renee Montgomery (109 in '08-09).

Here's the updated list of most points by UConn players through 20 games since Auriemma has been at the helm. Note: I'm missing a game from 1985-86 season so Peggy Walsh's point total includes 19 of the 20 games

POINTSMoore 2010-11 477
Sales 1997-98 439
Samuelson 2016-17 431
Bascom 1988-89 401 (19 games)
Moore 2008-09 397
Bascom 1989-90 388
Lobo 1993-94 384
Walsh 1985-86 379 (missing one game)
Bascom 1990-91 376
Collier 2016-17 376
Moore 2009-10 372
Stewart 2015-16 371 (19 games)
Stewart 2013-14 364
Wolters 1995-96 355
Taurasi 2003-04 353
Abrosimova 1998-99 352
Najarian 1987-88 350

UConn's Williams finds humor even when in pain

Even as Gabby Williams covered her mouth as a wayward elbow from an opponent knocked a tooth out of place, all she could be thinking about it how her teammates were going to make her the punch line of so many jokes.

Sure enough there were more than a few shots of her teammates have a grand old time with Williams during the Tulane game and nobody was laughing harder than Williams herself.

I didn't make the trip to East Carolina and Williams wasn't available to the media after the Tulane game so the first chance I had to ask Williams about her rearrangement of her teeth and especially her reaction to it came after yesterday's practice.

"It is really hard to explain if you are not one of us," Williams said. "Why in the world would I laugh, I don't know. Even as I talk about it, I can't help but laugh. My tooth got knocked backwards, it wasn't loose, I couldn't move it and I just knew everybody was going to laugh at me. I knew I looked crazy so I couldn't help but laugh. Of course everybody's reaction made me laugh harder. The dentist was there and I went right after the game, he put a splint in it and held it in place."

I also got Williams' take on one of her 10 assists in her first collegiate triple-double coming on classmate Kia Nurse's 1,000th career point.

"It was cool because 'who else.' It was one of those moments that was really cool," Williams said.

Friday, January 27, 2017

UConn's sophomores Collier, Samuelson continue to shine

With tomorrow's game against Houston being the Huskies' 20th game of the season, I did some research to see where the current UConn stars rank on the list of most productive players through 20 games.

The short answer is that they rank at or near the top.

Let' start with the fact that Samuelson and Collier have combined for 769 points through the first 19 games. The highest scoring tandem of UConn players through 20 games is Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes who had 788 points in the first 20 games of the 2010-11 season.

Also, if Samuelson hits four 3-pointers, that will give her 73 this season, the most ever for a Husky in the first 20 games. Currently Wendy Davis holds the mark with 72 treys set during the 1991-92 season. Kia Nurse has 40 3-pointers which puts her 16th on the list.

As for scoring, I have Samuelson currently ranking third with 415 points and Collier 12th with 364 points. It should be noted that I went through the box scores in the 1985-86 and a couple of games are missing so I only have Peggy Walsh's total in 19 of the 20 games so she would rank even higher that the eighth place I currently have her in.

I also have Gabby Williams  joining Sue Bird, Jen Rizzotti, Renee Montgomery, Diana Taurasi and Moriah Jefferson as the only UConn players with 100 assists through 20 games although with 102 assists she has some work to do to catch Bird's total of 134 in the 2001-02 season and Rizzotti's mark of 129 set in 1995-96. Also, while Williams' total of 54 steals in impressive, Nykesha Sales had an astonishing 83 steals in the first 20 games of the 1995-96 season.

Maya Moore 2010-11 477
Nykesha Sales 1997-98 439
Katie Lou Samuelson 2016-17 415 (19)
Kerry Bascom 1988-89 401 (19)
Maya Moore 2008-09 397
Kerry Bascom 1989-90 388
Rebecca Lobo 1993-94 384
Peggy Walsh 1985-86 379 (missing one game)
Kerry Bascom 1990-91 376
Maya Moore 2009-10 372
Breanna Stewart 2015-16 371 (19)
Napheesa Collier 2016-17 364 (19)
Breanna Stewart 2013-14 364
Kara Wolters 1995-96 355
Diana Taurasi 2003-04 353
Svet Abrosimova 1998-99 352
Renee Najarian 1987-88 350

UConn's Dangerfield close to returning to the court

Barring any setbacks, tomorrow's game against Houston will mark the final time that highly-touted freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield will be relegated to the role of reluctant spectator.

Dangerfield missed the last four games due to a stress reaction in her left foot. The plan was for Dangerfield to be held out of practice and games for two weeks and that time is now up. Dangerfield spent much of Friday's practice riding the stationary bike. She got some shots up and ran around a little - and I do mean a little - at the end of the practice.

"She is out of the boot, she did some shooting today and that was really the first time she has been on the court (since the South Florida game on January 10)," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.."She will do some more tomorrow morning and then we'll see. Obviously she is not playing tomorrow but hopefully she is going to be good enough to go at least a little bit on Wednesday (when UConn plays at Temple)  and that is what we are hoping for.

"She is not going to plat 40 minutes against Temple but we will have her for a little bit, every little bit  helps at this point."

In the last two games fellow freshmen Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin averaged 14 and 12 minutes respectively while former walk-on Tierney Lawlor played a total of nine minutes in blowout victories over Tulane and East Carolina. Without Dangerfield out there to take up more of the minutes Sanoya Chong averaged 36.5 minutes in the two games while Gabby Williams and Katie Lou Samuelson played 34 and 30 minutes against East Carolina. Auriemma would have liked to see those minutes cut back a bit in those kinds of games.

"It is a fine line that was a trying to navigate," Auriemma said. "You want to keep your starters together as long as you can, 2) you want to give them a rest; 30 when you are subbing in somebody else other that Crystal in the backcourt, it gets a little bit out of sync. You have to try to figure out how do we keep all of these going in the same direction, how do we not screw up the whole chemistry thing. It is not easy. I was watching one of our games and we had 62 points at one point and our starters had 60, it might have even been that our four starters had 60 out of the 62 so it is not ideal. Last year was a little bit better, we were getting some contributions off the bench and right now we are not."

Napheesa Collier weighed in on the bonus of having Dangerfield back in the rotation of available players next week.

"We are anxious to have her, it sucks to be on the sideline watching. I think she is real excited to get back," Collier said.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

UConn-Michigan State game details announced

Chatter about UConn playing Michigan State as part of a doubleheader in Eugene, Oregon early next season has been around for a while. Well, now it is official.

The game will be part of a doubleheader on Nov. 25 at the University of Oregon's Knight Arena as part of the Phil Knight Invitational in honor of the Nike founder's 80th birthday.

UConn will face Michigan State and Oklahoma will play against host Oregon.

“I am already looking forward to competing in the Phil Knight Invitational out in Oregon next November," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. "Eugene is a beautiful town and Matt Knight Arena is one of the most impressive facilities that I have ever set foot in. It will be a great experience for us to play a quality opponent like Michigan State so far from home in what will surely be a first class event. What better way to celebrate Phil Knight’s 80th then to host a competitive event in his name?"

UConn is expected to pick up an extra game while out in Pac-12 country with this trip serving as Gabby Williams' homecoming game/games.
The UConn men's basketball team will play in the men's event featuring 16 top programs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Milestones, record abound in UConn's win over East Carolina

I recently wrote a story on Gabby Williams when I suggested that it was when and not if the UConn junior would post a triple-double. Well, the wait is over as she had 16 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in tonight's 91-44 victory over East Carolina.

Laura Lishness was the first Husky to have a triple-double as she had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against Providence in the championship game of the 1989 Big East tournament. Stefanie Dolson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis accomplished the feat during the 2013-14 season against Oregon and Saint Joseph's respectively and most recently Kiah Stokes had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a 2014-15 game against East Carolina.

Oh by the way, Williams had two steals for her 13th straight game with at least two steals matching her with Moriah Jefferson for the second longest run of multiple-steal games in the last 20 seasons trailing only the 17 straight by Rita Williams during the 1997-98 season.

Williams now has 102 assists in 19 games this season. She had 101 in 76 games in her first two seasons with the Huskies.

Fellow junior Kia Nurse scored the 1,000th point of her career during the game while Katie Lou Samuelson finished with a game high 20 points. She has scored in double figures in all 19 games this season. The only Huskies with longer streaks to start a season are Kara Wolters, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart.

UConn extended its NCAA basketball all-division record winning streak to 94 games. It was also the 34th consecutive road victory matching the NCAA record set by UConn from 2001-03.

Another stat that caught my eye was the 18 offensive rebounds on 34 missed shots (30 missed field goals, four missed foul shots). It was the first time UConn was over 50 percent in grabbing offensive rebounds off missed shots. It helped that Williams came away with 10 of those offensive rebounds.

UConn quartet on USBWA midseason player of the year watch list

UConn's Napheesa Collier, Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson and Gabby Williams were among 28 players named to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association midseason watch list for the Ann Meyers Drysdale national player of the year award.

Collier is second on the 18-0 Huskies in scoring at 19.2 points, leads the team with a 66.2 field-goal percentage, tied for the team lead with an average of 8.2 rebounds and is second with 34 steals and 29 blocked shots.
Nurse is averaging 13.1 points per game, leads the squad with a free-throw percentage of 85.2 and is second on the Huskies with 71 assists.
Samuelson leads UConn in scoring at 21.9 points per game and with 55 3-pointers. Her 94 points in the last three games ties the UConn record for games in a three-game span.
Williams is averaging 12.1 points, is tied for the team lead in rebounding (8.2) and is the team leader with 92 assists and 52 steals.
The winner will be announced at the Final Four.

Monday, January 23, 2017

NCAA releases its first top 16 seed projections

At the halftime of the matchup of SEC heavyweights Mississippi State and South Carolina the list was revealed of which schools would be the top 16 seeds if the NCAA tournament began right now.

The No. 1 seeds are UConn, Baylor, South Carolina and Mississippi. The biggest surprise is seeing Maryland as a No. 3 seed in large part due to a strength of schedule of 73  on one RPI, 85 on another (and that includes a game against UConn). If teams were seeded by where they are right now here is the breakdown with a possible Elite Eight rematch with Maryland possible for UConn. Obviously there's a lot of basketball yet to be played but with no non-conference games remaining for Maryland, I don't see them moving up to a No. 2 line without lots of help.

1. UConn
8. Oregon State
9. Maryland
16. Arizona State

2. Baylor
7. Notre Dame
10. Texas
15. Kentucky

3. South Carolina
6. Washington
11. Duke
14. UCLA

4. Mississippi State
5. Florida State
12. Stanford
13. Louisville

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Samuelson makes history as UConn rolls to win No. 93 in a row

The way things started off it seemed like a realistic possibility that Katie Lou Samuelson would be held under 10 points for the first time this season. Instead, she erupted for 32 points to join Tiffany Hayes as the only UConn women's basketball players with back to back 30-point games. She also matched Maya Moore's program record with 94 points in a three-game span.

While those numbers are impressive, what I thought was the most noteworthy part of her game is the diverse way that she got to 32 points. Yes, she did drain four 3-pointer but this was not simply a case of her connecting on shots from the perimeter. She scored on aggressive drives to the basket, in transition and by establishing low-post position. She was also 6 for 6 from the foul line. Oh, and Samuelson didn't play in the fourth quarter and was held scoreless in the first quarter for just the second time this season meaning that all 32 of her points came in the second and third quarters in the 100-56 victory.

"I was not really playing hard enough. I wasn't really concerned about the whistles but I felt like overall I wasn't contributing to the team so I wanted to (contribute) in that second quarter," Samuelson said.. "I think last year it would have freaked me out a lot more but this year it doesn't really faze me when I start off missing.

"I am scoring in different ways and not just relying on my 3-point shot, going to the basket and doing other things. I know I do need to produce and be that person that people can count on and have their trust that I am going to stay consistent every game."

Considering that I did my advance to the Tulane game on Samuelson becoming a more complete offensive player, I'll leave it at that but will say that Samuelson outscored Tulane by a point in both the second and third quarters.

UConn also had a season high 20 steals with Samuelson finishing with a career high seven.

It should also be mentioned that the crowd of 9,873 was the most for a Gampel Pavilion game this season - men's or women's - although both the men's and women's team have games at the XL Center with larger crowds.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Bent looking to play more aggressively for UConn

When Molly Bent made her official visit to UConn, she had a chance to take part in the pickup games with the team that would win a fourth straight national title. Bent was loving life as she usually played on Breanna Stewart's team and would simply get the ball, throw the ball to Stewart and watch the national player of year score at will.

That pass-first philosophy worked perfectly in that situation but recently her coaches have been pushing Bent to be more assertive when she is on the court and that includes taking open shots.

Bent has seen her minutes jump recently especially since classmate Crystal Dangerfield has been sidelined with a stress reaction in her left foot. Yet, while Bent has averaged nearly 17 minutes in the last five games, she has taken four shots and missed each and every one of them. UConn's offense thrives on the ability to have a scoring threat at all five positions and that is something that came up in a recent heart to heart UConn coach Geno Auriemma had with her.

"I have never seen a kid work so hard and get nothing out it," Auriemma said after Saturday's practice. "She works every day in practice, she works hard in the game during the off times but it hasn't translated yet into any success. She is her own biggest enemy, she has to overcome what ever it is. I had a long talk with her the other day and I hope she gets it quickly because we need her especially right now with Crystal out, we really need another guard. I would love for her to get it. She doesn't need to get it completely but I need her to get a little bit of it, hopefully sooner rather than later."

In Saturday's practice Bent hit a layup following an aggressive drive to the basket and not long after that, she drove past a defender and into the lane. When nobody came over the contest her shot, she calmly knocked down a short jumper. Those are the types of plays Auriemma and the other coaches are hoping to see from her in games.

"I need to come in and not be just a fifth guy on the floor and not doing anything," Bent said. "I need to make plays for my teammates, plays to get myself open. I need to be a good teammate by being aggressive and doing things like that

"Just the adjustment of knowing there are so many great players around you, I was able to come in and say I don't need to do too much, I need to get other people involved so I had that so ingrained into my mind that it is almost an instinct now to pass. Coach (Auriemma) talked about how you need to get that out of your head, you need to be able to knock down shots because if you can do that, your teammates are going to be even more open."

Auriemma has never had any issues with Bent's work ethic. She is in the gym shooting as much as any player but seeing her not only not shooting but not even looking at the basket in practice or games has been driving him crazy. It is something that led to him encouraging Bent and Irwin to use this team to make more of a positive impact when they are on the court.

"He talked to me and Kyla (Irwin) and just changing our mentality offensively, not being afraid to do something," Bent said. "Everything is mind over matter, if you are telling yourself negative thoughts 'I don't want to mess up, I don't want to do this or that' well that is going to be much more detrimental than saying 'I need to be confident, I need to be aggressive.' I need to be having positive thoughts and then going out and doing it because we only have a little more time of our freshman year to go.

"I will watch game tape and I will see myself passively going through a screen and not attacking, not doing anything, It is not helping anyone, it is not helping me and not helping the team when I am out there

"He is so knowledgeable about things and when he talked to you about the things that he noticed, it is a wake-up call. You are not hiding anything, everybody is noticing that I am not being aggressive, I am not making plays and when somebody puts it out there and tells you to your face, it really helps you to make that change."

Bent has heard from her older teammates that the worst thing that could happen is to have Auriemma not asking for more out of her. She has been trying to take the things that he says with the knowledge it is because he has high hopes for her.

"The worst thing I could imagine is for him to stop yelling at me, to stop getting me to be the best player I can be because that means he is giving up on me," Bent said. "I definitely don't want that at all, especially my freshman year, that would be really bad. I am glad he is hard on me, I am glad that he had that talk with me and just knowing that it is hard but he knows I will be able to do it if I change my mentality and change the way I look at things."

UConn drew fewer than 6,600 fans in its last two games at Gampel Pavilion which would be an impressive number for another team in the American Athletic Conference but pales in comparison to what on-campus games have drawn in the past.

That will not be an issue tomorrow as the game is already approaching sellout status. Ironically, the last Gampel Pavilion women's game to be a sellout was the last one when Tulane was in town as 10,167 turned out for the final regular-season home game for All-Americans Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck.

Gabby Williams has been putting up some pretty impressive stats as post blog entries have highlighted. I did some checking and no UConn player has averaged at least 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot per game over the course of the season.

Well, Williams is currently averaging 12 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.9 steals and 1,.2 blocked shots per game. In case you were wondering, the only Division I women's player who can lay claim to the 10-5-5-2-1 club is Charlotte's Lefty Webster. I also did some scouring through box scores and Williams' streak of 11 games with more than one steal is tied with Bria Hartley for the third longest in program history in the last 20 seasons.

Rita Williams had a 17-game streak in the 1997-98 season while Moriah Jefferson did it in 13 straight games last season.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Huskies tripling their pleasure

It didn't generate much attention at the time but when Saniya Chong hit a 3-pointer with 3:08 left in the third quarter in a win over Tulsa, it was the 100th of her career.

Chong joined teammates Katie Lou Samuelson and Kia Nurse on the list of Huskies with 100 career 3-pointers which is the sixth time that has happened in program history. However, the program record with four players with 100 3-pointers (set in 2012-13) is set for this season.

2003-04: Maria Conlon, Ann Strother, Diana Taurasi
2011-12: Caroline Doty, Bria Hartley, Tiffany Hayes
2012-13: Caroline Doty, Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
2014-15: Moriah Jefferson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart
2015-16: Moriah Jefferson, Kia Nurse, Breanna Stewart
2016-17: Saniya Chong, Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson

Samuelson and Nurse rank 19th and 20th on UConn's career 3-point list with 140 and 138. Next up is Svetlana Abrosimova at 141 and Caroline Doty at 144.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Huge night for UConn commits

While UConn was dispatching of Tulsa to extend their NCAA basketball record for consecutive victories to 92, some future Huskies were filling up the stat sheet.

Mikayla Coombs had 29 points, seven rebounds, five assists, eight steals and three blocked shots to lead the Wesleyan School to a 75-33 win over Woodward Academy.

Fellow UConn signee Megan Walker had 36 points and drained 5 3-pointers as Monacan (Va.) High improved to 13-0 with a 98-37 win over Huguenot.

Lexi Gordon accounted for more than half of her team's points with 16 in L.D. Bell's 43-31 loss to Flower Mound Marcus.

Last but certainly not least, Class of 2018 commit Charli Collier scored the 2,000th point of her career in Barbers Hill's 56-33 win over Kingwood Park.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

UConn rolls past Tulsa for win No. 92 in a row

Katie Lou Samuelson moved into select company, Napheesa Collier doubled her pleasure once against and Gabby Williams flirted with a triple-double as UConn topped Tulsa 98-58 to extend the NCAA basketball record for consecutive wins to 92.

Samuelson had a career-high 34 points and coming off a 28-point game against SMU, she posted the most points in back to back games since Breanna Stewart scored 29 against Temple and 37 against Cincinnati in 2014. I did some checking and the most points I could find in back to back games was 68 by Tiffany Hayes against Syracuse and South Florida in 2012 and Kerry Bascom had 65combined points in 1991 in the Big East final and UConn's first NCAA tournament game.

Collier had 21 points and 13 rebounds while Williams finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Williams and Saniya Chong combined for 15 assists and no turnovers.

It was UConn's 33rd straight road victory, one shy of the NCAA Division I women's basketball record set by UConn from 2001-04 during their Big East days. It was also the 68th straight American Athletic Conference victory matching the program's record for consecutive conference wins (including postseason tournaments).

Tulsa attempted more 3-pointers (34) than shots inside the 3-point line (32) and made 13 of them.

The NCAA announced that the format for the Division I women's basketball will remain the same meaning that the top 16 seeds will host the first and second rounds.

Here's the release from NCAA

The Division I Women’s Basketball Championship will stick with its current format.

After reviewing survey results from NCAA member schools, in which almost 80 percent of Division I conferences felt the tournament should not change its format, the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee on Tuesday decided it will instead focus on ways to enhance the championship.

The two main questions the committee asked all 32 Division I conferences: Whether there was an appetite to move the Women’s Final Four back a week, so it would be separated from the men’s Final Four, and whether the tournament should have 32 teams host first-round games on campus sites followed by four eight-team super regionals.

In each case, the membership overwhelmingly indicated the current format is the best option for the championship. Survey results showed conferences prefer the focus to be on the student-athlete and team experience, attendance and fan appreciation, broadcasting and competitive equity.

“The committee felt the championship format survey was a positive step, with the membership feedback showing a large majority favor maintaining the current format and improving the championship,” Jean Lenti Ponsetto, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and director of athletics at DePaul University, said after the committee’s meeting at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. “People feel the championship is in a terrific place. The next step for this committee will be to take this championship in its current format and look for ways to enhance it going forward.”

ESPN and ESPN2 will broadcast all 63 games of the tournament this spring for the 15th consecutive year. It will also mark the 22nd year that ESPN will broadcast the championship game. The Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee plans to continue working closely with ESPN and the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Committee to find ways to improve the championship’s in-venue attendance and television ratings.

In an effort to place an increased focus on a weekend celebration, the 2017 Women’s Final Four will be played with a Friday-Sunday format for the first time in 14 years. Since 2004, the Women’s Final Four semifinals have been held on Sunday night with the championship game played on Tuesday night.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Former UConn star Wolters a finalist for Women's Basketball Hall of Fame

Kara Wolters, a member of UConn's first national championship team and the 1997 national player of the year, is one of 12 finalists on the ballot for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Wolters ranks eighth in UConn history with a 15.6 scoring average and third with 370 career blocked shots, would join former teammates Rebecca Lobo and Jen Rizzotti as former Huskies inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame if she is one of six people named as part  of the class of 2017 on Feb. 12.

There are two other candidates with Connecticut ties.

Louise O'Neal, who coached the Southern Connecticut State women's team to third-place finishes in the AIAW national tournaments in 1971, 1973 and 1974 and Joan Bonvicini, one of O'Neal's former players with the Owls, were also among the 12 finalists.

Bonvicini won more than 700 games in stints at Long Beach State, Arizona and Seattle highlighted by trips to the 1987 and 1988 Final Fours at Long Beach State.

The six-member Hall of Fame class will be announced on Feb. 12 with induction taking place on June 10 at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Here are the bios from the official release

YELENA BARANOVA (Foreign Player - Russia)1992 Olympic gold medalist.
Fifth all-time in WNBA blocked shots.
2001 WNBA All-Star.
ROSE MARIE BATTAGLIA (Coach)NJCAA Hall of Fame inductee with four NJCAA Final Fours in 38 years of coaching and an overall record of 702-240-2.
Led Paramus Catholic High School (Paramus, New Jersey) to two consecutive state championships.
1998 WBCA Jostens-Berenson Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
SALLY BELL (Official)33-year tenure as a women's basketball official.
Officiated 15 NCAA Division I Women's Final Fours, including 13 consecutive from 1992 through 2004, as well as the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
1991 Naismith Women's Basketball Official of the Year.
EVELYN BLALOCK (Coach)Led Kilgore College (Kilgore, Texas) to three NJCAA National Championships in 1988,1990 and 1993.
Named WBCA Junior/Community College National Coach of the Year in 1989 and 1990.
Inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame.
JOAN BONVICINI (Coach)During her 37-year career, she was the 17th coach to reach 700 career victories.
1981 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Coach of the Year. 
1982 USA Basketball Jones Cup head coach (silver medal) and 1993 World University Games head coach (bronze medal).
NORA LYNN FINCH (Contributor)Served as inaugural chair of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee from 1981 through 1988 and negotiated first women's basketball tournament television contract.
NCAA representative to the U.S. Collegiate Sports Council from 1988 through 2017, and served as its president from 1992 through 1996.
Member of NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee, NCAA Division I Management Council, NCAA Division I Championships Cabinet (chair), NCAA Division I Membership Committee, NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Issues Committee (chair).
CHRISTINE GRANT (Contributor)Founding member of Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). 
Recipient of 2007 NCAA Gerald R. Ford Award, 1998 NCAA Honda Award of Merit, 1995 Women's Sports Foundation Billie Jean King Contribution Award,1993 NACWAA Administrator of the Year, 1992 WBCA Administrator of the Year.
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women at University of Iowa and consultant for the Civil Rights Title IX Task Force from 1973 through 2000.
RICK INSELL (Coach)Led Shelbyville Central High School (Shelbyville, Tennessee) to 10 state championships, two USA Today national championships.
More than 1000 victories at Shelbyville High School and Middle Tennessee State University.
1992 WBCA High School National Coach of the Year.
LOUISE O'NEAL (Veteran)Led Southern Connecticut University to third-place finishes in the National Women's Collegiate Championships in 1971, 1973 and 1974, with eight straight appearances in the national championship tournament.
Served in several national leadership positions, including NCAA Long-Range Planning Committee, Women's Basketball Rules Committee, and NACDA Executive Board.
Recipient of 2004 WBCA Jostens-Berenson Lifetime Achievement Award and 2011 NACWAA Lifetime Achievement Award.
CRYSTAL ROBINSON (U.S. Player)Three-time ABL All-Star.
Three-time NAIA All-American and two-time NAIA national scoring leader.
1996 NAIA National Player of the Year.
SHERYL SWOOPES (U.S. Player)Three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Led Houston Comets to four WNBA Championships.
1993 WBCA Wade Trophy winner and Naismith Player of the Year.
KARA WOLTERS (U.S. Player)2000 Olympic gold medalist.
1997 AP National College Player of the Year.
1996 Victor Award, USBWA, UPI and AP All-America First Team and 1997 WBCA Kodak All-American.

UConn, winning go hand in hand

When a program records six undefeated seasons - with a chance at a seventh - it is hard to get too worked up about clinching a winning season but the fact remains that Saturday's win at SMU guaranteed that the Huskies will finish with a winning record for the 31st season in a row.

For those wondering, that ranks fifth in NCAA Division I women's basketball history breaking a tie with Long Beach State.

Tennessee sets the pace with 46 straight winning seasons and sitting at 10-6, a 47th in a row is more than likely. Louisiana Tech had 39 consecutive winning campaigns that ended in 2012 which was matched by Green Bay last season and with a 15-2 record, No. 40 is a forgone conclusion. Georgia is next with 37 in a row but currently with a 10-8 record and with nine of the 11 remaining regular-season games against teams with winning records, time will tell if it gets to 38 straight winning seasons.

UConn had one winning season before Geno Auriemma's arrival and that came in 1980-81 when Jean Balthaser guided the Huskies to a 16-14 record. UConn went 14-13 in 1986-87, Auriemma's second season. Two years later they went 24-6 and the rest is history. UConn has spent 11 days with a losing record since the 1988-89 season.

UConn junior forward Gabby Williams has been named the American Athletic Conference's Player of the Week for the second time in the last three weeks.

Williams averaged 15 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in victories over South Florida and SMU. UConn players have won six of the American's 10 Player of the Week awards this season.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Future Huskies to play in McDonald's All-American game

UConn signees Mikayla Coombs  and Megan Walker were among 24 players selected to play in the McDonald's All-American Game.

Coombs is averaging 15.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.8 steals per game at the Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.

Walker is averaging 25.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and three steals per game for undefeated Monacan (Va.) High. She has four 30-point games as a senior.

Walker and Coombs will play on the East team.

The McDonald's All-American Game will be played on Mar. 29 at the United Center in Chicago. At least one future UConn product has played in 14 of the first 15 McDonald's games with the lone exception coming in 2013.

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Some more crazy UConn streak numbers

I'm not sure why I didn't research this before but with a pair of long flights as I return home from Dallas, I did some checking and according to my math there have been 71 Huskies who have played for four seasons for Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey and 55 of them have been a part of at least one 30-game winning streak (including current seniors Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor) while each and every four-year player for Auriemma has been on a Connecticut team with at least one 10-game streak.

As a point of reference, before UConn's 35-game winning streak during the 1994-95 season there were five NCAA Division I women's basketball winning streaks of at least 30 games. The Huskies currently have six such streaks including the three longest in NCAA Division I women's basketball history.

UConn is currently on a record 91-game run as the Huskies go for No. 92 on Tuesday at Tulsa. UConn broke its own 90-game streak set from 2008-10 and that mark topped the previous record of 70 straight set by UConn from 2001-03.

Freshmen Molly Bent, Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin will be the 12th class at UConn to be a part of a 90-game streak. A total of 27 of the last 28 classes at UConn have had a hand in a 20-game winning streak with 24 of the last 26 classes being a part of a 30-game winning streak.

Here is the class by class breakdown with the longest winning streak in their four seasons. The class needs to be at UConn for a part of the streak. For example, the players who enrolled at UConn 2010 get credit for the previous 78 wins even if they weren't a part of the program at that time.

It should be noted that the only class not to have a 20-game winning streak to its credit since 1990 is the recruiting class of Kia Robinson, Liz Sherwood and Kia Wright  Wright never played for UConn while Robinson and Sherwood played 18 and 25 games during the 2003-04 season before transferring.

1985-89 11
1986-90 11
1987-91 14
1988-92 14
1989-93 14
1990-94 21
1991-95 35
1992-96 35
1993-97 35
1994-98 35
1995-99 33
1996-00 33
1997-01 30
1998-02 70
1999-03 70
2000-04 70
2001-05 70
2002-06 70
2003-07 15
2004-08 21
2005-09 90
2006-10 90
2007-11 90
2008-12 90
2009-13 90
2010-14 90
2011-15 91
2012-16 91
2013-17 91
2014-18 91
2015-19 91
2016-20 91

SNY drew a rating of 7.34 in the Hartford/New Haven market, the highest for a UConn women's game televised on SNY since Feb. 1, 2014.

SNY is on a run of carrying eight of nine UConn games including Tuesday's game at Tulsa. The only break in that run is UConn's return to Gampel Pavilion to face Tulane on Jan. 22 as that game will be on ESPN2.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

UConn makes history

Anybody who follows the UConn women's basketball team probably figured it would be business as usual before, during and after today's game even if it was a day that the Huskies could make history with the longest winning streak in NCAA basketball history.

True to their nature, there were some smiles but not a heck of a lot of emotion by the Huskies after the 88-48 win over SMU gave the Huskies a record 91st straight win.

"This team is pretty good at keeping everything on an even keel," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Even afterwards there is a feeling of accomplishment, they feel like they have done something significant but there isn't this over the top screaming and yelling as if we won the national championship. Even know I told them that what they did today might be even more significant than winning a national championship."
The players did emerge from the locker room wearing blue t-shirts commemorating the 91 wins in a row and when they met with the media, they did say that it meant a lot to them even though we know the game in Dallas that they would like to be celebrating afterward is the national championship game on April 2.

"It feels great that we can continue what other people have started," sophomore forward Napheesa Collier said, "It feels amazing but now I think we are just going to focus on our games and not necessarily all the hype from the streaks. We are definitely excited because it is kind of a big deal but it is not what we are focusing on, we are focusing on trying to get better."

Much like they did against South Florida a few days ago when the Huskies tied the NCAA record of 90 wins in a row with a 102-37 victory, the Huskies jumped out to the quick lead. On this day, however, UConn's opponent did not go away quietly. SMU continued to play hard and began to score while the Huskies continued to miss shots. The Huskies were never in danger of losing but certainly SMU earned the respect of the UConn players.

I thought it was interesting that the last road game I covered was the Jan. 1 contest at UCF and the streak did not come up once in the post-game press conference. That was certainly not the case today.

Some of the best stuff from Auriemma came when he was asked whether this team was destined to set this record.

"I believe you have to earn it and you have to deserve it," Auriemma said. "Don't get me wrong, there are some great things that happen to people and they don't necessarily deserve and there are bad things that happen to people and they don't deserve it but if you expect to get something amazing back, you really do have to put yourself in position where you feel like you deserve it because you worked hard and you earned that, it wasn't given to you. I think these kids have done that and what has helped them along the way is that group of people who came before them, that Connecticut mentality, that culture  we are fortunate enough to have at Connecticut, when there is a
play to be made, there is no 'can I make this play? Am I good enough to make this play? I have no choice but to make this play because I am at Connecticut.' You still have to be good, you still have to have talent, have all the other stuff but there is this belief that 'well, I am at Connecticut so of course I am going to get that rebound.' We need a blocked shot against Florida State, of course I am going to get my hand on it (as Collier did). Why?  Because I am at Connecticut, that is what Stewie did, that is what Stefanie (Dolson) did and that is what Tina (Charles) did, that is what Rebecca (Lobo) did.

"Sometimes this kind of stuff, these moments just like if you are not used to winning, it those moments things go bad. Things do have a way of becoming what you expect them to become. We have good players. I love when people say you do get all the best players, you should win all the time. Good, leave it at then."

While some may wonder if the streak will ever end, Auriemma knows that it is just a matter of time.

"Everything ends at some point," Auriemma said. "I remember using the analogy of a wave, I don't care where it starts, in Portugal. that wave is going to crash on some shore at some point. We just want to be riding it for as long as it is out there. We know there is going to be a loss somewhere down the road, maybe next year, maybe in the tournament, maybe next year, I don't know but it is coming and until then just enjoy this part of it."

Part of the process of enjoying things is heading to American Airlines Arena (the site of the Final Four) for tomorrow's NBA game before the team heads to Tulsa for the next game.

"That is the goal, we want to be back and playing in this building at the end of the season," Auriemma said.

It isn't lost on Auriemma that when UConn set the NCAA record with 90 straight wins that the Huskies did not win the national championship at the end of the season.

He is more focused on the process than the number of consecutive wins.

"I think that is the approach that we have tried to take for every one of our games," Auriemma said. "If you told me what was No. 70, I would have no idea, what is No. 78, I have no idea. It wasn't like we were keeping track along the way. We are so focused on what is all the way out there, that is the one thing that everybody gears up for is that one night in March when you are hopefully playing for a national championship, that has become the focus every day. All of a sudden you wake up one day like today and you realize along the way that 'oh my God, I can't believe we did this.' It is a lot."

Friday, January 13, 2017

UConn's winning ways begin on recruiting trail

There's a perception that UConn "gets all the best players" and therefore the current winning streak, which barring a monumental upset tomorrow will become the longest in NCAA basketball history is a foregone conclusion.

The numbers, however, tell a different story.

Current senior Saniya Chong was ranked 75th by ESPN coming out of Ossining High School, Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse came in 14th and 33rd the following year (Williams' ranking certainly was hurt by the fact that she missed most of her final two seasons of high school ball and Nurse most likely would have been rated higher had she played in the United States instead of Canada). Katie Lou Samuelson was the top player in her class followed by Napheesa Collier at No. 6 while Crystal Dangerfield was the No. 3 ranked recruit last year. Good luck finding rankings for Natalie Butler, Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin.

Using ESPN's rankings the Huskies are tied for fourth when it comes to the number of top 10 rated players to head to their school in the last four recruiting classes. Duke leads the way with six followed by Texas and Notre Dame with four each while UConn and Tennessee are next at three. Yet the Huskies have rolled along, beating eight ranked teams and are on the verge of history during a season when many of the power programs thought they could take down the mighty Huskies. Perhaps that will still happen but people who were predicting a major decline by the Huskies simply haven't been paying attention.

UConn does rather well in the recruiting department but there is a method to their madness. Some teams seem to recruit like they are building a fantasy football roster, taking players simply based on their talent even if they end up with too many players with the same skill set. UConn has been about getting the pieces to building a great team.

Saying that the Huskies get their share of the best players and that might be an understatement as eight of the last 19 winners of the Naismith Girls High School Player of the Year award played at UConn (Maya Moore won the award twice). That doesn't even include UConn signee Elena Delle Donne who never played a game for the Huskies. But it is not about simply getting the best players but the right ones. Every year there are incredibly talented prospects who barely get a look from the Huskies and that is not by accident.

When Geno Auriemma, Chris Dailey, Shea Ralph and Marisa Moseley are on the recruiting trail, they are looking at not only the shooting, rebounding and passing ability but how the players react when things aren't going well, how they interact with their teammates. If you get to watch Auriemma during a practice, he does not pull his punches. During about a 90-second span at a practice I went to he challenged Samuelson, Nurse, Dangerfield and Collier with caustic barbs. I've seen incredible, Hall of Fame players leave the practice court as emotional wrecks earlier in their careers. I still chuckle at Rebecca Lobo's line to a TV reporter when asked what is next for her after UConn's program-changing regular-season win over Tennessee in the 1994-95 when she deadpanned "I'll go back to being the worst post player in America."

Players know that there is tremendous pressure that comes with playing at UConn, their every move is under a microscope. I'll use Tiffany Hayes as an example, she had an outstanding career with the Huskies but her ability to deliver in the big games was questioned. I have a hunch that is why she slipped out of the first round in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Had she put up similar numbers at Florida State or Georgia Tech, she'd be celebrated as one of those program's all-time greats. Instead, people spoke about what she didn't do at UConn and not what she did. Hayes was taken 14th overall and the only player taken ahead of her with more points in the regular season than Hayes' 1,843 is No. 1 overall pick Nneka Ogwumike. The players taken 6th-13th have combined to score 1,302 points.

What does all of this mean? Well, while what UConn is doing this season might be surprising it is not shocking. The UConn brain trust value competitive spirit in the recruiting process. That toughness as been on display during a string of games against ranked teams featuring experienced and talented rosters. It's a subject I raised with Dailey at a recent media availability.

"Sometimes you think they have and when you get them, they don't have it," Dailey said. "Sometimes you can have it in you and it is a matter of putting them into situations to see how they are going to respond in tough situations. I am not sure if any of them could have done it by themselves but as a core group they have been able to lean on each other the times that they have needed to and any game that we have had, somebody has always done what we needed them to do, they had stepped up. Sometimes it is Gabby, sometimes it is Lou, sometimes it is Phee. It is at different times in the game or it practice it is different times of stepping up. That is part of growing as a player or a person.

"They understand that there is a certain way because that is the expectation that we have, we are holding them to a standard every day. Every second we are in the gym, you are being held to a certain standard and I think they understand that. I think what they have shown is that they too have embraced the challenge, they have embraced the schedule that we have this year, how tough it is when you are Connecticut and you are ranked No. 1, they have embraced all of that and have taken everybody's best shot including the coaches every day and have always gotten back up and performed. I think that is a credit to our players, a credit to the types of kids that we get."

Seeing how Samuelson, Collier, Williams and Nurse have raised their level of play is a testament to them but also to the way UConn goes about its business. The coaches haven't lowered their standards and have been rewarded by their players making the move from role players to All-American candidates right before their eyes. The scary part is Azura' Stevens and Batouly Camara will be eligible next season and the Huskies bring in a top-notch recruiting class headlined by Megan Walker so if teams aren't able to take down UConn this season, what are their chances next season?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

3 UConn signees named to Naismith mid-season watch list

UConn incoming freshmen Mikayla Coombs, Lexi Gordon and Megan Walker are among 25 high school seniors named to the mid-season watch list for the Naismith High School Girls' Player of the Year award.

A list of 10 finalists will be announced on Feb. 8.

Coombs, a 5-foot-10 guard, is averaging 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.7 steals per game at the Wesleyan School.

Gordon, a 5-foot-11 wing, is averaging 21.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for L.D. Bell High School.

Walker, a 6-foot-1 forward, is averaging 24.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals for Monacan High School.

Six former or current UConn players have won the award - Diana Taurasi, Ann Strother, Maya Moore (twice), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart and Katie Lou Samuelson.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Opportunity knocks for Molly Bent with Crystal Dangerfield sidelined

One of the few luxuries this UConn does not have is depth. In the toughest games, the Huskies have relied on a seven-player rotation with Crystal Dangerfield and Natalie Butler seeing quality minutes off the bench.

Well, the number of options has been cut with the news that Dangerfield will miss the next couple of weeks to rest her foot. Dangerfield has been diagnosed with a stress reaction in her left foot. She will not practice or play in the next two weeks and will be reevaluated at that time.

Dangerfield leads all reserves with 322 minutes played and 86 points scored. UConn is not in danger of losing as the Huskies continue play in the American Athletic Conference but these next couple of weeks could have been valuable for Dangerfield as she continues to adapt to the college game and expectations placed on her by the UConn coaching staff.

I spoke to Dangerfield after Monday's practice mostly because she was squaring off against her former high school teammate Jazz Bond in last night's game but she also addressed what she was hoping to get accomplished moving forward.

"Right now it is not the physical part, it is about being able to come into practice and pay attention to the scout then going into the games and executing," Dangerfield said.

Time will tell if the time away sets Dangerfield back when she gets back on the court. At Monday's practice fellow freshman Molly Bent was seeing more time with the starters than at any practice I have attended. Now she's going to have a larger role moving forward.

Bent competes really hard but UConn coach Geno Auriemma said her issue comes when she tries to play too fast.
"(Bent) makes just enough shots to make you think she can help you and just enough plays and then she is 100 miles an hour and completely self destructs when she is out there," Auriemma said after Monday's practice. "Somewhere we have to find that middle ground where she can make a little bit of an impact and not get into that self destruct mode where and she is struggling to get anything done. If we can get her to slow down, that would help us a lot."

Bent has played in 13 of the 15 games and in a limited amount of work (9.8 minutes per game) she leads the team by making 60 percent of her 3-pointers and has a positive assist/turnover ratio.

Beginning on Saturday when UConn plays at SMU with a chance to set a new NCAA all-division basketball record with its 91st win in a row, Bent's minutes figure to increase.

"Things like this can happen at any time in the season so it is good that we are preparing for it," UConn junior forward Gabby Williams said.

The thing I noticed at Monday's practice is that Bent was reluctant to look at the basket. She is hardly the first freshman to have this issue but it is something she is going to have to work through because if she is out there with the starters, she will definitely be left open from the perimeter.

"Molly, she can do a lot," UConn senior guard Saniya Chong said. "She can put the ball in the basket, her shot is pretty good. She is very hesitant. Hey, I've been there and still go through that sometimes but she is learning. She has us and the coaches to help her out."

Just as I did as UConn prepared to play its 10th game, I looked at how the offensive starts of Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier stack up heading into last night's game, the 15th of the season.

I have a binder that former UConn sports information director Randy Press put together that has every box score beginning in the 1997-98 season and going to the 2007-08 campaign. The game by game stats since 2008 are easy to locate on UConn's official site but occasionally you will see stats referring to the last 20 seasons and this is why. I hope that I have time to go through the box scores during the Kerry Bascom and Rebecca Lobo eras at UConn to provide more comprehensive updates as UConn plays its 20th game but in the meantime, here's some interesting stuff about Collier and Samuelson.

Dating back to the aforementioned 1997-98 season, here's a list of the most points scored by a UConn player through the first 15 games of a season.

359 Maya Moore 2010-11
304 Nykesha Sales 1997-98
301 Katie Lou Samuelson 2016-17
289 Napheesa Collier 2016-17
288 Diana Taurasi 2003-04
285 Maya Moore 2009-10
275 Maya Moore 2008-09
271 Breanna Stewart 2013-14
Here are the highest scoring tandems. Note: A duo would need to combine for 33 points per game to make this list and the only ones who did that from Auriemma's first season in 1985-86 to the 1996-97 campaign are Kerry Bascom/Wendy Davis in '88-89, Bascom/Davis in '90-91, Kara Wolters/Nykesha Sales in '95-96 and Wolters/Sales in '96-97

593 Maya Moore (359)/Tiffany Hayes (234) 2010-11
590 Katie Lou Samuelson (301)/Napheesa Collier (289) 2016-17
562 Maya Moore (359)/Bria Hartley (203)
549 Maya Moore (285)/Tina Charles (264) 2009-10
532 Maya Moore (275)/Tina Charles (257) 2008-09
512 Svetlana Abrosimova (269)/Shea Ralph (243) 1998-99
508 Nykesha Sales (304)/Svetlana Abrosimova (204) 1997-98
505 Katie Lou Samuelson (301)/Kia Nurse (204) 2016-17

Finally, the most 3-pointers during that span
50 Katie Lou Samuelson 2016-1745 Diana Taurasi 2001-02
43 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 2014-15
42 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 2012-13
42 Diana Taurasi 2003-04
41 Ann Strother 2005-06
40 Ann Strother 2004-05
39 Mel Thomas 2005-06
38 Renee Montgomery 2008-09
37 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 2011-12
36 Mel Thomas 2006-07
32 Bria Hartley 32 2010-11
32 Mel Thomas 32 2007-08
32 Kia Nurse 2016-17

UConn's Collier, Samuelson and Kia Nurse were among 25 players named to Wooden Award midseason watch list.

It's a pretty strong list of players but still, not seeing Gabby Williams listed among the top 25 players is definitely questionable. For the sake of full disclosure, I'm on Wooden Award panel that came up with the top 25 players and I did put four UConn players on my ballot including Williams.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

UConn rises to the occasion on historic evening

The largest home crowd to watch the UConn women's basketball team this season and largest contingent of media of the year turned out for the Huskies' date with destiny and they did not disappoint.

The 102-37 win over South Florida was the largest margin of victory in program history against a team ranked in the Associated Press poll and that final score makes it sound closer than it actually was.

The Huskies put up 30 points in the first quarter and 35 in the second en route to tying its own NCAA Division I record with its 90th win in a row. I can't even imagine what the final score would have been if the dynamic quartet of Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier had played the fourth quarter.

"We played an amazing game of basketball, we played the kind of game that coaches aspire for their players to play at both ends of the floor," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "There was just a lot of stuff going on there today that you got to shake your head. That is what I am happy about, that is what I am smiling about. It has nothing to do 90, I could care less about that."

Auriemma was almost apologetic to USF coach Jose Fernandez, somebody he has tremendous respect for, following the game.

"I said I don't know where this came from, it has nothing to do with you guys, it is no reflection on you guys but when we play like this, we shoot the ball like that, play defense like that, I don't think it would have mattered who we were playing tonight," Auriemma said.

Where do I start.

Gabby Williams had six points, five rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots - in the first quarter alone. She had 11 points, 13 rebounds (nine on the offensive end), seven assists, three steals, four blocked shots and just one turnover in 21 minutes. She probably delivered the signature play in the third quarter when she dove on the floor for one of her steals and got the ball to a teammate before sliding out of bounds even though the Huskies were already more than comfortably ahead. Auriemma compared the impact she has on a game to how former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor used to singlehandedly disrupt opposing offenses.

Sophomores Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier had 19 and 18 points and they have become so reliable that neither of them were a subject of any of the questions asked of Auriemma after the game. Yes, their production is already kind of assumed.

I went back to the 1997-98 season and Samuelson ranks only behind Maya Moore (359 points in the 2010-11 season) and Nykesha Sales (304 points in '97-98) for the most points by a UConn player through the first 15 games of a season. Collier ranks fourth on that list with 289 points. Through 15 games, the only set of UConn teammates with more combined points than the 590 Collier and Samuelson have accounted for is the 593 put up by Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes during the 2010-11 season. Ironically, Moore and Hayes were the only players to appear in every game during the first of the Huskies' 90-game winning streak. Samuelson also has 50 3-pointers and I can't find a UConn player dating back to the 1997-98 season to accomplish that feat.

Kia Nurse, the only player who saw time in UConn's last loss and played in every game in the current streak, had 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists while helping to hold the American Athletic Conference's leading scorer Kitija Laksa to seven points on 3 of 15 shooting.

Then there was Saniya Chong. There will be much more of her in my second-day story off the game but I would say that I never have seen her look as comfortable and confident for an entire game as I did today. The result was Chong tying her career highs with 20 points and eight assists.

Natalie Butler contributed 10 points and four rebounds off the bench as Auriemma said it was her best game at UConn.

If there was a negative it was that Auriemma announced that freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield was being shut down for the next couple of weeks to rest a sore foot.

"Crystal is not playing for the next two weeks, she has a thing in her foot that we have to keep an eye on," Auriemma said. "Today was going to be her last game for a while if it didn't respond the way we wanted it to. It was more of a precautionary thing but I think maybe she knew 'I am not going to be playing for a while' because she went out and played today."

When UConn beat UCF for win No. 89 in a row, there was not one question in the post-game press conference asked about the winning streak. Auriemma wasn't as fortunate today as at least half of the questions pertained to the streak. I asked him about how the No. 1 ranked team in college football (Alabama) and men's basketball (Baylor) have lost in the last two days and yet the Huskies roll on.

"Not to minimize any of this but we just try to play really hard every night, we try to play with a lot of energy every night," Auriemma said. "We have players who have bought into over the years that this is the way we are going to play, this is the way we play at Connecticut. This doesn't mean we are going to win every night, this doesn't mean we are going to make every shot or be perfect but this is how we are going to play and you are going to have to play great to beat us generally speaking."

Auriemma was also asked why this streak didn't generate the same amount of attention from the national media as the first 90-game streak when the Huskies moved by the Division I basketball record 88-game run of the UCLA men's basketball program in the 1970s.

"It is male/female," Auriemma said. "All the people coming out of the woodwork that we weren't UCLA, you are not John Wooden. We don't have any UCLA signs in our gym, I don't have anything in common with Coach Wooden so I never said that, nobody in our program ever said that but it became 'how dare you compare those two.' Now people can just ignore it because it is us trying to beat a UConn record. Perception is 'well ,of course, we are Connecticut and the competition sucks' so I hear all of it.  Those players in the locker room they don't buy into any of that, they just know this is who we play and we play better than most people."

UConn's quest for 90 straight wins - by the numbers

I'm at the XL Center as UConn prepares to face South Florida with the chance to tie the program's own NCAA Division I basketball record by winning its 90th straight win.

With a few extra day between games I started crunching the numbers and here's a chart I put together to run with the story I did on UConn's most recent change for history.

2007-10              2014-present
90          Games               89
29      Ranked opponents 26
40      Games trailed        41
114:38 Time trailed   153:40
19            Players             18
82.7   Points scored        87.4
49.3   Points allowed     49.4
33.4   Scoring margin    38.0
1221   Off. rebounds    1131
3910    Rebounds         3693
1117 Rebound margin  950
1785     Assists             1902
832       Steals                956
481       Blocks              592
584      3-pointers          701
1269   Turnovers         1105
51.1    FG percentage    52.4
35.9    3-point pct.         39.4
73.1    Free throw pct.   76.6
31.6       FG defense      32.6
27.6    3-point defense   27.7
64.9      FT defense        67.4

South Florida a worthy adversary as UConn goes for 90th straight win

Considering that the Huskies played seven ranked teams and one other squad that would end up cracking the top 25 in the Associated Press poll, it seems only fitting that UConn goes for record-tying win No. 90 in a row against the American Athletic Conference team to give it the toughest tests in the last couple of seasons.

South Florida already posted a signature conference win when it went on the road and beat an experienced, talented Tulane team. Now comes an even bigger road test when the Bulls play UConn at the XL Center.

With the graduation of Courtney Williams and Alisia Jenkins, the Bulls are counting on different players to produce offensively. It's hardly surprising to see reigning conference freshman of the year Kitija Laksa make the jump to become one of the nation's top scorers. The emergence of Maria Jespersen, Ariadna Pujol and Laia Flores into consistent scoring options has made it clear this is not a one-player show.

A season ago Jespersen, Pujol and Flores combined to average 11 points per game. Jespersen (14.4 points per game) and Pujol (14.1) have topped that number by themselves.

"They certainly are different from any other team in the country in that they have so many foreign-born players and just by their nature they play the game a little bit differently," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Their skills are a little different, they are better with the ball than most kids growing up in this country. They shoot the ball really well, they have experience playing against a higher level of competition and Jose does a really good job of getting his best players a lot of shots."

Laksa, the AAC's leading scorer at 21.6 points per game, is from Latvia, Pujol and Flores are natives of Spain while Jespersen hails from Denmark.

Time will tell how the game plays out but the Huskies are expecting to get their best shot from USF.

"They are not scared, they play every game with all of their heart every game," UConn's Katie Lou Samuelson said. "They are always aggressive, we are going to be ready to play and be ready from the very start."

Samuelson sees similarities between her role and that of Laksa for USF.

"I think she scores in a lot of different ways and we are going to do our best to guard her the way we can," Samuelson said. "It is kind of cool that she is doing what she is doing, it is great for our conference and for basketball so it is going to be a good game."

Obviously most of the attention will be on the Huskies' attempt to tie their own NCAA Division I record with their 90th win in a row, there is another streak that is flying under the radar.

From 2008-12 UConn won a program record 57 straight regular-season Big East games which is the fifth longest streak in NCAA Division I women's basketball history. This current group of Huskies can match that mark tonight. If the Huskies were to play 16 regular-season conference games, they would not have a chance to mark Texas' ridiculous mark of 124 straight victories against Southwest Conference foes until the 2020-21 season and in other words, when the current group of incoming freshmen would be seniors.

Speaking of the recruiting class of Mikayla Coombs, Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Lexi Gordon and Megan Walker, they were among the rather sizeable list of nominees for the McDonald's All-American Game. Thomaston's Casey Carangelo, who has signed with St. Francis (N.Y.) and Shelton's Sydney Lowery out of St. Luke's and a Boston College signee, are the only Connecticut girls nominated. The 16th annual girls' game will be played on March 29 at the United Center in Chicago.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Reunion time for UConn's Dangerfield

Over the last couple of seasons, the highlight of UConn's conference schedule have been the matchups with South Florida.

While the Bulls have never beaten the Huskies, they have made things somewhat interesting. The individual matchups featuring UConn's Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck and USF's Courtney Williams have been worth the price of admission.

The four of them were taken in the first round of the 2016 WNBA Draft but there is a new "game within the game" worthy of keeping an eye on in the form of former Blackman High School teammates Crystal Dangerfield and Jazz Bond.

Dangerfield leads off of UConn's reserves in minutes played (302) and points scored (81) while Bond is averaging 2.5 points and 7.6 minutes per game as a freshman at USF.

"I know she is doing well down there and to see a familiar face will be really nice," Dangerfield said after Monday's practice.

Blackman went 119-12 in their four seasons together winning a pair of Tennessee state titles but the on-court partnership started when Dangerfield and Bond were just seven years old.

"She is a steady person, she never got too emotional about things and (it was good) just to have somebody to talk to," Dangerfield said.

"It is weird, I know our high school coach is looking forward to it for sure but just knowing that we are living our dreams and just wanting the best for each other."

During Dangerfield's and Bond's sophomore and junior seasons the Lady Blaze lost a total of three games, one came to a Mater Dei team led by UConn's Katie Lou Samuelson and another to an Incarnate Word Academy squad featuring UConn's Napheesa Collier. So what were Dangerfield's best memories of sharing the court with Bond in high school?

"I think it was our second state championship, she played really big in that game (with six points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots in a 58-54 overtime win against Oakland)," Dangerfield said. "There were times where she was not a big (scorer) but our teammates needed her, she had a really big game. She had some key defensive rebounds, a few blocks and she hit a big shot."

When the media was allowed into watch the last part of today's practice the first thing I was struck by was how much more time freshman Molly Bent was seeing with the starters. Naturally, when we spoke to UConn coach Geno Auriemma after practice it was one of the first subjects I brought up.

"We need to find another guard, find somebody else that can give us some meaningful minutes," Auriemma said. "I don't want to be in the situation where Kia (Nurse) and Lou (Samuelson) are playing more minutes than I would like for them to play so between Saniya (Chong), Crystal and Molly, we have to get some good stuff out of those guys coming up."

Bent has played a total of 112 minutes while appearing in 12 of the Huskies' first 14 games. She did not play against Maryland but in the last three contests she appeared in, Bent averaged 15.3 minutes per game.

Other than South Florida, which moved up to No. 20 in the Associated Press poll, South Carolina is the only other ranked team the Huskies will face between now and the end of the regular season so it is the right time for players like Dangerfield and Bent to put the freshman jitters behind them and start trusting their instincts.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

UConn leaves little doubt in winning 89th in a row

Once UConn walked out of the XFINITY Center with a hard-earned victory over Maryland there wasn't a question that the Huskies would be going after the record-tying 90th straight win when nationally-ranked South Florida comes to the XL Center on Jan. 10. However, it has been impressive to watch how quickly the Huskies have started off the games against overmatched UCF and East Carolina teams.

Tonight the Huskies jumped out to leads of 11-0, 15-1 and 22-3 en route to a 90-45 win over East Carolina for win No. 89 in a row.

"The last two games we have done a good job of coming out and creating a tempo in the game and
imposing our will," UConn junior guard Kia Nurse said. "Today especially we moved the ball really well, got up and down in transition."

Napheesa Collier, who led UConn with a game-high 21 points, took it a step further.

"It has been stressed to us that it doesn't matter what the score is, we still play Connecticut
basketball," Collier said. "You are still playing for our school, you have to be held to a certain standard. We don't want to play the scoreboard, we try to use every game to get better."

Auriemma wished his team was outwardly more emotional but he can't argue with the results with seven wins over ranked teams so far this season.

"They are determined to win, that might be more accurate for them," Auriemma said. "They don't get caught up in any of it. It (the 2010-11 team) was a very emotional team, this team generally speaking is kind of unemotional, duds. You look at them and there is nothing. These guys are like whatever, this is what we are going to do. Who am I to change it?"

UConn doesn't play again until South Florida comes to town on Tuesday. It is the longest break between the games for the remainder of the regular season so it will give the UConn coaches a chance to work on some things they haven't liked in the first 14 games of the season.

Auriemma won't have many flaws to address with how the game started.

"That first five, six minutes of the game, that would have been amazing regardless of who we were playing, that was an incredible run right at the beginning," Auriemma said.

Before the game Auriemma received his trophy for winning USA Basketball Co-Coach of the Year from former Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and UConn director of athletics David Benedict.

"He is one of the most incredible human beings I have ever met," Auriemma said of Dempsey who was elected USA Basketball Chairman in November. "I've never been fascinated and absolutely enthralled by anybody more than all the time I spent with General Dempsey whether it is dinner at his house, having a couple of drinks at the Olympics, at the Pentagon, all the times I have been around him it never ceases to amaze me the things that he has done, the way he handles situations, his perspective on the world and where we are, I wish he had run for President."

Also, the NCAA record book listed the women's Division I record for consecutive road wins at 30 before the season. However, I reached out to the NCAA and they confirmed to me that a 34-game streak by UConn from 2001-04 was never entered into the database and that is indeed the current record. UConn is currently at 31 road wins in a row and the record-tying 34th straight could come against East Carolina on Jan. 24.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

At UConn it is all about the process and not winning streaks

There were a couple of memorable moments during my recently completed road trip to Maryland and Florida.

First was the rather entertaining game at Maryland, the last of a series of challenging non-conference games in the first two months of the season. I'm sure you watched that contest so there's little reason for me to go into too much detail about what transpired on that night.

A few days later, however, there weren't quite as much people in attendance at one of the practice courts inside the CFE Arena in Orlando. UConn coach Geno Auriemma, realizing that some of the media who cover his team on a regular basis would be going straight from Maryland to Florida, invited us to watch the last 30 minutes of Saturday's practice which is often the case the day before home games. Well, 30 minutes turned into 45 minutes and probably approached 60 minutes and I loved every bit of it.

Late last season John Walters sat down with a bunch of people who have covered Auriemma's team the longest to get our take on what it is like to cover this dynasty. I told him that while I loved trying to capture the essence of some of those classic Tennessee and Notre Dame games, some of the best moments have come watching practice. I've seen iconic players like Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart come as in wondrously talented freshmen and day by day become even more, more versatile and more determined.

So about two hours after wrapping up an interview with former UConn great and current UCF assistant Nykesha Sales, I walked into the practice courts. Practices on the road are a little different because there are no male practice players to serve as the opposition and while transfers Azura' Stevens and Batouly Camara made the trip to the Maryland, they were not in Florida. (I'm sure many of you know those but just in case, per NCAA rules transfers need to pay their own way on road trips which is why you might occasionally not see the two of them at games).

It didn't take long for the Auriemma to start zinging his players. He openly wondered why Kai Nurse was the only perimeter defender to consistently meet his demanding standards and without hesitation blurted out "don't worry Lou, I'm not talking about you." Nurse was not immune from his caustic barbs as he told the team that when they were working on a variety of defenses to not try to fix things in the middle of a possession "right, Kia Nurse?"

There was also assistant coach Marisa Moseley's meticulous and thorough scouting report on UCF, the way they use ball screens and as I watched the game unfold, it was almost as if I watched game tape of the UCF team with the coaches as I watched the way they switched off screens and funneled players to the spots on the floor they wanted them to go.

The two most memorable moments of practice came courtesy of highly talented freshman Crystal Dangerfield. Dangerfield was wide open about 15-18 feet from the basket and quickly dished the ball to Samuelson in the corner. I don't even recall if the Huskies scored on that possession but I do remember Auriemma stopping practice for a second to make it clear to Dangerfield and everybody else on the team that not even looking at the basket in that situation was unacceptable and he wouldn't have recruited the players he did if he thought they couldn't make that shot.

The next time Dangerfield was in that situation, she took the shot and hit nothing by net. Later on Dangerfield was rushing up the floor and was being guarded by intern Chloe Pavlech, a very solid point guard during her days at Maryland. Dangerfield faked one way, went the other and Pavlech lost her footing. While she didn't completely fall to the ground, the players on the court began to crack up laughing. It was certainly not the first time they have seen Dangerfield's ball-handling prowess leave a defender struggling to remain on their feet.

Looking at the conference portion of the schedule, the hope is that teams like South Florida, Tulane and Temple have enough talent and gumption to make the Huskies sweat. USF has been able to rise to the occasion before especially at home while Temple has tended to be much more competitive when the game is in Philadelphia as opposed to when it is in Connecticut. The reality is that loading up with non-conference schedule with as many powerhouse teams as possible had something to do with the lack of tests expected to be coming in the conference portion of the schedule. Of course, just about every conference would have teams struggling to be competitive with the Huskies as games like LSU and DePaul serve as perfect examples.

This is the time of the year when Auriemma tends to turn up the pressure in practice to give his team challenges it may not see in actual games. That is the process that Auriemma seems to enjoy the most. He lets people like me keep him up to date on the latest winning streaks (the look on his face when I said to him that if his team hadn't squandered a 10-point lead in the second half to Stanford back in 2014 that the UCF game would be No. 135 win in a row was absolutely priceless). Auriemma knows this is a dangerous time of the year. Many of the teams UConn will be vying with to win the national championship have already played UConn and lost. They will be using their tough conference games and practice time to put themselves in position to turn the tables if they meet in the NCAA tournament. If UConn doesn't improve as well, all the accomplishments during the wins over seven ranked teams will be irrelevant. People complain about the margin of victories, wonder if UConn's dominance is bad for the sport but once reason why the Huskies have won as much as they have is that Auriemma doesn't settle for anything but the best - not the best his players think they have to offer but his definition of what level of play they are able to attain. 

SNY debuts first Huskies All-Access show tomorrow night

Fans may have to wait until March 1 for HBO's :UConn Huskies: The March to Madness" to debut but thanks to SNY's special access as the regional broadcast partner of UConn women's basketball, an inside look at the nation's No. 1 ranked team will be presented after tomorrow night's UConn/East Carolina game.

SNY will have the first of its Huskies All-Access airing of the season at 9:30 p.m. I just had a look at the show and it was pretty well done. It provides a closer look at how Geno Auriemma and his coaching staff pushes his team and how the early stretch of tough games helped a young squad create its own identity.

Monday, January 02, 2017

When is a record not a record?

Take it from me, tracking UConn's winning streaks is no easy task.

There is the overall winning streak which is at 88 (two shy of the NCAA record held by UConn), home streaks, streaks against ranked teams and unranked teams. In the last two games there have been plenty of reports that the Huskies set the NCAA Division I women's basketball record for consecutive road victories. That is not true.

The NCAA record book lists the streak at 30 shared by UConn and Notre Dame. The Huskies tied that with a win at Maryland and surpassed it against UCF on Sunday. However, as I previously mentioned in this blog, UConn had a streak of 33 or 34 road wins in a row (there is a tournament UConn in 2002 when the Huskies played the host Hawaii team but I would need clarification to see if that counts as a true road game). I emailed the NCAA trying to get clarification on that streak.

Katie Lou Samuelson is off to one of the best offensive starts in UConn history and when I got home from Orlando I started checking around. The UCF win marked the 50th game in Samuelson's career and the only player in program history with more 3-pointers through 50 games is fellow Mater Dei (Calif.) High School graduate Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

Mosqueda-Lewis had 128 points through 50 games, Samuelson has 122, Diana Taurasi had 118 followed by Bria Hartley and Maya Moore with 90.

Looking for reasons why UConn is still undefeated? Well, how about the fact that three different Huskies have been named American Athletic Conference Player of the Week this season and none of them were the conference's preseason player of the year who was Kia Nurse.

It was Gabby Williams' turn to be honored by the conference after averaging 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 2 blocked shots per game while shooting 64 percent from the field in wins over Maryland and UCF.

Napheesa Collier and Katie Samuelson have both won the award twice. It's the third time in the four-year history of the conference that three different Huskies receive player of the week honors.

In the 2013-14 season Breanna Stewart was the winner three times, Bria Hartley was a two-time winner and Stefanie Dolson won once. The following year four UConn players were honored by the AAC as Breanna Stewart won the award three times, Morgan Tuck won twice with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson being honored once each.

UConn signee Andra Espinoza-Hunter was one of nine players to receive WBCA National High School Player of the Week honors.

Espinoza-Hunter exploded for 51 points in an 86-64 win over Bishop Loughlin. It was Espinoza-Hunter's second 51-point game this season and in nine games she is averaging 41.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3 assists and 3.6 steals per game with 38 3-pointers.