Reunion time for UConn's Dangerfield
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."
BENT TO SEE EXPANDED ROLE?
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.