Carl Adamec

Nov 30, 2015; Chattanooga, TN, USA; Connecticut Huskies logo prior to the game between the Chattanooga Lady Mocs and the Connecticut Huskies at McKenzie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports (Jim Brown)
Nov 30, 2015; Chattanooga, TN, USA; Connecticut Huskies logo prior to the game between the Chattanooga Lady Mocs and the Connecticut Huskies at McKenzie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports (Jim Brown)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Stefanie Dolson has always been a unique individual but has never failed to be a team player.

After graduating from the University of Connecticut and winning her second national championship with the women's basketball team in 2014, the 6-foot-5 center from Port Jervis, New York joined the WNBA's Washington Mystics as the team's first-round draft pick. Part of her change to professional life was to dye her hair purple.

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 (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson has always been filled with positive energy.

Over nine seasons -- five years scholastically with THESA (Texas Homeschool Educators Sports Association) and four years in college with the University of Connecticut -- her teams never lost the final game of their postseason.

But in her second year with the WNBA's San Antonio Stars, she is being tested -- on and off the court -- like never before. The Stars Thursday night's home game with the Indiana Fever at 2-18, five games clear for the worst record in the league and seven games behind the final playoff spot with 14 games to play.

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Connecticut Huskies players leave the court after losing to the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs in the semifinals of the women's Final Four at American Airlines Center. The Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs defeated the Connecticut Huskies in overtime 66-64. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies players leave the court after losing to the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs in the semifinals of the women's Final Four at American Airlines Center. The Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs defeated the Connecticut Huskies in overtime 66-64. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team has had more than its share of top moments at the ESPYs over the past 25 years.

The Huskies, though, were on the other end during the annual awards in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Mississippi State's 66-64 overtime win at the NCAA Final Four semifinals on March 31 that ended UConn's 111-game winning streak and four-year reign as national champion won the ESPY as "Best Upset" of the past 12 months. The Bulldogs were considered about a 21-point underdog.

Of course, the ESPYs were far from the first time -- or the last time -- UConn will be reminded of that night at the American Airlines Center when guard Morgan William hit a shot at the buzzer to send Mississippi State to the title game against South Carolina.

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 (Jeffrey Swinger)
(Jeffrey Swinger)

In their first game as a starting backcourt, they combined for a pedestrian 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists in the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's 36-point victory over Villanova at Gampel Pavilion.

Who knew on Feb. 4, 2001, that Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi would go on to be the best their sport has seen? Their then-college coach and later their coach for seven years with the United States national team had an idea.

"I have always said from back in 2002 that they'd be the best backcourt in the history of women's basketball -- college basketball, pro basketball, any kind of basketball -- and I said time will prove that," Geno Auriemma said last month. "It certainly has. You'll never find something like that ever again. It's too improbable for it to happen again. Those two are pretty special. There's nothing to compare them to. There really isn't."

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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Connecticut Huskies guard Molly Bent defends against Tulsa Golden Hurricane guard Tatyana Perez during the fourth quarter at Donald Reynolds Center. (Brett Rojo/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies guard Molly Bent defends against Tulsa Golden Hurricane guard Tatyana Perez during the fourth quarter at Donald Reynolds Center. (Brett Rojo/USA TODAY Sports)

On the second offensive possession of her career with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, Molly Bent reached the center-court line and threw a perfect lead pass to a sprinting Napheesa Collier for a layup.

A national TV audience and a crowd of 4,753 inside the Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Florida, saw it. One soul missed it -- the person doing the game statistics at Florida State, who gave the assist to Saniya Chong.

In a way, it sums up Bent's freshman season. As UConn coach Geno Auriemma put it, never had he seen a player work so hard and get so little reward out of it.

As the 5-foot-9 guard prepares for second year with the Huskies, she has a foundation for success. But she knows she must build confidence in herself and trust with her coaches and teammates to get meaningful minutes on what could be UConn's deepest roster in years.

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Connecticut Huskies guard Crystal Dangerfield (5) reacts in the second quarter against the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs in the semifinals of the women's Final Four at American Airlines Center. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies guard Crystal Dangerfield (5) reacts in the second quarter against the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs in the semifinals of the women's Final Four at American Airlines Center. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Sophomore point guard Crystal Dangerfield spent a part of June talking to her University of Connecticut women's basketball freshman teammates about her experiences from her first collegiate season.

"I tell them my stories from last year and I have a lot of them," Dangerfield said. "I think ... No, I know, it will be different for each of them and it is going to be hard. But I want them to know I'll be there to listen and to talk to them."

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Carl Adamec
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 (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)
(Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- During her incredible basketball career at the University of Connecticut, Breanna Stewart spoke often about her goal of winning four national championships. At least that's what the three-time national Player of the Year was asked about the most.

Little did anyone know she had so much more to add. Fifteen months after stepping off the court for the final time as a Husky at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and winning that historic fourth consecutive NCAA title, she's becoming known as much for her activism as for her skills on the floor.

"I wasn't asked about it at UConn. I wasn't asked about certain things that were happening in the world," Stewart said Thursday. "So it's you (media) guys' fault. I think I would have said the same things. CD (UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey) and I would have talked about it prior if it was something I wanted to do and was constantly asked about it.

"You don't think about it so much at UConn. There's so much going on. CD has you doing so many things. My first season at Seattle, there were things that needed to be talked about. When I was at the ESPYs last year, it seemed like there was a lot happening in our world and instead of having the generic 'Thank you very, thank you to my family, blah, blah, blah,' I wanted to make it about something really important, something that needed to be said and heard."

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Mikayla Coombs (USA Basketball)
Mikayla Coombs (USA Basketball)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Napheesa Collier has always let her actions speak for her, whether it was helping the University of Connecticut women's basketball team win a national championship in 2016 or earning consensus first-team All-America honors a season ago.

So when the junior forward was told Monday that the Huskies' freshman class has given itself the nickname of "Fantastic Four" months before its first official college practice, Collier chuckled, rolled her eyes a bit, and shook her head with a smile before staying in character with a brief comment.

"Oh my goodness. It's great that they have a name for themselves, I guess," Collier said.

For sure, UConn's Class of 2021 -- Mikayla Coombs, Lexi Gordon, Andra Espinoza-Hunter, and Megan Walker -- will get the opportunity to live up to their hype. Even with three All-Americans among their four returning starters and with transfers Azura Stevens and Batouly Camara now eligible, the Huskies will likely need their freshmen to contribute if they are to regain the national championship.

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WNBA former player Rebecca Lobo speaks as NBA former player Tracy McGrady listens during the Naismith Hall of Game Press Conference at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Joe Camporeale)
WNBA former player Rebecca Lobo speaks as NBA former player Tracy McGrady listens during the Naismith Hall of Game Press Conference at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Joe Camporeale)

Could it have been anyone else?

Rebecca Lobo and Geno Auriemma are already linked together forever in University of Connecticut women's basketball history. The two will come together again in September when Lobo's place in hoop history becomes permanent.

Auriemma will serve as Lobo's presenter when she is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, in a ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall on Sept. 8. A presenter must be a member of the Naismith Hall. Auriemma was inducted in his first year of eligibility in 2006.

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Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) reacts after a play against he Oregon Ducks during the first half in the finals of the Bridgeport Regional of the women's 2017 NCAA Tournament at Webster Bank Arena. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) reacts after a play against he Oregon Ducks during the first half in the finals of the Bridgeport Regional of the women's 2017 NCAA Tournament at Webster Bank Arena. (David Butler II)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Katie Lou Samuelson was feeling her age Monday as she observed some of her teammates working at coach Geno Auriemma's Fore the Kids charity tournament at Hartford Golf Club.

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's junior All-American turned 20 two weeks ago.

"We have more younger guys than older guys and it's weird that now I'm one of the older guys," Samuelson said. "We need to bring a certain level every day to help us get where we want to go."

Only two Huskies -- seniors Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse -- have played more minutes at the college level than the 6-foot-3 guard. And while they return four starters -- including three All-Americans -- from their 36-1 team that reached the NCAA Final Four for the 10th consecutive year, nine of the 13 on the roster will be playing their first or second seasons at UConn. That group includes transfers Azura Stevens and Batouly Camara and four freshmen who make up what is considered a top-three recruiting class nationally.

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Geno Auriemma calls to his players during the first half against Mississippi State. (AP)
Geno Auriemma calls to his players during the first half against Mississippi State. (AP)

CROMWELL, Conn. -- For the first time in nine years, Geno Auriemma has a summer without United States women's national basketball team responsibilities.

The University of Connecticut's Hall of Fame coach has worked on his tan but not so much on his golf game, though that would be hard to believe after seeing his drive off the first tee at the Travelers Championship Celebrity Pro-Am at TPC River Highlands Wednesday find the fairway.

"It's been busy," Auriemma said. "You don't realize that when you're doing the national team stuff, they leave you alone. The minute they think you don't have anything to do? It's been a lot. And there's a lot more to come. So this will be as busy a summer as I have ever had. I'm looking forward to it."

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 (Jonathan Dyer)
(Jonathan Dyer)

For almost two decades, one of the highlights of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's schedule was its annual nationally televised game played in January on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Starting with their memorable win over Tennessee in 1995 at Gampel Pavilion through 2013, the Huskies compiled a 15-4 record on the holiday against some of the best competition the Big East and the nation had to offer.

When UConn made its move four years ago to the American Athletic Conference, though, the schedule also changed. But as dates are being made public for the Huskies' 2017-18 season, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day game tradition is returning.

Texas will host UConn on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jan. 15, at the Frank Erwin Center. The game is the second of a home-and-home series with the Longhorns. UConn defeated Texas 72-54 at Mohegan Sun Arena last Dec. 4. It will be the second holiday meeting between the Huskies and Longhorns. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2005, UConn posted a 73-57 victory in Hartford.

With UConn releasing the dates for its non-league home games Monday, the only date still to be announced on the Huskies' 13-game non-league slate is their trip to national champion South Carolina.

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Connecticut Huskies center Kiah Stokes (41) defends against East Carolina Lady Pirates guard/forward Jada Payne (23) during the second half at XL Center. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies center Kiah Stokes (41) defends against East Carolina Lady Pirates guard/forward Jada Payne (23) during the second half at XL Center. (David Butler II)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- From the night two years ago that the New York Liberty traded up into the first round of the WNBA Draft to select her, Kiah Stokes has been proving people wrong.

Yet it seems that the biggest challenge for the 2015 University of Connecticut honors graduate and third-year New York Liberty forward is proving to herself that she belongs at the highest level.

"I'm just trying to be more confident," Stokes said Wednesday. "That's always been my issue. My coaches mean a lot to me and my teammates mean a lot to me and I'm just trying to fill the role that is asked of me.

"It's not like I doubt myself. I want to do well and do what I can for my teammates."

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Kara Wolters always dreamed big.

As she grew up in Holliston, Massachusetts, the daughter of former Boston College basketball star Willie Wolters picked up the game that helped her father reach his school's Hall of Fame. As she grew to 6-foot-7, maybe she could be the next Anne Donovan, an Olympic gold medalist and Hall of Fame center who would later be her coach with the WNBA's Indiana Fever.

Wolters became a star at Holliston High School and caught the eye of University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who offered her a scholarship that she accepted early in her senior year.

In the Fall of 1993 she arrived in Storrs. But instead of showing her stuff on the court at the start, the Olympic gold medalist she needed to emulate was someone more like Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

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Dan Rolfes looked forward to having the chance to watch his former player, Napheesa Collier, and the University of Connecticut women's basketball team play.

But throughout the 6-foot-1 forward's All-American sophomore season he kept having flashbacks to their time at Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis when the Rolfes-coached Red Knights captured three straight Missouri Class 4A state championships.

"It's so amazing," Rolfes said during a break in the United States U-16 national team trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he served as a court coach. "I'd sit there and watch with my assistants and it's so much like Incarnate Word with the high-percentage shots, a lot of times defending the post because of her size, being able to guard a guard or guard a post. What I saw this year was what I saw at Incarnate.

Tags: Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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Maddie Burke (USA Basketball)
Maddie Burke (USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Celeste Taylor took part in the United States U-16 national team trials in 2015. When she returned to the United States Olympic Training Center for this past weekend, she brought some company: Philadelphia Belles AAU teammates Maddie Burke and Kylee Watson.

"I told them that it's a great opportunity," Taylor said Sunday. "They've put so much into it."

The three have taken advantage of that opportunity. On Monday, Taylor, Burke, and Watson were among 18 players named as finalists for the U-16 team that will take part in the FIBA Americas Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 7-11.

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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Aliyah Boston's effort as an applicant candidate at the 2016 United States U-17 national team trials earned her an invitation from USA Basketball to this weekend's U-16 trials at the United States Olympic Training Center.

But the 6-foot-3 forward from Worcester Academy in Massachusetts knew that being a finalist for the U-17 team meant nothing as far making the U-16 team. So she used last year's bid that fell just short as motivation to represent her country for the first time.

"Being last year helped with my preparation because I saw what I needed to work on," Boston said on Friday. "I worked on all of that and the usual things I do to get better -- jump shots, free throws, post moves. I just kept working every day to get better. I wanted to be better running the floor and posting up strong every possession. I want to show that I have an outside game. And I want to show that I'm mentally tougher."

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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Carla Berube got a taste of what it would be like working with USA Basketball a year ago as a court coach at the U-17 national team trials.

The former University of Connecticut star and the 15-year Tufts University women's basketball coach now has a full plate in front of her. She is at the United States Olympic Training Center here as the head coach of the U-16 team that will take part in the 2017 FIBA Americas Championship June 7-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

"Carol Callan (USA Basketball women's national team director) gave me a call around Final Four time and asked if I would be interested in being the coach for this," Berube said Thursday night. "And when Carol Callan calls you, you jump at whatever she needs. The opportunity to represent your country and USA Basketball is amazing.

"Last year working here definitely piqued my interest, and certainly that experience was important for USA Basketball and the committee. I guess they liked what they saw. It was such an awesome experience last year."

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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

Charli Collier is a veteran of two USA Basketball national team trials and is used to facing older players, but her bid to make the 2017 U-19 squad this weekend has a different feel.

The 6-foot-4 forward and University of Connecticut Class of 2018 commit from Mont Belvieu, Texas, is one of three players at the trials with high school eligibility remaining. 23 of the 33 players invited to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, recently finished their freshman year of college, including UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield and seven others who played against the Huskies.

"I trained differently than I did a year ago for this age group because you have players that have college experience here," Collier said in a phone interview Friday. "They're stronger and faster and more physical and playing against them is going to be great for me going back to my high school team. Next year, I'll be a senior, I'll be 18 and headed to Connecticut, so this is a cool experience...

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Sophomore Crystal Dangerfield and incoming freshmen Mikayla Coombs and Megan Walker will get to visit Italy with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team during its tour in August.

They'd also like to make the trip in July for the FIBA U-19 world championships with the United States national team.

Dangerfield, Coombs, and Walker are among 33 players who have accepted invitations to take part in the U-19 trials that will be held May 18-21 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Also headed to the trials are UConn Class of 2018 commit Charli Collier and 2018 recruiting target Christyn Williams.

Team USA will go for its seventh straight U-19 gold medal at the tournament to be held July 22-30 in Cividale del Friuli and Udine, Italy. The Americans will be led by University of Pittsburgh coach Suzie McConnell-Serio...

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Carl Adamec
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A WNBA basketball sits on the floor. (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)
A WNBA basketball sits on the floor. (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Kelly Faris walked off the floor for the last time at New Orleans Arena with 2:04 remaining and the University of Connecticut women's basketball team well on its way to a win over Louisville in the 2013 NCAA championship game.

It would mark the sixth time in eight years -- four times at Heritage Christian in Indianapolis and twice at UConn -- her team would win its final contest of the season.

But the winning didn't follow her to the WNBA. In four seasons with the Connecticut Sun, the former first-round pick has not seen the postseason.

"It's been frustrating, very frustrating," Faris said. "I was fortunate enough to be on some great teams in high school and college. I'm going into my fifth year as a professional and I would love nothing more than to be in the playoffs."

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Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma listens during a press conference after the semifinals of the women's Final Four at American Airlines Center. (Kevin Jairaj)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma listens during a press conference after the semifinals of the women's Final Four at American Airlines Center. (Kevin Jairaj)

Gabby Williams had seen the act before.

Five days before the University of Connecticut women's basketball team faced Mississippi State in the NCAA national semifinals at American Airlines Center in Dallas last Friday night she watched Morgan William and the Bulldogs stun Baylor in overtime to get to their first Final Four, earning the All-American junior forward's admiration and respect.

"It's what March is about," Williams said. "Teams are going to fight. Players are going to hit shots outside their comfort zone when it really matters. It goes to show it doesn't matter what your seed or anything is, it all depends on how you perform that night."

Truer words have never been spoken and last Friday night Williams saw it all happen again right in front of her. All that was left was to give props to the victors.

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Rebecca Lobo, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall, celebrates after UConn won the 1995 NCAA title. (Courtesy University of Connecticut)
Rebecca Lobo, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall, celebrates after UConn won the 1995 NCAA title. (Courtesy University of Connecticut)

Rebecca Lobo always enjoyed visiting the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The former University of Connecticut star will now have a permanent spot there.

Lobo, a native of nearby Southwick, Massachusetts, will be part of the Hall's Class of 2017, it was announced Saturday. She will be inducted as a contributor.

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 (Bill Streicher (USA Today))
(Bill Streicher (USA Today))

DALLAS -- Napheesa Collier will be 21-years-old on Sept. 23.

Her coaches and teammates with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team may not be aware of the exact date. But there are 12 WNBA general managers that are. Since her 22nd birthday is during the 2018 calendar year, Collier will be eligible to enter the 2018 WNBA Draft.

But before Husky Nation begins to panic, the All-America forward said Thursday she has no plans to move on until her eligibility is done in 2019.

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma (L) looks on from the sideline against the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma (L) looks on from the sideline against the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II)

DALLAS -- Geno Auriemma wanted to prove a point to his University of Connecticut women's basketball team Thursday about the Huskies' 60-point win over Mississippi State in last year's NCAA Sweet 16 victory.

So the 2017 Coach of the Year was awake early and watched tape. Moriah Jefferson was here, Morgan Tuck there, and Breanna Stewart everywhere as UConn did a number on the Bulldogs in the most lopsided regional semifinal win in tournament history. His emphasis later in the day to the Huskies in the locker room and at their workout, though, was on what he did not see.

"There's nobody on our team right now that had anything other than, 'I was at that game,' to do with that score," Auriemma said. "If you watch that game, Stewie looked like an NBA player playing against high school kids. Moriah was so much better than anybody on the floor. And Tuck just dominated long stretches of the game. So the score was 32-4 at the end of the first quarter."

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Feb 27, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Connecticut Huskies coach Geno Auriemma looks on during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at USF Sun Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)
Feb 27, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Connecticut Huskies coach Geno Auriemma looks on during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at USF Sun Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)

DALLAS -- Since 1989, Geno Auriemma's University of Connecticut women's basketball team has won at least 23 games on 28 occasions. The one miss came in 1993 when the Huskies finished 18-11.

The Big East Coach of the Year that season was Georgetown's Pat Knapp. The WBCA national Coach of the Year was Iowa's C. Vivian Stringer. Yet, some would still argue -- 11 national championships, 17 Final Four appearances, 40 league titles, and 24 years later -- that Auriemma may have done his best or one of his best coaching jobs just to get that team, which lost its last three games (the Huskies haven't lost two in a row since), into the NCAA tournament.

Whether Auriemma did his best job with his current club has entered the debate. After losing the top three picks of the 2016 WNBA Draft -- All-Americans Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck -- the Huskies went unbeaten against the toughest non-league schedule in the country then swept through the American Athletic Conference for the fourth straight year. UConn will take a 36-0 record and 111-game winning streak into Friday night's Final Four semifinal game against Mississippi State at the American Airlines Center.

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Carl Adamec
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 (Phil Sears/USA Today Sports Images)
(Phil Sears/USA Today Sports Images)

DALLAS -- It was a 45-second video, but it made the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's day.

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant sent his best wishes via video and through Nike this week to the Huskies, who take on Mississippi State in a NCAA Final Four semifinal game Friday night at American Airlines Center.

"It was obviously really exciting and he's the GOAT so anytime you can have the GOAT talk to you it's a great day," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "He had a goal to win and that's what he was known for. So you look at someone of his caliber and the career that he had, that he took time out of his day to sit down and send us a video we are very grateful."

Stanford, which like UConn is affiliated with Nike, also received a video from Bryant. The Cardinal face South Carolina in the opener of Friday night's doubleheader.

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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Mar 19, 2017; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse (11) reacts after her three point basket against the Syracuse Orange in the second half during the second round of the women's NCAA Tournament at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. UConn defeated Syracuse 94-64. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse (11) reacts after her three point basket against the Syracuse Orange in the second half during the second round of the women's NCAA Tournament at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. UConn defeated Syracuse 94-64. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS -- Kia Nurse won't be named an All-American during Final Four weekend. The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's junior guard is only playing like one during the NCAA tournament.

Nurse shot 75.8 percent from the floor and 76.9 percent from 3-point land while averaging 18.3 points during the Huskies' successful four-game run through the Bridgeport Regional. But when it was time to lift UConn into the Final Four for the 10th consecutive season Monday night, Nurse did what she does best -- play stifling defense -- to get the job done. 

Nurse kept Oregon freshman guard Sabrina Ionescu under wraps while the game was being decided and the top-seeded Huskies built an insurmountable lead as they coasted to a 90-52 win over the No. 10 Ducks at Webster Bank Arena.

Tags: Kia Nurse, Carl Adamec
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The Connecticut Huskies pose for a photo after defeating the Oregon Ducks 90-52 in the finals of the Bridgeport Regional of the women's 2017 NCAA Tournament at Webster Bank Arena. (David Butler II)
The Connecticut Huskies pose for a photo after defeating the Oregon Ducks 90-52 in the finals of the Bridgeport Regional of the women's 2017 NCAA Tournament at Webster Bank Arena. (David Butler II)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Three 2017 NCAA tournament regional champions took home nets after advancing to the Final Four.

The nets that the University of Connecticut women's basketball team wants, though, are still attached to the baskets at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

So while their newest t-shirts read "Cut the Net" and they wore them proudly Monday night, no ladders were needed following the top-seeded Huskies' 90-52 win over No. 10 Oregon in the Bridgeport Regional final at Webster Bank Arena. Though it is not a team rule -- associate head coach Chris Dailey asked the starters on the bench in the final seconds if they wanted to do it -- they maintained their tradition that started in 2009 with Renee Montgomery that the only time they cut down a net is after the national championship is secured.

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. (Raymond Carlin III/USA Today Sports Images)
. (Raymond Carlin III/USA Today Sports Images)

BRIDGEPORT -- Saniya Chong was celebrating with her University of Connecticut women's basketball teammates Monday night after their 90-52 win over Oregon in the NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional final at Webster Bank Arena.

The senior guard then heard her name announced over the public address system and could not figure out why. So she turned to classmate Tierney Lawlor to find out why.

Lawlor -- the Dean's List student she is -- of course, had the answer. Chong had been selected to the regional all-tournament team, the first such honor of her career...

Tags: Gabby Williams, Napheesa Collier, Saniya Chong, Tierney Lawlor, Carl Adamec
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GEICO SportsNite: UConn advances 00:03:17
The UConn women's basketball team defeated Oregon, 90-52, to move on to their 10th straight Final Four appearance.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- As time wound down on the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's 90-52 rout of Oregon in the NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional final at sold-out Webster Bank Arena, coach Geno Auriemma mentioned to his players that it was the Huskies' 10th straight Final Four berth.

Newly-minted All-American Katie Lou Samuelson, who has been ridden hard by Auriemma for two seasons now, was not impressed.

"You suck. You're not very good at this," Samuelson said to the Hall of Fame coach with full sarcasm.

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 (Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- The old saying that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores could not ring more true for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

While Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson were key contributors to the Huskies' 2016 national championship as rookies, they always knew that Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck would be there to bail them out if needed. But the Big Three's graduation meant Collier's and Samuelson's days in the background were over if UConn was to remain among the elite.

Among the reasons the Huskies are one win away from their 10th straight NCAA Final Four appearance is the play of their sophomore sensations. They were rewarded for their efforts Monday by being named to the five-player Associated Press All-America first team...

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma waits for the officials from the sideline as they take on the UCLA Bruins during the second half in the semifinals of the Bridgeport Regional of the women's 2017 NCAA Tournament at Webster Bank Arena. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma waits for the officials from the sideline as they take on the UCLA Bruins during the second half in the semifinals of the Bridgeport Regional of the women's 2017 NCAA Tournament at Webster Bank Arena. (David Butler II)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- In their three seasons with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, the Huskies have not lost a game that Kia Nurse has started nor one that Gabby Williams has played in.

But with a career mark of 111-1 and through two national championship runs, the UConn juniors know to take nothing for granted.

So while the numbers favor the top-seeded Huskies in their NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional final showdown with No. 10 Oregon at Webster Bank Arena Monday night, the only numbers that matter will be the ones on the scoreboard after 40 minutes of action.

"The fact that you get to go to a Final Four doesn't happen every single year," Nurse said. "I could go to the Final Four this year, and it could be my last one. Last year's could be the last one that I ever go to.

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Oregon Ducks forward Ruthy Hebard shoots against Maryland Terrapins guard Kaila Charles during the first half in the semifinals of the Bridgeport Regional of the women's 2017 NCAA Tournament at Webster Bank Arena. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)
Oregon Ducks forward Ruthy Hebard shoots against Maryland Terrapins guard Kaila Charles during the first half in the semifinals of the Bridgeport Regional of the women's 2017 NCAA Tournament at Webster Bank Arena. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Ruthy Hebard was born in Chicago but was less than a week old when her adopted family brought her to Fairbanks, Alaska, to live.

When the 18-year-old University of Oregon women's basketball team's freshman center arrived in the 49th state the biggest name in Alaska high school ball was Jessica Moore, who was the 1999 and 2000 state Gatorade Player of the Year before moving on to the University of Connecticut.

"I have heard of her," Hebard said on Sunday. "She was a great player and played at UConn. I've never met her. I wish I could."

If Moore is following her alma mater in the NCAA tournament, she'll have a chance to see Hebard in action. The top-seeded Huskies take on No. 10 Oregon in the Bridgeport Regional final Monday night at Webster Bank Arena.

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 (Logan Bowles)
(Logan Bowles)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Batouly Camara hasn't recorded a point, rebound, or blocked shot for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team this season as she sits out due to NCAA transfer rules.

But the 6-foot-2 forward from New York City fulfills her role in practice, working to improve her game and helping her teammates get better. So far, so good.

"It's been extremely rewarding," Camara said. "I've learned so much this year. The most important part for me has been to stay focused so that I can help the team anyway that I can. I come in every day with a role and I want to execute that role. When I'm in practice, I'm challenged. Am I getting better every day? Am I helping the team get better every day? What am I doing to get better? What else can I do? That's kept me motivated...

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Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma (L) looks on from the sideline against the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma (L) looks on from the sideline against the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II)

STORRS, Conn. - Geno Auriemma has seen his University of Connecticut women's basketball team's name come up in 29 straight NCAA tournament selection shows.

So while many of the comments during the program may go in one ear and right out the other of the Hall of Fame coach, something ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said on the March 13 show got Auriemma's attention.

"They handle it and they embrace it. They're ones who think pressure is a privilege and that comes from Geno Auriemma," Bilas said. "I think they address it, don't act like they are above it, they address and attack it head on."
 

Tags: Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Carl Adamec
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 (Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports)
(Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports)

There has been talk throughout the season that Geno Auriemma has done his best job of coaching the University of Connecticut women's basketball team in this his 32nd year. Considering the Hall of Fame coach has led the Huskies to a record 11 national championships and is the game's all-time leader in winning percentage, that's saying something about what UConn has done so far this season.

The Women's Basketball Coaches Association has noticed and on Thursday it named Auriemma as its 2017 Coach of the Year. He will be presented with the Pat Summitt Trophy, named for the late legendary University of Tennessee coach, during the 2017 WBCA Convention to be held in conjunction with the NCAA Final Four in Dallas.

"Geno continues to raise the standard of excellence in the coaching profession," WBCA executive director Danielle Donehew said in a statement. He is a teacher of the game, and the development of his student-athletes both on and off the court this season has been remarkable, a masterpiece. Geno is very deserving of the WBCA's highest praise for the coaching profession, as confirmed by the vote from his respective peers."

The top-seeded Huskies (34-0 and winners of 109 straight games) will continue their bid for a fifth consecutive national championship Saturday when they take on No. 4 UCLA in a NCAA Bridgeport Regional semifinal game at Webster Bank Arena...

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals at Mohegan Sun Arena, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) (Jessica Hill/AP)
during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals at Mohegan Sun Arena, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) (Jessica Hill/AP)

STORRS, Conn. -- Gabby Williams got position in the lane and Saniya Chong delivered the pass right on time.

Williams turned to her left and took a a dribble to get away from Syracuse's Briana Day, and converted the left-handed layup over Day with 4:35 gone in the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional second-round game Monday night.

Since the pass did not directly lead to the basket, Chong was not credited with an assist. It was the only Huskies hoop without an assist attached to it in the first three quarters. Top-seeded UConn finished with 30 assists on 33 baskets in its 94-64 rout of No. 8 Syracuse at Gampel Pavilion.

"Take a minute to think about that," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's just unusual to do what we did and we do it quite often. That's why we can have performances like we had today because our ball movement was incredible.

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, Saniya Chong, Carl Adamec
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 (Steven Branscombe (USA Today))
(Steven Branscombe (USA Today))

STORRS, Conn. -- Senior Saniya Chong was ready to charge the court as if the University of Connecticut women's basketball team had won another national championship.

Chong's classmate, Tierney Lawlor, appeared to have an opening for a 3-point shot as time wound down on the top-seeded Huskies' 94-64 rout of No. 8 Syracuse in a NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional second-round game at Gampel Pavilion Monday night. But the Ansonia native, who is 0-for-8 from the floor this season, passed it up.

"I wanted to run out there and scream in T's face, 'Why didn't you shoot that?' " Chong said with a smile.

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, Saniya Chong, Tierney Lawlor, Carl Adamec
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Geno Auriemma on UConn's win 00:01:09
Justine Ward talks with Geno Auriemma after UConn's win over Syracuse to advance to the Sweet 16.

STORRS, Conn. -- The one University of Connecticut women's basketball player that Syracuse should know best is Kia Nurse.

Nurse's aunt, Raquel, played for Syracuse from 1995-98 and is fourth on the Orange's all-time assist list. Nurse's uncle by marriage is legendary Syracuse and former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, who serves today on the school's Board of Trustees.

But Monday night, Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman's defense treated Nurse like she didn't exist, leaving the Huskies' junior guard open from 3-point land and daring her to shoot.

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn preps 00:01:56
Justin Ward talks to Katie Lou Samuelson about how the UConn Women's basketball team is preparing for Syracuse on Monday.

STORRS, Conn. -- Katie Lou Samuelson could only sit on the bench and watch the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's national championship game win over Syracuse last April after breaking a bone in her left foot two days earlier.

The Huskies' sophomore guard didn't have to wait all that long to get a shot at the Orange.

"It's cool to have a chance to play them again," Samuelson said Sunday. "But really it's an opportunity to play another real good team. We'll be excited for it and ready to go."

The top-seeded Huskies go for their 24th straight NCAA tournament Sweet 16 appearance Monday when they entertain No. 8 Syracuse in a Bridgeport Regional second-round game at Gampel Pavilion. Tip off is at 6:35 p.m. It's a rematch of last year's final won by UConn 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn women 00:01:29
Kia Nurse breaks down the Huskies' game and stresses the need to stay competitive while Geno Auriemma previews Syracuse.

STORRS, Conn. -- The toughest part for Kia Nurse during her four-game absence from the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's lineup last month was staying off her injured right ankle to give it a chance to heal.

But the 12-day break between the American Athletic Conference tournament final and the start of the NCAA tournament allowed the Huskies' junior guard to get back in the routine she's accustomed to.

Her work paid off Saturday.

Nurse had 24 points, going 6-for-7 from 3-point land, as the top-seeded Huskies routed No. 16 Albany 116-55 in a NCAA Bridgeport Regional first-round game before a crowd of 5,670 at Gampel Pavilion.

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 (Steven Branscombe)
(Steven Branscombe)

STORRS, Conn. -- Geno Auriemma is never at a loss for words, but the University of Connecticut women's basketball coach never thought he'd say what he did Friday.

"If we could go back in time four years ago and tape this segment and hear these words come out of my mouth, 'I don't know where we would be without Saniya Chong,' I'd say, 'Somebody dubbed that into Coach Auriemma's mouth,' " Auriemma said during a press conference here. "Now here we are four years removed and I don't know where we would be without Saniya right now. That's how much she has changed and how much she has added to our program.

"It was two years ago when Saniya said she wanted to keep playing after college. I said something like, 'I'm sure there are many pickup leagues back in Ossining, New York, that would love to have you as part of their program.' Now having watched her play this year I'm thinking, 'You know, there is a place for her to play next year.' I told her at the conference tournament,' I don't know how many people understand this, but you might be the most important person out on the court for as long as we are in the NCAA tournament.' 

Tags: Saniya Chong, Carl Adamec
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 (Raymond Carlin III)
(Raymond Carlin III)

STORRS, Conn. -- Molly Bent was a 4.0 student in high school -- and is a Dean's List student here -- for a reason. While the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's freshman guard loves her sport, school was her priority.

So when that first Thursday of the men's NCAA tournament rolled around, Bent found herself in a classroom and not in her living room watching games.

"I always enjoyed going to school," Bent said Friday. "But on the weekend days my family made sure that we got everything done in the morning and then once noon hit we'd sit in front of the television and watch game after game after game. We'd fight over which game to watch. Every year we'd do tournament brackets, like ESPN, within our family. I'm in the lead right now, actually tied with my brother and dad. My strategy picking teams? Go with my gut."

Crystal Dangerfield was a member of the Honors Program at Blackman High in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. But when the college postseason came around in March and there was a game, she'd find a way to watch.

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Kyla Irwin, Molly Bent, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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Maryland Terrapins guard Chloe Pavlech (15) works for the loose ball against Connecticut Huskies guard Bria Hartley (14) during the second half at the XL Center. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
Maryland Terrapins guard Chloe Pavlech (15) works for the loose ball against Connecticut Huskies guard Bria Hartley (14) during the second half at the XL Center. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

STORRS, Conn. -- Chloe Pavlech played in two NCAA Final Four semifinals with the University of Maryland women's basketball team, but was denied a third time as a senior when Washington eliminated the Terrapins in the tournament's second round.

With her playing days done, the Cincinnati native made her way to Indianapolis and the 2016 Final Four in a different role as she took part in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's "So you want to be a coach" program.

By that time, Pavlech had already started work on her masters degree as the two-time all-Big Ten academic selection had earned her bachelor's in journalism in three years. Coaching, though, would allow her to stay close to the game she had been a part of most of her life.

She reached out to University of Connecticut assistant coach Marisa Moseley, who was one of the first to recruit her when Moseley was on the Minnesota staff.

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 (Chris O'Meara/AP)
(Chris O'Meara/AP)

STORRS, Conn. -- Gabby Williams always thought of herself as an athletic basketball player, not an athlete who plays basketball.

But somewhere between her time at Reed High in Sparks, Nevada, and her arrival at the University of Connecticut, the thinking for some changed.

"In high school, no one ever felt that I was just an athlete and it kind of happened when I got to college," Williams said. "It's been a back-and-forth struggle. Starting my freshman year I heard, 'She's a great athlete. She's a great athlete.' Well, what I'm going to do is prove that I'm a lot more than that."

She's done it better than even the Huskies could have expected.

Tags: Gabby Williams, Carl Adamec
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 (Photo courtesy USA Basketball)
(Photo courtesy USA Basketball)

STORRS, Conn. -- The look of excitement and surprise was all over Katie Lou Samuelson's face when WNBA star Elena Delle Donne visited Mater Dei High in California and presented her with the 2015 Gatorade national Player of the Year award.

"They called the senior class out for a rally and I thought I was doing a photo shoot, but obviously there was other stuff going on," Samuelson said. "Elena was really nice, just awesome. I look up to her and love watching her play. It was so cool."

Megan Walker knows exactly how her future teammate with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team felt...

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Feb 22, 2017; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) react after a play against the Temple Owls in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Feb 22, 2017; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) react after a play against the Temple Owls in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

Katie Lou Samuelson follows her own path, even when she's on the foul line.

While her older sisters, Bonnie are Karlie, are role models, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's sophomore guard approaches free throws in a way that's best for her.

"Bonnie, Karlie, and I have a similar shot routine," Samuelson said. "Karlie takes three dribbles and shoots. Bonnie would take three dribbles and spin it in the air and shoot it. I take three dribbles, spin it and let it drop, and shoot it. I chose mine when I was younger because I saw what they were doing and wanted to be different."

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, Saniya Chong, Carl Adamec
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Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson and teammates celebrate their championship win over the South Florida Bulls during the women's AAC Conference Tournament at Mohegun Sun Arena. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)
Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson and teammates celebrate their championship win over the South Florida Bulls during the women's AAC Conference Tournament at Mohegun Sun Arena. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)

STORRS, Conn. -- Katie Lou Samuelson takes pride in what the University of Connecticut women's basketball team has accomplished the last four months.

But what the Huskies do the next three weeks is what they'll be remembered for.

"We've done a lot of things people didn't expect this season," Samuelson said Monday after UConn was given the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament and the top seed for the Bridgeport Regional. "We all kind of thought we could do it, but we didn't look so far ahead. We took every single game one game at a time, and I think that's why we had the success we did because we weren't looking ahead to the streak or anything else going on. We just kind of focused on what we had to do that day.

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 (Bill Streicher)
(Bill Streicher)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- The Big East was in its fourth season when Geno Auriemma became the coach of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team in 1985.

The following March, the league sent two teams to the NCAA tournament for the first time.

The American Athletic Conference finished its fourth season Monday night and the Huskies remained perfect in league play (82-0) in that span. Top-seeded UConn capped off its latest run by rolling past No. 3 South Florida 100-44 in the AAC tournament final at Mohegan Sun Arena...

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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