Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, August 21, 2017

UConn alums sweep WNBA awards once again

Former UConn stars Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart were named the Eastern and Western Conference's Player of the Week by the WNBA on Monday.

This marks the third time this year that UConn alums swept the weekly honors as Charles and Diana Taurasi were honored on June 4 and on July 16 it was Stefanie Dolson and Stewart receiving the awards.

Since the WNBA went from awarding one player of the week to giving out awards to players in each conference in 2007, this is the 18th time the honorees came from players who attended the same college.

On 14 of those occasions, it was a pair of former Huskies getting recognized led by the duo of Charles and Maya Moore who swept the awards five times. Charles and Taurasi were honored during the same week three times the only other time it happened twice came when former Tennessee stars Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker were so honored on May 27, 2012 and June 24, 2012 and when Charles and Stewart were honored on Sept. 11, 2016 and this week.

The first time it happened came on June 29, 2008 when Asjha Jones and Taurasi were the winners. Sue Bird and Jones were honored on July 26, 2009 (marking the only time players in the same recruiting class won the award the same week) Charles and Swin Cash won on July 5, 2011, former Rutgers stars Tammy Sutton-Brown and Cappie Pondexter were the recipients on July 5, 2009, LSU legends Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus swept the awards on Aug. 29, 2011.

Charles was selected Player of the Week for a record 26th time since joining the league in 2010. This is her fifth Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor this season.

Charles led all Eastern Conference players in scoring, averaging 21.5 points per game, was tied for second in rebounding averaging 8 per game as New York topped the Eastern Conference leading Connecticut Sun and Western Conference leading Minnesota Lynx.

Stewart earned Player of the Week honors for the second time this season and third time in her two-year career. The 2016 WNBA Rookie of the Year guided Seattle to a 3-0 week and its fourth win in as many games under interim coach Gary Kloppenburg.

Stewart ranked sixth among Western Conference players in scoring (17.7 ppg) and rebounds (9.7), was fourth in blocks (1.67), and tied for fifth in assists (4.0).

Friday, August 18, 2017

Samuelson leads UConn to another win in Italy

Katie Lou Samuelson hit five 3-pointers and finished with 23 points, five rebounds and three steals to lead five players in double figures as UConn defeated the Italian All-Stars 103-45 in the third of four exhibition games during its tour of Italy.

Kia Nurse had 11 points, two assists and three steals, Kyla Irwin was 3 for 3 from 3-point range as she had 15 points. Gabby Williams and Azura Stevens added 14 and 11 points respectively with Stevens also recording eight rebounds.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UConn legend Maya Moore up for WSF SportsWoman of Year award

Former UConn star Maya Moore is a finalist in the team sport athlete category for the Women's Sports Foundation SportsWoman of the Year.

Moore was the second-leading scorer as well as being the team leader in assists and steals on thee gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic women's basketball team in addition to helping the Minnesota Lynx advance to the 2016 WNBA Championship Series as well as posting the best record in the WNBA this season.

Valerie Arioto (softball), Briana Decker (hockey), Heather Erickson (sitting volleyball), Rachel Homan (curling), Talita DaRocha Antunes/Larissa Franca Maestrini (beach volleyball), Lucie Safarova/Bethanie Mattek-Sands (tennis), Marie McCool (lacrosse), Maggie Steffens (water polo) an Elana Meyers Taylor (bobsleigh) are the other athletes who are finalists in the team sport category.
The winners will be determined by online voting with ballots being open until Aug. 27. The winner will be honored at the 38th Annual Salute to Women in Sports on Oct. 18 in New York.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Samuelson leads UConn to another win in Italy

Katie Lou Samuelson had 23 points, all in the first three quarters, five assists and two steals to lead the UConn women's basketball team to a 88-66 win over the Netherlands National Team on Tuesday in Rome in the second of four exhibtion games on its tour of Italy.

Kia Nurse, who joined the team after leading Canada to the FIBA AmeriCup title in Argentina, added 18 points and four rebounds. Napheesa Collier had her second consecutive double-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals while Azura Stevens contributed 10 points (going 4 for 4 from the floor), six rebounds and two steals.

Gabby Williams had seven points, six assists and five assists as UConn led 82-42 after three quarters en route to sweeping two games against the Dutch National Team. Megan Walker added six points and four rebounds, Crystal Dangerfield had four points and six assists and Molly Bent had four points.

UConn will play the Italian All-Stars on Friday in Vicenza and will wrap up play on Sunday againat Celje in Trieste.

Samuelson is averaging 17 points in the first two games. Collier is contributing 14 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3 assists. Williams (11 PPG), Stevens (10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) are also averaing more than 10 points per game. Walker has a pair of six-point games and a total of 10 rebounds in the two games while Dangerfield has nine assists.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

UConn's Kia Nurse lifts Canada to FIBA AmeriCup title

Kia Nurse struggled to find the range on her shot throughout the FIBA AmeriCup but with her Canadian team trailing by a point, Nurse scored in the lane with 1:26 remaining as Canada topped host Argentina 67-65 in the gold medal game.

Nurse finished with 12 points and three assists as she finished the tournament second on the team in scoring at 10.5 points per game.

She scored in double figures in three of the six games. Nurse has played in 36 FIBA or FIBA Americas tournaments at the senior level and has scored in double figures 17 times leading Canada to three gold medals, a silver medal, a fifth-place finish in the world championships and seventh in the Olympics. She was also part of Canada's bronze-medal winning team at the 2013 FIBA U17 Championships. Oh, and she won't turn 22 until February.

Counting her U16 and U17 experience, Nurse has averaged  11.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. In all the FIBA and FIBA Americas events she has competed in, Nurse has scored in double figures 27 times in 49 games.

Nurse has played in seven FIBA or FIBA Americas tournaments and averaged at least 10 points per game in six of them.

Nirra Fields was the top scorer for Canada averaging 14.5 PPG and was named the tournament MVP.

Canada won the tournament two years ago when it was called the FIBA Americas Women's Championship. Nurse was the tournament's No. 6 scorer averaging 13 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the field including 40 percent from 3-point range. Nurse shot just 28 percent from the floor in this year's tournament including 22 percent from 3-point range.

Canada, Argentina and bronze medalists Puerto Rico clinched berths in the 2018 FIBA World Cup. Puerto Rico topped Brazil in the bronze-medal game as Manchester's Ashley Perez had seven points in the game and had 41 points in the six tournament games.

The U.S. did not compete in the tournament since it has already qualified for the FIBA World Cup.

Here are quotes from Canada head coach Lisa Thomaidis courtesy of the Canada Basketball release

"This is exactly the kind of game that you dream about, the ones that go back and forth. Neither team has it secured from start to finish and those are the games that you learn so much about yourself and your team when you have an opportunity like this. And to play in an environment like this. You cannot replicate this environment.

"I'm so proud of our team. We are young, we have a bunch of new players and we really weren't tested until this game. We were knocked back on our heels at the beginning of the game and we had to regroup and credit to them. We came out in the second half and built a lead and Argentina is a tough team to match up with. They spread us out and can knock down some threes. We got some great contributions from a variety of different players tonight and when it came down to it we got the stops when we needed it and got some key scores. Just a fabulous win for this program and this team in terms of kicking off the start of this squad and heading forward."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

UConn's trip to Italy begins tonight

Megan Walker doesn't know exactly what will transpire in the next six months but the highly-touted freshman figures to learn plenty about herself and her fellow freshman during UConn's tour of Italy.

The trip begins tonight with a flight out of New York with the entire team except for senior guard Kia Nurse, currently in Argentina playing for Canada in the FIBA AmeriCup Championship.

There will be plenty of sightseeing but also the chance to play four exhibition games meeting the Netherlands national team on Monday and Tuesday in Rome, a game on Friday against the Italian All-Stars in Vicenza and will meet Celje on Aug. 20 in Capodistria. Celje posted a 29-1 record in the Slovenia pro league in addition to posting a 13-5 record in the Women Adriatic Basketball Association. I haven't seen the team rosters yet to know if that is the same squad that will face the Huskies with the exception of the Netherlands Orange Angels squad which will play the two games against UConn and one against Duke.

According to the Netherlands Orange Angels official site, the roster includes former Syracuse standout Isabella Slim, who had nine points and two rebounds against the Huskies in the 2016 national championship game.

Here's the roster posted on the official site: Jill Bettonvil, Loyce Bettonvil, Janis Ndiba. Isabella Slim, Karin Kuijt, Jacobine Klerx, Janiek van Veen, Tanya Bröring, Kourtney Treffers, Richelle van der Keijl, Rowie Jongeling, Zera Butter and Roos Court.  The roster includes six players who competed in the qualifying to the EuroCup led by double-figure scorers Broring, Loyce Bettonvil and Jill Bettonvil.

"It is going to be good, giving us a head start," Walker said. "Instead of going into practice in October not knowing anything, we will already have an idea of what practice is like and how hard we have to work."

Walker, fellow freshmen Mikayla Coombs, Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon will be joined by transfers Batouly Camara and Azura Stevens to give UConn six players who did not suit up for them a season ago. It's hardly a coincidence that this is the team UConn coach Geno Auriemma has chosen to bring to Italy.

"You try to set your European trips because you either have a lot of players coming back and you just need to incorporate a few players or you have a lot of new faces who haven't played," Auriemma said. "In this case it is a little bit of both. We have a great nucleus returning and we have six new players, it has all the ingredients you are looking for when you are putting together a trip."

The team started to practice over the weekend as the NCAA allows one of these trips every four years giving the Huskies a jump start of preseason preparations.

"It will definitely help," sophomore guard Crystal Dangerfield said. "The earlier you can get in here, the more helpful you can be before October starts, just being able to build more chemistry. We had the summer (for workouts) but after being out here in a practice setting, going up and down floor, I think it will help."

Nurse is expected to join the team after the FIBA AmeriCup which wraps up tomorrow. Canada meets Brazil in the first semifinal today at 5:35 p.m. in Argentina followed by the Argentina-Puerto Rico semifinal. The winners not only advance to Sunday's 8:35 p.m. gold-medal game but also secure berths in the 2018 FIBA World Cup. A third spot will go to the winner of tomorrow's bronze-medal game.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Report: UConn to face Stanford in season opener

One non-conference game that never materialized that would have been a major draw in the last two seasons would have been a Samuelson vs. Samuelson matchup.

However, UConn was unable to get Stanford on the non-conference schedule in either of Katie Lou Samuelson's first two seasons while her sister Karlie was still suiting up for the Cardinal.

According to a report by Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal Inquirer, Stanford will be UConn's opponent in the Nov. 12 season opener at the Countdown to Columbus at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Originally, UConn was supposed to play Ohio State but now the Buckeyes will meet Louisville while UConn and Stanford will square off in a doubleheader.

Stanford graduated two of its top three scorers - Erica McCall and Karlie Samuelson.

The last time the teams met, Stanford emerged with a thrilling 88-86 overtme victory on Nov. 17, 2014 ending a 47-game winning streak by the Huskies. UConn promptly won its next 111 games before the loss to Mississippi State in the 2017 national semifinals.

The Stanford game will be one of three games in the regular season against Pac 12 opponents as the Huskies host Cal on Nov. 17 in UConn's home opener and will play at UCLA on Nov. 21. The Huskies will also play on Oregon's home court as part of the PK80 event in honor of Nike founder Phil Knight's 80th birthday. However, the opponent in the Nov. 25 game will be Michigan State.
UConn's non-conference schedule will be officially announced once the game at South Carolina, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 1, is finalized.

UConn's Nurse, Canada win Group B title at FIBA AmeriCup

UConn's Kia Nurse had eight points, three assists and three steals as Canada defeated Paraguay 86-64 to clinch the top spot in Group B at the FIBA AmeriCup Championship in Argentina.

Former UCLA star Nirra Fields had 25 points, 10 rebounds and three steals, Katherine Plouffe had 12 points while Michelle Plouffe finished with nine points and 13 rebounds.

Canada, the defending champion, will play Brazil in Saturday's semifinals. The game will tip at 5:35 p.m. and should be available on ESPN3.

Argentina defeated Brazil to win the Group A title and will meet Puerto Rico in the other semifinal.

Nurse has struggled with her shot in the tournament but she will enter the medal round of the tournament averaging 8.8 points per game.

Manchester's Ashley Perez averaged 8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists to help Puerto Rico to advance to the semifinals.

The top three finishers qualify for the 2018 FIBA World Cup.


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

U19 experience proving to be beneficial for UConn's Dangerfield

Crystal Dangerfield had never made it to Italy before this summer. It's safe she is making up for lost time as she is preparing for her second trip there since the middle of July.

"I will get my dual citizenship," Dangerfield said with a laugh.

Before joining her UConn teammates as they leave for Italy on Saturday night for a tour including four exhibition games, she was the captain of the U.S. team which won a silver medal at the FIBA Women's World Cup last month.

Dangerfield was 8 for 19 in the first two games of the tournament but was just 16 of 63 the rest of the way including missed 14 of 20 shots in a loss to Russia in the gold medal game.

Some of Dangerfield's shooting woes coincided with her injuring her ankle during the tournament. She wasn't ready to use that as a excuse, however.

"The injury happened in training camp, I had an Achilles (issue) and they would work on it and it would feel better," said Dangerfield, who averaged 9 points, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals in the seven tournament games. "I rolled my ankle so there were times when I wasn't able to practice so maybe that impacted (her shot)."

While Dangerfield's shot came and went, her leadership never wavered throughout the tournament.

"Crystal has grown up a lot," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She has made about a 180 from last year which is what you hope from freshman to sophomore year. Unfortunately it didn't translate into a gold medal over there, the team they lost to has a couple of pros on their team that are just really, really good players. The U.S. team probably could have won that game  but Crystal played great.

"It was a good role for her, she was really good over there and she has carried it over here, she was good in practice."

Dangerfield was the only returning player from the 2015 U.S. team that beat Russia to win the gold medal and she embraced the role of being a leader. Now she is finding that experience is paying dividends during practices at UConn.

"When I came back here, Shea (Ralph, Dangerfield's position coach at UConn) told me I'm being more vocal," Dangerfield said. "Being able to lead players who are younger than I am, it helps with four freshmen coming in.

"I feel like I am playing harder than I was last year and that comes from just

wanting to be competitive, not wanting last year to repeat."
Naturally, the U19 tournament did not have the ending Dangerfield was hoping for.
Russia's 6-foot-4 forwards Raisa Musina and Maria Vadeeva combined for 59 points, 29 rebounds, nine assists and three blocked shots in Russia's 86-82 victory.

"The end result was really difficult, I knew going in it was going to be difficult because I remember those two from two years ago and they played just like they played there," Dangerfield said. "We went into halftime with a four-point lead, I was like, 'OK, 20 more minutes." It started to slip away in the third quarter. We tried to make a run in the fourth but they were able to hold on and we weren't able to (pull it out)."

UConn freshman Megan Walker was one of the top reserves for the U.S. squad as she averaged 7.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 16.7 minutes per game.

Walker shot just 12.5 percent from 3-point range and 30 percent from the foul line after being a 30 percent 3-point shooter and making 74 percent of her free throws during her high school career.

"Megan struggled a little but as most high school kids do when they are playing against pros," Auriemma said. "I don't even think she played in the second half of the championship game. It was a reminder to her that I don't think anybody cares that you were the national player of the year."

Walker had 15 points in the tournament opener against Mali and 11 against Japan in the semifinals. She also had games with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals showing her tremendous potential.

"The thing the coaching staff said to me was (to focus on) defense, they told me how to operate within their system so I think defensively I've learned a lot," Walker said.

She also learned how to play alongside of Dangerfield.

"Crystal is a great player and I got comfortable with her at the 1 (point guard)," Walker said. "It was really good getting that experience playing with her before the season started. It will help a lot already having that bond and playing with somebody you are familiar with.

"It was a tough loss, we fought to the end. All we can do is go home and work harder."
Walker found herself matched up on taller opponents quite often during the tournament.

"I guarded No. 4 (Musina) one time," Walker said. "I am 6-1 and I was tall on the AAU circuit. Now I am kind of average height so I learned how to guard the guards who are shorter than me, posts and wings that are taller than me so you have to adjust and know their weaknesses and their strengths."

Now Walker and fellow freshmen Mikayla Coombs, Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon are getting a crash course on UConn women's basketball and the lofty standards players are held to even during the most basic drill.

"The biggest challenge will be learning that level of intensity and trying to match it every day," Walker said.

The team heads to Italy on Saturday. The first two exhibition games will be played on Monday and Tuesday. The travel party will also visit various spots in Rome. The next two days will be spent sightseeing with the preliminary itinerary including a trip to the Palio di Siena horse race before heading to Florence before playing the final two games on Aug. 18 and 20. A tour of Venice is on the agenda for the final part of the tour before heading home on Aug. 25.

"It is not you go there and every day is either a practice or a game," Auriemma said. "This is more of we have a lecturer coming to see them, explain to them what the significance is of all the things we are going to see, given them an idea of this is what we are going to, this is what is particularly unique, this is what's there.

"I enjoy going over for whatever reason. Doing the same things they do in this country, that is not the point of this. I like when we go over and show them some things that this is the only place in the world where you can see this."

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UConn's Dailey impressed with play of improved Connecticut Sun squad

There may not be many people in the basketball world who can appreciate watching an unselfish brand of play more than UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey.

Beginning in the 1994-95 when the Huskies won their first national title, UConn led all Division I teams in scoring margin 14 times, topped the charts in field-goal percentage in 11 and was the national leader in assists 11 times.

Dailey was at Mohegan Sun Arena last night receiving the Margo Dydek Award as the Connecticut Sun's Woman of Inspiration for 2017. Before the game I asked for her thoughts on the job second-year coach Curt Miller and his staff has done with this year's Sun squad.

"I think Curt and his staff has done a great job," Dailey said. "I think their style of play is one that fans enjoy. I think the more people that come out and see it, they will come back again because they are used to seeing unselfish basketball and they enjoy that."

The numbers back up what Dailey is saying.

If the season ended today, the Connecticut Sun would set franchise marks for field goal percentage (45.7, topping the record of 45.2 percent set in 2005) and assist/turnover ratio of 1.47 which leads the WNBA this season and is ahead of the 1.42 ratio the Sun posted in 2006. Connecticut is also on pace for 619 assists which would be the second highest total in franchise history.

Last night's game certainly had a UConn feel to it.

The three UConn alums on the visiting Seattle Storm (Sue Bird, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart) combined for 46 of the Storm's 71 points but Morgan Tuck was part of the lineup when the Sun made its run at the start of the fourth quarter to shave an 11-point Seattle lead down to four as Connecticut rallied for the 84-71 victory.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma, assistant coaches Marisa Moseley and Shea Ralph, several members of UConn's support staff and the 2017-18 UConn team (other than Kia Nurse who is playing for Canada in the FIBA AmericaCup) were also at the game.

The former and current players would have received a chuckle at Dailey's response before the game when she was asked whether she'd prefer to sit down during the interview. I didn't transcribe that part of the interview but she referenced the fact that UConn players are required to stand up when they are being interviewed so obviously she would conduct the interview standing up.

Stewart's bid to set a WNBA record for most consecutive games with at least 20 points fell short. Stewart had 17 points when she missed a 3-pointer with just under a minute to play. About 20 seconds later she committed her sixth foul.

Before the game I asked Stewart about the key to her recent run of 20-point games as she tied the WNBA record set by fellow UConn legend Diana Taurasi.

"The beginning of the season started a little slow for me, reinjuring my knee a little bit and just getting to a position where I feel really good, really confident and we are trying to make the playoffs so we need to bring the level of our play up," Stewart said.

Bird chalks up Stewart's recent play as an incredibly talented player getting used to the speed and physicality of the WNBA game.

"More than anything she is starting to figure the pro game out and how she can apply that. What you are seeing is a much more confident player," Bird said. What affected her during her rookie year, the physicality, people trying to bump her off her spot ...

"In year one everything is so new but you are also new so they haven't quite figured it out yet where in that second year everybody kinds of understands the game."

Stewart agreed with Bird that learning how to play through contact is a process she is still dealing with.

"It definitely takes some getting used to," Stewart said. "It is like, 'all right I can expect this and I can have a counter to that, something else is going to happen and having a counter to that.' It's just being more comfortable with it."

A couple of other notes from the game.

First, Sue Bird set the WNBA record by making her 471st breaking Tina Thompson's mark ironically set during her final two WNBA seasons as Bird's teammate in Seattle. Also, the Connecticut Sun's record improved to 16-9 marking the first time the team has been seven games over .500 since the 2012 season.

Next up for the Sun will be Saturday's home game against Dallas but it's uncertain whether former UConn guard Saniya Chong will be at the game. She didn't play when Dallas topped defending WNBA champion Los Angeles on Sunday due to a concussion. If she is held out of tomorrow's home game against Phoenix, I wouldn't be surprised if they left her back in Dallas since flying is not exactly the best way to recover from a concussion.

Monday, August 07, 2017

UConn's Kia Nurse delivers in Canada's AmeriCup victory

After a relatively quiet opening game at the FIBA Women's AmeriCup, UConn's Kia Nurse got back to being her high-scoring ways for defending champion Canada.

Nurse had 17 poinyd, eight rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes as Canada remained undefeated with a 75-59 win over Puerto Rico.

Katherine Plouffe, one of six 2016 Olympians on the Canadian roster, had 14 points and four rebounds, Jamie Scott added 11 points and two rebounds while Ruth Hamblin had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Allison Gibson had 16 points while Manchester's Ashley Perez added 13 for Puerto Rico.

Canada continues pool play against Mexico at 3:05 p.m. on Tuesday.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

UConn's Nurse, Canada open FIBA AmeriCup tourney with convincing win

The rematch of the 2015 FIBA Americas Women's Championship turned into a showcase for a new-look Canadian roster.

UConn's Kia Nurse had six points and rebounds in 15 minutes while former UCLA star Nirra Fields led three players in double figures with 18 points as defending champion Canada opened the FIBA AmeriCup event with a surprisingly routine 81-35 win over Cuba.

Ruth Hamblin had 15 points and 10 rebounds while Jamie Scott added 12 points for Canada.
Anisleidy Galindo had 12 points and four steals for Cuba.

Canada plays Puerto Rico on Monday. Manchester's Ashley Perez had seven points, four rebounds and two steals as Puerto Rico opened the tournament with a 69-49 win over Mexico.

"Great to get the first game under our belt against a traditionally tough opponent in Cuba," Canada head coach Lisa Thomaidis said in a release on the Canada Basketball site. "There were a lot of question marks coming into the tournament in terms of our style of play and how we would integrate some new players.  I think we past our first test. We worked on pushing the pace and tempo and thought we did a solid job of that in the first quarter and built on that throughout the game. This by no means is Cuba's best effort and we imagine we will see them again later in the tournament, but certainly happy with the win."

Saturday, August 05, 2017

UConn legend, WNBA career scoring leader Taurasi returns to Connecticut

The legendary Diana Taurasi made her first appearance in Connecticut since becoming the WNBA's all-time leading scorer and the former UConn star did not disappoint.

Taurasi, who hasn't exactly put up gaudy numbers in previous trips to Mohegan Sun Arena, went off for 33 points including 17 in the fourth quarter in Phoenix's 93-92 loss to the Connecticut Sun.
Before the game she reflected on passing Tina Thompson to become the WNBA's career scoring leader.

"It is the funniest one to get, even when I was in school I wasn't a big scorer," Taurasi said. "I was more of a distributor My first two years, I played point in the WNBA so I didn't score a ton of points. I think once (Paul) Westhead got to Phoenix, he put me off the ball and said we need to generate offense, that is when I kind of took off. It is pretty cool when you get on the list with Tina, Catch and these great players in women's basketball so it is definitely an honor.

"I didn't know she (Thompson) was there for one. I didn't know until she stepped on the court, I looked up. To see her and Dyllan (Thompson's son) who I spent a lot of time with in Russia and the national team, it means a lot coming from her because she was a pioneer when the game was just getting started in the WNBA, she put a lot of work into it."

When Taurasi set the record, the Mercury were getting blown out and when they stopped the game to present her with the ball, it looked like Taurasi was going to get physcially ill.

"She felt like she looked, I am surprised they stopped the game to honor (me) on the road when are down 20," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You could imagine what she was thinking at that time so she takes the ball, fires it back to somebody and walks back. Then she almost got thrown out, she is disgusted with the way this game is going, typical Diana, I am not surprised. I am not surprised she did it, I am not surprised one iota. I think she was the best player every time she stepped onto the floor in high school, she was the best player every time she stepped onto the court in college and with very few exceptions if any, she is the best player when she steps on the floor in the pros, in the World Championships, in the Olympics, it doesn't matter."

Taurasi joked that it wouldn't have taken much prodding to kick the ball she was presented into the stands.

"I wanted to kick the ball into the stands. I have a good left foot just like Messi," Taurasi said.
Taurasi has never been one to focus on individual statistics but she admits that moving atop the list was special.

"You sit back a little bit and consider yourself really lucky," Taurasi said. "I feel like I am lucky to having played for Phoenix for my whole career, to get to play with Penny (Taylor), Cappie (Pondexter), DeWanna (Bonner), all these great players so I have been lucky more than anything."
Speaking of Taylor, Taurasi reflected on her marriage to her former Mercury teammate.

"Once you get married, it is a different type of commitment," Taurasi said. "Penny and I know each other for so long, we have been through so much stuff that it felt right."

With Taylor retiring, Brittney Griner getting injured, Candice Dupree being traded and Bonner out for the season after giving birth to twins, Taurasi isn't surrounded with as many dynamic scorers as she has in previous Mercury teams.

"There are certain times on the court especially this year when she is one year removed and you expect Penny to make this play and it is not there so she is on the coaching side now enjoying that, it is different," Taurasi said.

The loss to the Sun dropped Phoenix to 13-11 but 2-5 since losing Griner.

"It is frustrating because we were starting to roll a little bit before she got hurt," Taurasi said. "She is a big part of what we do and the way she was playing this year was at a different level I think. We are trying to hold down the fort until she gets back, I think we have done a pretty good job in the last couple of games. People have stepped up a litle bit which I think will help us hopefully for the playoffs."

Taurasi had a career low field-goal percentage of 39.6 last season and before Friday's huge game, she was making 39 percent this season.

"There are days when I do feel 35," Taurasi said. "The challenges are physical and mental, when you pay so much basketball coming to the gym is either fun or a chore, right now to me it is still a lot of fun."


Thursday, August 03, 2017

U23 trials conclude with gold-medal game tomorrow

UConn's Azura' Stevens and Gabby Williams helped their teams reach the finals of a tournament being held in conjunction with the U23 national team trials.

Stevens had 15 points to lead Team 2 to a 79-71 victory over Team 4 in the semifinals of the tournament held in conjunction with the U.S. U23 trials in Colorado Springs. Ariel Atkins of Texas, UCLA's Jordin Canada and Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale added 14 points each.

Williams had 12 points as Team 3 defeated Team 1 65-60 in the first semifinal. Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell had 13 points and Michigan's Hallie Thome finished with 12 points for Team 3.

The bronze-medal game is set for Friday at 10 a.m. with the gold-medal game scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Both games will be streamed live at Per Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press, the UConn players are expected to return home tomorrow and will not be playing in medal-round games.

When the trials are over, the 12-player team which will represent the U.S. at the U23 Four Nations Tournament will be announced. Stevens, Williams, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson will not be on that team since UConn will be heading to Italy for a tour including four exhibition games.