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Samuelson has something to shoot for as UConn visits Chattanooga
Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) grabs the rebound against Nebraska Cornhuskers guard Kyndal Clark (4) in the second half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

Katie Lou Samuelson's 3-pointer late in the third quarter Saturday brought out the traditional high 10s from the players on the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's sideline.

But when the freshman guard drew a charging foul on Nebraska's Anya Kalenta on the next possession, that had the Huskies' bench up and applauding with coach Geno Auriemma and his staff leading the cheers.

"I'm sure all the coaches were extremely excited when I took that charge. I know everyone on the court was," Samuelson said.

And it's not a coincidence that once Samuelson picked up her defense, competed hard on the boards, and delivered a pair of crisp passes for assists, the part of her game she's known best for -- her shooting -- came around.

Samuelson will try to build on the best performance of her young college career Monday when No. 1 UConn starts a quick two-game road trip in Tennessee with a visit to Chattanooga and a non-league matchup at McKenzie Arena (SNY, 6:30 p.m.)

"I have expectations for myself and I want to do well," Samuelson said. "If I'm not playing in a way that's going to help the team then there is no point for me to be in. I know I have to play as hard as I can every day.

"It's not all about scoring. It's not all about hitting threes. I have to do so many little things that will get me in the game. Our team is obviously super talented, and there is not one person who is just going to be given something. We all have to work hard and take it day by day. Coach has really been pushing me to do that and I think that I'm getting there. It will all start to come easy to me. With the more little things I do, then other things will fall into place."

Samuelson played 22 minutes against Nebraska and had 14 points, three rebounds, three assists to no turnovers, and two steals. Her effort helped the Huskies (3-0) turn their game with the Cornhuskers into a rout.

The Huntington Beach, California, native had seven points, six rebounds, and two assists in UConn's wins over Ohio State and Kansas State.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to do well and I want to contribute," Samuelson said. "But I also know I'm a freshman that's coming in to the best team in the country so I have to work my way up. Nothing will be given to me. If I keep working hard and play the way that I know I'm capable of playing, I'll get there and things will fall into place."

But coming in as the nation's No. 1 recruit and the consensus high school Player of the Year brings expectations, mostly from impatient fans and media who wouldn't know who she was if she had walked past them six months ago.

Fortunately, Auriemma and the Huskies have been through this before.

"There's a lot that goes into being pretty good when you're a freshman around here and sometimes it happens quickly and sometimes it doesn't," Auriemma said. "Lou was struggling a little bit and then got her finger cracked pretty good last week and that's just another thing that she had to figure out. But Saturday was different because she just looked like she was more engaged and more aggressive.

"I think we're trying to take the onus off of, 'I'm a shooter. I'm the next great shooting star at Connecticut.' There's just so much more to it than that."

Samuelson was just 1-for-9 shooting from 3-point land in her first two games. This is the same player who went a USA Basketball-record 8 for 8 from behind the arc in the 2013 FIBA U-16 Americas Championship gold medal game vs. Canada, made six treys in the first quarter of Team USA's semifinal game against Hungary at the 2014 FIBA U-17 world championships, and is one of the top scholastic scorers in California history.

If an off-week is defining, remember that Diana Taurasi (at the 2001 Final Four against Notre Dame) and Bria Hartley (at Maryland early in her All-American senior season) had 0-for-11 shooting games from long range. How did their UConn careers turn out? Or does anyone need to be reminded of Breanna Stewart's struggles -- no points, no rebounds, no assists -- against Baylor her freshman year?

"She knows. Lou knows what she's capable of," Stewart said. "You have to keep your confidence up when things aren't going your way and continue to work hard. She's doing that."

And that's why her coaches and teammates remain confident in her.

"One of the last things I said to Lou," Auriemma said, "was, 'Look, be like Stewie today. Rebound. Play defense. Run the floor. Be aggressive. Do the things that good players do. Don't just wander around looking for your next 3-pointer. And she did things we haven't seen her do all year long. I should've said that two weeks ago."

But now is a good time for Samuelson and her fellow reserves to pick up the pace. Chattanooga was in the top 25 earlier this season and DePaul -- whom the Huskies visit Wednesday -- is lurking just outside the rankings. Third-ranked Notre Dame comes to sold out Gampel Pavilion this Saturday for the Jimmy V Classic, and UConn faces No. 14 Florida State at Mohegan Sun Arena on Dec. 11. On Dec. 28, No. 6 Maryland meets the Huskies in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Chattanooga is coached by Jim Foster, who gave Auriemma his first college coaching job at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia almost 40 years ago. DePaul is led by Doug Bruno, Auriemma's assistant with the United States national team since 2009.

"It's Reunion Week," Auriemma said with a smile. "You know how they have 'Rivalry Week?' It's Reunion Week for the Huskies, getting caught up with close friends."

Auriemma has a 3-3 record against his mentor Foster, though this is the first meeting between UConn and Chattanooga (5-2). The Mocs have won 17 straight and 57 of their last 58 games at McKenzie Arena. They beat Tennessee and Stanford -- the same Cardinal team that beat UConn -- at home a season ago.

"We generally don't play a lot of games against each other," Auriemma said. "But it was Jim's idea. I never force these guys, I never put pressure on these guys to play us. He wants us to come down there. He had Tennessee and Stanford there last year. He's trying to get a lot of good teams in and I'm looking forward to it. I've had a long 40-year relationship with him and his family. And I'm looking forward to playing them in their arena. I've heard great things about it."

UConn could see the long-awaited debut of redshirt sophomore center Natalie Butler on Monday. The 2014 Big East Freshman of the Year at Georgetown, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and the first three games this season after having surgery to repair torn ligaments in her left thumb Oct. 26, is expected to see limited action.

Chattanooga will play at UConn in a return game next year.

Tags: Carl Adamec
Stewart keys UConn's 40th straight win

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Breanna Stewart was her Player of the Year self on Saturday. Her support group, though, was different.

And that was just more good news for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

Stewart finished with a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds while three players came off the bench to score in double figures as the top-ranked Huskies pounded Nebraska 88-46 before a crowd of 10,113 at the XL Center.

"The past two games I don't think our bench contributed much at all," UConn freshman Katie Lou Samuelson said. "Coach (Geno Auriemma) let us know that. Today, like when we have everyone playing the way we are, it makes us better and it makes the game a lot more fun because everyone is feeling it and ready to go.

"I think we have a talented bench and we're going to have to step up in case something goes wrong with the starting five. There were a lot of fouls today and we have to be ready to help when they need help."

Stewart made her first nine shots and finished 10-for-11 from the floor. But she was the only starter in double figures. Against Ohio State all five starters reached that plateau while four starters got there at Kansas State with Kia Nurse getting nine points.

UConn's substitutes outscored their Nebraska counterparts 40-7 with Samuelson (14, all in the second half), Napheesa Collier (10), Saniya Chong (10), and Courtney Ekmark (6) doing the damage.

"The starters can't play the entire game every night," Collier said. "They need a break sometimes. So the guys off the bench have to contribute and we did that today. I think we felt a responsibility to help the team so we went out there and played as hard as we could."

And they proved to be the perfect complement to the Stewart Show.

"Whoever came into the game made an impact today," Stewart said. "That adds a lot to us. If they can keep this in their minds for the next game and use this as confidence and motviation to get better, it will make us even better."

Samuelson and Collier each played 22 minutes while Chong played 20 minutes. In Chong's time on the floor, the Huskies were a plus-32.

UConn totaled 32 points off the bench in its first two games.

"We talked about how tough you have to be to come off the bench because you sit there and watch and then you get in and you're not in the swing of things," Auriemma said. "We haven't been getting a lot of contributions from our bench. Today was great. Today, everyone that came off the bench played really, really well.

"That's what we're capable of doing. We're capable of having players come in and change the complexion of the game a little bit and offset Kia getting three fouls or Gabby Williams getting three fouls. Those things will happen. But knowing you have players coming off the bench that can add to what you're doing, not only is it great for us to know, but it's great for them to know that they can do that."

The win pushed the Huskies' winning streak to 40, their fourth such streak in program history. No one else has had more than one.

UConn (3-0) fell into a four-point hole early -- the first time it has trailed this season -- and Nebraska (4-1) led the majority of the first 7:30.

But a Williams steal and layup gave the Huskies the lead for good at 14-13 and started an 18-3 run that put them in charge. After the Cornhuskers got back within 10, Stewart had six points in an 8-0 spurt as UConn took a 40-24 edge to the halftime locker room.

At 47-28, Samuelson had five points in a spurt of 16 unanswered points to blow it wide open.

Nebraska came in averaging 91 points per game while allowing 44 on 29-percent shooting.

"If the game had ended at the six minute mark we would have been fine," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. "It's a 40-minute game and we got exposed in a lot of ways. I thought we stayed positive. There is a reason why UConn has won 10 national championships. There's a reason why they are as good as they are. They obviously have great players but they have great detail and discipline as well. Not every talented team has those things, and that is what sets them apart.

"We have played nothing even remotely in the vicinity, in the same galaxy as the competition level we saw today. We got exposed."

Rachel Theriot had 12 points for the Cornhuskers, who will host the Huskies in Lincoln next season.

UConn goes on the road Monday to face Tennessee-Chattanooga. The Mocs are coached by Jim Foster, who gave Auriemma his first college coaching job at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia almost 40 years ago.

That game could bring Natalie Butler's long-awaited debut at UConn.

Butler, who sat out last season after transferring from Georgetown and has been sidelined the first three games of this season with a left thumb injury, is expected to see limited action Monday, a UConn spokesman confirmed Saturday.

The 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore center from Fairfax Station, Virginia, tore ligaments in her left thumb in mid-October and had surgery. She was originally expected to be out until around Christmas but her rehabilitation has gone smoothly.

Butler averaged 13.9 points on 49.1 percent shooting from the floor, 13.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocked shots as a freshman at Georgetown in 2013-14. She led the Big East in offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding while ranking second in blocked shots and minutes played (36.2). She had 24 double-doubles. She was the unanimous selection as Big East Freshman of the Year and was a second-team all-league pick.

She came to UConn in May, 2014, and sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.



GEICO SportsNite: UConn Women 00:00:37
The UConn women's basketball team improved to 3-0 this season with an 88-46 win over Nebraska behind a strong game from Breanna Stewart.
GEICO SportsNite: UConn Football 00:00:27
The UConn football team was no match for Temple on Saturday night as the Huskies fell to the Owls, 27-3, in their season finale.
Temple stuffs UConn in regular season finale
Temple Owls linebacker Tyler Matakevich (8) tackles UConn wide receiver Noel Thomas (5) during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Box score | Play-by-play

PHILADELPHIA -- Jahad Thomas ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns and P.J. Walker threw for 160 yards and a score to help No. 25 Temple beat UConn 27-3 on Saturday night and secure a spot in the American Athletic Conference's inaugural championship game.

Romond Deloatch caught a touchdown for the Owls, who will play at No. 21 Houston for the American conference title on Saturday with a New Year's Six bowl bid possibly at stake for the winner.

Temple (10-2, 7-1, No. 25 CFP) reached 10 wins for just the second time in program history, capping a three-year turnaround under coach Matt Rhule that now includes winning the American East Division. The Owls were 10-2 in 1979.

UConn (6-6, 4-4), playing without starting quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, struggled offensively. The Huskies, who were already guaranteed of a bowl berth, had just 138 yards of offense, including only nine rushing yards. It was the fourth time this season the Owls held an opponent under 200 total yards.

UConn's backup QB combination of Tim Boyle and Garrett Anderson finished 13 for 21. Shirreffs suffered a head injury last week in the first quarter of UConn's 20-17 upset victory over previously unbeaten Houston.

Thomas, a junior, eclipsed 100 yards for the fifth time in his career with a 60-yard sprint to the end zone with 8 minutes, 40 seconds left in the game that gave Temple a 27-0 lead.

He got the Owls on the scoreboard just over seven minutes into the contest with a 9-yard TD scamper around the right side that capped a four-play, 49-yard drive. Earlier on the drive, Thomas had a highlight-reel, 16-yard run that featured a nifty spin move.

The Owls extended their lead to 10-0 on the first of two Austin Jones field goals, this one a 20-yarder with 6:23 left in the first half that capped an 11-play, 56-yard drive lasting 5:42.

Jones later connected from 37 yards with 6:21 left in the third quarter to make it 13-0.

A defensive holding penalty nullified Andrew Adams' interception late in the third quarter that would've given UConn the ball at the Owls' 30-yard line. And Temple took advantage.

Deloatch caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Walker with 41 seconds left in the quarter and the Owls went up 20-0. One play earlier, Deloatch hauled in an apparent touchdown on the opposite side of the field, only to have the play overturned after an officials review determined he didn't complete the catch before going out of bounds.

UConn scored its lone points on Bobby Puyol's 45-yard field goal with 5:51 remaining in the game.

Temple limited UConn to just 61 total yards of offense and three first downs in a dominating defensive first half.

The Huskies, who are bowl eligible for the first time since 2010, dropped to 3-24 against ranked teams since joining the FBS in 2000.

No. 1 UConn earns 40th consecutive win, 88-46 over Nebraska
Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) drives to the basket against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Breanna Stewart scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead top-ranked UConn to its 40th consecutive win, 88-46 over Nebraska on Saturday.

Stewart hit her first nine shots from the floor, and finished 10 of 11 from the floor, with three 3-pointers.

Katie Lou Samuelson had 14 points. Fellow freshman Napheesa Collier added 10 points, making all five of her shots for the three- time defending national champions (3-0).

Rachel Theriot had 12 points and six assists to lead Nebraska (4-1).

Nebraska had not given up more than 47 points in any of its first four games. But the Cornhuskers trailed by 16 at halftime Saturday and were outscored 23-6 in the third quarter.

The Huskies shot 58 percent against a Nebraska defense that had held each of their previous opponents to under 30 percent.

The Huskers, who shot 50 percent from the floor over their first four games, were held to 34.5 percent by UConn.

Nebraska freshman Jessica Shepard, who had been averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds, was held to 10 points and five rebounds.

Nebraska hung with UConn through the first quarter, leading by as many as four points early. But UConn took a 19-14 lead at the end of the quarter after a 3-pointer by Stewart, who had 18 points and six rebounds by halftime.

Morgan Tuck hit a 3-pointer to open the second quarter, and the Huskies put together a 14-2 run that made it 30-16.

Nebraska coach Connie Yori used three of her four timeouts in the first half, trying to stop UConn. But the Huskies led 40-24 at halftime.

Saniya Chong also had 10 points for UConn, with eight of those coming late.

Nebraska is the 85th consecutive unranked opponent to lose to UConn, which has not been beaten by anyone outside the Top 25 since being losing 57-56 to St. John's in February 2012.


UConn: This winning streak is only the fourth longest in UConn history. The Huskies won a record 90 straight between Nov. 16, 2008 and Dec. 30, 2010. They've also had a 70-game streak (Nov. 9, 2001- March 11, 2003) and a 47-game streak (March 23, 2013-Nov. 17, 2014). The Huskies have won 87 of their past 88 games, with the only loss in that span coming last November at Stanford.

Nebraska: This is the earliest Nebraska has lost a game since it went 3-1 to start the 2012-13 season. The Huskers won their first seven games last season and six in a row to start the 2013-14 season. They have nine wins against top-10 teams under Yori, including against No. 2 Baylor in 2005.


UConn: The Huskies travel to Tennessee to play Geno Auriemma's mentor, Jim Foster, and Chattanooga on Monday.

Nebraska: The Huskers return home to face North Carolina State on Thursday.

Jefferson, No. 1 UConn entertain Nebraska
Nov 23, 2015; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson (4) defends against Kansas State Wildcats guard Kindred Wesemann (24) in the second half at XL Center. UConn defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 97-57. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson was an all-American Athletic Conference first-team selection as a sophomore. Her emergence on the national stage a season ago earned her the 2015 AAC Most Improved Player award.

Imagine what level the senior point guard for the University of Connecticut women's basketball would be at if she won that honor again.

"I think being the most improved meant that I got better," Jefferson said. "But it's not like I felt that I sucked before. There were just things that I could have done that maybe I didn't do or didn't do enough of.

"It was an honor for me that the coaches in the league noticed the work that I put in and noticed that I had improved. If I get it again, I'll know that I had a really good season."

In UConn's first two games, the Glenn Heights, Texas, native has looked as good or even better than ever.

Jefferson will try to build on her strong start Saturday when the top-ranked Huskies entertain Nebraska at XL Center (1 p.m., SNY).

As a freshman, Jefferson was named to the Big East all-freshman team before earning all-AAC honors as a sophomore. So it wasn't like she came from nowhere. But as a junior her game hit new heights. She was rewarded by being named an All-American and the 2015 Nancy Lieberman Award winner as the nation's top point guard.

This season in wins over Ohio State and Kansas State, she is averaging 17.5 points on 70.8 percent shooting from the floor, 3.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and two steals steals.

"It doesn't surprise me," UConn senior Breanna Stewart said. "Throughout this whole time Mo was coming into her own. This is the player she is, and she will say she can still get better because she can.

"The amount of confidence she has on the floor is the main thing. You're the point guard, the person with the ball in your hands the majority of the game. She knows exactly what she wants when she wants it. And she can do whatever she wants on the court. Now that the confidence in her shot has grown, she's not hesitant."

After shooting just 26.6 percent from 3-point range as a freshman, Jefferson improved to 41.8 percent as a sophomore and an AAC-leading 49.6 percent a season ago.

She's just 1-for-5 shooting through two games this season, but any opponent that's willing to gamble on her missing may pay the price.

"I tell our guards all the time that if you can't consistently knock down threes, you can't be a high-level player anymore in college basketball," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Teams that don't have the ability to do that struggle. There were times earlier on in Moriah's career that teams wouldn't guard her. Those days are over. She's always been a good shooter but has worked hard to become a much better shooter. It is all confidence related.

"She has gotten a lot better at 'when to,' and that's what I want players to get better. When you're a freshman, you don't know what to do and when to do it. By the time you get to be a senior, everything is about, 'When do I penetrate? When do I pull it out? When do I make this pass? When do I go to the basket? When do I hit the pull-up jump shot? When do I go for the steal?' She has learned when to take a chance and when not to. All those things come from experience if you're paying attention. That's what makes you really good."

Jefferson's 10 field goals against Ohio State matched her career best. But all she wanted to talk about were her four turnovers, which she called "ridiculous." She has set UConn school record in back-to-back years in assist-to-turnover ratio.

"I can't afford turnovers," she said.

Jefferson also ranks in the top 10 at UConn in steals and is 17 assists away from joining the top 10 in that category. She passed the 1,100-point plateau Monday against Kansas State. Most important, she is 82-1 as a starter in her career.

She'll look to improve that mark as UConn (2-0) begins a stretch of four games in eight days.

The Huskies have not lost to a Big Ten opponent since falling to Michigan State on Dec. 29, 2004, and a victory would give them a 40-game winning streak, the fourth in program history. No other school has more than one.

Nebraska (4-0) is led by freshman Jessica Shepard, who was a teammate of UConn rookie Napheesa Collier on the 2014 United States U-18 national team that won a gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship.

The Cornhuskers have been solid defensively in the early going, allowing 44.2 points on 29.5 percent shooting. But they haven't played anyone close to UConn.

Or Jefferson.

"The best thing a player can have other than talent is confidence," Auriemma said. "The way Moriah's playing, she is in a great place right now."

Tags: Carl Adamec
UConn falls to Syracuse

Box score | Play-by-play

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- When Syracuse and UConn get together on the court, good basketball often follows.

The former Big East Conference rivals provided another gem at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney each had 17 points and the Orange held off the 18th-ranked Huskies 79-76 on Thursday to earn a spot in the championship game.

"For me it was my first time playing against UConn," Gbinije said. "It was nice to see the rivalry and just nice to come up with a win in this type of competitive environment."

Tyler Lydon added 16 points off the bench. Gbinije also had seven assists in a game that featured seven ties and five lead changes.

"Tyler Lydon's done an unbelievable job. In the middle of the defense, and offensively he sees plays that nobody sees," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "He's had two monstrous games down here."

The teams traded the lead at the start of the second half, with neither able to get much separation.

That changed around the 13-minute mark when the Orange (5-0) tightened their zone on defense and started an 18-8 spurt that gave Syracuse a 65-55 lead with 7:45 remaining. The Orange then fought off several runs by the Huskies (4-1) to preserve the win.

Daniel Hamilton led UConn with 18 points. Sterling Gibbs and Rodney Purvis each added 12.

The Huskies play Gonzaga in the third-place game Friday at 12:30 p.m. Syracuse plays No. 25 Texas A&M in the final at 3 p.m..

"The second half they really just took it to us offensively," Huskies coach Kevin Ollie said. "We were in a drought in the first half and the second half and really allowed them to take over the game, and in transition they really hurt us with the 3's."

UConn's Amida Brimah was forced to the bench during Syracuse's big run, picking up his fourth foul.

But the Huskies kept picking away at the lead and closed to 73-71 on a 3-pointer by Purvis. The Orange strung together some free throws to push the lead back to seven. UConn rallied again and trimmed that lead to 79-76 with 36.8 seconds left.

Syracuse was forced into a wild shot with the shot clock winding down. But it found the ball in a scramble for the rebound and was able to run out the final seconds.

UConn raced out to a 10-point lead, but Syracuse fought back to tie it at halftime.

Both teams shot well in the half and shared the ball while doing it. Syracuse had five assists on its 10 baskets, and the Huskies had seven on their 11 made field goals.

The Huskies struggled from the free-throw line, connecting on just 14 of 21 attempts. ... They outscored Syracuse's bench 19-16. . . .Syracuse scored 17 points off 13 UConn turnovers. ... Five Orange players reached double figures.


There were a few instances late in the game when Syracuse got into trouble offensively and turned the ball over. Boeheim said part of the issue was a rule change that prevents coaches from calling timeouts from the bench. "The rule of coaches not calling timeouts is not a good rule," he said. "I think that is an imperfect rule. (The players) are playing, I should be able to call timeouts in those situations. ... That should be a coaching decision. I think that's the one rule change I think is really a bad change."

While they play in different conferences now, both Ollie and Boeheim said they would be interested in adding the other to the schedule for a future a nonconference series. Boeheim said "there's a reasonable likelihood that we would play them in a few years someday soon." Ollie expressed a similar desire to make it happen. "I think both universities would like to continue that rivalry. ... We'll look at the schedule and look at the teams we already have contracts for and we'll figure it out," he said.

No. 18 UConn survives Michigan rally in 74-60 win in Bahamas
Nov 25, 2015; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Connecticut Huskies bench reacts against the Michigan Wolverines in the first half during the 2015 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort.. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports (Kevin Jairaj)

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) Daniel Hamilton had 16 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, and No. 18 UConn beat Michigan 74-60 on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The Huskies (4-0) dominated most of the second half, leading by as many as 19. The lead dissipated down the stretch, but they were able to get some clutch baskets in the final minutes.

Shonn Miller and Rodney Purvis each had 13 points for the Huskies.

The Wolverines (2-2) got as close as eight late, but couldn't sting together enough offense. They also had few answers for Connecticut's frontcourt.

Caris LeVert led Michigan with 21 points. The Wolverines shot 32 percent from the field.

Connecticut advances to play Syracuse in Thursday's semifinals. The Wolverines will face Charlotte in the consolation bracket.

Huskies All-American Stewart still not satisfied
Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) and her teammates warm up before the start of the game against the Kansas State Wildcats at XL Center. (David Butler II)

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Breanna Stewart was already well on her way to being the best player in women's college basketball as she entered her sophomore year at the University of Connecticut.

Still, that wasn't good enough for some.

Six months earlier, Stewart completed a remarkable postseason run that ended with the Huskies winning the 2013 national championship and her becoming the first freshman to be named the Most Outstanding Player of a NCAA tournament regional and the Final Four in the same year.

But during a practice at Gampel Pavilion as UConn prepared for its season opener against the University of Hartford, coach Geno Auriemma was unhappy with the way Stewart ran through an offensive set. Soon Auriemma stopped the workout and told Stewart that her stubbornness to want to do things her way and not how she was told would keep her from reaching her potential.

Fast forward to Monday, two Player of the Year seasons and two more NCAA titles later as Stewart became the ninth UConn player to reach the 2,000-point plateau in the top-ranked Huskies' 97-57 rout of Kansas State at the XL Center. It was their 39th straight win and 86th in the last 87 games.

"There's a lot that has changed," Stewart said. "Him and I and the rest of the coaching staff got on the same page. I understood what they were trying to do.

"It's funny because we just talked about this is the locker room. You have to make practices the hardest thing you've ever done. When I was a freshman, I tried to make them the easiest thing I ever did. The game was 10 times, 100 times harder. Once I realized that if I'm working harder than I ever thought I could in practice, it's going to carry over into the game. It's going to make it where you don't think about it, you just play."

Stewart had 25 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the floor. The North Syracuse, New York, native came in with 1,984 points. She scored all eight of her first-half points in the opening 3:30.

It didn't take her long to get the milestone as she hit a basket and a free throw to start the third quarter. Then she nailed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions off passes from Moriah Jefferson to get to 2,001. At the next time out, she received a standing ovation from the crowd of 8,369.

Nothing is holding her back now.

"Stewie is way less stubborn than she was back then," Auriemma said. "Down deep inside she is still cocky and confident, which is good. But I think she understands that in order to get better you have to pay attention and listen. I think being involved with the national team and going to those practices and playing in those games and looking around and seeing, 'OK, I'm just as talented as if not more so than a lot of the guys on that team, but that is not enough.' And she knows that now. She is more open.

"It's not that she wasn't open, but you had to give it to her on her terms. That usually doesn't fly too well in Storrs."

Stewart moved into the top 10 on the all-time scoring list Monday, passing Renee Montgomery (1,990) and former teammate Bria Hartley (1,994). With 2,009 points, she's on pace to start moving further up the ranks next month as Rebecca Lobo sits at No. 8 with 2,133. She is 10th in rebounds with 873 and on her way to joining Maya Moore, Tina Charles, and Lobo in the 2,000/1,000 club. She is fifth in blocked shots with 295.

She also chipped in five assists and three steals against Kansas State.

"Stewie comes out every night and she does something different," Jefferson said. "I think people don't realize it as much because she scores so many points."

At 6-foot-4 with a 7-1 wing span, she's an impossible matchup for opponents.

"She probably can do more things to get shots and make shots than anybody we have ever had because of her length," Auriemma said. "Tina was as long as Stewie, but Tina got it done around the basket. Maya got it done a lot of places, but wasn't as long. D (Diana Taurasi) got it done a lot of places, but wasn't as long. So I think what separates Stewie from all the great scorers we have had is her length. We can play her anywhere. Because we can play her anywhere, the points come from everywhere. We have never had anybody that combines all that.

"She made this play in practice. She went up and got the rebound above the rim, and then the next play made a 25-footer. There is no other player in America, pro or college, that can do that the way that she does it.

"The only thing holding Stewie back is that we don't need her to take 25 shots every nigh. If we ever went a stretch where I said, 'Stewie take 25 shots every night,' it'd be ridiculous what she'd do. She might get 50 a game."

And she continues to add to her game.

In the opener against Ohio State, Stewart showed off a left-handed jump hook.

"Everyone knows that I like the right-handed hook," Stewart said. "Who wouldn't being right-handed. The left hand, being able to hold the ball away from my body so people can't come into my space, it's hard to guard. I'm getting more comfortable with it."

But it's not just the variety that makes her lethal to defenses.

"There aren't any shots she does not have," Auriemma said. "It's just a matter that she's patient now. She catches the ball, she's patient, and she's going to get the shot she wants rather than the one the defense wants her to take. That's a sign of a player that's grown up and being really good.

"In all of college basketball right now, the most unguardable play may be Stewie's shot fake, and pull-up jump shot. She gets it at the 3-point line and you have to guard her. Her shot fake is so good. She just stops right dead in the middle of it, everybody leaves their feet, and then she steps in and jumps that high off the ground. Nobody can get to it. It doesn't matter who they put on her."

Nebraska (4-0) will take its shot Saturday at the XL Center (1 p.m., SNY). The 2,000-point milestone was nice, but for Stewart it's about winning.

"I'll remember the moment, because my teammates made it exciting," Stewart said. "But it really doesn't matter much. If we'd lost, it wouldn't have meant anything."

Tags: Carl Adamec
Huskies open play against Michigan at Battle 4 Atlantis
Sterling Gibbs began his Huskies' career with 41 points over wins against Maine and New Hampshire. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Talented yet untested, Connecticut now gets to see where its bolstered roster stands at the moment.

The No. 18 Huskies are part of a stacked field at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, where they open play Wednesday night against Michigan in a matchup of prominent programs coming off down seasons.

After following up its 2014 national championship by missing the NCAA Tournament last season, Connecticut (3-0) appears poised for a return to upper-tier status after adding graduate transfers Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller and heralded freshman Jalen Adams to a group of four returning starters headlined by 2014-15 American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year Daniel Hamilton.

The re-tooled Huskies head to the Bahamas off three lopsided wins over lesser competition compared to the three opponents they'll draw in this marquee event, which contains 10th-ranked Gonzaga and No. 25 Texas A&M as well as traditionally strong ones such as Syracuse, Texas and Washington. They'll either renew their former Big East rivalry against the Orange or play Charlotte on Thursday.

Michigan (2-1), coming off a disappointing 16-16 campaign beset by several key injuries following a run to the regional finals in 2014, does have the advantage of having faced a quality foe - losing 86-70 to No. 23 Xavier on Friday in Ann Arbor.

"The Xavier game will be so beneficial for us," Wolverines coach John Beilein said. "(The players) understand more now than they understood before the game. Our growth mindset didn't end last year. Our growth mindset continues every day."

The Wolverines received 29 points from a now-healthy Caris LeVert but were beaten badly by the Musketeers on the interior. Xavier finished with a 47-29 rebounding advantage, outscored Michigan 34-14 in the paint and had a 16-5 edge in second-chance points.

UConn presents another potential matchup problem with its frontcourt of 7-foot center Amida Brimah and Miller, who scored 1,065 points in three seasons at Cornell and tallied 18 on 7 of 9 shooting in Saturday's 83-58 rout of Furman.

Gibbs, a second team All-Big East honoree at Seton Hall last season, began his Huskies' career with 41 points over wins against Maine and New Hampshire. His addition and the return of sharp-shooter Rodney Purvis (14.3 ppg) has helped offset the loss of 2014-15 leading scorer Ryan Boatright in the backcourt.

Adams, who had 14 points and six assists in 22 minutes against Furman, is part of an upgraded bench that's allowed coach Kevin Ollie to freely rotate 10 players.

"They are giving me a big-time lift," Ollie said of his reserves. "Jalen played a wonderful floor game, his best game in a Husky jersey."

Michigan's hopes for a bounce-back rest mainly on LeVert, an expected NBA lottery pick limited to 18 games last season by a fractured foot. The versatile senior guard looks to have regained his previous form by averaging 19.3 points and 5.0 assists while going 7 for 14 on 3-pointers through the first three games.

The Wolverines' strength lies in their perimeter shooting, having made 43.9 percent of their 3-point tries. Division III transfer Duncan Robinson is 7 for 10 and point guard Derrick Walton Jr. is 6 for 12 in his return from a foot injury that ended his 2014-15 season after 19 games.

Michigan has won two of three meetings with UConn and posted a 68-63 home victory in the most recent one on Jan. 17, 2010.

Tags: Daniel Hamilton , Jalen Adams , Shonn Miller , Sterling Gibbs , University of Michigan
UConn Women's Basketball Notebook: Geno proud of accomplishments over 30 years
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma (L) presents a game ball and jersey to President Barack Obama during a ceremony honoring the 2015 NCAA women's champion Huskies in the East Room at The White House. (Geoff Burke)

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Geno Auriemma remembers the bus ride to Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, 30 years ago like it was yesterday.

It was only under the rules existing then that Auriemma saw the conclusion of his first game and win as the coach of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team instead of being the first one on the bus for the trip back to Storrs.

Auriemma picked up two technical fouls in the Huskies' 73-67 victory at Iona on Nov. 23, 1985. Back then it took three to be ejected.

Thirty years to the day later, it was a much calmer Hall of Fame coach that guided the nation's No. 1 team to a 97-57 rout of Kansas State Monday night at the XL Center.

"We had a little thing last night and it was good to look back and think how different everything is and how much has happened in the last 30 years," Auriemma said. "Things have changed. That first game, being on a bus to New Rochelle to play Iona, trying to get everyone's meal money to one spot so that we could all eat something more than a sandwich. And winning the game ...

"Winning that game and the next six games that year for those kids on that team was the same feeling as the team that won 90 in a row. They had never experienced anything like that. So I think back to those days. I don't know if I'll ever appreciate it enough but it was good to think about."

Auriemma took over a program that had just one winning season before his arrival. The Huskies' seven-game winning streak to open the first campaign broke the previous school record of five.

UConn finished 12-15, the only losing season in his three decades. But the Huskies finished seventh in the Big East and were able to avoid the dreaded 8-9 game in the league tournament for the first time.

"I was so damn proud of them," Auriemma said of the players on that first team.

With Monday night's victory, Auriemma's record is 919-134 and his winning percentage of .873 is No. 1 all time. With associate head coach Chris Dailey on the bench next to him since day one, he has led UConn to a record 10 national championships, 16 Final Four appearances including a record eight straight that is active, 21 regular-season conference championships and 20 conference tournament crowns. The Huskies have the NCAA's two longest winning streaks of 90 and 70 and they have not lost back-to-back games since March of 1993.

After that first win, though, no one asked him where he'd want to be in 30 years.

"I probably would have answered I want to live anywhere but where I'm living because I was living in not such a great place," Auriemma said with a smile. "And to be honest the University was not such a great place to be at. Somebody sent me something today about what's happened the last 30 years and how much we've helped change the sport of women's basketball.

"If I'd have known that 30 years ago, that this is what was going to happen, I probably would have enjoyed it more the last 30 years, and said, 'Yeah, I should really enjoy this because 30 years from now, our program is going to be legendary.' We were just trying to have a winning record back then. It's hard to think back to what you were thinking when all you were trying to do is figure out a way to get one win. It was hard to be a basketball player at UConn back then and I have a lot of admiration for them. They came here and there wasn't a whole lot we could offer them. And they still came. I'm forever grateful to them for coming."


Senior All-American Breanna Stewart became the ninth player to reach the 2,000-point plateau Monday night when she made a 3-pointer with 4:22 left in the third quarter.

But it was fellow senior All-American Moriah Jefferson that had her moment in the spotlight prior to the opening tip. The Glenn Heights, Texas, native was presented a commemorative basketball from Auriemma for reaching the 1,000-point plateau. She hit 1,000 in UConn's 2015 NCAA tournament second-round win over Rutgers at Gampel Pavilion.

"That was pretty cool," Jefferson said. "I didn't even know what was happening. Nobody told me. But once I heard my name it was really exciting. To get to do that in front of the fans ... Then Stewie goes out and gets 2,000 so it all means a lot."

Jefferson had 14 points against Kansas State to bring her career total to 1,102. She also has 466 assists and is 17 away from moving into UConn's top 10 in that category. She is eighth in steals (262), four away from No. 7 Renee Montgomery.


UConn was the unanimous selection as the No. 1 team in the country in the Associated Press poll released Monday. The Huskies had lost a first-place vote to South Carolina last week but got it back after walloping Ohio State 100-56 ... Stewart was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week Monday. It was a good night for the league Monday. Not only did UConn post a win over a Big 12 school, the AAC went 2-0 against the Southeastern Conference as Tulane beat LSU and Tulsa knocked off Arkansas ... UConn Class of 2016 signee Crystal Dangerfield was one of 77 high school players named to the Naismith Player of the Year watch list. Fellow signee Molly Bent saw her soccer career at Tabor Academy come to an end with a 2-0 loss to The Rivers School in Sunday's New England Prep School Class B championship game. Bent, who wore a splint on her left thumb after injuring ligaments in a soccer game last month, is scheduled to meet with her doctor this week and hopes to be cleared to start basketball activities ... The Huskies are back at the XL Center Saturday to take on Nebraska (1 p.m., SNY). It's the first meeting between UConn and the Cornhuskers since the Huskies recorded a 71-61 win in the 1997 Preseason WNIT championship game at Gampel Pavilion.

GEICO SportsNite: UConn women 00:01:10
The top-ranked Huskies defeated Kansas State 97-57 on Monday night, delivering Geno Auriemma his 919th career win.

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Breanna Stewart reached a milestone Monday with a basket that had a Moriah Jefferson assist attached to it.

The University of Connecticut women's basketball senior and the two-time national Player of the Year would not have wanted it any other way.

Stewart scored 25 points and became the ninth UConn player to reach 2,000 as the top-ranked Huskies walloped Kansas State, 97-57, before a crowd of 8,369 at the XL Center.

"It's fitting," Stewart said. "We came in together and we've always had a great relationship on the court. I wanted her to be the one, actually her or Morgan Tuck, to assist that basket and I know that they wanted to do it for me, too."

Stewart entered the game with 1,984 points and scored eight in the opening 3:30. But she also picked up two fouls and remained at 1,992 through halftime.

A 3-pointer at the midway point of the third quarter got her to 1,998 and on the Huskies' next possession she took another pass from Jefferson and found nothing but net from behind the arc.

"That's exciting, playing with a player like her and being in the game when she gets to 2,000 points," Jefferson said. "We knew we needed to get her the ball and she didn't disappoint. She came out and knocked down her shots."

Jefferson assisted on all of Stewart's five field goals through the first three quarters.

"Stewie's gotten me a lot of assists and she's cost me a lot, on both ends," Jefferson said with a big laugh. "It's funny because we actually joke during the game when she's making them or missing them like, 'Really? You're trying to mess up my assists?' But tonight she didn't do it. Every time she caught the ball from me she knocked it in."

At the next time out, an announcement was made and Stewart received a standing ovation that lasted through much of the break.

She joins Maya Moore (3,036), Tina Charles (2,346), Nykesha Sales (2,178), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2,178), Kerry Bascom (2,177), Diana Taurasi (2,156), Kara Wolters (2,141), and Rebecca Lobo (2,133) in UConn's 2,000-point club.

Only Moore and Bascom did it in fewer games.

"When you have these kind of milestones you want to get them over with because people keep talking about it," Stewart said. "I want to play basketball. I want to play within the offense and shoot when I normally shoot."

Stewart shot 8 for 15 from the floor and 7 for 10 from the foul line. She also added eight rebounds -- her next milestone will be 1,000 rebounds and she's at 873 -- five assists, three steals, and three blocked shots in 31 minutes.

"I laugh when I hear about all these people that score all these points around the country," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "This guy's averaging 25. This guy's averaging 30. This guy this and this guy that. How many shots did Stewie take tonight? Fifteen. She averages about 15 per game. When you score 2,000 points averaging 15 shots per game, that's pretty good.

"And yet the think that I like about her the most are the intangibles in addition to the points. The rebounds? She's always been a little bit of a rebounder. She's always been a good passer. She's always wanted to block shots. What I appreciate most about Stewie now as a senior is in her own way she's become very vocal. When she has something to say, she says it and everyone listens. And she asks a lot of questions and she's trying to get better every day. There's not a day that goes by that she's not trying to figure out a way to get better. She's playing really, really well right now."

UConn (2-0) did not trail en route to its 39th straight win. Kansas State (3-1) used a trio of 3-pointers to pull within 16-13 before the Huskies used a run to build an advantage.

Tuck scored inside and Gabby Williams followed with two free throws, a steal and layup, and another basket inside. Two free throws by Napheesa Collier closed the first quarter and baskets by Kia Nurse and Williams to open the second made it 30-13.

It was 44-27 at halftime and an 11-2 run to open the third quarter made it 58-30 and officially started the Stewart 2,000 watch.

It didn't take long.

"I didn't know until they said it," Stewart said.

Stewart got plenty of help. Williams recorded her second straight double-double by halftime and finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes. She was 7-for-8 from the floor. Tuck added 15 points while Jefferson had 14 points and seven assists and just one turnover. Nurse had nine points and five steals while Collier came off the bench for seven points and 10 rebounds.

The win came on the 30th anniversary of Auriemma's first game and win at UConn.

Kindred Wesemann and Kaylee Page had 11 points each for Kansas State, which was 10-for-31 on 3-pointers and 11-for-30 from behind the arc.

"We battled harder than we had in our previous three games," Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. "You're going up against the team that is playing at the highest level in the country. I thought there were moments in this game where we battled as hard as we could."

The Wildcats will host UConn in Manhattan, Kansas, next season.

The Huskies are back at the XL Center Saturday to take on Nebraska (SNY, 1 p.m.), the start of a stretch that will see them play four games in eight days.

Tags: Carl Adamec
UConn Women: Quest for Four 00:05:20
Gary Apple and Kara Wolters discuss if UConn can win its fourth title in a row and the differences between last year and this year's teams
UConn stays No. 1 in AP women's hoops poll; Iowa in at 25
UConn guard Gabby Williams (15) reaches for a loose ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena. UConn won the game 100-56. (Greg Bartram)

Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer is starting to build the Bulldogs into a women's basketball power.

The fourth-year coach got the team ranked for the first time last season in nearly five years and now he has guided the No. 8 Bulldogs to their best ranking ever in The Associated Press women's basketball poll.

"I'm really proud to be the head coach of Mississippi State," Schaefer said Monday. "It's nice to get that recognition now. The national respect we're getting, but it really doesn't mean a lot in November. It's March when we want to be there and it's our challenge to make that happen."

The top five in the poll remained the same with UConn the unanimous No. 1 again. The Huskies routed then-No. 7 Ohio State in their opener by 44 points. Connecticut, which had all but one of the first place votes last week, plays Kansas State at home Monday night. The Buckeyes dropped to 11th.

South Carolina, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Baylor once again follow the Huskies to round out the first five.

Maryland is sixth with Oregon State seventh. The Bulldogs (2-0) are tied for eighth with Texas. Texas A&M rounds out the first 10.

Schaefer has seen the attention on the program grow over his time at the school. Last season, he guided the team to its first NCAA Tournament since 2010 while setting school records for overall wins (27) and league victories (11). The Bulldogs also won 18 straight to start the season.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "To build the program, not just the team. It starts with my staff."

Fans have taken notice.

"The first year we sold 1,100 season tickets, second year 1,750. Last year we had 2,200 and now 2,800. We'll get to 3,000. The average is what I'm excited about. We had 4,900 and change in conference, 7,300 for senior night."

Schaefer was proud to see his team up in the poll with some of the biggest names in the country.

Here's some other tidbits from the poll:

WELCOME HAWKEYES: Iowa enters the poll at No. 25 while Chattanooga fell out of the rankings.

"It's great to have our program recognized," Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said. "We're off to a good start and hope to have continued success this week against quality opponents at the Lone Star Showcase."

SEC DOMINANCE: For the second straight season, the Southeastern Conference had four teams among the top 10 with South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. The only other conference to pull off that feat in recent memory was the ACC.

"It's a nightmare of a league," coach Schaefer said. "There are so many great players in our league, so many great coaches. It really is a nightmare night in and out. You play bad on a night in the SEC, you're not going to get beat, you're going to get embarrassed."

FREE FALLING: Florida State had the biggest fall after losing to rival Florida, dropping eight spots to 14th. The Seminoles have a busy week playing in Long Island University's tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. Louisville also dropped six spots to No. 22 after losing to Western Kentucky.

Huskies' guard Saniya Chong ready to contribute
Connecticut Huskies guard Saniya Chong (12) handles the ball against Memphis Lady Tigers at Fedex Forum. (Justin Ford)

STORRS, Conn. -- If Saniya Chong didn't know what Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome was before, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's junior guard learned about it the hard way last month.

The Huskies were about to begin official practice and Chong was ready to prove she deserved meaningful minutes behind their standout starting guards Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse. Suddenly, the area around her knee began to hurt and hurt a lot. The timing couldn't have been much worse for the Ossining, New York, native.

"It was pretty upsetting to have the injury," Chong said Sunday. "At the beginning of the season I was feeling good and then something takes you by surprise. It's not just something that happens and two weeks later you're OK. I had IT Band Syndrome. I get sharp pains out of nowhere. It's one of those random injuries that come and go."

Chong missed UConn's two exhibition games but did surprise coach Geno Auriemma by being available for last week's opener at Ohio State. She played the final 3:21 of the 100-56 rout. She hopes to get more of an opportunity Monday when No. 1 UConn plays its home opener against Kansas State at the XL Center in Hartford (7 p.m., SNY).

"I'm out here and I'm able to practice so I'm getting better," Chong said. "But it's something I have to fight through."

Chong averaged 5.6 points in 38 games for the Huskies a season ago. The only time she did not get in was the national championship game against Notre Dame.

She worked hard to get ready for the new season but then was stopped in her tracks when she was diagnosed with IT Band Syndrome, which -- according to -- occurs when the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, is tight or inflamed.

Her absence in the preseason put more pressure on Jefferson and Nurse. Jefferson played 37 minutes against Ohio State while Nurse saw 32 minutes of action.

"Since we got back from Ohio State, this is the most that she's been able to practice," Auriemma said. "It takes awhile, but she looks pretty good. There are a lot of times when she looks like her old self.

"The more we can get her out here in practice, the better she's going to be. We certainly need her. We can't have Mo and Kia out there for 40 minutes or 38 minutes. Saniya is going to play a huge role going forward."

Chong gives the Huskies quickness and the ability to score quickly off the bench.
The IT Band injury has been difficult because she can't get a lot done if she can't use her legs.

"I think that I've made a lot of progress this week," Chong said. "It's been difficult since I've been in for only the last few practices. I was a little rusty, but at the same time I'm a junior now and I know what I need to do on the court.

"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent. There are times when I'm on the court when it gets to me. It's something I need to push through."

The Huskies know what she's capable of.

Last year, she had a career high 20 points in the loss at Stanford. As a freshman she recorded a double-double in a win over Central Florida. Her assist-to-turnover ratio for her 78 career game is 2-to-1.

But as a junior, she needs consistency with her performance and effort.

"She great when she's got the ball in her hands. She knows what she's doing," Auriemma said. "She doesn't make many mistakes with the ball. Energy-wise she just has to be there every possession and not wander. When you get a little older you get better at it, so she's better at it now.

"We need her, plain and simple. If we get her going, we're going to be pretty good. That will give us one more player we can put out there and give one of those two guys a rest from pressuring the ball."

UConn (1-0) has had a week off since pounding Ohio State. It will have another four days off after Monday before starting a stretch of four games in eight days Saturday against Nebraska at the XL Center.

Kansas State (3-0) is coming off an 84-81 overtime home win over South Dakota last Thursday. Center Breanna Lewis and guard Megan Deines -- a transfer from Louisville who played in the 2013 NCAA final against the Huskies -- are the Wildcats' top scorers.

No changes are expected for UConn but there could be some history Monday. Senior All-American Breanna Stewart, who had 24 points against the Buckeyes, needs 16 more to become the ninth player in the Huskies' 2,000-point club.

Chong is hopeful her injury troubles are history. She is staying positive.

"I take it day by day and see how it goes," she said. "One day it can be great and the next really bad. Every day I wake up and think, 'This is going to be a great day.'"

Tags: Carl Adamec
Thomas helps Connecticut beat No. 13 Houston 20-17
Nov 21, 2015; East Hartford, CT, USA; The Connecticut Huskies celebrate after defeating the Houston Cougars at Rentschler Field. UConn defeated the Houston Cougars 20-17. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Houston coach Tom Herman worried that his team was stepping into what he saw as a quintessential trap game against UConn.

The undefeated Cougars were coming off a big win over Memphis and looking forward to hosting Navy next week for a spot in the conference championship game.

He was right.

UConn's Noel Thomas caught two touchdown passes, including a 45-yarder on a trick play in the fourth quarter, and the Huskies held on for a 20-17 win on Saturday.

"This one hurts," Herman said. "It hurts really bad, because of where we were in the season and how much these kids have invested."

Houston (10-1, 6-1, No. 19 CFP) was held to just 318 yards in total offense after entering with averages of 43.5 points and 521 yards.

The Cougars played most of the game without Heisman hopeful Greg Ward Jr., who rolled his ankle last Saturday.

Kyle Postma, who engineered the Cougars' comeback against the Tigers, was 16 of 27 for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

"(Greg) was only at about 70 percent, so we felt that Kyle gave us the best opportunity to win the game rather than Greg," Herman said.

Ward played a handful of snaps in the fourth quarter and came in for the final time after Postma was injured during Houston's final drive. But he was intercepted by Jamar Summers with 55 seconds left.

UConn (6-5, 4-3 American Athletic Conference) then ran out the clock, and its fans stormed the field.

"That's a moment I'll probably never forget in my life," senior safety Andrew Adams said.

Next up for Houston is next Saturday against Navy for the conference's Western Division title and a spot in the Dec. 5 AAC championship game.

"It's a real hard pill to swallow," Houston linebacker Steven Taylor said. "But we have other things to focus on."

Thomas, who caught seven passes for 108 yards, put UConn up 7-0 with a 4-yard touchdown catch on the Huskies' opening drive.

His second TD came with just under 10 minutes left. Quarterback-turned-receiver Garrett Anderson got a backward throw from Tim Boyle and found Thomas behind the Houston defense.

The ball almost didn't make it to Anderson after being tipped by Houston's Matthew Adams.

"I thought it was going to be going the other way," Boyle said. "Thank God it didn't. It fell right in Garrett's hand and Garrett did the rest from there."

The Cougars responded immediately, with Brandon Wilson returning the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to make it 20-17.

Houston got the ball back with less than 2 minutes left. Ward was forced into the game when Postma went down after completing a third-down pass. Ward found Demarcus Ayers for 18 yards, but Summers made a nice play to intercept his next pass.

Houston's Kenneth Farrow was held to 46 yards rushing. He left with a leg injury on the last play of the third quarter.

Arkeel Newsome ran for 114 yards on 32 carries for the Huskies, who became bowl eligible for the first time since the 2010 season.

Newsome carried the ball 42 yards straight up the middle on the first play of the game and rushed for 68 yards during the opening drive. Bryant Shirreffs then rolled out and passed to Thomas for the TD with 11:40 left in the first quarter.

It was Shirreffs' only pass of the game. He was injured on the Huskies' next drive when a diving Elandon Roberts hit the quarterback as he was sliding after a run. Roberts, the conference's leading tackler, was hit with a targeting penalty and ejected.

Boyle completed 12 of 22 passes for 110 yards.

Houston got on the board on Ty Cummings' 29-yard field goal after a 72-yard drive stalled in the second quarter.

The Huskies carried a 10-3 lead into halftime after defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi stripped Postma to set up a 25-yard field goal for Bobby Puyol.

UConn Men's Post: Highlights 00:02:33
The UConn men's basketball team continued its hot streak with a convincing 83-58 win over Furman.

STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Shonn Miller scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead No. 19 UConn to an 83-58 win over Furman on Saturday.

Freshman guard Jalen Adams had the first double-digit game of his career with 14 points and six assists off the bench and Rodney Purvis added 13 points. UConn is 3-0 and hasn't been challenged this season with its three wins coming by an average of 29 points.

Video: UConn Post Game: Ollie, Miller on UConn's win

UConn wasted little time in putting away Furman (2-2), jumping out to an early 12-1 lead before Furman's first field goal of the game, Matt Rafferty's 3-pointer at 13:20 of the first half.

The Huskies, who began the game with all five starters averaging in double digits, showcased their bench depth in the opening half as they scored 19 points from reserves led by six points from Omar Calhoun and four each from Adams and Kentan Facey.

Miller was a unanimous All-Ivy League selection from Cornell last season and came to UConn as an immediately eligible graduate student transfer.

Miller's 18 points showcased his strength and athleticism as the 6-foot-7, 222-pound forward dominated inside. UConn held Furman to 34.8 percent shooting.

The Huskies dominated the opening 20 minutes, holding Furman to two points in the paint and 20 percent shooting - 5 of 25 - in the first half.

Furman's Rafferty scored 15 points an d Geoff Beans added 14.

TIP-INS: UConn: Sterling Gibbs, a graduate transfer from Seton Hall, had a quiet game, scoring only six points after averaging 20 points per game coming in. UConn and Furman last played in 1991 in the Connecticut Mutual Classic, an 87-61 win by the Huskies in Hartford. Saturday's game was part of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which began having preliminary mainland games this year. The main tournament begins next Wednesday in the Bahamas with UConn taking on Michigan.

Furman: Furman scored only one field goal inside the 3-point line in the first half, an offensive rebound put-back by Matt Rafferty late in the first half. Furman shot 1 for 8 in the first half on 2-point baskets.


UConn will play Michigan in the Bahamas on Wednesday.

Furman will play Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Elon College in Elon, N.C. on Thursday.

Tags: Kevin Ollie , Rodney Purvis , Sterling Gibbs
16 UConn football seniors playing final home games
UConn will be honoring 16 seniors who will be playing their final home games for the Huskies. (Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports)

STORRS, Conn. (AP) No. 13 Houston has its sights set on winning the American Athletic Conference championship, completing an undefeated season and getting a New Year's Day Bowl bid.

But none of that will be possible if the Cougars don't first win Saturday at UConn (5-5, 3-3 American).

The Huskies are at home, coming off a bye week and needing one win to become bowl eligible for the first time since the 2010 season. Houston coach Tom Herman said he's told his team that this has all the makings of a trap game and to prepare accordingly.

"This is the part of the season where you don't take your foot off the gas, you put it down even harder," he said.

The Cougars come into the game with a big question at quarterback. Heisman hopeful Greg Ward Jr. rolled his left ankle against Memphis and is likely to be a game-time decision on Saturday.

Ward has thrown for 13 touchdowns and rushed for 16, leading an offense that averages almost 512 yards and 43.5 points a game.

Herman said if Ward is 100 percent healthy, he will play. If he's not, the coaches will have to decide whether to rest him and go with Kyle Postman, who completed 21 of 33 passes against Memphis and engineered the comeback win.

"Is Greg Ward with a 70 percent ankle better than Kyle Postman? We'll have to make that decision if that's the case," Herman said.

UConn is simply looking to find any offensive production. UConn's defense scored the team's only points in a 7-3 win at Tulane before the bye week. The Huskies rank 113th out of 127 FBS teams in total offense, averaging just under 337 yards and 19 points a game.

They will be facing a defense that is giving up an average of just 20 points a game.

But the pressure on Saturday won't be on the Huskies, who won just two games a year ago and already have exceeded a lot of expectations this season.

"It's just so great for our football family to be at this point in November, talking about meaningful games," coach Bob Diaco said. "We've taken the next step in our program, which is exciting."

Here are some other things to watch for on Saturday:


Houston comes into the game leading the nation in turnover margin (plus-18), taking the ball away 27 times while losing it just nine times. UConn, though, has a ball-hawking defense that has come up with 15 interceptions this season, six of them from sophomore cornerback Jamar Summers, including one that he returned 67-yards for a touchdown against Tulane.


UConn has not fared well against ranked opponents, with just two wins in 25 previous games. The Huskies lost their only game against a ranked team this year, falling at then-No.22 Missouri, 9-3.


Houston has been beating opponents by an average of 23.3 points a game and is one of just five teams in the FBS who have beaten at least six opponents by 21 points or more.


UConn will be honoring 16 seniors who will be playing their final home games for the Huskies. But just one senior, right guard Tyler Samra, starts for the UConn offense. The Huskies have five seniors starting on defense: end Kenton Adeyemi, tackle Julian Campeni, safety Andrew Adams and linebackers Graham Stewart and Marquise Vann.


Herman could be in for a raise if he decides to stay at Houston. The school's Board of Regents this week agreed to let the school's chancellor negotiate an amended contract for Herman, who is in his first year as head coach. He has been mentioned as a possible candidate for several other head coaching jobs across the country.

UConn recruit Crystal Dangerfield getting up to speed
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma applauds his team (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Crystal Dangerfield didn't have to wait to arrive at the University of Connecticut to learn some of what being part of the women's basketball team is about.

After committing to the Huskies 13 months ago, Dangerfield had a guest at one of her Blackman High games last winter. UConn coach Geno Auriemma made his way south to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to watch the 5-foot-5 point guard in action. Something he saw from the stands caught his eye.

As she was substituted out of the game, Dangerfield walked to the Lady Blaze's bench. Of course, the next time a Huskies' player does that after being taken out will be the first. For Auriemma, it was not too early for a teaching moment.

"Anything that he wants me to do that he thinks will help me, I'm going to do," Dangerfield said. "It's great to know some of the things that Coach expects from me even before I get there. I'm a senior now and it's important that I be a leader on and off the court and set a good example, and that's whether we're practicing or lifting weights or in the game. That kind of thing is good to hear."

And Dangerfield turned the words into action.

"Now she runs off the floor like Kalana Greene does," Auriemma said with a smile.

Dangerfield began her final scholastic season in style Thursday night, scoring a game-high 34 points to pace Blackman to a 69-55 win over Brentwood Academy.

South Florida signee Jazz Bond added a double-double (14 points, 14 rebounds) as the Lady Blaze made first-year coach Jessica Jackson's debut a success.

"We have a new coach and it's a new team and we're working hard," Dangerfield said. "During the offseason they brought in crossfit trainer for us and I think it's helped get stronger, faster, and quicker. Jazz and I are working hard to help the others get up to game speed."

Dangerfield, rated the No. 3 recruit overall and the top guard in the Class of 2016 by ESPN HoopGurlz, is a two-time Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year and has led Blackman to back-to-back state 3A championships. She averaged 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2.5 steals as a junior as Blackman (32-2) successfully defended its state, district, and regional titles.

But the Lady Blaze lost four Division I signees to graduation and their coach. Chad Hibdon, took a position as head coach at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Georgia.

"It's a different team and maybe we don't have the same level of talent that we had last year," Dangerfield said. "We lost a lot and in general this is a much younger team. I know our players look up to me and not just because I'm a point guard. I need be there for them at all times to make sure that we're all on the same page and doing the right things.

"We have good players and we have good coaches. I know that it's going to be a challenge but I love challenges and being able to prove people wrong, the ones who think we're not going to do well. I'm excited."

Blackman will be challenged early. Next month it will take part in the 65th annual Sandra Meadows Classic held at Duncanville (Texas) High School. Many of the top teams in Texas and across the south will take part.

Dangerfield does plan to be in Chattanooga for UConn's game with the Mocs on Nov. 30. Last month, she took her official visit to Storrs along with fellow Class of 2016 recruits Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin. It was also a chance to reunite with her former USA Basketball teammates freshmen De'Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier, and Katie Lou Samuelson.

"It was great," Dangerfield said. "It was great to meet the players -- Kyla and Molly -- that I'll be coming in with this year. We had a chance to get to know each other and bond and that was different than when I visited last year. And it was another chance to meet the players that are already there and hang around them. I enjoyed that."

She did spend some time with the current Huskies' point guard, senior All-American Moriah Jefferson.

Dangerfield's uniform number at Blackman is 32, the same number Jefferson wore with the THESA Raiders. Dangerfield and Jefferson both wear No. 4 as part of their respective USA Basketball teams. But Dangerfield said she is looking for something different when she gets to UConn.

"I did talk to Moriah about No. 4 but then you would be automatically dealing with comparisons," Dangerfield said. "And No. 32, that number is really too high for a point guard. I haven't decided yet and we'll see what happens. But right now I would choose either No. 5 or No. 2. They would fit me well."

Auriemma believes UConn is the perfect fit for Dangerfield.

"You know who Crystal is kind of like? Ivory Latta," Auriemma said, referring to the former North Carolina All-American and current standout with the WNBA's Washington Mystics. "Everybody is different, of course. When we signed Moriah, no one asked me if she was the second coming of Renee Montgomery, who was pretty darn good.

"Don't get me wrong. Crystal's got a lot to learn, a lot to learn just like any other freshman that is coming into college. But I think that Crystal is going to be dynamite."

Basketball practice at Tabor Academy began on Monday, but Molly Bent still has some soccer to play.

Tabor Academy defeated No. 2 seed Kingswood-Oxford 2-1 in West Hartford on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals of the New England Prep School Class B girls soccer tournament. Tabor will visit third-seeded Groton (Massachusetts) Saturday with the championship game set for Sunday.

Bent, though, can only play soccer at this point. The 5-9 guard from Centerville, Massachusetts, injured a ligament in her left thumb playing soccer at Pomfret School a month ago. She wears a splint on the thumb for soccer but has not been cleared for basketball activities. The original timeline for her recovery was 4-6 weeks. Bent has an appointment with her doctor next week.

Tags: University of Connecticut , Carl Adamec
Nat'l champion Huskies aware one game doesn't make season
(Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)

Coach Geno Auriemma didn't need a history lesson to make sure he didn't get too excited about his University of Connecticut women's basketball team's first win Monday.

"It's only one game so let's not get too far ahead of ourselves," Auriemma said. "There's a long way to go but we're off to a good start."

The top-ranked and defending national champion Huskies, with two first-team All-Americans back in their starting lineup, opened their season with a convincing win over a top 10 opponent.

That was the story of the Huskies' 100-56 rout of No. 7 Ohio State at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Monday. But the same paragraph could have been written 15 years ago. On Nov. 12, 2000, at the Hartford Civic Center, No. 1 UConn whipped third-ranked Georgia 99-70. Not only did those Huskies return All-Americans Shea Ralph and Svetlana Abrosimova, they had two future Olympic gold medalists in Sue Bird and Swin Cash as starters and two more future Olympic gold medalists in Asjha Jones and Diana Taurasi coming off the bench.

"That was at home," Auriemma said. "I didn't think of this that way. Hopefully, this isn't … "

The Hall of Fame coach didn't need the reminder that the 2001 Huskies lost at Notre Dame in January, then lost Abrosimova and Ralph to injuries, then lost a 15-point second-half lead against the Irish in the Final Four semifinals in St. Louis that ended their bid for a second straight title.

There were too many positives that came out of Monday - the first time UConn opened with a top 10 foe since that Georgia game - for him to want to think about anything negative.

"My biggest concern was I didn't know how the freshmen (Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson) would play because we took two seniors out of our lineup from last year and replaced them with two freshmen and Gabby Williams," Auriemma said. "I knew our four returning starters would play well. The freshmen? Napheesa was good. Lou is a little bit under the weather. And Gabby was fabulous. She's unbelievable with the stuff she can do."

Senior All-Americans Breanna Stewart (24) and Moriah Jefferson (21) combined for 45 points and fellow returning starters Kia Nurse (16) and Morgan Tuck (15) joined them in double figures. Williams, in her first career start, had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four assists and four steals. Collier had eight points, five rebounds, and three steals in her debut.

Shayla Cooper was the only player for Ohio State (0-2) in double figures with 17 while Kelsey Mitchell, the nation's leading scorer a season ago as a freshman, settled for eight points and didn't reach double figures for the first time in her career. She picked up two first-quarter fouls and finished 2-for-14 from the floor.

UConn quieted the crowd of 11,435 at the start by scoring the first seven points. It was 24-15 after one quarter. Cooper scored to open the second quarter but UConn broke it open as six players contributed to a 25-4 run. It was 50-24 at halftime and Ohio State got no closer than 24 the rest of the way. Tierney Lawlor's baseline jumper with 11 seconds left got UConn to 100.

"We wanted it to be a track meet but we wanted to control it," said Williams, the former high jump standout from the 2012 Olympic trials.

UConn's defense was dominant, it also made it a point to go at the Buckeyes' defense with strong drives to the hoop. The Huskies shot 29 free throws compared to Ohio State's nine.

On the other side, UConn had only 16 assists on 37 baskets (43.2 percent) Monday. Last year, 61.1 percent of its field goals had assists attached.

"Sometimes we pass the ball too much and I'm not saying that's a bad thing. Sometimes we just need someone to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket," Auriemma said. "We're doing more of that this year. Kia Nurse is good at that and Moriah has become really good at that. The way our offense is structured she has opportunities to do that almost every time down the floor. For somebody that's not that big, she really finishes around the basket. You can't keep her in front of you."

Monday's game was the first of two between the Huskies and Buckeyes and the first not played at a neutral site. Ohio State will travel to Connecticut next year. Of course, the Huskies would like to return here in 2018 when the city hosts the NCAA Final Four downtown at Nationwide Arena.

But Auriemma has known Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff since he was an assistant to Muffet McGraw with the 2001 national championship team at Notre Dame. So maybe it's something they can continue.

"I've followed Kevin's career and he's one of the best coaches in the country," Auriemma said. "I knew once he got the Ohio State job and I said, 'Let's play.' He wasn't going to go, 'No, we're not doing it.' He's a competitive guy and that's how you build your program. We talked before the game and I told him, 'Kevin, there are no losers tonight.' That's because his fans are going to see his team beat one of the best teams in the country, or they'll see one of the best teams in the country and they'll think, 'Yeah, that's what Kevin wants to do here.'

"Once they get this thing rolling with this atmosphere, it's going to be lights out. And he's not afraid. A lot of coaches in women's basketball, they don't see the big picture sometimes and Kevin sees the big picture."

The Huskies play their home opener against Kansas State this Monday (7 p.m., SNY) at the XL Center in Hartford.

Tags: Geno Auriemma , Carl Adamec
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Preview: UConn football faces undefeated Houston Cougars
The Huskies (5-5, 3-3) are looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

With its backup quarterback engineering a stunning comeback, Houston cleared a major hurdle in its attempt to reach a New Year's Six bowl.

The 13th-ranked Cougars could set themselves up for another pivotal game next week if they can get through Saturday's visit to Connecticut with their perfect record intact.

Houston (10-0, 6-0 AAC) kept its hopes of playing Jan. 1 alive by scoring 21 points in the final 13 minutes of a 35-34 victory over then-No. 25 Memphis last Saturday.

Kyle Postma, who delivered the go-ahead 7-yard run with 1:27 remaining, went 21 of 33 for 236 yards and another score in place of Greg Ward Jr. The Cougars' starting quarterback rolled his ankle late in the first half but coach Tom Herman indicated he could have played if required.

"(Ward) was out there jogging around in the second half. He would have been ready if something happened to Kyle (Postma)," Herman said. "We figured that Greg's game is he relies on his feet a lot. That's his style of play. If his feet are not there, I'm not sure if he's the best option. So we decided to stick with Kyle, and he came through."

Ward reportedly did some jogging in practice Sunday, and Herman said he would start this week if healthy. Standout defensive back William Jackson III might also return from a knee injury that kept him out last Saturday.

After facing UConn, Houston's regular-season finale is the potential deciding contest for the AAC West Division against No. 19 Navy on Nov. 27. If they win both, the Cougars would host the conference's inaugural championship game Dec. 5.

First up are the Huskies (5-5, 3-3), who are looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.

"We've got a UConn team that's fresh, that's coming off a bye week, and we have to make sure we're prepared to go 1-0 next week," Herman said. "We don't care (about the rankings). We don't talk about them.

"They matter none to us, because we know that if we win our conference championship, then we're going to play in a New Year's Day bowl game."

Heading into its first meeting with Houston, Connecticut has won two in a row for the first time since its 2-0 start. The Huskies, though, were hardly impressive at Tulane on Nov. 7, winning 7-3 thanks to Jamar Summers' 67-yard interception return in the opening quarter.

They managed a season-low 227 yards and 81 through the air against the lowly Green Wave, with leading rusher Arkeel Newsome getting held to 54 yards.

"The team fought and persevered. They busted their butts," coach Bob Diaco said. "They played hard for four quarters and they believed. They prepared well, and in all three phases, there were positive things to talk about."

Connecticut performed better in its latest home game, a 31-13 win over East Carolina on Oct. 30, racking up 404 yards and a season-high 220 on the ground.

The Huskies are 2-23 against Top 25 opponents since joining the FBS in 2000 and have lost five straight matchups since a 23-20 win at No. 19 Louisville on Nov. 24, 2012. They're 1-7 against ranked teams at home.

Notebook: Call leaves Geno, Stewart in foul mood
(Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Breanna Stewart admitted that she put herself in a potential difficult situation Monday by committing a pair of fouls she should not have.

But how the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's senior and the two-time national Player of the Year ended up on the bench midway through the third quarter of the top-ranked Huskies' 100-56 win over No. 7 Ohio State at Value City Arena left her and her coach a bit confused.

After a basket 3:09 into the second half by Ohio State's Shayla Cooper, Stewart and Buckeyes' redshirt freshman reserve Makayla Waterman hit the floor. Referee Tina Napier blew her whistle to stop play.

"My arm was locked up with hers and she fell to make me fall," Stewart said.

Napier discussed the play with fellow officials Sue Blauch and Tim Daley and decided to call a double foul, which was Stewart's fourth. Stewart nailed a 3-pointer on the Huskies' ensuing possession for a 59-32 lead before being replaced at the next dead ball.

Stewart believed the call was questionable. Geno Auriemma was asked if he thought that call would be made in a men's basketball game. Both were unhappy.

"They just got tied up and Stewie is trying to get out of the way," Auriemma said. "That's a no-call. That's a non-call. I said to the official, 'How can both of them be guilty?' A double foul is one guy hitting the other and the second guy hitting back. That's not what happened. It's a non-call, especially for a fourth foul. What if it had been a close game?"

Stewart eventually returned and finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and four blocked shots in 25 minutes. She also avoided a fifth foul making it 116 games in her career at UConn without a disqualification.

"I've never fouled out in a game," Stewart said with a smile. "It was close."

Wooden Award preseason list

Stewart, the 2015 Wooden Award winner as Player of the Year and a two-time Wooden All-American, was named to the Award preseason top 30 list on Tuesday. Also selected were Stewart's teammates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck.

South Carolina was the only other school with three players on the list as Alaina Coates, Tiffany Mitchell, and A'ja Wilson were chosen. Baylor (Nina Davis and Niya Johnson), Duke (Rebecca Greenwell and Azura Stevens), Florida State (Adut Bulgak and Leticia Romero), Maryland (Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough), Notre Dame (Lindsay Allen and Brianna Turner), Ohio State (Ameryst Alston and Kelsey Mitchell), and Texas A&M (Courtney Walker and Courtney Williams) had two players chosen.

Rounding out the list are Oregon's Jillian Alleyne, Northwestern's Nia Coffey, Tennessee's Diamond DeShields, West Virginia's Bria Holmes, George Washington's Jonquel Jones, Washington's Kelsey Plum, Michigan State's Aerial Powers, Stanford's Lili Thompson, Mississippi State's Victoria Vivians, and South Florida's Courtney Williams.

Guest appearance

On Saturday, Auriemma said that Saniya Chong would not play due to a leg issue. She also missed the Huskies' two exhibition games.

But with 3:21 left, the junior guard came on to replace Jefferson. Auriemma admitted he was surprised that Chong was available.

"She went through shoot-around a little bit and all of a sudden it was if she feels good coming out of it she wants to play," Auriemma said. "I thought there was no way at all. Then I thought that I was not going to play her. She hasn't practiced in a week. So I gave her a choice, do you want to play a little bit. She said, yeah. Now we can get started with her when we get back. It was a pleasant surprise to me."

De'Janae Boykin (Achilles) and Natalie Butler (thumb) sat out. Auriemma is hopeful Boykin is back in action sooner than later. Butler is still on schedule to return in December.

Latest polling

The Huskies were a unanimous selection as the nation's top team in the USA Today coaches poll released Tuesday.

UConn remained No. 1 in the Associated Press poll that came out on Monday but it was not a unanimous decision. South Carolina, which defeated Ohio State 88-80 on its home floor in Columbia Friday night got the first-place vote of Seth Soffian, who writes for The News-Press of Fort Myers, Florida, and covers Florida Gulf Coast University.

"Everyone knows UConn is still going to be the team to beat," Soffian told the AP before Monday's game. "But the Huskies haven't played a game yet, and South Carolina beating an Ohio State team that's good enough to be a Final Four contender is impressive enough to warrant a No. 1 vote, at least for now."

Auriemma could not have cared less.

"It's OK. I kind of like that," he said. "It just means there's still someone out there we have to convince."

Signing up

Monday wasn't a total disaster for Ohio State, which did announce the signing of Tori McCoy, a 6-4 senior center from Champaign, Illinois, to a letter of intent. She is ranked the No. 10 recruit in her class by ESPNHoopGurlz.

"It was the best news we got today," Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. "She's a great kid, a talented player, and adds to what I think is already a great class."

Valencia Myers, a 6-3 sophomore forward/center from Solon, Ohio, was at Monday's game here. She was a teammate of UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter on the United States U-16 team last June. Myers is ranked the No. 9 recruit in the Class of 2018 by ESPNHoopGurlz.

Meanwhile, Auriemma stayed behind Monday while his team went home and headed out Tuesday to see Lexi Gordon, a 5-11 junior wing from the Dallas area. Gordon is ranked the No. 34 recruit in the Class of 2017 by ESPNHoopGurlz.

Tags: Breanna Stewart , Geno Auriemma , Carl Adamec
UConn Men's Postgame: Highlights 00:02:21
The UConn men's basketball team defeated New Hampshire, 85-66, and Sterling Gibbs led the way with 21 points.

STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn turned to its perimeter game on Tuesday with its big men in early foul trouble and New Hampshire playing nothing but zone defense.

Sterling Gibbs responded by scoring 21 points and Rodney Purvis added 20 to lead the 19th-ranked Huskies to an 85-66 win over the Wildcats.

The two guards were a combined 10 of 19 from behind the arc, each getting five of the Huskies 13 3-point baskets.

"They were packing the zone in so much that they were daring us to shoot," said Gibbs. "Then when we were able to show that we could knock it down, it kind of loosened the zone a little bit."

Sophomore Daniel Hamilton added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the sixth double-double of his career. He also led the Huskies with six assists.

Video: UConn Men's Postgame: Ollie, Hamilton, Gibbs

Tanner Leissner had 20 points to lead New Hampshire (1-1) and Pat McNamara chipped in 14 points.

UConn led by 10 points at halftime, opened the second half on a 12-5 run and extended the lead from there.

UConn shot 52.6 percent from the floor and 48 percent from behind the arc (13 of 27) while holding New Hampshire to 36 percent shooting. They also outrebounded the Wildcats 40-30.

The Huskies have won 92 of the 117 meetings between these New England schools.

New Hampshire's Leissner, the 2014-15 America East Conference Rookie of the Year, led his team on an 11-3 run that gave the Wildcats a 16-15 lead midway through the first half.

They never led again.

New Hampshire was playing without guards Daniel Dion and Joe Bramanti, who were suspended for the first three games of the season for violating team rules. Coach Bill Herrion said that forced him to use the zone defense in an attempt to keep the rest of his players out of foul trouble

"We're a man-to-man defensive team," Herrion said. "We usually have great defensive numbers. That's kind of what we hang our hat on. But we were short-handed. We just had to roll the dice.

UConn's Hamilton, Amida Brimah, Philip Nolan and Shonn Miller spent much of the first half on the bench after they each picked two fouls. The Huskies had 10 fouls by halftime and were using a three-guard lineup, relying on the 3-point shot to take control of the game.

They made eight of their 12 3-point attempts in the first half. Gibbs had four of those and hit six of his seven first-half shots.

The Huskies struggled with zone defenses a year ago, and Ollie said he expects to see a lot of them again this season.

"It's really going to prepare us," he said. "To shoot 52 percent against a zone the whole night, being early in the season, it was great."

Gibbs' fourth 3-pointer gave the Huskies a 39-29 lead at intermission. It looked like the Huskies would get a chance to extend that lead, but after a lengthy delay to watch replays, the officials decided that Purvis was fouled on a drive after the halftime buzzer.

With their big men back, UConn scored the first three baskets after intermission and ran away from New Hampshire.

A 3-pointer by Purvis gave the Huskies a 69-48 lead with 9 minutes left and the Huskies cruised from there.

New Hampshire, which has four starters back from a team that won 19 games a year ago, was coming off an easy 82-45 win over Division III Lyndon State in its season opener.


UConn: The Huskies are 80-7 in Gampel Pavilion in non-conference games, but lost three times to out-of-conference opponents at the on-campus arena last year, falling to Texas and Yale during the regular season and ending the 2014-15 campaign with a loss to Arizona State in the NIT. Before the loss to Texas, UConn had won 44 straight non-conference games in Storrs.

New Hampshire: Coach Bill Herrion is a win shy of tying William Cowell for second place on the school's all-time wins list. He is 118-182 in his 11 seasons as the Wildcats head coach. He is still 67 behind Gerry Friel who won 185 games during his 20 years at New Hampshire.

BLOCKS: The Huskies blocked seven shots after getting 15 blocks in their season-opener against Maine. Brimah led the way with three blocks after putting up a career-high nine blocked shots against the Black Bears. He led the nation last year with 121 blocks.


UConn: The Huskies face Furman Saturday in the on-campus portion of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, before heading to the Bahamas to face Michigan a week from Wednesday.

New Hampshire: The Wildcats travel to Worcester, Massachusetts on Thursday to face Holy Cross.

Tags: Kevin Ollie , Rodney Purvis , Sterling Gibbs , University of New Hampshire
No. 19 UConn ready to take on UNH on SNY Tuesday 7 p.m.
Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller will try to lead UConn to another strong home showing Tuesday night in the 117th meeting with former Yankee Conference rival New Hampshire. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Connecticut's newest stars were pleasantly surprised with their first experience at Gampel Pavilion. However, the No. 19 Huskies' impressive play wasn't much of a stunner.

Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller will try to lead UConn to another strong home showing Tuesday night in the 117th meeting with former Yankee Conference rival New Hampshire (SNY, 7 p.m.).

After missing out on the NCAA Tournament last season, coach Kevin Ollie looked to get the Huskies back to their 2014 championship form by bringing in Gibbs and Miller, and the graduate transfers made an immediate impact Friday in a 100-56 home win over Maine.

Video: UConn Season Preview: What's ahead

"(Our first home game) was more than we expected it to be," said Miller, a 2014-15 first-team Ivy League selection with Cornell. "The lights, the fans, everybody... It was just a great atmosphere."

Gibbs, who averaged 16.3 points at Seton Hall last season, finished with 20, while Miller had 17 points and 10 rebounds after 16.8 and 8.5 marks with the Big Red in 2014-15.

"They know how to run the team without telling everyone what to do," center Amida Brimah said.

The Huskies only led by 12 at halftime before scoring 34 of the next 38 points en route to reaching 100 points since a 106-85 home win over Coppin State on Dec. 14.

Brimah scored a career-high 40 points while hitting all 13 of his shots in that contest. The 7-footer had 18 on 7-of-8 shooting Friday to go with nine blocked shots, one off the school record shared by Hasheem Thabeet, Emeka Okafor and Donyell Marshall.

Junior guard Rodney Purvis, who was third on the team last season with 11.6 points per game, chipped in 10. Sophomore forward Daniel Hamilton, the American Athletic Conference's reigning Rookie of the Year, had seven points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

"No matter what, there is someone who can lead the game and lead the team," Gibbs said.

Connecticut shot 54.5 percent while limiting Maine to just 30.2, outscored the Black Bears 54-22 in the paint and outrebounded them 52-40.

The Huskies could find the going a bit more difficult at home against New Hampshire, which opened with an 82-45 home win over Division-III Lyndon State on Friday.

Tanner Leissner, the 2014-15 America East Conference Rookie of the Year, led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Iba Camara had career highs with 15 points and 20 boards, and Jaleen Smith finished with 11 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

The Wildcats, who return four starters from last season, held a 63-31 advantage on the boards while limiting the Hornets to 21.9 percent shooting. They're looking to take the next step after moving from six wins in 2013-14 to a school record-tying 19 last season.

UConn holds a 91-25 record in the all-time series, which dates to the 1906-07 season. The Huskies haven't lost to New Hampshire since January 1983 after pulling out a 61-53 home win in the most recent meeting on Nov. 29, 2012.

They may be without senior forward Phil Nolan, who is dealing with a foot injury.

Tags: Shonn Miller , Sterling Gibbs , University of New Hampshire
UConn forward Gabby Williams hopeful it's start of something big
Connecticut Huskies guard Gabby Williams (15) battles with forward Morgan Tuck (3) and Ohio State Buckeyes forward Alexa Hart (22) for a rebound at Value City Arena. UConn won the game 100-56. (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)

COLUMBUS, Ohio - If one regular season game is an indicator, there's going to be a new Sixth Man Award winner in the American Athletic Conference come March.

UConn forward Gabby Williams, who shared the honor with Tulsa's Ashley Clark last season, joined the four Huskies who also started the 2015 national championship game for the opening tip of the Huskies' regular season opener against Ohio State Monday.

And the new kid showed that she belongs.

Williams had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while helping set a tone for a dominant defensive performance in her first regular season start Monday as No. 1 UConn pounded seventh-ranked Ohio State 100-56 at Value City Arena.

"It's honestly not much different because either way I'm trying to bring energy," Williams said. "No matter when you're playing you have to have the right mindset."

That mindset was being aggressive. The Sparks, Nevada, native had two of her four steals in the first 90 seconds and chipped in four assists as the Huskies coasted to their 20th straight opening day win.

"She was all over the place," said UConn All-American Breanna Stewart, who had a game high 24 points as the entire starting lineup scored in double figures. "She had a few steals, a layup. She was active."

"Gabby knows that she can make plays," added fellow All-American Moriah Jefferson, who finished with 21 points. "She's out there just playing the game instead of thinking about it. It's great playing with her. We're there on top and getting steals and tips, and it really helps our transition game."

The 5-foot-11 Williams made the transition from McDonald's High School All-American guard to a forward playing mostly in the lane a year ago. As she expands her game back out towards the perimeter as a sophomore, she's a little bit of everything instead of being held to one spot.

"I just let her do what she wants to do and we go from there," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's never been, 'OK, this is what someone in your position does.' It's always, 'This is where you're going to play and do what you want with that.' That's what she's done. She's taken it and run with it. She's inventing her own position in a lot of ways. With Gabby, there's, 'No, you can't do that.' It's about showing us what you can do.

"Remember, Gabby didn't play basketball much her junior and senior years of high school because of her knee. Then she came to UConn without the benefit of working on her game. Last year she was trying to get better. Now that she's had a summer to work on it you see the results. If you're a good basketball player, you're a good basketball player. She's a real good player. There are things that she can't do. But there are things she does well. We try to keep her going in that direction."

Williams was 5-for-9 shooting from the floor. Nine of her 11 rebounds were on the defensive end. She did her damage in just 22 minutes.

"I always thought Gabby had the ability to guard different people," Auriemma said. "We thought tonight that Gabby could guard their center, their wings, and their guards. Because she can. Every time she had a chance, she made a play. I don't think, until you play against her, that you realize how quick she is. She's only going to get better."

The more she shows she can do - she showed marked improvement on her jump shot in the exhibition games - the more opportunities she will receive.

Her guard skills showed up a year ago in that, though she was a freshman playing a different role, she still finished with more assists and turnovers. She had just one turnover Monday to go with her four assists.

And she could and would shoot the 3-pointer back in her days at Reed High.

"It's mostly just getting my confidence back," Williams said. "Playing forward, it was about getting repetitions. I'm hitting mid-range shots now and hopefully that will lead to 3-pointers. It's by being confident. I was OK (shooting threes) way back when years ago."

And about that Sixth Man Award? Clark was in the starting lineup for Tulsa in its season opening loss to Kansas State, which visits the Huskies at the XL Center in Hartford next Monday.

Tags: Gabby Williams , Carl Adamec
GEICO SportsNite: UConn wins big 00:00:47
Chris Carlin recaps a huge 100-56 win by the top-ranked UConn Huskies in their season opener at Ohio State.

Box score

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Geno Auriemma said on his radio show last week that the first to 100 points would win the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's regular season opener against Ohio State.

The Hall of Fame coach, as usual, was right. But the triple-figure performance offensively took second fiddle to the Huskies' defensive effort.

Top-ranked UConn placed all five starters in double figures Monday, led by All-American Breanna Stewart's 24 points, while taking the Buckeyes completely out of their offense en route to a 100-56 rout of No. 7 Ohio State before 11,435 at Value City Arena.

"It wasn't about just setting the tone for this game, it was about setting the tone for this season," said UConn forward Gabby Williams, who finished with a double-double. "Everyone is watching us right now so we wanted to give them a show."

Williams, in her first career start, helped that set that tone with a pair of early steals as UConn led wire to wire.

But it was also the work of guards Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse that blanketed their Ohio State counterparts Kelsey Mitchell, the nation's leading scorer a season ago, and Ameryst Alston. The Buckeyes' backcourt combined for 59 points in a loss at No. 2 South Carolina Friday night. On Monday, they totaled 15 points on a combined 5-for-27 performance from the floor.

"When you play a team with the ability to break you down one-on-one like Ohio State does, you have to commit yourself to playing great defense and you have to play the whole 30-second shot clock, you can't play for just 15," Auriemma said. "I thought that we were amazing on defense. That whole first half I thought we were great. Gabby Williams and Moriah Jefferson set the tone early on. They might have made it look easy but it wasn't easy. It's not easy guarding those guys. I'm really happy for them and proud of them.

"They got the message. They respect everyone, pretty much. They knew those two could score a lot of points. Kelsey Mitchell getting those two fouls put a damper on her game. But people ask me all the time, 'How do you stop a great offensive player?' You don't. You try to get them in foul trouble."

Joining Stewart in double figures were Jefferson (21), Nurse (16), Morgan Tuck (15), and Williams (10). Williams also had a game high 11 rebounds along with four assists and four steals. Stewart also had four blocked shots and she and Tuck missed double-doubles by one rebound.

"We knew their guards were going to be aggressive on offense so we had to be the same way towards them," Jefferson said.

UConn quieted the crowd at the start by scoring the first seven points and forcing Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff to call time out with 1:49 gone.

Shayla Cooper, who was 2-for-17 from the floor at South Carolina, came alive with nine points and pulled the Buckeyes to within 14-13. But Jefferson had six points in a 10-2 run to give the Huskies a 24-15 lead after the first quarter.

"We came out and were the aggressor," Williams said. "We forced them to play our pace. They're a real good team in transition and we kept them to two fast-break points. We had a goal and did it."

After Cooper scored again to open the second quarter, UConn broke it open as six players scored in a 17-1 spurt that was capped off by a Stewart three-point play. Then after Alston scored the first field goal for the Ohio State backcourt, the Huskies ripped off the next eight points including back-to-back 3-pointers by Jefferson and Nurse.

It was 50-24 at halftime and the Buckeyes got no closer than 24 the rest of the way. Tierney Lawlor's baseline jumper with 11 seconds left got UConn to 100.

"We were motivated this week and we knew what we wanted to do," Stewart said. "We wanted to make them uncomfortable and take tough shots. That's what happened. As a unit, we had each other's back."

Cooper had 17 points for the Buckeyes, who lost their home opener for the first time since 1998. Ohio State is 2-16 against Associated Press No. 1 teams, including 0-3 against UConn, with both victories coming in the 1987-88 season.

"We got our butts kicked," McGuff said. "They're a great team. They coached better, they played better, they deserved to win by the margin that they did. The good news for us is that it's only two games in and there's a lot of the season left."

The Buckeyes will play the return game of this two-year agreement between the schools in Connecticut next season.

On deck for the Huskies is Kansas State next Monday night at the XL Center in Hartford. What will they do for an encore?

"Our practices have been really good," Auriemma said. "Ever since we started we haven't had a situation where we're begging them to do certain things. We say this is what we're going to do, and they do it. And they do it pretty much to the best of their ability. There's no one rolling their eyes and making faces. They just do it and do it every day."

Tags: Breanna Stewart , Geno Auriemma , Ohio State University , Carl Adamec
For openers, it's top ten opponent Ohio State for No. 1 UConn
Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell was the nation's leading scorer a season ago. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The University of Connecticut women's basketball team has not dropped a season opener in 20 years, part of the reason it has not lost back-to-back games since March of 1993.

A year ago, the Huskies made their debut with a 46-game winning streak and after Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis buried 10 3-pointers on UC Davis it seemed like they had picked up where they had left off. But two days later they were beaten by Stanford in overtime and an emotional All-American Breanna Stewart stated they had to change to reach their goals.

That change didn't end after UConn won its final 37 games and its third straight national championship last April. The lessons learned continued into this preseason and the top-ranked Huskies plan to take those with them Monday when they visit No. 6 Ohio State at Value City Arena here.

"This year, since we started practice until now, has been very different than last year," UConn forward Morgan Tuck said. "Yes, we're doing the same drills and the same kinds of things in practice. But the way we're doing it is different. Last year it took us way longer to get to that point. And we're not exactly where we want to be yet because it's a long season. But at this time last year we weren't feeling as good as a team, as confident in each other, like we had each other's back at all times on the court, and that we were going to do the things that would help us win. I don't think we felt prepared. This year we've gone out and done what we needed to do in order to feel prepared.

"You'll be able to see just the way we move on the court. And you'll see it in the contributions that every player is giving. Last year at Stanford it was the Stewie Show. We'd throw it to Stewie and we would all just stand and watch her get triple-teamed. This year we've tried to make sure that everyone is involved right from the beginning. We don't want to have a loss to show people what they will need to bring to the team."

It's the first time in Huskies' history they are opening with a true road game against a top 10 opponent. Ohio State (0-1) already has a game under its belt, dropping an 88-80 decision at No. 2 South Carolina Friday night.

UConn coasted to exhibition wins over Division II Lubbock Christian and NAIA Vanguard. But the Huskies' real preparation for their first real test has been done in the Werth Champions Center the past five weeks.

And there were enough reminders that this is a new season with a new team.

"I think that we got a taste of it in our first exhibition game when we didn't come out the way that we wanted to," UConn All-American guard Moriah Jefferson said. "That was a wake-up call. The intensity level went up in practice. I think, now, that guys are doing what we need to. Now it's about going out and playing and not worrying about the crowd, the atmosphere … Go out and play the game the way we can play it."

The Huskies will be down three players - Saniya Chong, Natalie Butler, and De'Janae Boykin - due to injuries. But they do have their four returning starters with Stewart, Tuck, Jefferson, and Kia Nurse. Sophomore Gabby Williams, last season's American Athletic Conference co-Sixth Man Award winner, joins the first five with highly-touted freshmen Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier first off the bench.

"I think they are much more mature in some aspects," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "The practices we have had for the most part have been much more mature. There haven't been as many practices as we had last year at this time where you just shake your head and go, 'These guys don't know what they are in for.' Last year, going into a game without Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, was a real shocker for them. They always had someone who would bail them out. They thought they could just roll in there with no problem.

"I think we're in a better frame of mind and better situated right now to play a game like this early in the season than we were last year for sure."

UConn and Ohio State last met two years ago, coach Kevin McGuff's first season with the Buckeyes, and the Huskies picked up a sloppy 70-49 win at the Hall of Fame Women's Challenge in Springfield, Massachusetts.

But McGuff has already brought in his kind of players including the leading scorer in the country a season ago, guard Kelsey Mitchell. Against South Carolina, Mitchell scored 36 with backcourt mate Ameryst Alston adding 23. If McGuff had his way, there would be 119 points scored in the first half today, not over 40 minutes.

"When I got here, No. 1 I wanted a different style of play," McGuff said. "We inherited some really great kids and I enjoyed coaching them, but I just wanted a little bit different style. We were fortunate enough in our first recruiting class to really add some players that could play that style. That was the first step. The second step was to continue to add players that could do that. Now in Year 3, I think we are kind of where I was hoping we could be. We're still a ways from being where I think we will be eventually. But we do have a team that can play fast and can really push the tempo."

The Buckeyes fell into a 15-point hole in the first six minutes against the Gamecocks but rallied to lead by as many as six in the third quarter before South Carolina rallied itself. Ohio State had 26 field goals but only three assists attached to them.

McGuff admits starting with the No. 2 and No. 1 teams in the polls wasn't the best idea he's had, but he wants to challenge his team. The Buckeyes also have a trip to South Bend to face No. 3 Notre Dame on Dec. 2.

Over 10,000 tickets have been sold, even though much of the attention here is focused on the national champion Ohio State football team and its bid to return to the four-team playoff.

"One of the things we have tried to work really hard on is to build something special here," McGuff said. "We need a big event in our building and, obviously, when Connecticut comes to town it's a huge deal. I think we're going to have an electric environment. It will be a really fun atmosphere for our players, for the Connecticut players, and it's something I think will be good for women's basketball."

It may be fun, but it's new for Samuelson and Collier, who admitted to being nervous during the exhibition games.

And Tuck knows they'll be nervous Monday.

"But you want to try to get the nerves out early," Tuck said. "One of the reasons that it's good to have a game like this right away is that you get used to playing in front of a crowd and playing in an intense environment. I want them to enjoy this. This is why they came to UConn for, to play in games like this."

They also came to win national championships. The start of the journey toward an unprecedented fourth consecutive NCAA title is about to begin.

"There's definitely a sense or urgency because we know that we have to come out strong and play a really good game," Jefferson said. "If we don't, we could lose. It's that simple. We have to be prepared and I think we've done a good job of getting ready."

Tags: UConn Game Preview , Ohio State University , Carl Adamec
Five questions with UConn redshirt junior forward Morgan Tuck
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

STORRS, Conn. - After a pair of right knee surgeries limited to her just eight games in 2013-14, Morgan Tuck rebounded in style for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

The 6-foot-2 forward from Bolingbrook, Illinois, earned all-American Athletic Conference first-team honors and was named to the postseason all-tournaments teams of the AAC, the NCAA Albany (New York) Regional, and the NCAA Final Four as UConn won its third straight national championship and record 10th overall. She enters her redshirt junior year with 847 points and the Huskies are 113-5 since she, Breanna Stewart, and Moriah Jefferson arrived at UConn.

Tuck recently took time out to answer five questions. The top-ranked Huskies open the regular season Monday night at No. 6 Ohio State.

1. Once in the last seven seasons - your senior year at Bolingbrook High School - has your team lost the last game of its season. Is that one loss still motivation for you?
Tuck: "Yes, definitely. It was probably one of the best atmospheres I played in. It was a great environment. Everyone wanted to see it. It went four overtimes. No one that was there will forget it. But I don't ever want that feeling I had again after we lost. It was terrible. It's interesting that how things are set up for me now are the way they were in high school. We won the first three championships but my senior year we didn't get that last one. This year I look at it like we won three here and that's great. But it really doesn't matter now. After college I'll look back and know we did something special. But right now we're trying to make history."

2. Does trying to win four national championships bring a different kind of pressure than trying to get that first, second, or third one?
Tuck: "There's more pressure, I would say. It definitely feels that way because we're in that position now. When we were freshmen, we didn't know what to expect because it was new and we were freshmen. Now it's flipped to where it's riding on us, the ones that have been here and been through it. It's like whatever happens falls on our shoulders. There's more pressure that way, but this championship would mean much more than the first one."

3. You've said one of your goals this year is to be a first-team All-American. What will you have to do to be an All-American, what makes an All-American?
Tuck: "I have to make a big impact on my team. At least for us here at UConn, that's the big thing in becoming an All-American. You make an impact on your team and you help make that team successful. We have a lot of really good players here. We have players that are already All-Americans - Moriah and and Stewie. It's not about leading the team in scoring and putting up the best numbers. It's about having an impact and helping the team win. All-Americans can do a lot of things and that what I have to do every day to reach my goals."

4. Where have you seen the improvement in your game since you won the national championship seven months ago?
Tuck: "I think I'm more consistent around the basket, and that's something I really need to be this year. But I also want to be more of a leader this year. That's something that is important to me and what I want to do. I've been vocal in practice and that's a part of it. Another thing I've tried to do this year, particularly with our freshmen, is to share my experiences. Freshman year is a struggle, for everyone. So I'm going to help them as much as I can. For example, things move fast in practice. So if Napheesa Collier has a question, she knows she can come to me for an answer. Or if De'Janae Boykin doesn't understand something and wants to have me walk her through it, I'll do that. I want to be available to them and I need to make sure that I'm doing things right."

5. How much fun will it be to go to Chicago on Dec. 2 and play at DePaul, which is close by to Bolingbrook where you grew up?
Tuck: "Bolingbrook is about 30 miles outside of Chicago, so to get the opportunity to play in that area again is very exciting for me. I know that a lot of my friends I went to high school with will be there and I have family in Michigan, and that's pretty close, so they'll be there. I'll be able to see a lot of people I haven't seen for a long time. I've been looking forward to a game with DePaul since I watched a UConn-DePaul game as a recruit. It's going to be fun."

Tags: Morgan Tuck , Carl Adamec
Huskies begin quest for unprecedented 4th straight nat'l title
The top-ranked Huskies begin their quest for an unprecedented fourth straight national championship on Monday when they open the regular season at No. 6 Ohio State. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

STORRS, Conn. - Through its unparalleled run of success that's lasted for more than a quarter-century now, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team has stayed away from catchy cliches or slogans, instead letting its actions do the talking.

With an opportunity at a history-making season, the Huskies won't change and will go with what got them here.

"There's a lot of times you hear, 'Don't play to lose,' or 'Refuse to lose,' " UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "For us it's a matter of us continuing to take nothing for granted. Just because you put on this UConn jersey doesn't mean you're going to win the game. What's special, I think, is that every player understands that we have to go out there and perform at our best each and every day to make sure that we don't lose."

The top-ranked Huskies begin their quest for an unprecedented fourth straight national championship on Monday when they open the regular season at No. 6 Ohio State.

It's not that UConn refuses to lose. It just happens to the Huskies less frequently than all the others.

UConn is 113-5 since Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, and Moriah Jefferson arrived on campus. The Huskies have NCAA marks of 10 straight 30-win seasons and eight consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances.

Their 10 national championships, all since 1995, are unmatched.

"So many times teams that put the focus on 'Refuse to lose' would be better off putting it on 'Desire to win,' " UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "No one wants to lose. Who goes into a game saying it's OK to lose? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to win.

"Some have a greater will to win. To do that you can't be afraid to lose. Sometimes teams are their own worst enemies. Coaches are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don't talk about losing. We know that losing is part of the game. Anytime they keep score you might lose. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, 'What do we have to do to be successful?' It works for us."

Two programs previously have won three straight NCAA titles: Tennessee (1996-98) and UConn (2002-04). Neither team made it to the Final Four in its bid for four straight.

These Huskies are the favorites to cut down the nets in Indianapolis in April.

"We don't get in a circle before practice and go, 'Remember guys, four in a row,' " Auriemma said. "Nobody is talking about it."

But they do have to answer a lot of questions about it.

"We have to come out and prepare the way we have and approach it the way that we have," Jefferson said. "It worked the first, second, and third time. We've come out and are working harder than ever to get there and get the job done."

"It's exciting because it's a chance to be part of something that's never been done," Nurse added. "I'm more excited for Morgan, Stewie and Moriah because they can do something that's simply incredible. But you have to put it in the back of your mind and make sure you're focused on the moment and what's going on in the here and now."

Where UConn starts is with four returning starters including two-time reigning Player of the Year Stewart and the 2015 Nancy Lieberman Award winner and All-American Jefferson. Tuck rebounded from a pair of right knee surgeries that cost her much of the 2013-14 season to become a solid and dependable performer. Nurse made her mark as the 2015 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. But her stock went through the roof this summer as she led Team Canada to the gold medal at the Pan American Games and was the MVP of the FIBA Americas Championships as Canada clinched a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Auriemma believes that all four are better than when they walked off the court at Amalie Arena in Tampa seven months ago.

"With the maturity that Stewie and Tuck and Moriah bring back, you really do have a great core group returning," Auriemma said. "What else do they know besides winning national championships? So the number one thing we have to do is make sure that there isn't that normal complacency that sets in, We have to make sure we create an environment where every day is a real important day."

Sophomore forward Gabby Williams has earned the fifth starting spot. Sophomore center Natalie Butler, the 2014 Big East Freshman of the Year at Georgetown, would have been a candidate, too, but she is out until December after surgery to repair torn ligaments in her left thumb. Junior guard Saniya Chong could have been in the mix as well but has missed time with a knee issue.

The Huskies' three freshmen - Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, and De'Janae Boykin - will be learning on the job, though Boykin (Achilles) will be sidelined perhaps through November.

"They're going to play early and going to play often," Auriemma said. "And I wouldn't be surprised if they're in the game late."

"This is a special freshman class," Stewart added. "They know what opportunities are at stake just as well as the rest of the team, and they want to be a part of it."

Sophomore Courtney Ekmark also hopes to make some noise and Auriemma said she has improved. Rounding out the roster are senior Briana Pulido and junior Tierney Lawlor, both of whom received scholarships from Auriemma last spring.

UConn will face four teams - No. 2 South Carolina, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 6 Ohio State, and No. 7 Maryland - in the AP preseason top 10. Its toughest competition in the AAC will come from South Florida, which is ranked at No. 20 nationally.

The Huskies could get back to the Final Four without leaving Connecticut. If they are a top-four regional seed in the NCAA Tournament, they would host the first two rounds. Bridgeport is hosting Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in late March.

The national championship game is set for April 5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

It's time to start the ride.

"To have a class come in and win four national championships, that's a dream come true," Auriemma said. "For Stewie, Moriah, and Tuck, if it happens for them it will be one of the most remarkable things ever in women's basketball."

Tags: Geno Auriemma , UConn Women's Basketball Preview , Carl Adamec
Ex-Lady Vol advises Huskies: Enjoy the process
(Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports)

The University of Connecticut women's basketball program has been here before in the fall of 2004.

Six months earlier, Diana Taurasi kicked the ball high into the New Orleans Arena stands as the Huskies celebrated a third straight national championship. But when the 2004-05 campaign began, there was no Taurasi, no Maria Conlon and very little thought of making it four in a row.

"We weren't thinking that back then," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Back then it wasn't as pronounced as it is now. It's a different cast of characters. The lead actor in the play had moved off-Broadway. It's like watching The Producers without Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Even though we were trying to do the same thing in 2005 we are now, it's not the same feeling. If Diana could've stayed another year or was a year younger … But it was a different time."

Auriemma's current Huskies begin what they hope is a run to an unprecedented fourth consecutive NCAA title when they visit No. 6 Ohio State on Monday.

It was a different time in 1998-99, too, but in many ways the Tennessee Lady Vols of that season were similar to the Huskies of now. Tennessee had rolled to a third straight national championship in 1998 by going 39-0, returned its core players, and led by Player of the Year Chamique Holdsclaw was the prohibitive favorite to win it all again.

"We expected to win," said Missouri State coach Kellie (Jolly) Harper, then the Lady Vols' senior point guard. "I don't know if we ever thought about it or looked at it like we can win four in a row. Our goal was to win a national championship."

Much of the attention that is coming with UConn's bid coincides with Player of the Year Breanna Stewart's stated desire as a freshman to win four national championships while in college.

But doesn't every player that goes to an elite program believe that? Harper did when she joined coach Pat Summitt's program.

"When Chamique and I signed during our senior year of high school, we said, 'We're going to win four national championships at Tennessee,' " Harper said. "Looking back, we had to be crazy to say that. But coming into each season, our goal as a team was to win the national championship.

"When you're in high school you can say that but you really don't know what it means or what goes into all of it. Looking back, I totally appreciate that we left with three. It's easy to talk about but really hard to do. Everything has to go right for you. You have to continue to get better every day and be playing your best ball in March. You have to have your best players step up. You have to hope you stay healthy. And as much as you make things go your way and you make your own breaks, you have to be a little lucky."

Tennessee took a 46-game winning streak into its second game of the 1998-99 season at Purdue. But it was the Boilermakers with Stephanie White that got the 10-point win.

It set a tone for the Lady Vols' season.

"It was shock, disappointment," Harper said. "It was November. But even then, we acted like we play for the national championship and that we win the national championship. After we lost, we won 24 straight but it didn't seem like anything came easy. It was like we were struggling and we were trying to find ways to get out of it."

Tennessee swept the SEC regular season and tournament titles and took a 31-2 record into the NCAA East Regional final against Duke in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The Lady Vols had beaten the Blue Devils by 14 in the regular season. But they fell into an 11-point second-half hole and their rally fell short. Holdsclaw was 2-for-18 from the floor and both she and Harper fouled out in the final minute of the 69-63 loss.

"I remember I fell down when I fouled out and I was still in the lane," Harper said. "I didn't know if I could get up and walk to the bench it hurt so bad. I'll never forget it.

"After the game I walked into a room and saw Pat. I don't know if she saw me, but she was crying and it's the only time I've seen her cry. It wasn't for herself, it was the team and the seniors that she felt so bad for."

What went wrong?

"It's not like we didn't work hard or didn't have the energy to win it or go to the Final Four," Harper said. "I went into coaching soon after, but I don't think that at the time I could understand it. The sense of urgency we needed, the sense we needed to keep getting better day by day, I don't know if we had that. For us, we thought we were going to play for the national championship and it was like we would just get there and we didn't take care of all the things that we needed to get to that point."

While the 2004-05 Huskies returned three starters, they didn't have the talent to win it all. Freshmen had to play key roles. The players that complemented Taurasi so well for two years weren't good enough to take center stage.

Still they went 25-8, won the Big East Tournament title, and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in Kansas City. They led No. 1 Stanford by six at halftime but couldn't hold on and lost 76-59.

"It was a disastrous year, and I don't mean that sarcastically," Auriemma said. "It was the kind of year you look back and think, 'If this is how it's going to be coaching at Connecticut, I don't want to be here much longer.' After coaching icons, we have a normal team. It made us feel like, 'Wow. How lucky have we been?' This is normal. What we were doing, wasn't normal."

UConn wouldn't get back to the Final Four until 2008. But the Huskies have a record run of eight consecutive trips since.

There are 18 players, including Harper and UConn seniors Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck, who have three national championship rings. No one has four.

Harper tried, and she was asked what advice she'd give the UConn trio.

"You have to believe in the process and the vision that you have to take you there," she said. "Enjoy the process in November and December and beyond that takes you into March and the tournament. You have to take care of the little things. Just because you have the best players doesn't mean that you'll have the best team. A lot goes into it. It sounds simple, but it's not. It's a great challenge and you have to be ready for it."

Tags: Geno Auriemma , Kellie Harper , Carl Adamec
UConn Men's Post Game: Reaction 00:02:29
Coach Kevin Ollie and guard Sterling Gibbs discuss UConn's season-opening win over Maine and how they can improve as the season goes on.

Coach Kevin Ollie and guard Sterling Gibbs discuss UConn's season-opening win over Maine and how they can improve as the season goes on.

Tags: Kevin Ollie , Sterling Gibbs , UConn Men's Post Game
UConn Men's Post Game: UConn 00:01:58
The UConn men's basketball team opened its season with a dominating 100-56 win over Maine in which Sterling Gibbs scored 20 points.

Box score | Play-by-play

STORRS, Conn. (AP) It didn't take long for UConn's two graduate transfers to step up for the Huskies.

Sterling Gibbs scored 20 points, Shonn Miller had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 20 UConn rolled over Maine 100-56 on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.

Gibbs, who also played at Texas and Seton Hall, also had four assists. Miller, who came over from Cornell, blocked three shots and had two steals.

"We just wanted to come in and be the best versions of us as possible and fit in where we could," Gibbs said.

UConn's 7-foot center Amida Brimah dominated underneath, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds and nine blocked shots, one off a school record shared by Hasheem Thabeet, Emeka Okafor and Donyell Marshall.

Till Gloger led Maine with 17 points.

Connecticut led the entire game in its 84th win in the 100 meetings of the two programs. The Huskies were up by 12 at the break and scored 34 of the next 38 points to put it away.

Brimah had eight points and two blocks during an 11-0 run to open the second half. He hit seven of his eight shots and dunked home five lob passes.

"The only way you can have more energy is to have fun playing the game," he said.

The Huskies held Maine to 30 percent shooting while hitting 54.5 percent of their shots from the floor. They outscored Maine 54-22 in the paint and outrebounded the Black Bears 52-40.

Coach Kevin Ollie has been emphasizing a statistic he calls "kills," stopping the other team on three consecutive possessions. UConn had nine of those, he said, six in the second half.

"Our switching defense really gave them trouble and then we started rebounding the basketball," Ollie said. "Twenty assists, eight turnovers and 15 blocks is pretty good."

UConn took its first 30-point lead, 64-34, on a layup by Kentan Facey with just under 14 minutes left. Three minutes later the lead was 40 points after a 3-pointer by Omar Calhoun.

Rodney Purvis chipped in 10 points and Calhoun had eight for UConn, which is coming off a disappointing 20-15 season and a first-round loss in the NIT, a year after winning the national title.

Maine had its worst season when it went 3-27 a year ago in coach Bob Walsh's first year with the program.

"We showed a level of fight that I really liked at halftime," Walsh said. "I have no idea what I did or what I said, but we certainly didn't have it at the same level coming out in the second half."

The Huskies played without senior forward Phil Nolan, who injured his right foot in the Huskies' final exhibition game.

UConn has won 59 of its last 71 openers.


UConn: The Huskies announced the signing of a highly touted four-member recruiting class. The group includes guard Alterique Gilbert (Lithonia, Georgia), power forwards Mamadou Diarra (Queens, New York) and Juwan Durham (Tampa, Florida) and small forward Vance Jackson (Altadena, California). "They don't overlap each other, which I like in my classes," Ollie said. "I don't want two players just alike, because that's not fair to the players or the program."

Maine: The Black Bears were without senior guard Shaun Lawton, who remains on indefinite suspension for failure to meet team requirements.


Maine freshman Issac Vann finished with 10 points on 2-for-10 shooting. Vann went to high school in Stratford, Connecticut and is the cousin of a former UConn guard, Oliver Macklin.


UConn is home again on Tuesday to play New Hampshire.

Maine heads to New York to play LIU Brooklyn on Thursday.

Tags: Amida Brimah , Kevin Ollie , Shonn Miller , Sterling Gibbs , University of Maine
UConn Men's Pre Game: Tim Welsh 00:02:03
Tim Welsh provides his input on UConn's potential for this season and the impact he believes Sterling Gibbs will have on the team.

Tim Welsh provides his input on UConn's potential for this season and the impact he believes Sterling Gibbs will have on the team.

Tags: Gary Apple , Tim Welsh , UConn Men's Basketball Pre Game
UConn Season Preview 00:02:29
Kerith Burke takes a look at what's ahead for UConn this upcoming season, including the potential of incoming transfer Sterling Gibbs.

Kerith Burke takes a look at what's ahead for UConn men's basketball this upcoming season, including the potential of incoming transfer Sterling Gibbs.

Tags: Kerith Burke , Sterling Gibbs , UConn Men's Basketball Preview Show
UConn Men's Season Preview 00:02:29
UConn men's basketball head coach Kevin Ollie discusses his desire to win and for his players to compete and bring energy.

UConn men's basketball head coach Kevin Ollie discusses his desire to win and for his players to compete and bring energy.

Tags: Kevin Ollie , UConn Men's Basketball Preview Show
UConn men open vs. Maine Friday at 7:30 p.m. on SNY
(David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

UConn's men's basketball team has added experience to an already veteran team, which is looking to bounce back from a disappointing season and perhaps make a run at a second national championship in three years.

After winning it all in 2014, the Huskies missed the NCAA Tournament last year, lost in the first round of the NIT and finished 20-15.

Coach Kevin Ollie responded by bringing in two graduate transfers who are expected to play major roles this season, starting in Friday night's opener against Maine at 7:30 p.m. on SNY.

Guard Sterling Gibbs, who began his career at Texas and continued it at Seton Hall, is being asked to fill the point guard spot left vacant by the graduation of Ryan Boatright. Gibbs was all-Big East ashe averaged 16.3 points and 3.8 assists at Seton Hall last season.

Shonn Miller, who won the team's annual slam-dunk contest, is expected to provide some help down low. He averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds last season at Cornell and was named first-team all-Ivy League.

"Coming in with two fifth-year seniors is really going to help us," Ollie said. "They've been through the wars."

The Huskies also bring back a wealth of experience, led by 6-foot-7 sophomore swingman Daniel Hamilton, guard Rodney Purvis and 7-foot shot-blocking center Amida Brimah.

"We're really strong," Purvis said. "We've got a whole team full of guys that can go get it and we all got better."
In addition to Gibbs and Miller, the Huskies also boast one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

Guard Jalen Adams, from Shabazz Napier's hometown of Roxbury, Mass. has been pushing Gibbs during the preseason and is expected to see a lot of time at the point. He was picked as the American Athletic Conference's preseason Rookie of the Year. Hamilton was named an all-conference first-team selection and Brimah, the nation's top returning shot blocker at 3.5 per game, and Gibbs were named to the second team.

The biggest surprise of the offseason has been 6-11 freshman Steve Enoch from Norwalk.

"He's big and he's skilled," Ollie said. "He can shoot it outside, poised and he's a sponge. He wants to get better."

Hamilton averaged 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists as a freshman to become the AAC's Rookie of the Year. He said he has become more vocal in practice and is taking on a leadership role this season.

"He's going to be on everybody's list to stop," Ollie said.

Guard Sam Cassell Jr. is hoping to become a consistent contributor after his first year at UConn was derailed by injury. The son of the former NBA star played in 18 games in 2014-15 and was diagnosed in January with a stress fracture in his right tibia. Ollie is counting on him to be a 3-point threat.

UConn, which has won 15 consecutive season openers, has again put together a tough out-of-conference schedule to help make up for being in a relatively weak conference. The Huskies will play Michigan, Maryland, Ohio State, former Big East rival Georgetown and have the potential of facing another former Big East rival in Syracuse, as well as Gonzaga, Washington, Texas A&M and Texas in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

A matchup with Maine, which went 3-27 a season ago and is picked to finish last in the America East Conference, won't be one of the Huskies' tougher tests.

Sophomore Kevin Little is one of four starters returning for the Bears after averaging 12.5 points last season and being named to the league's all-rookie team.

This will be the 100th meeting between the programs with UConn owning an 83-16 record. The Huskies won 95-68 in 2013 for their 12th straight victory since a 79-73 loss in 1978.

Capsule look at the 11 AAC women's teams for opening weekend
Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin looks to take the Tigers to their first postseason berth since joining the AAC. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

It's opening weekend for women's college basketball.

Seven American Athletic Conference teams begin play Friday: East Carolina faces UT-Rio Grande Valley in Corpus Christi, Texas, Houston is at Charleston, No. 20 South Florida entertains Jacksonville, Tulane hosts Arkansas-Little Rock, Temple welcomes Florida, Tulsa is home with Kansas State, and Memphis entertains Jacksonville State.

On Saturday, Cincinnati opens at home with St. Francis (Pennsylvania) and Central Florida visits Nebraska-Omaha. On Sunday, SMU hosts Northwestern State. Finally on Monday, three-time reigning national champion and top-ranked UConn starts its campaign with a trip to No. 6 Ohio State.

Here is a capsule look (in alphabetical order) at the 11 AAC teams.

COACH: Joi Williams (13th year overall, 161-201; 9th year at UCF, 107-140)
2014-15: 9-21 overall, 5-13 AAC (no postseason)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Erika Juarbe, 5-9 G. Juniors: Zykira Lewis, 5-8 G. Sophomores: Aliyah Gregory, 5-10 G/F; Fifi Ndour, 6-1 F.
OUTLOOK: Lewis was second in the AAC in scoring (18.9) a year ago and she and Gregory combined for almost half of the Knights' points. UCF also welcomes Purdue transfer Joslyn Massey and three freshmen that helped their high school teams win state championships last season.
VERSUS UCONN: Jan. 20 at XL Center.

COACH: Jamelle Elliott (7th year overall and at Cincinnati, 70-113)
2014-15: 8-23 overall, 4-14 AAC (no postseason)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Alyesha Lovett, 6-0 G/F; Jasmine Whitfield, 5-10 G/F. Juniors: Bianca Quisenberry, 5-8 G. Sophomores: Ana Owens, 5-6 G.
OUTLOOK: With Lovett, an all-AAC pick in 2014, back from injury, the Bearcats seemed poised to make a run at a postseason bid. But two of their top players - Marley Hill (Eastern Michigan) and Makenzie Cann (walk-on at Kentucky) transferred. Owens played more minutes (1,160) a year ago in 31 games than any UConn player did in 39 games. Cincinnati should be improved, but .500 mat be tough.
VERSUS UCONN: Dec. 30 at Fifth Third Arena; Feb. 17 at Gampel Pavilion.

COACH: Geno Auriemma (31st year overall and at Connecticut, 917-134)
2014-15: 37-1 overall, 18-0 (AAC and national champion)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Breanna Stewart, 6-4 F; Moriah Jefferson, 5-7 G. Juniors: Morgan Tuck, 6-2 F; Saniya Chong, 5-8 G. Sophomores: Kia Nurse, 6-0 G; Gabby Williams, 5-11 F; Natalie Butler, 6-5 C; Courtney Ekmark, 6-0 G. Freshmen: Katie Lou Samuelson, 6-3 G; Napheesa Collier, 6-1 F; De'Janae Boykin, 6-2 F.
OUTLOOK: The Huskies return four starters, including All-Americans Stewart and Jefferson, and are the favorite to win an unprecedented fourth straight national championship and a third consecutive AAC title. They have dealt with a number of preseason injuries. Williams has emerged as the fifth starter early with Butler (left thumb) out until December. The freshman class has added depth and energy. UConn plays the other three 2015 Final Four teams so it will be prepared for AAC play and beyond.

COACH: Heather Macy (11th year overall, 209-103; 6th year at ECU, 94-64).
2014-15: 22-11 overall, 11-7 AAC (lost to North Carolina State in WNIT second round)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Jada Payne, 6-2 F; I'Tiana Taylor, 6-1 F; Jasmine Phillips, 5-10 G; DeVaughn Gray, 5-11 G/F.
OUTLOOK: Payne, an all-AAC pick last year, and Taylor, the league's Newcomer of the Year, give the Pirates a strong 1-2 punch. East Carolina also welcomes four transfers to the mix. For the AAC to continue to grow in stature, it needs to consistently put three or four teams in the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates could be one of those teams rising.
VERSUS UCONN: Feb. 6 at Gampel Pavilion; Feb. 20 at Minges Coliseum.

COACH: Ronald Hughey (2nd year overall and at Houston, 6-24)
2014-15: 6-24 overall, 1-17 AAC (no postseason)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Jessieka Palmer, 6-1 F; Marche Anderson, 6-1 F; Tyler Gilbert, 6-2 F/C; Alecia Smith, 5-7 G.
OUTLOOK: The Cougars bring back their starting lineup and add a pair of junior college All-Americans in Hughey's first recruiting class. Houston also has a new $25 million practice facility. The Cougars have a long way to go, but at least it seems that things are looking up a bit for them.
VERSUS UCONN: Jan. 8 at Hofheinz Pavilion.

COACH: Melissa McFerrin (12th year overall, 172-173; 8th year at Memphis, 122-103)
2014-15: 14-17 overall, 7-11 AAC (no postseason)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Ariel Hearn, 5-9 G; Asianna Fuqua-Bey, 6-1 F; Brianna Wright, 6-1 F. Juniors: Breigha Wilder-Cochran, 5-9 G; Mooriah Rowser, 5-9 G/F.
OUTLOOK: With their starting lineup back, the Tigers are looking for their first postseason berth since joining the AAC. Hearn has been one of the top scorers in the league since her arrival while Wilder-Cochran has been among the assist leader. If Memphis can get some solid play from its frontcourt, its season won't end at Mohegan Sun Arena like the last two years.
VERSUS UCONN: Jan. 13 at Roane Fieldhouse; Jan. 30 at XL Center.

COACH: Jose Fernandez (16th year overall and at USF, 261-216)
2014-15: 27-8 overall, 15-3 AAC (lost to Louisville in NCAA Tournament second round)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Courtney Williams, 5-8 G; Shalethia Stringfield, 5-6 G; Alisia Jenkins, 6-1 F. Sophomores: Laura Ferreira, 5-11 G. Freshmen: Kitija Laksa, 6-0 G/F.
OUTLOOK: The Bulls are confident, and not shy about it. They feel that this is the year they can beat UConn, get to the Final Four, and compete for the national championship. They return their nucleus from a team that was denied their first Sweet 16 berth by Louisville. Williams has emerged as one of the top guards in the country and this summer helped Team USA to gold at the World University Games. Jenkins is strong inside. A wild card may be freshman Laksa. If not now for USF, then when?
VERSUS UCONN: Jan. 10 at Sun Dome; Feb. 29 at Gampel Pavilion.

COACH: Rhonda Rompola (25th year overall and at SMU, 426-300)
2014-15: 7-23 overall, 3-15 AAC (no postseason)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Gabrielle Wilkins, 5-9 G. Juniors: Kiara Perry, 5-10 G/F. Sophomores: Alicia Froling, 6-3 F; Keely Froling, 6-2 F.
OUTLOOK: The Mustangs suffered through growing pains a year ago, nothing worse than when they trailed UConn 74-9 midway through the second half in Dallas. Alicia Froling was an all-AAC freshman pick. SMU is at least a year away from being in the postseason picture.
VERSUS UCONN: Jan. 23 at Moody Coliiseum; Feb. 24 at Gampel Pavilion.

COACH: Tonya Cardoza (8th year overall and at Temple, 121-73)
2014-15: 20-17 overall, 12-6 (lost to West Virginia in WNIT semifinals)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Erica Covile, 6-1 F. Juniors: Feyonda Fitzgerald, 5-7 G; Taylor Robinson, 6-4 C. Sophomores: Alliya Butts, 5-4 G; Tanaya Atkinson, 5-9 G/F.
OUTLOOK: The Owls had a strong February and March a season ago and Cardoza is hopeful that the momentum has carried over into the new campaign. They return four double-figure scorers led by Butts, Covile and Fitzgerald. Cardoza said for Temple to be NCAA Tournament worthy, her team must be better on the defensive end. When you're talking about the teams that will help the AAC grow in stature, Temple is one of them.
VERSUS UCONN: Jan. 16 at Gampel Pavilion; Feb. 14 at McGonigle Hall.

COACH: Lisa Stockton (25th year overall, 501-242; 22nd year at Tulane, 438-215).
2014-15: 22-11 overall, 11-7 AAC (lost to Mississippi State in NCAA Tournament first round)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Chinwe Dury, 6-2 F. Juniors: Leslie Vorpahl, 5-6 G; Courtnie Latham, 5-11 G. Sophomores: Kolby Morgan, 5-8 G.
OUTLOOK: The Green Wave joined UConn and USF in the 2015 NCAA Tournament in their first AAC season. How do they build on that? Tulane must replace guards Jamie Kaplan and Danielle Blagg. But Morgan was probably the second-best freshman in the league to UConn's Kia Nurse, while Latham and Vorpahl played well down the stretch. The Green Wave have five freshmen that will have the chance to contribute immediately. They'll have to for a return NCAA trip.
VERSUS UCONN: Feb. 3 at Devlin Fieldhouse; Feb. 27 at Gampel Pavilion.

COACH: Matilda Mossman (13th year overall, 207-155; 5th year at Tulsa, 60-62.
2014-15: 18-14 overall, 12-6 AAC (lost to Eastern Michigan in WNIT second round)
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Ashley Clark, 5-11 G/F; Kelsee Grovey, 5-8 G; Antoinet Webster, 5-9 G/ Juniors: Teanna Reid, 5-6 G.
OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes were one of the surprises of the AAC in their first season in the league. Their third-place finish earned Mossman Geno Auriemma's vote as AAC Coach of the Year. Guard play is Tulsa's strength with Clark, Grovey, and Webster. Who will fill the void on the front line? If the Hurricanes can get production from there, they may not be out of surprises yet.
VERSUS UCONN: Jan. 6 at XL Center; Jan. 27 at Reynolds Center.

Tags: Carl Adamec
Through it all Breanna Stewart stays humble, hungry
The University of Connecticut's senior forward is the face of women's college basketball. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

STORRS, Conn. - Breanna Stewart didn't need to announce her college decision on ESPN. She wasn't even on Twitter in January 2011. In fact, there wasn't an announcement at all. The news leaked out.

The North Syracuse, New York, native didn't need an audience or lights and cameras to sign her letter of intent 10 months later. She did it on the hood of her Honda CRV outside of her father Brian's office.

Today, the University of Connecticut's senior forward is the face of women's college basketball. She is a two-time national Player of the Year and All-American, and a three-time national champion and Final Four Most Outstanding Player. She is an academic All-American as well.

What a difference four years make? Well, not exactly.

"Sure she's more mature because we're older," UConn forward Morgan Tuck said. "But she's the same person and that speaks volumes about her. A lot of people in her position, getting all this attention and Player of the Year and MVPs, would change. She's not about the media hype and attention. She gets it because she deserves it. She's not interested in it. She doesn't want the spotlight but she's in it because she's a great player. Really, she's the same Bre that I've known since I was 15 or 16."

But as humble as Stewart is off the court, there's a confidence on it that few have.

While every player who chooses an elite college program like UConn, Tennessee, or Notre Dame hopes to win four national championships, Stewart stated before she arrived here that was what she wanted.

"My rationale was like anyone else's," Stewart said. "I'm coming here for four years. Why wouldn't I want my goal each year to be to win the national championship? I wasn't afraid to say it. When I was a freshman it was a lofty expectation when you haven't won one. I had confidence in what we wanted to do and look at where we are."

Top-ranked UConn begins its bid for an unprecedented fourth straight NCAA crown Monday when it visits No. 6 Ohio State.

"On the court is where you need to show the most confidence," Stewart said. "I don't think that I'm a cocky person, per se, but I know what I'm good at and I'm comfortable in doing that. I'm not going to shy away from that. I'm just not going to do that. I guess you would call it an edge.

"I've always wanted to succeed, do the best that I can, and win. That's always been the case since I was young. I'm glad that I have that edge. But when I'm off the court, I'm able to relax and just be nonchalant."

She's never been one to wear her emotion on her sleeve.

There have been times that she'll block a shot and give an opponent an ice-cold stare. Against Notre Dame late in the first half of the 2013 Final Four semifinals at New Orleans Arena, she nailed a 3-pointer from the corner and on her way back on defense clapped and smiled. For her, it was almost an outburst.

After the Huskies' loss at Stanford a year ago, her anger came through in her words in the postgame press conference.

"I'm not so sure it's as different as you think," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "That whole being really edgy and that kind of mentality that we associate with that, that's not always there on the court. That's one of the things we have talked about a lot. And off the court, it's not Little Orphan Annie either. She's got a little edginess to her off the court where you pull her aside and go, 'Close the door. Let me talk to you.'

"I don't know if Stewie's true personality ever comes out. She doesn't give you a lot to work with. She keeps it to herself and hopes playing will be enough. It's already there, why do we have to talk about it? If people want to say that she's the best player in the country there's a lot to base that on. I don't know if she has to go around saying it."

The fact is, she doesn't go around saying it. When she was named the Final Four MOP for the third time last April, the first woman so honored, there were tears in her eyes as she told the crowd at Tampa's Amalie Arena the award should have gone to her UConn teammate, Moriah Jefferson.

Being cocky is not in her DNA.

"I've never acted like that," Stewart said. "My parents would not let me. If I ever did … When I was younger I was very shy on the court. I just did my business. I think I show more emotion now than ever. I'm not one to rub anything in anyone's face. If I'm better than you then I will show you on the court.

"When others act out like that, when you see it, when I see it, it's like, 'Why are you doing that? What are you trying to prove to people?' Usually it's because they want attention whether it's good or bad or indifferent. Usually the people that do that, you can't change them."

Since Stewart, Tuck, and Jefferson arrived at UConn, the Huskies are 113-5 overall including 84-1 since losing the 2013 Big East Tournament final to Notre Dame. While her career has been memorable, there is one of those 118 games she would like to forget.

On Feb. 18, 2013, UConn hosted Baylor at the XL Center. Stewart had no points, no rebounds, no assists, and no blocked shots in a 76-70 loss. When Auriemma was asked about her playing only seven minutes, he replied she played that much because he couldn't get her off the floor fast enough. Stewart met her father afterwards. For the only time after a game, she cried.

"Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me," Stewart said. "It was different because I felt that if I had any kind of impact in that game, it would have been a different result. That was the first time I felt that I could have changed the outcome of the game. I've lost games before, but usually I'd given my best. That game …

"It is what it is, and it was a learning point in my career. There's always going to be a bumpy road somewhere."

She hopes that her final journey that starts in Columbus on Monday ends on April 5 in Indianapolis. Later in April, the Seattle Storm figure to take her with the first selection of the 2016 WNBA Draft.

In a perfect storm, she'll be named to the Auriemma-coached United States Olympic team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro. She already owns a gold medal from the 2014 FIBA world championships.

She is taking nothing for granted.

"Stewie comes in and she knows she's targeted and people are going to come at her," Jefferson said. "She works harder than ever now because of that."

Stewart will tell anyone that she has changed over four years at UConn. What she doesn't want to change is how the Huskies have ended their season.

She believes she has saved her best season for last.

"I've had three seasons with perfect endings," Stewart said. "You can't complain when you win a national championship. We have an opportunity to do something that no one else has done. In doing that, we want it to be the best one ever. We know it's there. We know what's at stake. But now we have to focus on winning one.

"I want to be remembered as someone who is ultra competitive and wants to do whatever is best for the team. Helping lead my team, each team, to a national championship, it's never been done here, it's never been done anywhere. A lot of people ask the legacy question. That's for other people to determine. I'm just here."

Tags: Breanna Stewart , Carl Adamec
So is Crystal Dangerfield the next Moriah Jefferson?
Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson (4) drives up the court against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena. UConn won the game 100-56. (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)

STORRS, Conn. - In six months, the best point guard in women's college basketball will leave the University of Connecticut. A few weeks after that, the best point guard in high school girls basketball will arrive on the Huskies' campus.

The comparisons began even before Crystal Dangerfield made her oral commitment to attend UConn in October 2014. The 5-foot-5 senior guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, made it official Wednesday when she signed her letter of intent at a ceremony at Blackman High School.

So is Dangerfield the next Moriah Jefferson?

"No, she's Crystal," Jefferson said. "She's going to come here and she's going to put her own stamp on the program. She works really hard and she has a lot of the qualities a UConn point guard is supposed to have.

"It's the way that she leads her team. She's out there and confident in herself. She defends. She's loud. She's always bringing energy to the court. Those are things that are very important when you come to play here."

Dangerfield is rated as the top guard and the No. 3 recruit overall in the Class of 2016 by ESPN HoopGurlz. In her three seasons, she has led Blackman to a 92-8 record and the 2014 and 2015 Tennessee state 3A championships, compiling 1,468 points, 351 rebounds, 358 assist and 286 steals.

She was named the Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year and the Tennessee state tournament MVP as a sophomore and junior, as well as the District 7-AAA Player of the Year both seasons. She averaged 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2.5 steals as a junior as Blackman (32-2) successfully defended its state, district, and regional titles.

Dangerfield also has two gold medals playing for USA Basketball. She was a teammate of UConn freshmen Katie Lou Samuelson and De'Janae Boykin on the 2013 U-16 team that won gold at the FIBA Americas Championship in Cancun, Mexico, averaging 7.0 points, 1.8 assists, and 1.4 steals in five games. Last summer, she was a teammate of UConn freshman Napheesa Collier on the 2015 U-19 team that won the gold medal at the FIBA U-19 world championships in Chekhov, Russia, averaging 6.4 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.0 steals in seven games.

Jefferson got the chance to watch Dangerfield play at the U-19 trials in Colorado Springs last May while Jefferson was taking part in the Pan American Games/World University Games trials at the United States Olympic Training Center.

"I loved the way that she gets to the rim," Jefferson said. "It's crazy to watch somebody as fast as she is with the ball. And she's really strong, too, so she can knock you out of the way and take contact and get to the cup."

Of course, the two spoke and Jefferson tried to let Dangerfield - who is part of UConn's class that includes Kyla Irwin and Molly Bent - know what she'll be getting into playing for Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma.

"I told her that when she does get here to not really worry about every little thing," Jefferson said. "She'll have Kia Nurse here, and Kia will have her back. Crystal needs to come here and just make plays. Once she learns that, once she learns what the coaches want from her, she's going to be fine and she'll fit right in."

Though her letter of intent has been signed, sealed, and delivered to UConn, Dangerfield has another decision to make.

Dangerfield wears No. 32 at Blackman High, in part because it was Jefferson's number with the THESA Raiders. Dangerfield and Jefferson both wear No. 4 with USA Basketball. Of note, Heather Buck had No. 32 when Jefferson came to UConn and the Glenn Heights, Texas, native took No. 4 here and decided to keep it after the Huskies won the 2013 national championship.

So, should Dangerfield keep wearing No. 32 - which is available - or Jefferson's No. 4.

"I don't know," Jefferson said with a laugh. "You have to ask Crystal that question."

AAC tournament tickets
All-session ticket packages for the 2016 American Athletic Conference tournament to be held March 4-7 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m.

A package includes admission to all 10 games over the four days of competition and costs $99.

Tickets may be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office daily from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and will be available through the ticket offices of all 11 AAC schools. Tickets may also be purchased online, at or, or by telephone at 800-745-3000. Information on discounts for groups of 10 or more people is available through the Connecticut Sun Group Sales Department at 860-862-4000.

All 11 AAC teams will compete in the event. UConn is the two-time defending tournament champion.

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield , Moriah Jefferson , Carl Adamec
Trio of recruits make it official by signing their letters of intent
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Kyla Irwin looked like a student as she sat in UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma's office 13 months ago.

But with notebook in hand, it was the high school player from State College, Pennsylvania - not the Hall of Famer - that would be asking the questions.

"She just had a lot of confidence about her," Auriemma recalled. "It was like, 'Here's my chance in Coach's office and I want to let him know that I have a pretty good idea of what I want, and I'm going to see where we connect, me and him.' There's a lot to be said for that rather than just sitting there giving you one-word answers. She turned the interview. She flipped it and interviewed me. It was a great conversation. It was almost like she was doing a term paper and somebody said, 'Go interview this person and tell me about his job.' I tried really hard to give her answers where she would have to go, 'Huh?' "

By the end of that October 2014 weekend, Irwin gave her oral commitment to UConn. It was announced just two days after Crystal Dangerfield became the first player from Tennessee to commit to Auriemma. About seven months later, they would be joined in the Huskies' recruiting Class of 2016 by Molly Bent.

The trio made it official Wednesday by signing their letters of intent, which arrived at UConn's office Wednesday night. The school announced the class in a press release Thursday.

"They really wanted to come to Connecticut," Auriemma said. "That's the No. 1 thing. These are kids that understand what we have here and they want to be a part of it. They are all the kind of kids we have been getting for the last 30 years. It's a great day for us, because we're getting the kind of kids and the kind of players that are hopefully going to keep us at the level we have come to expect.

"They're talented, they're very unselfish, they work really hard and they aren't locked into one position on the floor. They are really good kids who are really good basketball players."

Dangerfield is the best known of the three. The 5-foot-5 point guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is rated the No. 3 recruit overall and the top guard in the Class of 2016 by ESPN HoopGurlz and the Blue Star Report. She is a two-time Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year and in her three seasons has led Blackman High to a 92-8 record and the 2014 and 2015 state 3A championships, compiling 1,468 points, 351 rebounds, 358 assist and 286 steals. She averaged 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2.5 steals as a junior as Blackman (32-2) successfully defended its state, district, and regional titles.

A member of the honor roll and Honors Program at Blackman, Dangerfield has also won two gold medals with USA Basketball playing with UConn freshmen Katie Lou Samuelson and De'Janae Boykin on the 2013 U-16 national team and playing with Huskies' freshman Napheesa Collier on the 2015 U-19 team. At the 2015 FIBA U-19 world championships in Chekhov, Russia, last summer, Dangerfield averaged 6.4 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.0 steals in seven games as Team USA finished unbeaten.

"Crystal is smaller than Moriah Jefferson, if that's possible. When Crystal visited, Moriah was like ecstatic because there was finally somebody on campus or on our team that she could post up," Auriemma said with a smile. "Now, Crystal will tell you that's not happening, and she will point to her biceps and say, 'Look how strong I am.' She is a different kind of player than Moriah. Hopefully they have the same career, but in a different way. She has had more opportunities to play in different environments than Moriah did. Like her playing USA Basketball this summer really helped her. And Crystal's high school coach was really good. This kid played at a high level with really good coaches."

Irwin, a 6-2 forward, is rated among the top 50 players in the Class of 2016 by the Blue Star Report and has made the honor roll in every quarter of her first three years at State College High.

She enters her senior season third on State College's all-time scoring list with 1,397 points. A three-year starter playing for her mother, Bethany - a former player at Penn State and native of Branford, Connecticut - she averaged 20.0 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals, and 2.3 blocked shots as a junior and became State College's first All-Stare player in 13 years. She is also an All-State volleyball player.

"Kyla has great energy," Auriemma said. "She has a tremendous work ethic. She really understands the game. She's very versatile and can play more than one position. She's just an energy provider. That is the best way I can describe her, more so than most kids you see. She has an energy about her. When you talk about our players, they have that for the most part."

Bent, a 5-9 guard from Centerville, Massachusetts, played three seasons starting in eighth grade for at Barnstable High and scored 1,001 points before transferring to Tabor Academy. She repeated her sophomore year at Tabor and in both her seasons she's been named to the New England Prep School Class A All-Star team and Tabor reached the New England Class A tournament final in 2014 and 2015. She was also the high scorer on the soccer team and led it to the 2013 New England Prep School Class B championship.

She's been a high honors student in all of her semesters at Tabor and last year won the Physics and Creative Writing Award along with the Wickenden Award, which is the highest honor for a Tabor junior. She was also a straight-A student in her two years at Barnstable High. She was looking at a number of Ivy League schools before visiting and committing to UConn last June.

"There's a certain amount of prestige associated with being recruited by an Ivy League school," Auriemma said. "It means a lot. It means you're at a certain level academically. And look at what Princeton did last year. They're not just any program. They're a national program that can compete with most people around the country. I'm thrilled that Molly decided, 'This to me is important.' I don't think she said no to the Ivy League. She said yes to Connecticut. There's a big difference there."

While Auriemma does not and would not compare them, he believes Bent has some of the qualities that former UConn star Sue Bird brought to the table.

"People don't realize that Sue was one of the best athletes we ever had at Connecticut," Auriemma said. "People don't think that way about her. So when you look at Molly you think, 'Oh, she must be your typical smart point guard.' She goes right by guys where you think, 'How did she go by that guy?' I'm telling you, the kid is tough."

Auriemma has no concerns that neither Bent nor Irwin is rated that high by most recruiting services.

"It's not our philosophy to go, 'Who are the top 10, top 20 players in the country? Let's go recruit them,' " Auriemma said. "We like who we like. If other people like them a lot, that's great. If other people don't like them, well, we will find out four years from now who was right. Like Molly Bent is the kind of kid that has helped us become who we are. When you see her play next year for UConn, you'll understand why."

If the Huskies do not sign anymore players from the Class of 2016, they will have five scholarships available for the Class of 2017, with one already going to guard Andra Espinoza-Hunter from Ossining, New York.

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield , Kyla Irwin , Molly Bent , Carl Adamec
Time Running Out: UConn Football Senior Day Is Nov. 21
Graham Stewart and 11 other seniors will be honored Nov. 21. (David Butler II)

The UConn football program will lose 12 seniors at the end of the season.

"They're definitely a great group of guys and they do a great job leading us and we take pride in that," junior receiver Noel Thomas said. "We respect them, just like they respect us, and we know they're going to give everything they've got, so we're trying to go out and to do the best we can and send them home happy." (Nov. 11)

Huskies' recruits ready to sign in

It's the first day of the week long signing period for Class of 2016 basketball recruits and Kyla Irwin could not wait.

Irwin signed her letter of intent to attend the University of Connecticut Wednesday morning at her home in State College, Pennsylvania. Then later Wednesday morning, Crystal Dangerfield signed her letter of intent at a ceremony at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Molly Bent will take part in a signing ceremony Thursday afternoon at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts.

Here are capsule looks at the players in UConn's newest recruiting class.

MOLLY BENT (5-foot-9 guard, Centerville, Massachusetts)
UConn's first signee from Massachusetts since Walpole native Nicole Wolff (2002-06) … A high honors student in all of her semesters at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts. Last year won the Physics and Creative Writing Award along with the Wickenden Award, which is the highest honor for a Tabor junior. Was also a straight-A student in her two years at Barnstable High School … Played three seasons, starting in eighth grade, at Barnstable High and was coached by her father, George. She had 1,001 points. As a sophomore in 2012-13 she averaged 28 points per game and was named to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and ESPN Boston all-scholastic teams … Transferred to Tabor Academy in 2013 and repeated her sophomore year. In both her seasons she's been named to the New England Prep School Class A All-Star team and Tabor reached the New England Class A tournament final in 2014 and 2015 … Played AAU basketball for the Rhode Island Breakers … Also plays soccer at Tabor. Was the leading scorer as a sophomore and junior (senior season not yet complete) and led Tabor to the 2013 New England Prep School Class B championship.

CRYSTAL DANGERFIELD (5-foot-5 guard, Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
Rated the No. 3 recruit overall and the top guard in the Class of 2016 by ESPN HoopGurlz and the Blue Star Report … Attends Blackman High in Murfreesboro where she is a member of the honor roll and Honors Program … In her three seasons has led Blackman to a 92-8 record and the 2014 and 2015 Tennessee state 3A championships, compiling 1,468 points, 351 rebounds, 358 assist and 286 steals … Averaged 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2.5 steals as a junior as Blackman (32-2) successfully defended its state, district, and regional titles … A Naismith Award High School All-America third-team pick as a junior … Named the Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year and the Tennessee state tournament MVP as a sophomore and junior, as well as the District 7-AAA Player of the Year both seasons … Has played for USA Basketball's 2013 U-16 and the 2015 U-19 national teams. Was a teammate of UConn freshmen Katie Lou Samuelson and De'Janae Boykin on the 2013 U-16 team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship in Cancun, Mexico, averaging 7.0 points, 1.8 assists, and 1.4 steals in five games. Was a teammate of UConn freshman Napheesa Collier on the 2015 U-19 team that won the gold medal at the FIBA U-19 world championships in Chekhov, Russia, averaging 6.4 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.0 steals in seven games … First recruit from Tennessee to sign with UConn in coach Geno Auriemma's tenure.

KYLA IRWIN (6-foot-2 forward, State College, Pennsylvania)
Rated among the top 50 players in the Class of 2016 nationally by the Blue Star Report … Has made the honor roll in every quarter of her first three years at State College High … Enters her senior season third on State College's all-time scoring list with 1,397 points … A three-year starter playing for her mother, Bethany - a former player at Penn State and native of Branford, Connecticut, averaged 20.0 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals, and 2.3 blocked shots as a junior. Named first-team All-State honors, the first State College player to earn the award since Katie Glusko in 2002 as her team advanced to the District 6 Class AAAA final … As a sophomore, averaged 19.6 points and 12.7 rebounds in leading State College to the District 6 AAAA title … Plays AAU ball for Central PA Alyssa Thomas Elite and helped her team last summer to the championship of the 17-and-under title at the United States Junior Nationals Hershey (Pennsylvania) National Showcase … Is also a four-year performer in volleyball at State College and was named All-State in 2014 and led her team to the district championship and state Sweet 16 in 2015 … UConn's first signee from Pennsylvania since Doylestown's Caroline Doty (2008-13).

Tags: Carl Adamec
Stewart, Jefferson named to AP preseason team

Having a target on your back comes with the territory as a member of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

For Huskies' point guard Moriah Jefferson, a 2015 WBCA All-American, it becomes more personal as a senior.

"It's definitely a challenge," Jefferson said. "When you see a player and it says 'All-American' before their name, people want to prove something against them. But it's not something that you focus on. Honestly, I'm just worried about our team and going out there every night and performing to the best of my abilities."

Jefferson and fellow UConn senior Breanna Stewart were named to the five-player Associated Press preseason All-America team on Tuesday. Stewart, the two-time reigning AP Player of the Year, was a unanimous selection in the voting by a 32-member media panel.

Rounding out the team were South Carolina senior guard Tiffany Mitchell, Baylor junior forward Nina Davis, and Ohio State sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell. Davis received 30 votes, Tiffany Mitchell 28, and Kelsey Mitchell and Jefferson 22 apiece.

UConn redshirt junior forward Morgan Tuck was among eight players also receiving votes.

Stewart led the Huskies in scoring (17.6) and rebounds (7.8) as a junior as the Huskies won their final 37 games to win the program's third straight national championship and 10th overall. She was the consensus national Player of the Year, picking up the AP and USBWA top honors, along with the Naismith Trophy, the Wade Trophy, and the Wooden Award.

The North Syracuse, New York, native enters her final year with 1,960 points, 856 rebounds, and 288 blocked shots and a chance to reach her stated goal from when she signed with UConn - to win four national championships.

"I just want to enjoy it," Stewart said. "That's what I've talked to Coach (Geno Auriemma) about and to CD (Chris Dailey) about. There's going to be a lot going on this year, and I just want to make sure that I make the best of it and that we just have a lot of fun with what's going to happen."

It's the second straight season she's been a unanimous choice to the preseason team and joins UConn's Maya Moore, Duke's Alana Beard, and Baylor's Brittney Griner as the only players to accomplish that.

Jefferson averaged 12.4 points while shooting 58.7 percent from the floor as a junior. She led the Huskies and the American Athletic Conference in assists (4.9) and steals (2.6). For the second straight year she set a UConn record for assist-to-turnover ratio (plus-3.08). She also shot 49.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (56-113) but did not meet the NCAA minimum for 3-point field goals made to qualify for the national leaders.

The Glenn Heights, Texas, native was the winner of the 2015 Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard and enters the season with 1,067 points, 455 assists, and 258 steals.

"I think coming into the year that I've improved on the offensive end, particularly from 3-point range," Jefferson said. "I'm more consistent shooting it and I'm actually looking for those shots. I want to do more in the mid-range game this year."

Tiffany Mitchell is the two-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and was a consensus first-team All-American as a junior. She averaged 14.4 points, 2.9 assists, and 1.8 steals as South Carolina reached the NCAA Final Four for the first time.

The native of Charlotte, North Carolina, was a teammate of Stewart and Jefferson on the 2015 United States Pan American Games this summer but did not play in the tournament due to injury.

"This past summer I had time to sit back and work on the mental part of my game," Mitchell said. "A lot of (my improvement) has been me just growing as a player mentally and learning about the game and what I can do to help my team. It isn't about me just doing it, but knowing how to lead and let them know what has to be done."

Davis, from Memphis, Tennessee, had a breakout sophomore year at Baylor, averaging 21.1 points and 8.3 rebounds while earning Big 12 Player of the Year and All-American honors. She had 12 double-doubles.

While Stewart, Jefferson, and Mitchell are projected to be among the top picks in the 2016 WNBA Draft, Davis could join the mix as she'll turn 22 on Dec. 7, 2016, which would make her eligible to declare for the draft like Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd did after last season.

"I don't have any intention of coming out early," Davis said. "I've been getting that question a lot especially after watching the draft last April and Rebecca Lobo put it out there I would be 22. But I love college. I love Coach (Kim) Mulkey. I love my school. I can say that I'm 100 percent sure I'll be back for my senior year at Baylor."

Kelsey Mitchell became the first freshman to lead the country in scoring (24.9) a season ago while also averaging 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists. She was the Big Ten Co-Player of the Year and set 29 single-season or single-game records for the Buckeyes.

Joining Tuck (1 vote) in the also receiving votes category are Oregon's Jillian Alleyne (4), Florida State's Adut Bulgak (1), Tennesseee's Diamond Deshields (10), Michigan State's Aerial Powers (1), Notre Dame's Brianna Turner (5), South Florida's Courtney Williams (1), and South Carolina's A'ja Wilson (3).

Top-ranked UConn plays its regular season opener at No. 6 Ohio State Monday. The Buckeyes open their regular season at second-ranked South Carolina Friday.

Tags: Carl Adamec
Collier making things happen off UConn bench
(Jessica Hill/AP)

STORRS, Conn. - Like many high school All-Americans who preceded her with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, Napheesa Collier is beginning her college career by coming off the bench.

It's a new role for her. Whether it was at Incarnate Word Academy or with USA Basketball, she was just about always on the floor for the opening tip. But the St. Peters, Missouri, native showed Sunday she could give the Huskies something special in reserve.

Collier had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds as No. 1 UConn closed out its exhibition schedule with a 98-18 rout of NAIA school Vanguard before a crowd of 7,057 at Gampel Pavilion.

"Napheesa is just kind of sneaky, and she's sneaky good," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She makes a lot of things happen and that's who she is. She makes different kinds of play.

"Sometimes it's difficult for a freshman if they're thrown into the starting lineup. Not that they can't do it, but sometimes they put a little too much pressure on themselves. There's a comfort level coming off the bench. And the nice thing about Napheesa is that you can sub her in for two or three different people. That allows her to get in at any moment."

The 6-foot-1 forward was 5-for-7 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the foul line in an efficient 24 minutes. She filled out the stat sheet with two assists, two blocked shots, and two steals.

"Napheesa's learning that you can't take a play off and she's working really hard," UConn senior All-American Moriah Jefferson said. "When she's like that, it brings the intensity level up even higher. When a starter goes out and a sub is in and brings the same energy or even more, it helps the offense and defense."

Collier came in Sunday with 7:28 gone and the Huskies already in command 22-4. She was on the court for 5:27 and UConn outscored Vanguard 22-0 in that span.

She got her double-double by grabbing a rebound with 1:21 left. She was non-stop wire to wire.

"Energy is a big part of this program," Collier said. "Coach Auriemma says if you don't have energy you're not going to play so it's important to have it."

Collier played 23 minutes off the bench in the exhibition opener against Division II Lubbock Christian at the XL Center a week ago and finished with five points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

She said she felt more comfortable in her second outing Sunday and it showed.

The competition, however, is about to get much tougher. The Huskies will take a 37-game winning streak into the regular season opener next week at No. 6 Ohio State.

"We are progressing slowly but surely and we were definitely better today than last game," Collier said. "Hopefully, we're going to get better every time out."

Jefferson led the Huskies with 20 points and six steals Sunday. Fellow All-American Breanna Stewart had 15 points, six rebounds, and six blocked shots. Gabby Williams, who got the start from Auriemma Sunday, had 11 points, five rebounds, and seven steals. Kia Nurse also had 11 points while Morgan Tuck had 10 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

UConn led 53-6 at halftime and by as many as 81 in the second half.

Tags: Carl Adamec
Huskies raise banner, down Vanguard
(Jessica Hill/AP)

STORRS, Conn. - A number of experimental rules were implemented for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's exhibition with Vanguard University Sunday.

Unfortunately, a mercy rule wasn't one of them.

All-American Moriah Jefferson had 20 points and six steals while freshman Napheesa Collier came off the bench to contribute a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds as the top-ranked Huskies closed out their preseason schedule with a 98-18 rout of NAIA Vanguard before a crowd of 7,057 at Gampel Pavilion.

UConn finishes the exhibitions at 2-0 having defeated Division II Lubbock Christian 95-39 last Monday in Hartford.

"It was better today than last Monday," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's not easy playing the first game at the XL Center. Here they were a little more comfortable and more familiar. So they looked good moving up and down the floor, especially the returning players. They're familiar with each other. And Gabby Williams gives them a different dimension. It's hard to replicate someone like her."

All-American Breanna Stewart had 15 points, six rebounds, and six blocked shots. Williams, who got the start from Auriemma Sunday, had 11 points, five rebounds, and seven steals. Kia Nurse also had 11 points while Morgan Tuck had 10 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

Prior to the game, the Huskies' returnees were given their 2015 national championship rings and the banner was unveiled as the crowd roared.

"Unveiling the banner and getting the rings in front of our fans was the finishing touch on last season," Stewart said. "Now we're fully focused on what's to come this year."

That would start at No. 6 Ohio State on Nov. 16.

Among the experimental rules in play for Sunday were a 24-second clock and 8-second backcourt violation, a wider lane (by four feet) and deeper 3-point line (by 16 inches), and the use of a men's basketball instead of the smaller women's ball.

"I was talking to one of the official representatives here and they said it would be a good idea to do some of these and some may get used in the postseason WNIT, which would be a good place to experiment," Auriemma said. "Things don't change very quickly in college sports. You can see how long it took to get the 3-point line, how long it took to get the 10-second backcourt, we'll see. The only effect I saw is that you can move the ball up and down the floor a little quicker, and you have to move the ball up and down the floor a little quicker.

"I'm just trying to challenge our kids and help the game grow a little bit."

UConn shot 53.0 percent overall and was 7-for-24 from 3-point land.

"I don't think we noticed that much of a difference with the ball, obviously you have to give it more time," Stewart said. "We practiced with it for a few days and today they weren't going in. We made them in practice. It was cool to try it."

The Huskies could have shot a football and it wouldn't have mattered.

It was 4-2 for UConn after a basket by Vanguard's Kandyce Smith. But it turned ugly in a hurry.

Two baskets by Tuck, a hoop by Jefferson, and two drives by Williams made it a double-figure lead. Melissa Norman then scored for the Lions, but UConn answered with the next 30 points - the final 16 of the first quarter and the first 14 of the second quarter - to go ahead 44-4.

By halftime, seven Huskies had scored six or more points. It was 53-6 at the break.

The best part of the second half for UConn was it stayed healthy. The Huskies were already without Saniya Chong (leg), De'Janae Boykin (Achilles), and Natalie Butler (thumb) Sunday. Auriemma said Boykin will likely miss the opener against Ohio State while he is hopeful that Chong will be available. Butler, of course, is not expected back to around Christmas.

Collier got her double-double by grabbing a rebound with 1:21 left. The forward from St. Peters, Missouri, was 5-for-7 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the foul line in an efficient 24 minutes. She filled out the stat sheet with two assists, two blocked shots, and two steals.

Coming off the bench is new to her.

"It's good for me because I can see what everyone is doing and get into the flow of the game," Collier said. "It's different, but I'm a freshman so it's accepted.

"I definitely felt better and more comfortable than last game. I had that first game under my belt and I knew what I was doing a little more than what I did last game."

Vanguard received seven points from Samantha Doucette. The Lions shot 12.2 percent from the floor (6 for 49) and had 32 turnovers to just three assists.

Tags: Carl Adamec
GEICO SportsNite: UConn 00:00:34
The UConn's men's basketball team defeated New Haven, 83-43, Saturday in its final preseason contest before its regular-season opener.

Twelve players scored for UConn as the Huskies rolled to an 83-43 men's basketball victory over Division II New Haven Saturday before 7,518 at the XL Center in Hartford in their final exhibition game.

The Huskies, ranked No. 20 by the AP, begin regular-season play on Friday against Maine at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs at 7:30 p.m. on SNY.

Junior guard Rodney Purvis and freshman forward Steve Enoch (Norwalk) each scored 11 and the Huskies had five more players scoring at least eight.

UConn's depth wore down the visiting Chargers, who shot 30.8 percent to UConn's 51.6 percent as the Huskies made 15 of 19 free throws. UConn also had 16 assists and 10 blocked shots.

The Huskies scored 56 points in the paint and had 24 fastbreak points.

UConn outrebounded New Haven, 43-26, led by seven rebounds from junior Amida Brimah and six each by senior transfer Shonn Miller and senior Omar Calhoun.

"We had a real balanced attack and we were sharing the basketball," Ollie said. "We had just four assists at halftime, but we had a lot of missed open shots. Then in the second half, we came out and really moved the ball and guys starting making shots."

"The important thing is that we came together and we shared the ball," Purvis said. "That's the main thing, you know. We are only two exhibitions games in, but I think it's a great start for us."

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