Megan Walker plays the game of basketball at a pace that has allowed her to become the top high school player in the Class of 2017.
While three of the top programs in the country -- Connecticut, Notre Dame and Texas -- and their fans anxiously await Walker's college choice, the 6-foot-1 wing from Chesterfield, Virginia, is trying to maintain a pace that will allow her to make the best decision for her.
"We got back home from Notre Dame Sunday night," Walker's father, Keith, said Tuesday. "We had the turnaround Monday morning with us (Keith and his wife, Johnetta) going back to work and Megan back to school. It's been like the past three weekends. This time when we got home we wanted to take a couple of days to relax and slow things down a bit.
"We have all the information from the visits and from the programs and I think it's made it tougher. Megan is choosing from three great schools and three great programs."
In short, this is going to take a little time -- probably into next week.
"It's a big decision for her to make and we're not going to take it lightly," Keith Walker said. "We're going to talk about it and work it out with her, but at the end it is Megan's decision. She's the one that is going to live it the next four years and be committed to that school."
Megan Walker led Monacan High to a 29-1 record and second straight Virginia Class 4A state title as a junior, averaging 21.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.2 steals. She reached the 1,000-point plateau during the season with a career-best 50 points on Feb. 5 against Cosby. Walker, who also owns a 3.65 grade point average, was Virginia's Gatorade Player of the Year and the Class 4A Player of the Year.
She picked up her first two medals with USA Basketball this summer. She earned all-tournament honors as she teamed with TCU freshman Amber Ramirez, California freshman Jaelyn Brown and Sidney Cooks to win silver at the FIBA U-18 3x3 world championships in Astana, Kazakhstan. She then averaged 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals as she helped Team USA capture gold at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile. UConn freshman Crystal Dangerfield would have been Walker's teammate in Chile, but had to withdraw with a hip injury that required surgery.
Her first official visit was to Texas the weekend of Sept. 9-11, which followed an unofficial visit to Austin during the Labor Day weekend.
She was at UConn for her official visit the weekend of Sept. 16-18. She had made two unofficial visits to UConn. She was at the 2014 First Night program at Gampel Pavilion. Then, last April, she spent a day on campus and attended the final team dinner for the 2016 national champions.
"It was a really good visit," Keith Walker said. "We had been on campus twice before so we had gotten to know Coach [Geno] Auriemma and the returning players. This time we got to meet the freshmen and their commits from 2017 and they're a great group of girls.
"Having been on campus, that part of the visit was what we expected. Megan was with the team a lot and we were involved in the team-bonding things that they did over the weekend. I can't speak for Megan, but you can see what a close group they are."
Her final visit was last weekend to Notre Dame. It was her first trip to South Bend.
"Notre Dame was a spectacular place from start to finish," Keith Walker said. "It's beautiful and we just tried to take it all in and met a lot of people."
Auriemma and assistant coach Marisa Moseley made a home visit with the Walkers last week following the official visit. Texas is scheduled to make a home visit Wednesday night. Notre Dame made a home visit prior to the Walkers headed to South Bend. All three had also been to Chesterfield before.
UConn has commitments from Class of 2017 players Andra Espinoza-Hunter (5-foot-11 guard, Ossining, New York), Lexi Gordon (6-foot-1 wing, Fort Worth, Texas) and Mikayla Coombs (5-foot-8 guard, Buford, Georgia). The three made their official visits to Storrs the same weekend as Megan Walker.
One of Espinoza-Hunter's teammates with the 2015 U-16 national team, 6-foot-7 junior center Sedona Prince, made a verbal commitment to Texas last week. UConn was on Prince's final list of six. She had committed to Texas prior to her freshman year of high school but reopened the recruiting process a year later.
MVP Honor for Ogwumike
Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks was named the WNBA's Most Valuable Player on Tuesday. The fifth-year forward out of Stanford ranked third in the league in scoring and rebounding with career highs of 19.7 points and 9.1 rebounds while adding a career highs of 3.1 assists and 1.2 blocked shots. She shot a WNBA-best 66.5 percent from the floor, the second highest mark in league history, and set records for consecutive field goals made (23) and most field goals in a game without a miss (12 against the Dallas Wings on June 11).
She received 31 out of 39 first-place votes and finished with 362 total points (10 points for a first-place vote, seven for a second-place vote, five for a third-place vote, three for a fourth-place vote, one for a fifth-place vote) to beat out Tina Charles of the New York Liberty. The 2012 MVP got the other eight first-place votes and totaled 267 points.
UConn's five 2016 Olympians all received votes. Following Charles in third place was 2014 WNBA MVP Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx with 197 points. The Seattle Storm's Breanna Stewart, the odds-on favorite for Rookie of the Year honors, was sixth with 24 points, while Seattle's Sue Bird and the Phoenix Mercury's and 2009 MVP Diana Taurasi each received a fifth-place vote to tie for ninth.
The best-of-five WNBA Playoffs semifinals begin Wednesday night with eighth-seeded Phoenix visiting No. 1 Minnesota, and second-seeded Los Angeles hosting the No. 4 Chicago Sky.
Megan Walker plays the game of basketball at a pace that has allowed her to become the top high school player in the Class of 2017.
HOUSTON -- Players and coaches for sixth-ranked Houston might not use the exact phrase to describe Thursday's contest against UConn at TDECU Stadium.
Whether classified as a "revenge game" publicly or not, expect the Cougars to be looking for a little payback against the only team to beat them in 2015 while they're the focus of college football's national spotlight.
The Cougars (4-0, 1-0 in the American Athletic Conference) were denied a perfect season last year when UConn posted a 20-17 home victory on Nov. 15 when Houston was No. 13 in the country. The Cougars went on to win the AAC Championship game over Temple and then waylaid Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and have been perfect so far in 2016.
Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. played sparingly in last year's upset because of an ankle injury while star linebacker Elandon Roberts was ejected early due to a targeting call.
"There's some added motivation for this one," Houston coach Tom Herman said Monday at his weekly media availability. "We don't have much to talk about, but I do believe that our returning players on our team are better than they were last season. We don't see this game as a chance for redemption but there is a bit of internal sense of liability, of atonement, to right some of the wrongs that occurred." >> Read more...
Copyright 2016 by the Associated Press
Amba Etta-Tawo caught 12 passes for a school-record 270 yards and two touchdowns and Syracuse beat UConn 31-24 on Saturday.
The graduate transfer from Maryland scored twice in the game's first five minutes on touchdown receptions of 57 and 30 yards. His 59-yard catch on third down from the shadow of his team's goal line highlighted a 12-play 99-yard fourth quarter drive that put the game away for the Orange (2-2).
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey completed 26 of 40 passes for 407 yards and those two scores. He also scored on a 6-yard run to complete the length-of the field drive.
Noel Thomas had 14 receptions for 111 yards for UConn (2-2).
It took Syracuse just 51 seconds to score its first touchdown and 92 on its second for Dungey and Etta-Tawo to make it 14-0. Etta-Tawo had five catches for 115 yards in the first quarter.
The Huskies put up 148 yards in the second quarter and for the second straight week, the Orange couldn't hold the early double-digit lead.
Cordell Hudson pickup off a tipped pass from UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs and ran 22-yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the Orange a 24-17 lead. It was just the second interception for the Orange this season.
The Huskies had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter after holder Tyler Davis, a former high school quarterback, hit tight end Tommy Myers with a 17-yard pass on a fake field goal to set the Huskies up at the Syracuse 8-yard line.
But Syracuse's defense held, and stopped Shirreffs on a fourth-and goal from the 2-yard line with just over 6 minutes left, and the Orange marched the length of the field to put the game away. >> Read more
Tags: Syracuse University
Former Big East foes UConn and Syracuse meet Saturday for the first time since 2012.
And while a matchup of the two national basketball powers once elicited excitement on campus no matter the sport, it's being treated this week as just another non-conference game.
"Is it really still a rivalry?" asked UConn coach Bob Diaco, who is in his third year in Storrs. "You guys have a much better perspective of that than I do here. I think it's an exciting matchup of local-like teams and universities."
It's also a matchup of vastly contrasting styles.
UConn (2-1) is a methodical team that runs about 66 plays a game and puts up an average of 330 yards of offense. It wants to win games by controlling field position and time of possession. It is built, Diaco said, to keep games close. The Huskies' three games this season have been decided by a total of 10 points. >> Read more
Tags: Syracuse University
Summer has turned to Fall. Can basketball season be far behind?
The University of Connecticut men's and women's basketball teams announced Thursday that the annual First Night program will be held at Gampel Pavilion on Friday, Oct. 14. Admission is free and open to the public, with promotions and on-court entertainment beginning at 7 p.m., and First Night festivities starting at 7:30 p.m.
First Night will include a poster giveaway, a "Selfie Session" for the first 300 fans in attendance, a dance team performance, a drumline performance, additional giveaways, contests, and more. The event will also feature inter-squad shooting contests, skill contests, and a men's dunk contest. The Blue vs. White scrimmage will headline the event. The men's and women's teams will be evenly divided amongst the blue and white squads. The scrimmage will consist of four five-minute segments, with two segments featuring men's action and two featuring women's action.
Fans will be able to vote for which team they'd like to see guided by women's coach Geno Auriemma and men's coach Kevin Ollie. Voting will take place on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from Sept. 29 through Oct. 11.
The doors at Gampel Pavilion will open at 3 p.m. in advance of the UConn-Central Florida volleyball match that starts at 4 p.m. The first 50 students in line will be granted premium courtside seating.
The first 300 fans to sign-up at the marketing table inside the South entrance will be granted entrance into a "Selfie Session" with the teams, which will allow fans to take pictures with the members of both the men's and women's team at 5:30 p.m. in the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center.
The doors will be closed when Gampel Pavilion reaches capacity. In order to monitor attendance, free admission tickets will be distributed outside of the Gampel entrances that will then be scanned upon entry into the arena. Students should enter through the North and East entrances only, while the general public can enter through the North, East and South entrances. Parking is $5 per vehicle in the North and South garages.
WALKER WRAPPING UP OFFICIAL VISITS
Megan Walker has spent her September weekends on the road. But this weekend's trip for the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2017 will likely be her last before she announces her decision.
The 6-foot-1 wing from Chesterfield, Virginia is scheduled to start her official visit to Notre Dame Friday morning. It is her first time in South Bend.
Walker is choosing between UConn, Texas, and Notre Dame. She visited with the Longhorns two weeks ago and was in Storrs last week.
"It was a really good visit," Walker's father, Keith, said. "We had been on campus twice before so we had gotten to know Coach Auriemma and the returning players. This time we got to meet the freshmen and their commits from 2017 and they're a great group of girls.
"Having been on campus, that part of the visit was what we expected. Megan was with the team a lot and we were involved in the team-bonding things that they did over the weekend. I can't speak for Megan, but you can see what a close group they are."
Walker was Virginia's 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year after leading Monacan High to a 29-1 record and its second straight Class 4A state championship. This summer she picked up her first two medals with USA Basketball. She earned all-tournament honors and a silver at the FIBA U-18 3x3 world championships in Kazakhstan, and then averaged 9.6 points as she helped Team USA capture gold at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship in Chile. UConn freshman Crystal Dangerfield would have been Walker's teammate in Chile, but had to withdraw with a hip injury that required surgery.
AP ANNOUNCES WNBA HONORS
The WNBA made its first major award announcement Wednesday when Atlanta Dream second-year center Elizabeth Williams was named the league's Most Improved Player. More awards will be given out as the WNBA playoffs move along.
The Associated Press handed out its WNBA honors for the first time on Wednesday and there was plenty of UConn flavor.
Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm was the AP's Rookie of the Year and was joined on the all-rookie team by Moriah Jefferson of the San Antonio Stars. Stewart was also named to the league's first team and was joined there by unanimous selections Tina Charles of the New York Liberty and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx. Sue Bird of Seattle and the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi were second-team picks.
Nneka Ogwumike was named the Player of the Year by the 14-person voting panel. She received 11 votes to Charles' two. Stewart received 13 votes and Jefferson one in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Jantel Lanvender of the Los Angeles Sparks was the Sixth Woman Award winner. She received nine votes to beat out New York's Kiah Stokes, who got three votes.
Los Angeles' Brian Agler was the Coach of the Year, Minnesota's Sylvia Fowles the Defensive Player of the Year, the Connecticut Sun's Chiney Ogwumike the Comeback Player of the Year, and Atlanta's Williams the Most Improved Player.
Tags: Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn coach Bob Diaco says his Huskies are built to play close games.
Since the start of last season, 10 of UConn's 16 contests have been decided by a single score (eight points or fewer), including all three this season. The latest was a 13-10 win over Virginia (0-3) last Saturday that wasn't secured until Virginia's walk-on kicker, Alex Furbank, missed a 20-yard field goal as time expired.
But the quality of the opponent doesn't seem to be much of a factor for UConn (2-1).
The Huskies are 6-4 in those one-score contests, with wins over Villanova (20-15), Army (22-17), Tulane (7-3), then-No. 13 Houston (20-17), Maine (24-21) and Virginia. The losses came to then No. 22 Missiouri (9-6), South Florida (28-20), Marshall (16-10 in the St. Petersburg Bowl and Navy (28-24).
Diaco said the tight margins are more a function of UConn's style - a stingy defense combined with a ball-control style of offense.
"The analogy I would draw is like a hockey game or a soccer game," he said. "They're all decided by one goal or two goals when the points are down. We're kind of built that way." >> Read more
Walk-on kicker Alex Furbank missed a 20-yard field-goal attempt for Virginia as time expired and UConn held on to beat the Cavaliers 13-10 on Saturday.
Bobby Puyol hit the 43-yard game-winning field goal with 1:33 left for the Huskies (2-1), who overcame early 10-point deficit with two fourth-quarter scores.
UConn Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs completed 13 of 24 passes for 154 yards. He also ran for 33 yards and a touchdown.
A 20-yard run by Shirreffs and a 23-yard screen play to Noel Thomas set up Puyol's game winner.
But Virginia (0-3) got the ball back and moved right down the field. A 33-yard strike down the left side from Kurt Benkert to Doni Dowling on Virginia's final drive put the Cavaliers in UConn territory. It appeared they would at least send the game into overtime after Benkert hit Keeon Johnson with a 34-yard fourth-down pass to put the ball inside the UConn 10.
But the Husky defense stiffened, stopping Benkert at the 2-yard line on third down. The Cavaliers, who had no timeouts remaining, were able to rush the field-goal unit onto the field, but Furbank pulled the ball left. >> Read more
Full coverage of UCONN Football on SNY this Saturday begins at 1PM
STORRS, Conn. (AP) Virginia hasn't been able to win on the road. UConn has had clock management issues.
The Huskies (1-1) and the Cavaliers (0-2) will both be looking for a bit of redemption when they meet Saturday in East Hartford.
UConn's Bob Diaco spent much of his weekly press conference defending the play calling at the end of last Saturday's 28-24 loss to Navy, when the Huskies were stuffed on second down at the goal line with 17 seconds left and never got off another play. Defensive end Luke Carrezola said the team will try to turn that experience into a positive.
"It might sound peculiar, because it was such a way to lose, but in the locker room it wasn't like, 'We should have done this on that play," he said. "It was more an overall understanding that this was an experience that we're going to learn and grow from."
Virginia lost its 16th straight road game last week , falling behind 30-6, before dropping a 44-26 decision at Oregon. But linebacker Chris Peace said his team is learning what it takes to win away from home. >> Read more
Copyright 2016 by the Associated Press
Andra Espinoza-Hunter doesn't need directions to get from her Ossining, New York, home to the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs. She's been making the journey since she was in seventh grade.
But the 5-foot-11 senior guard's trip to campus this weekend is different. The Huskies' Class of 2017 commit is making her official recruiting visit.
"Most of the time when I'm there it's for basketball and what I see is the court and the coaches and players," Espinoza-Hunter said Wednesday night. "Even though I've been on campus so many times, I'm going to get a real tour this time to get to see everything. I'm going with Kia Nurse to her classes and meet the professors and meet other students and see the classrooms and get a taste of what a day of college life is like.
"I'm just so excited to be going up there. It's incredible. I've worked hard for it so far, but it's a dream come true for me."
Espinoza-Hunter will be joined in Storrs by fellow Class of 2017 commits Lexi Gordon (6-1 guard, Fort Worth, Texas) and Mikayla Coombs (5-8 guard, Buford, Georgia). Also making her official visit will be the nation's top-ranked senior Megan Walker (6-1 wing, Chesterfield, Virginia).
They are set to arrive in Connecticut on Thursday evening and begin their time on campus Friday morning.
"The three of us haven't been together since Mikayla committed this summer so it will be a lot of fun," Espinoza-Hunter said. "We all have personalities that are bright and kind of goofy in a way and we do group chats and things like that. And I'm looking forward to seeing Megan and we're hoping that she'll decide to join us."
Espinoza-Hunter was the first member of the Class of 2017 to commit to UConn, giving Huskies' coach Geno Auriemma her word on Dec. 29, 2014.
As a junior a season ago at Blair Academy in New Jersey, she averaged 25 points, eight rebounds, and four assists to help her team defend its MPAL and New Jersey Prep A state tournament titles. She also reached the 1,000-point plateau.
After making the United States U-16 national team in 2015 and being the squad's leader in minutes and second in scoring, she came up short in her bid last May to make the U-17 team that went on to win the bronze medal at the FIBA world championships.
"I played a lot of (AAU) basketball in July," Espinoza-Hunter said. "I was able to take things that I didn't perform my best at and really work on them. I'm using my experiences from the USA trials and from July as motivation that will carry over to my senior year of high school. If I'm a better player, that will make our team stronger and hopefully we'll have an outstanding season."
That senior season, however, will be spent at Ossining High School.
Espinoza-Hunter played for Ossining and was a teammate of UConn senior Saniya Chong as a seventh and eighth grader there. She moved on to Blair Academy for her freshman year.
But this summer she decided to return to Ossining for a personal reason.
"My family means a lot to me," Espinoza-Hunter said. "My grandmother has ALS and I just wanted to be back home with her and with my family. She raised me the first four years of my life and taught me how to walk. Being home means that I can go see her whenever I want to. Being at Blair and with the commute being so hard, I couldn't.
"I'm with my mom and my dad is 10 minutes away and my grandma is about 30 minutes away. It means a lot to me to have them so close."
While she's played basketball for Ossining High for two years, her first day of classes two weeks ago was the first time she was a student in the building.
She was received with open arms.
"It was a great feeling to see a lot of old faces and everyone was so welcoming," Espinoza-Hunter said. "I wasn't sure how people would react and whether they would be positive or negative. But they were great. So many people came up to me and said, 'We're so happy you're back.' It really made for a great experience.
"And I'm excited to play for Coach (Dan) Ricci again. He's a lot like Coach Auriemma in that he's very intense and he'll help me prepare for when I get to Connecticut."
Her individual goal for her senior year is to be a McDonald's All-American. What's even more important to Espinoza-Hunter, though, is getting a state championship.
"I want to keep the tradition that's here going," she said.
Gordon is making her second trip to the UConn campus. She came in January for an unofficial visit and announced her commitment a month later.
It will be the first time on campus for Coombs, who announced her commitment is mid-July.
Walker is choosing between UConn, Texas and Notre Dame. She made her official visit to Texas last week and will go to South Bend for the first time next week. She has made two unofficial visits to Storrs. She was at the 2014 First Night program at Gampel Pavilion. Then, last April, she spent a day on campus and attended the final team dinner for the 2016 national champions.
"She's looking forward to it," Walker's father, Keith, said of the official visit. "I'm sure it will be a great trip."
Walker was Virginia's 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year after leading Monacan High to a 29-1 record and its second straight Class 4A state championship. She averaged 21.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.2 steals as a junior, and had a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds in a 93-56 win over William Fleming in the state final on March 9.
This summer, she picked up her first two medals with USA Basketball. She earned all-tournament honors and a silver at the FIBA U-18 3x3 world championships in Kazakhstan. She then averaged 9.6 points as she helped Team USA capture gold at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship in Chile.
If Walker selects UConn, it will be the fourth time in the last seven years the nation's No. 1 recruit chose the Huskies (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, 2011; Breanna Stewart, 2012; Katie Lou Samuelson, 2015).
Tags: Carl Adamec
UConn football head coach Bob Diaco took responsibility for Saturday's 28-24 loss to Navy, writes Jim Fuller of the New Haven Register.
After the loss, Diaco's clock management -- specifically the decision to run the ball with 17 seconds left in the game -- was questioned, and he owned up.
"I take full accountability for not having another play," Diaco said. "If you are looking for somebody TO blame, I am standing here ready to take it."
"You want to throw a pass there so you get two downs but if it got batted and intercepted at the line of scrimmage, you'd be the biggest idiot in the world," Diaco continued. You are on the half-yard line, I just watched a Super Bowl where they did that, what did all of those papers (write) at the end of that game? If we punch it in on the half-yard line, it is one of the greatest comebacks in UConn football history and being that we didn't, we should have thrown the ball there. I don't have a crystal ball."
Watch Diaco's comments below...
UConn football coach Bob Diaco says he called the play his offense wanted to run on Saturday with 17 seconds left and no timeouts against Navy.
The rush up the middle from inside the 1-yard-line was stuffed and the Huskies never got another play off in the 28-24 loss.
Diaco spent more than half-hour Tuesday talking to reporters about the end of the game in Annapolis and the team's clock management issues.
He said the play was well thought out and nothing about the situation was haphazard.
"The offensive team wanted to run the ball, wanted to run the ball in," he said. "I think if the players believe they can execute a play, isn't that better than believing they can't execute a play?"
The Huskies had just used their final timeout because Diaco felt quarterback Bryant Shirreffs was not going to get the snap off in time, something he acknowledged Tuesday was an error.
They also changed the second down play from a pass to a run, when the spot of the ball was changed from the 2-yard line, he said.
Diaco said he takes responsibility for the fact that his team didn't get lined up to run a third down play and said the Huskies have analyzed that moment and "worked to build some troubleshooting," when it comes to clock management in the future. >> Read more
Will Worth scored two touchdowns in his debut as Navy's starting quarterback, and the Midshipmen survived a hectic finish in a 28-24 victory over Connecticut on Saturday.
After Navy let a 21-0 lead become a 24-21 deficit, Worth bulled in from the 1-yard line with 3:08 remaining following a 26-yard punt return to the UConn 17.
The Huskies then moved 79 yards to the Navy 1 and took their final timeout with 17 seconds left. Ron Johnson was subsequently stuffed on a rush attempt, and the clock ran out before Connecticut could run another play.
"That goal line stand symbolizes who we are," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Things looked bleak. I didn't see the play. I was closing my eyes praying and I have no idea what happened. Shows you what kind of coach I am. I just looked up and our guys were cheering."
Connecticut coach Bob Diaco was at a loss to explain what transpired on the opposite sideline during the game's final seconds. He talked about the uncertainty of where the ball was placed, whether a pass was a better call than a run, and then the timeout call because the game clock was about to expire.
For the third time in three games, Navy will have a different starting quarterback operating the complex triple option.
Keenan Reynolds capped off last season in his final game at Navy. Tago Smith replaced the record-setting QB last week against Fordham in the season opener and lasted into the second quarter before a torn ACL ended his season.
Now, 6-foot-1 senior Will Worth is poised to make his first career start Saturday against Connecticut (1-0).
"Will is ready. He's persevered and improved to the point he was the clear-cut No. 2," Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said. "Now Will is the starting quarterback and all eyes are on him. I'm pretty sure he didn't want to get the job this way, but that's football."
Worth was a third-stringer in 2015 and did not see any action at quarterback. He did play in all 13 games as a holder on kicks, and garnered two games of experience in his first two years at Navy.
"I've got big shoes to fill with Keenan being gone and Tago getting injured," Worth said. "I definitely put a lot of responsibility on myself to keep this thing running." >> Read more...
The University of Connecicut women's basketball team's 29-game regular season schedule is set.
The four-time reigning national champions will play 14 home games (eight on campus at Gampel Pavilion, six at the XL Center in Hartford), one neutral site game at Mohegan Sun Arena, and 14 on the road.
SNY will show 17 games, including the highly-anticipated matchup with Baylor Nov. 17 at Gampel Pavilion, games against NCAA tournament participants Chattanooga (Nov. 29) and DePaul (Dec. 1), both matchups with AAC rival Temple (Feb. 1 and Feb. 22), and Senior Day for guards Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor against Memphis (Feb. 25).
Their 13-game non-conference schedule includes 10 games against opponents that played in the 2016 NCAA tournament, though for the first time since 1994-95 it will not include any of the previous season's Final Four teams. UConn was the only No. 1 seed to reach the national semifinals in 2016 and was joined in Indianapolis by Syracuse, Oregon State and Washington.
Baylor and South Carolina, who both figure to be in the preseason top five, will come to Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies will take a 75-game winning streak into their first game at Florida State on Nov. 14.
The new 16-game American Athletic Conference schedule format features home-and-home contests against East Carolina, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane, and Tulsa. UConn will play at UCF and Cincinnati only and will play Houston and Memphis at home only. The AAC opener is Jan. 1 at UCF.
The fourth annual American Athletic Conference Tournament will be held on March 3-6 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT WOMEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Nov. 1 vs. IUP (exhibition) at Gampel Pavilion, 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 vs Pace (exhibition) at XL Center, 1 p.m.
Nov. 14 at Florida State (ESPN2), 6 p.m.
Nov. 17 vs. Baylor at Gampel Pavilion (SNY), 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 20 at LSU (TBA), TBD
Nov. 22 vs. Dayton at Gampel Pavilion (SNY), 7 p.m.
Nov. 29 vs. Chattanooga at XL Center (SNY), 7 p.m.
Dec. 1 vs. DePaul at Gampel Pavilion (SNY), 7 p.m.
Dec. 4 vs. Texas at Mohegan Sun Arena (ESPN), 4 p.m.
Dec. 7 at Notre Dame (ESPN), 4 p.m.
Dec. 11 at Kansas State (TBA), 2 p.m.
Dec. 19 vs. Ohio State at XL Center (CBS-SN), 7 p.m.
Dec. 21 at Nebraska (TBA), 8 p.m.
Dec. 29 at Maryland (ESPN2), 6 p.m.
Jan. 1 at UCF (SNY), 1 p.m.
Jan. 4 vs. East Carolina at XL Center (SNY), 7 p.m.
Jan. 10 vs. South Florida at XL Center (CBS-SN), 7 p.m.
Jan. 14 at SMU (SNY), 3 p.m.
Jan. 17 at Tulsa (SNY), TBD
Jan. 22 vs. Tulane at Gampel Pavilion (ESPN2), 1 p.m.
Jan. 24 at East Carolina (SNY), 7 p.m.
Jan. 28 vs. Houston at XL Center (SNY), noon
Feb. 1 at Temple (SNY), 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 vs. Tulsa at Gampel Pavilion (SNY), 1 p.m.
Feb. 7 at Cincinnati (SNY), TBD
Feb. 11 vs. SMU at Gampel Pavilion (SNY), 2 p.m.
Feb. 13 vs. South Carolina at Gampel Pavilion (ESPN2), 9 p.m.
Feb. 18 at Tulane (SNY), TBD
Feb. 22 vs. Temple at XL Center (SNY), TBD
Feb. 25 vs. Memphis at Gampel Pavilion (SNY), 4 p.m.
Feb. 27 at South Florida (ESPN2), 7 p.m.
March 3-6 American Athletic Conference tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena, TBD
DEMILLE JOINS GEORGE WASHINGTON STAFF
Kevin DeMille, a 2013 UConn graduate who worked with the women's basketball program as a practice player, student manager, graduate assistant, and assistant director of operations, has been named the assistant director of basketball operations at George Washington University, first-year Colonials' coach Jennifer Rizzotti announced this week.
"Kevin was one of my favorite people that I met when I came to UConn," former UConn star Breanna Stewart said. "He's done a lot for the program and this is a big move for him to start new and follow a new path. To work under Coach Rizzotti will be really cool."
DeMille, a New Jersey native, owns a bachelor's degree in Social Science of Sport from UConn and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Media and Strategic Communication.
"In a way, an era ended at UConn with the seniors (Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck) graduating and I get to be a part of a new era at GW with Coach Rizzotti," DeMille said.
DeMille was also the video coordinator for the Geno Auriemma-coached United States national team at the 2014 FIBA world championships and 2016 Olympics.
"I've spent quite a bit of time getting to know Kevin through our shared experience with USA basketball and I've been thoroughly impressed with his work ethic, positive attitude, and knowledge of not just the game of basketball, but all facets of what it takes to run a successful program," Rizzotti said in a statement. "He is intelligent, fun to be around and genuinely cares about the well-being of other people. I'm looking forward to sharing in this journey with him and believe he will be a tremendous asset to our program."
Tags: Carl Adamec
The UConn men's basketball team will open the 2016-17 season on SNY Nov. 11, when the Huskies host Wagner at 7 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn..
It will be one of five UConn men's games on SNY in November and December as the Huskies prepare for their fourth season in the American Athletic Conference.
The other UConn games on SNY include Nov. 14 against Northeastern in Storrs (7 p.m.), Nov. 17 at Loyola Marymount (10 p.m), Nov. 30 vs. Boston University in Hartford (7 p.m.) and Dec. 18 against North Florida in Storrs (time TBA).
After the Huskies play Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, they will head for Hawaii to play in the Maui Classic.
The Huskies will be led by senior center Amida Brimah, senior guard Rodney Purvis and sophomore guard Jalen Adams and welcome one of the nation's top recruiting classes under fifth-year coach Kevin Ollie.
The Huskies' 2016-17 schedule:
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- No one has to remind Diana Taurasi that no one has won five Olympic basketball gold medals.
Taurasi, fellow University of Connecticut graduate Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings captured their record-tying fourth gold two weeks ago as the Geno Auriemma-coached United States national team dominated in Rio de Janeiro.
The 2020 Games are scheduled for Tokyo, Japan. Catchings has already announced her retirement effective at the end of the 2016 WNBA season. Bird would be about three months shy of her 40th birthday at the opening ceremonies slated for July 24. Taurasi will have turned 38 a month earlier.
But after seemingly turning back the clock, or at least making time stand still for two weeks last month, do Taurasi and Bird have another Olympic run in them?
"It would be easy to say, 'Yeah, I want to play in 2020.' But I don't know," Taurasi said Thursday after the Phoenix Mercury, who visit the Connecticut Sun on Friday night, wrapped up practice at Mohegan Sun Arena. "When you get to be my age, every year becomes an adventure and you take it season by season. I have this month and a half here (with Phoenix) and then I go back to Russia in November. I can't think that far ahead in my basketball life."
But Taurasi is coming off her best Olympics ever. She's carried the momentum back with the Mercury, who are 3-0 since WNBA play resumed a week ago with wins over Dallas, Los Angeles and Indiana. They were 0-6 against the trio prior to the break.
A win Friday night would give Phoenix (13-14) a season sweep of the Sun (10-17 and a game behind Seattle for the eighth and final playoff berth) and be another step forward in its postseason push.
"Our goal is to win as many games as we can and get the highest seed that we can for the playoffs," Taurasi said. "But at the end of the day, none of that really matters. You have to be playing well, there has to be a good sentiment on the team. Mentally, right now, we're in a good spot. We weren't there a month, two months ago.
"We're just doing little things really well right now, mostly on defense. The things that were hurting us were rebounding and second-chance points. We all came back and made a concerted effort to play harder. It sounds simple and sounds like something that you always do. But we're playing a little harder a little more often. And it helps that we're finally healthy. The game against Dallas last week was the first time we suited up 11 players this season. We've responded to each challenge really well. We have small goals. We're not looking at the big picture or where we are in the standings or our record. We're trying to get better little by little."
No one was better than Taurasi in Rio.
Joined by fellow former Huskies Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart on the Americans' roster, the Chino, California, native led Team USA in scoring (15.6), shooting 56.9 percent from the floor and 57.9 percent from 3-point land. She is now the USA Olympic single-tournament and all-time leader in 3-pointers.
"The thing is that during the WNBA season I didn't shoot it that well and I haven't played great, I've been up and down," Taurasi said. "I just got into this little zone in Rio. It was like, 'We're here, it's a great moment.' And I just wanted to win so badly that it made me so focused and determined. And it helps to play with the best point guard in the world. I mean, every single time I was open Sue got me the ball. I'd forgotten how unbelievable she is and how easy she makes the game for her teammates."
Team USA was seldom challenged, winning its eight games by an average of 37.3 points to push its Olympic winning streak to 49. The Americans clinched their sixth straight gold medal with a 101-72 rout of Spain on Aug. 20.
Taurasi said she couldn't recall playing for a team that was so close and tight-knit. As USA Basketball likes to preach, it's not about the 12 best players making the team, but the 12 players that make the best team.
"It was basketball bliss," Taurasi said. "You wake up every morning and you're playing with the best players in the world, players who were unselfish and who wanted to play for each other. Then the Coach had this special shine about him every time that we were in the gym. He gave us this confidence and the way to play. He was amazing. I've been around him for a long time and I think that's the best job he has ever done with a group.
"Not only did we have what I think are the 12 best players, it was 12 players who fit the best. It was 12 who complemented each other. No one stepped on each other's toes on and off the court. It was a pleasure to be around everyone. Plus, how well we played with each other, it was just the perfect mix. It showed. People would say, 'It looks like you're having fun out there.' I haven't had that much fun playing in a long time. It was a great time. There was something special about everyone. From the players, the coaches, (national team director) Carol Callan, there was just something special about the whole group."
About the only negative was Team USA had to deal with the same question Auriemma and his Huskies have dealt with for the last decade or so now: Are they so good that they're bad for the game?
Don't bother asking Taurasi.
"We got over that question, I think," she said. "If you don't want to cover us, if you don't enjoy and respect what we do ... What do you want us to do, go out there and lose? Do you want Michael Phelps to go out there and lose? It's one thing when you go out there as an individual and you get the accolades. When it's a team there's this disturbance. Did anyone bitch about the Lakers in the 1980s or the Bulls when they ran through the NBA six times (in eight years) with Michael Jordan? How competitive was that? People didn't knock Jordan. When they say that about us, I just think it's lame."
The Mercury arrived here Wednesday after defeating Indiana the previous night. The timing gave Taurasi a chance to go down memory lane. She traveled with teammates Penny Taylor and Marta Xargay to Storrs on the off day.
The three national champion banners Taurasi helped bring back and her spot in the Huskies of Honor are in Gampel Pavilion. But what about a mural at the Werth Champions Center practice facility like Moore has?
"I guess $25,000 doesn't get you that. I have to donate a little bit more," Taurasi said with a laugh.
"I love coming back. It was awesome. We hung out on campus and I showed them some of the old spots. It was a great day for me."
That night they enjoyed dinner with Auriemma and his family.
Auriemma, of course, is the first to coach the USA women twice. Before the Games in Rio, he wouldn't rule out a third go-around, saying, "I hope that when we get back that I'm in a position that they really, really want me to do it and it's my choice. I don't want to go down there and come back and it's not my choice because we lost. We'll worry about all of that down the road."
With the second gold in hand, would he want to make more history? Would Taurasi want to make history? If one comes back, would the other?
"I might have slipped that in with him," Taurasi said with a smile. "But Coach isn't giving me any firm answers lately. I'm sure we'll chat again before I leave for Russia and go over some things."
Maybe, just maybe, her drive for five is alive.
Tags: Carl Adamec
UConn needed a field goal in the final seconds, but it defeated Maine, 24-21, at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in the team's season opener.
- After a 50-yard drive, kicker Bobby Puyol put the Huskies up for good with a 37-yard field goal with 11 seconds on the clock.
- Down by a touchdown with less than seven minutes to play, Arkeel Newsome capped off a six-play drive with a two-yard score.
- Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs threw for 162 yards on 16-of-23 passing. He also ran the ball 20 times for 95 yards.
- Shirreffs did fumble the ball with 9:56 left in the fourth quarter, giving the Black Bears the opportunity to run the ball back for a 74-yard score and the lead.
- Ron Johnson ran for 65 yards and two touchdowns, including a 21-yard score early in the third quarter.
- The Huskies finished the day 8-for-15 on third downs and converted one fourth down on one try.
- UConn committed just three penalties for 30 yards.
UConn (1-0) will next take on Navy on the road on Sept. 10 at 3:30 p.m.
Morgan Tuck had bad luck with knee injuries while in high school and at the University of Connecticut.
Her misfortune has continued in her rookie year with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun.
Tuck, who earned All-American honors in helping the Huskies to an unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship last winter, will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a cartilage tear in her left knee, the Sun announced Thursday.
The Bolingbrook, Illinois native suffered the injury in last Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Dream at Philips Arena. She did not play in the Sun's win over San Antonio on Tuesday.
"Obviously I am really disappointed," Tuck said in a statement. "I plan to work extremely hard, and I expect to be back and ready to contribute next year."
Tuck's knee problems began in 2009 when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during USA Basketball's U-16 national team trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
It was her right knee, though, that gave her trouble while at UConn.
Se missed all but eight games of her sophomore season after two surgeries on the knee. As a senior last season, she sat out five games due to soreness in the knee. She still managed to average 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists as the Huskies finished unbeaten at 38-0 and she joined teammates and classmates Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson on the WBCA All-America team. Tuck was inducted into the Huskies of Honor at Gampel Pavilion when the team returned from Indianapolis after capturing the program's record 11th NCAA title.
The 6-foot-2 forward was selected with the third overall pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft. She appeared in 26 games, making three starts, and averaged 7.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 16.7 minutes. She scored in double figures six times with a season-high 20 points against the Seattle Storm on June 10.
"I feel terrible for Morgan that she will not be able to complete her first WNBA season on the court," Sun coach Curt Miller said. "She has a tremendous future with the Sun, and I am confident she will approach the rehabilitation process like the champion she is. I can't wait to have her back with us next year."
Tuck was set to go overseas to play in South Korea this fall as she was the third overall selection in July's Korean League Draft by Shinhan. The WKBL starts during the first week of November.
With Tuck sidelined, the Sun has signed forward Asia Taylor, a 2014 third-round pick of the Minnesota Lynx out of Louisville. The Sun host Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury Friday night.
Tags: Carl Adamec
The University of Connecticut football team begins their 2016 season against Division I FCS opponent Maine at home on Thursday.
The Huskies will try to build on their surprinsgly strong 2015 season that finished with a 6-7 record and a spot in the program's first bowl game since 2011. UConn is bringing back most of their key contributors on both sides of the ball from last year's team. Their first opponent, similar to last year with Villanova, competes in NCAA Division I FCS, instead of in the FBS.
"(Maine) is a formidable team, one that we're really excited to have the opportunity to play," head coach Bob Diaco said on Sunday.
The UConn offense is led by returning QB Bryant Shirreffs, who showed a lot of potential last season as both a passer and a runner. At running back, the Huskies have Arkeel Newsome returning for his junior year, while Noel Thomas returns as the leader of the team's wide receiver group. The offense has four of its five starting linemen returning this season as well.
"I have confidence in whatever we put in as an offense. We feel comfort, especially personally, in every play we call. So if you're really successful passing the ball, the run's going to open up. If you're extremely successful running the ball, the pass is going to open up. I think that a good mixture of the two of them leads to great success," said Shirreffs.
Thursday will be the first time fans get to see this year's offense, and while it may not be the toughest matchup on paper for UConn, it will be a good test to judge how far the offense has been able to evolve since last season. It also serves as a reminder of the beginning of a new year of UConn football, a time that both fans and players look forward to.
"College football is starting up, and it's the best feeling there is," Shirreffs said.
UConn and Maine kick off Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Rentschler Field.
Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck made their debuts with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team in an exhibition game against Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2012.
Coach Geno Auriemma's four-time reigning national champion Huskies will play their first game without their graduated Big Three on Nov. 1 and once again IUP will be the opponent.
The Crimson Hawks will be the first of two preseason Division II opponents for UConn in 2016-17. The Huskies will also take on Pace University at a date and time to be determined.
IUP's website has its game with UConn being played in Storrs. The Huskies have traditionally played one exhibition on campus and one at the XL Center in Hartford.
"We're really excited and it'll be a lot of fun to compete against arguably the best women's basketball program in history, and arguably the greatest coach," IUP coach Tom McConnell said. "They're the gold standard in our game. We're thankful to Coach Auriemma and the program for the opportunity to go up and compete."
UConn defeated IUP in exhibition play 105-28 on Nov. 2, 2012, at Gampel Pavilion. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 23 points while Stewart (15), Tuck (15), and Jefferson (10) all reached double figures.
The Big Three led the Huskies to a four-year record of 151-5 and an unprecedented four consecutive national championships. Nine days after UConn defeated Syracuse, 82-51, in April for the program's 11th NCAA title, Stewart (Seattle Storm), Jefferson (San Antonio Stars), and Tuck (Connecticut Sun) made more history as UConn became the first school to have the top three selections in the WNBA Draft.
IUP, part of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, finished 21-9 a season ago and advanced to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Championships. The Crimson Hawks will also face Pittsburgh in an exhibition on Nov. 6.
"The players absolutely love it," McConnell said. "When you go against the best and are challenged like that, you're exposed to what it takes to win at the highest level."
Pace, out of the Northeast 10 Conference, finished 11-17 a season ago. The Setters and Huskies played on Nov. 9, 2011 in Hartford with Tiffany Hayes leading UConn to an 85-35 victory.
The Huskies will take a 75-game winning streak into their regular season opener Nov. 14 at Florida State.
A PERFECT 10
UConn freshman point guard Molly Bent admitted earlier this summer that she was nervous about asking Sue Bird if she could have the No. 10 uniform Bird wore during her career at UConn. No one had requested the number since Bird graduated after her national championship/Player of the Year senior season in 2002.
Bird admitted during Team USA's run to the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro that she was touched by Bent's gesture, which happened in June after a Seattle Storm practice at the Werth Champions Center a day after a loss to the Connecticut Sun.
"We happened to be in town and the next day after the game we needed a place to practice," Bird said. "Logistics, sometimes, not always being the best, we had to practice at UConn. That was a fun for a lot of us and the UConn team came to watch us."
By that point, Bent had received a text message from UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey that it was "tradition" that Bent ask to wear Bird's number. Hayes did so when she wanted Diana Taurasi's No. 3 in 2008, and Mosqueda-Lewis did so when she wanted Maya Moore's No. 23 in 2011.
"Practice ended and Molly came over," Bird said. "I saw in the locker room that she was wearing No. 10, the first person to wear it since I left, which is cool. So I knew. She came over and asked for permission. It wasn't necessary, but it was very cute and very appreciated."
Bent said Bird told her to, "Wear it proudly and do it proud."
The 15-year gap isn't the longest a member of the Huskies of Honor hasn't had her uniform number worn. No one has had Rebecca Lobo's No. 50 since she graduated in 1995, no one has had Kara Wolters' No. 52 since she graduated in 1997, and no one has Nykesha Sales' No. 42 since she graduated in 1998.
MAKING THE GRADE
Stewart was named the American Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award winner for women's basketball, commissioner Mike Aresco announced earlier this month.
Stewart was one of two 2016 UConn graduates so honored. The other was Tolland, Connecticut, native Emily Howard, who won the award in women's cross country. Howard helped UConn cross country finish in second place at the 2014 AAC championship. A top 10 student in her Tolland High graduating class, she received her degree in biology in May.
The AAC selected a student-athlete for each of its sports based on academic credentials, athletic accolades and volunteer service to the community, and need a minimum 3.0 GPA to be eligible.
Also this month, eight members of the 2015-16 women's basketball team -- Stewart, Jefferson, Tuck, Briana Pulido, Natalie Butler, Tierney Lawlor, Kia Nurse and Courtney Ekmark -- were named to the AAC all-academic team.
Tags: Carl Adamec
UConn, one of several programs being mentioned as a potential candidate for expansion by the Big 12 Conference, is dealing with something new in Bob Diaco's third season as its head coach: higher expectations.
The Huskies, who went 2-10 in 2014, improved to 6-7 last season. They also handed Houston its only regular-season loss before falling to Marshall 16-10 in the St. Petersburg Bowl - UConn's first bowl game in five years.
The team returns 15 starters this season and fans are hoping the Huskies can make a statement loud enough to be heard by those making the expansion decisions in Texas. Diaco said he's not paying attention to what is being said outside the program but embraces the enthusiasm.
"If you can't get excited about people really wanting you to achieve, then you're in the wrong business, you're in the wrong game," Diaco said. "It's the best. I love that."
The Huskies ranked just 117th in the nation in total offense last season, but return four starters from its offensive line, and will get back center Ryan Crozier, who missed last season with a knee injury.
Junior quarterback Bryant Shirreffs threw for 2,078 yards and nine touchdowns, and ran for 503 yards, a year ago. He is back and so is his top target, Noel Thomas, who caught 54 passes for 719 yards and three TDs.
Diaco said Shirreffs isn't a lock to be the team's starting quarterback and is being pushed by senior Garrett Anderson, a junior-college transfer who played some receiver last year.
The defense, which gave up just 19.5 points per game, is expected to be the team's strength, led by safety Obi Melifonwu.
"We have a base, a foundation and a building," said linebacker Matt Walsh. "Now we're just putting a whole other floor on it." >> Read more...
If the days of Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi playing basketball together are history, at least they went out making history.
Taurasi had 17 points as she, Bird, and Tamika Catchings tied an Olympic women's basketball record by winning their fourth gold medal thanks to Team USA's 101-72 rout of Spain in Saturday's final in Rio de Janeiro.
"It's just special," Team USA forward Maya Moore said. "It's one thing to do something unexpected, but it's another thing to do what you're expected to do -- year after year, game after game, quarter after quarter. And, this team didn't get complacent. "I think that's a sign of a true champion, someone who loves the game and plays for the right reasons. Every quarter that we stepped on the court, we respected the game, we respected each other and we did everything we needed to do to deserve this gold."
The gold medal was the sixth straight for Team USA and its Olympic winning streak is now 49 dating to a semifinal loss in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992, two years before first-time Olympian Breanna Stewart was born. The last two titles and 16 wins have come under coach Geno Auriemma.
Taurasi and Bird, who combined to lead UConn to the 2002 national championship, made their Olympic debut in 2004, as did Catchings. The trio drew even with USA legends Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie with the four gold medals. Edwards also has a bronze from 1992.
Will any of them make a drive for five? Catchings, 37, has already announced she is retiring from the WNBA this season. Bird would be three months shy of her 40th birthday when the Tokyo Games begin in 2000 while Taurasi would be 38
"I'm just really happy," Bird said. "We just did something that's pretty incredible. When you get together as a team and you know you only have a month to do something, it's remarkable in so many ways that we were able to put this together and do it in a fashion that leaves no question marks. This put us on the map as arguably one of the best teams, and we had fun doing it.
"Not only that, you can talk about the 100-point games or the margin of victory, but we played our butts off. We really did. I don't think I've ever been around a group that's this talented and also played this hard. I'm proud of my teammates. I'm proud I'm part of this group. I'm happy for Coach Auriemma and the rest of the staff. It's just a really fun day today."
The gold medal was the first for Stewart, Brittney Griner, and Elena Delle Donne. Griner became the 10th player to win NCAA (with Baylor in 2012) and WNBA (with the Phoenix Mercury in 2014) titles along with FIBA world championship (2014) and Olympic (2016) gold medals. She joins Taurasi, Bird, Catchings, Moore, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Kara Wolters, Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes in that club. Stewart, who turns 22 in a week, and Charles only need the WNBA championship to add their names to the list.
Stewart is UConn's ninth gold medalist. Rebecca Lobo was the first in 1996.
"This is in a league of its own," said Stewart, who in April led UConn to an unprecedented fourth straight national championship. "This is a different kind of toughness to be able to win gold medal just because you come together with 11 other great players, the best players in the world, and we had two weeks to prepare really. Then we got here and played well and acted like we'd been playing with each together for the entire year."
Team USA placed five players in double figures Saturday. Lindsay Whalen came off the bench for 17 points, four rebounds, and six assists, while Moore had 14 points, five rebounds, and six assists. Reserves Stewart and Delle Donne added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Bird, who sprained her right knee capsule in the quarterfinals Tuesday against Japan and sat out Thursday's semifinals against France, started and played 17 minutes. She had three points -- a trey that opened the second-quarter scoring -- two rebounds, an assist, and two steals.
Team USA, which pounded Spain 103-63 in Group B pool play on Aug. 8, scored the final seven points of the period to take a 21-17 lead after one quarter. At 27-24 and with the five UConn graduates on the floor together, the Americans used a 14-2 run to put some distance between themselves and Spain.
Stewart got it started with two free throws and Taurasi followed with back-to-back 3-pointers. A Stewart layup was answered by Spain but two Moore hoops made it 41-26. Whalen's layup right before the buzzer -- the first points of the period not scored by a UConn graduate -- gave Team USA its biggest lead of the half at 49-32.
Spain got no closer as Team USA had third-quarter runs of 10-2 and 11-0 to lead 81-49 heading to the fourth quarter. A Stewart 3-pointer put the Americans in triple figures for the sixth time in eight Olympic games. Charles finished with eight points and seven rebounds for Team USA.
"You play these eight games and you want to win so bad," Taurasi said. "The one thing we didn't do is we didn't take any possessions off. We played every single game like it a gold medal game and that's why I think you see everyone is emotionally and physically spent right now. And that takes a certain character team and individuals. I've never been a part of anything like this."
Alba Torrens, a third-round pick by the WNBA's Connecticut Sun in 2009, had 10 in the first quarter but was held in check the rest of the way in finishing with 18 for Spain, which picked up its first Olympic medal. Spain also won the silver as the 2014 FIBA world championships, losing to Team USA, It will host the 2018 world championships.
Taurasi led Team USA in scoring (15.6), shooting 56.9 percent from the floor and 57.9 percent from 3-point land. She is now the USA Olympic single-tournament and all-time leader in 3-point baskets. Moore was second on the team in scoring (12.6) and assists (4.3), while ranking first in rebounds (5.6) and steals (2.0). Charles averaged 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, while Stewart checked in at 8.1 points on 73.3 percent shooting from the floor and 2.3 rebounds.Bird averaged 3.7 points and 4.4 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 7.75-to-1.
Serbia defeated France 70-63 for the bronze, meaning that the three medalists came out of Group B pool play.
"Obviously, it was an incredible tournament for us," Auriemma said. "From the very first game that we played to today, with very few exceptions, I thought we played basketball at a really high level. I can't say enough about our players, how quickly they've come together, how much they've been able to accomplish in less than a month that we've been together. It wasn't as easy as sometimes it looked.
"These last two games especially with France and today against Spain, these are very good teams that we're playing and you could see that it wasn't just a cakewalk and that it was a struggle. Then finally, because of our depth and because of the experience on our team, we were able to separate ourselves. "But the way we played, we respected our opponents and we respected the game itself. We earned a lot of respect from a lot of people around the world, and I'm really proud of that."
(Quotes courtesy USA Basketball)
Tags: Carl Adamec
She's just 17, but Lexi Gordon already knows how quickly four years can go by. The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's commit begins her senior year at L.D. Bell High on Monday.
"It's crazy," Gordon said. "They tell you it goes fast but you can't believe how fast."
When told that her four years of college will go even faster, the 6-foot-1 wing from Fort Worth, Texas, laughed. While she's looking forward to getting to Storrs and joining the 11-time national champions, she's trying to stay in the moment.
She has some goals, like competing for and winning a state championship, she'd like to reach first. As a junior at L.D. Bell, she averaged 24.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals for a team that finished 20-11. A three-year starter, she'll enter her senior season with 1,985 points and 760 rebounds.
In the six months since she announced her commitment to the Huskies, she's played her final AAU summer with Texas United and took part in the United States national team U-17 trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"It was fun and I think I've become a better player," Gordon said. "It was my first year with Texas United and it was crazy. We were a lot better at the end than when we started, though we didn't finish how we wanted.
"One of the things that I had to do was guard a lot of big girls. That taught me to use my body better and made me work at boxing out and defending in the post. It was hard guarding them, but they also had to guard me and that gave a lot of advantages."
Gordon's visit to the United States Olympic Training Center for the U-17 trials was her second. As an applicant candidate in 2015, she was among the final cuts for the U-16 team.
Her effort earned her an invitation to the U-17 trials and her plan was to be a leader, a good teammate, and take care of the intangibles. But at times she got away from her strength, which is shooting the ball. At the end it wasn't enough and she was cut before the final day of the trials.
"I think the experience still helped me get better and I hope I have another opportunity to go back there," Gordon said. "But, honestly, I didn't perform how I wanted to. I understand that and I understand that there's nothing I can do about it now. I wasn't going to sit around and be sad all summer because of it. I'm not that type of person.
"My last high school season is coming up and I'm going to be ready for it. You can't dwell on the past, you move forward."
While she's on pace to accomplish personal goals of 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds (she also owns a 3.8 grade point average and is ranked in the top 15 percent of her class academically), Gordon's final year at L.D. Bell will be a family affair.
She'll be joined on the team by her younger sister, Myra, a freshman point guard and Division I prospect. She was one of three players from the Class of 2020 to attend the U-17 trials as an applicant candidate and made it through a pair of cuts. She already owns a scholarship offer from her parents' alma mater TCU.
"Myra's getting offers even earlier than I did," Gordon said. "I'm so proud and so happy for her to see that her hard work is paying off and she'll keep working hard. She's an incredible player and it's crazy to see how good she is even though she's just 14. I can't wait to watch her grow.
"We're completely different players and we're comfortable playing together. I'm a scoring guard and she's an amazing point guard who sees the floor so well. We're close, and I love her, and I know she'll help our team a lot."
Gordon, who lists Breanna Stewart as her favorite player and Maya Moore as her favorite Olympian, has been following them -- and her future coach, Geno Auriemma -- during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. One of her future teammates, Kia Nurse, represented Canada, which was eliminated by France in the quarterfinals. Team USA will face France in Thursday's semifinals.
Next month, Gordon -- along with fellow Class of 2017 commits Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Mikayla Coombs -- will make their official recruiting visits to UConn. They will be joined in Storrs by Megan Walker, the top-ranked player in the class who is choosing between UConn, Notre Dame, and Texas. Gordon made an unofficial visit to UConn in January, a month before committing.
"I'm excited to go visit and see the coaches and my future teammates again," Gordon said.
She'll be at UConn for a four-year stay in no time at all.
Moore, UConn's only four-time All-American and a three-time Wade Trophy winner, will hold the "Maya Moore Basketball ProCamp" on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 9 a.m.-noon at East Granby (Connecticut) High.
"It's definitely going to be fun and I'm so looking forward to coming back and spending time in Connecticut," Moore said during the USA Basketball Showcase. "I consider it one of my homes and I want to make sure that I stay connected to it. This is a great opportunity for me, especially being able to work with the youth and help them learn the game."
The camp is open to boys and girls Grade 1-12 with Moore and camp coaches offering tips and instruction. Campers will be placed in small groups by age. The price is $99 per player, but rates are available for teams and schools, or group of friends. Each camper will receive an autograph from Moore, a Maya Moore Basketball ProCamp t-shirt, and a camp team photo with Moore. For more information, contact Hallie at email@example.com.
SUE BIRD UPDATE
Former UConn star Sue Bird suffered a right knee capsule sprain, a MRI revealed Wednesday according to USA Basketball. Team USA's veteran point guard left Tuesday's game against Japan with 6:33 left in the first half with the injury and did not return.
She is listed as day-to-day.
"Obviously I felt a huge relief," Bird said in a statement. "The hardest part is waiting and not knowing. So, to finally get the thumbs-up from the doc that everything was OK was incredibly relieving and exciting, and obviously I'm very happy."
The 35-year-old Bird, who is seeking her record-tying fourth Olympic gold medal, is averaging 3.8 points on 43 percent shooting from the floor, 2.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in six games for Team USA. She has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 10-to-1.
Bird tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in December, 1998, after eight games of her freshman season with the Huskies. She would miss the rest of the year but had no issues with the knee the rest of her college career, which ended with her being part of two national championship teams and being the consensus national Player of the Year in 2002.
Team USA takes on France in a rematch of the 2012 gold-medal game in the Olympic semifinals Thursday at 6 p.m. Serbia and Spain meet in the first semifinal at 2 p.m. The bronze and gold-medal games are set for Saturday. The Americans are seeking their sixth consecutive gold medal and have won 47 straight games in Olympic competition.
It's one thing to stay close to the United States national team for a half, as Japan did when the teams met in the Olympic quarterfinals in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday.
It's something else to be in a position at the end to upset the Americans with their superior depth, as Japan found out.
Former UConn stars Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi had 19 points each to pace seven players in double figures as Team USA pulled away in the final 18 minutes to rout Japan, 110-64 and move within two wins of its sixth straight gold medal.
"I think it's just a matter of us wearing teams down," Moore said. "We play at a high level. We try to play at a high level for 40 minutes. It's not going to happen perfectly. We just tried to do our best to stay with our game plan and be aggressive, and our defense really kick started our offense in the second half where we were able to get a lot of stops in a row and had stifling runs that we were trying to make."
Team USA, which has won 47 straight games in Olympic competition, will take on France on Thursday. France rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit to eliminate Canada, 68-63, on Tuesday. Serbia, which upset Australia Tuesday, and Spain will meet in the other semifinal. The gold and bronze medal games are Saturday.
Reserves Angel McCoughtry (13) and Elena Delle Donne (11) were also in double figures, while Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, and Sylvia Fowles came off the bench for 10 points each.
The one downside was former UConn standout Sue Bird left the game with 6:33 left in the first half after an apparent knee injury. She did not return and watched the final 26 minutes from the end of the Americans' bench. The point guard averaged 6.0 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 10-to-1 in five group games.
"She turned around to go chase the kid on that pass, and she just said she felt something (in her knee)," Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said. "Ed, our athletic trainer, and the doctors just said, 'Let's just let it go for the rest of the half and then look at it tonight and tomorrow morning and see what happens.'"
Team USA led 30-23 after one quarter and by as many as 12 in the second quarter. Japan (3-3) pulled back within two, but a McCoughtry free throw, a Taurasi three-pointer, and two hoops by Augustus made it 56-46 at halftime.
Japan netted the first two baskets of the third quarter before Team USA turned the intensity up to another level.
"In the first half and the beginning of the third, I know they were making us work," Taurasi said. "They were making us uncomfortable. The way they run their offense puts a lot of pressure on you in a lot of places. I don't think we dealt with that necessarily in the best way. But we switched a couple things up and went to a more of a switching on the pick-and-roll defenses and kind of used our length and athleticism, and I think that's when we kind of pulled away a little bit.
"Some games you've got to give a little bit more emotionally. Some games you stay calm, which is not my strong suit. So, I just let it all hang out. I knew if we were going to go, we were going to go out with it all hanging out. I'm just proud of this team. You look at the score, and you think it was an easy game, but Japan is one of the toughest teams -- you ask anyone -- in this tournament to play against."
Moore scored the first five points and Taurasi added five more in 14-1 run that made it 70-51 with 4:16 left in the period. Tamika Catchings' 3-pointer made it 81-59. Team USA scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter to lead by 34 and an Augustus jumper with 4:15 to go put the Americans into triple figures for the fifth time in six games.
"This isn't necessarily like college where you can make your players do what you want them to do just by yelling at them," Auriemma said. "With these guys, it's more of they understand. So, we just said look, this is how we're going to play defense, this is where we're going to go with the ball, this is how we're going to attack them. We're going to take away this, this and that, and then let's run with it, and then they did the rest.
"They were unbelievable in the second half. Remember, we were up 10. They cut it to six in the first three minutes, so in the last 17 minutes of the game, was pretty amazing. That was pretty amazing brand of basketball in that 17 minutes against a really, really good team."
Former UConn stars Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart had four and two points respectively for Team USA. Bird did not score in her limited minutes.
The Americans shot 65.3 percent from the floor and 61.1 percent from behind the arc. They out-rebounded Japan 50-26 with Brittney Griner grabbing seven. The former Baylor standout also had three blocked shots, all in the second half.
"There were a couple timeouts and a couple huddles where we were like, 'We got to pick this up. This team is playing really well,' " Taurasi said. "They're making us uncomfortable. That says a lot about this group. We're older. We have a lot of experience. We didn't panic and we just found a way to keep grinding it out, and it worked out for us.
"There is no being tired now. Every team has played six games. Every team has played big minutes. Right now, it's more your mind. It's mind over matter. It's are you willing to do the little things, are you willing to really concentrate in the rotations and make the extra pass. If I take anything away from my teammates, it's everyone is always focused, everyone is always ready to go. That's infectious amongst all of us."
Serbia 73, Australia 71
Spain 64, Turkey 62
United States 110, Japan 64
France 68, Canada 63
SEMIFINALS THURSDAY (times TBA)
United States vs. France,
Spain vs. Serbia
SATURDAY BRONZE-MEDAL GAME
Semifinal losers, 10:30 a.m.
Semifinal winners, 2:30 p.m.
(Quotes courtesy of USA Basketball)
Tags: Carl Adamec
The preliminaries are over for the United States national team and the other seven remaining contenders for the Olympic gold medal. From here on, it's one and done.
Tina Charles had 18 points while Maya Moore made a run at a triple-double -- finishing with nine points, eight rebounds, and eight assists -- as Team USA wrapped up Group B pool play with a 105-62 rout of China in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.
Team USA (5-0) will face Japan (3-2), the No. 4 seed out of Group A, Tuesday in the quarterfinals as the event enters the single-elimination stage.
"I actually saw Japan play Australia earlier this week and I thought they looked amazing," Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said. "They're big, they're talented, they're tough. Every game they've played has been a tough game. In the past, if I remember coaching against them, not much has changed in how well they move you and how well they spread the floor and try to create mismatches. They're a lot like Serbia in that they can really make you look silly on defense. And it's going to be hard, because they're really, really good. It's the quarterfinals of the Olympics, and it's supposed to be hard."
Spain (4-1), Canada (3-2), and Serbia (2-3) also advanced out of Group B, while Australia (5-0), France (3-2), Turkey (3-2), and Japan are the representatives out of Group A. Brittney Griner had a double-double (18 points, 13 rebounds) for Team USA.
Among the other former UConn players, Sue Bird chipped in seven points and five assists, Diana Taurasi had six points and six assists, and Breanna Stewart added six points and three assists. The Americans recorded a team Olympic-record 40 assists on their 46 baskets.
"There's been a lot of things I've been happy with with them," Auriemma said. "But when it kind of comes together like this and the ball's moving and everybody's getting into the mix ... We're not relying on one individual to make it happen for us. Obviously they're close to me, but when you get Sue and D out there together and the other team decides that they want to start trapping them, then we're going to get a lot of layups. That's exactly what happened."
After China took a 3-2 lead, Griner's bucket with 1:09 gone put Team USA in front to stay and started a 20-0 run. Charles had eight points in the spurt that was capped off by consecutive baskets by Seimone Augustus. It was 32-9 after one quarter and 60-26 at halftime. The record-breaking assist came with 4:14 remaining when Lindsay Whalen, who finished with six assists, dished to Moore for a 3-pointer. A Whalen drive pushed Team USA into triple figures for the fourth time in five games.
"We were really determined after playing so well in the first half to continue that pace starting the second half," Moore said. "Our first six, seven baskets were assisted and we just continued on that pace. It's just a really fun atmosphere when we're all moving the ball like that. To be part of history like that is really special, especially for this team because we enjoy it so much.
"Every game we have an opportunity to do something a little bit better, be a little bit tighter here, to communicate a little bit better and to compete. Every team that's going forward at this point is here for a reason. We can't relax, lose our focus at all. We want to play great basketball. Our days together are limited. We're getting toward the end here. We want to enjoy and take advantage of every time we are on the court together."
The Americans shot 62.2 percent from the floor and got 47 points from their bench, while holding China (1-4) to 33.8 percent shooting.
"This is game five, and we try to use these games to try to build some momentum moving forward," Auriemma said. "This team's played a total of nine games together up to now. So each and every one we've gotten a little bit better at something. We knew kind of what we wanted to do today, and I think in every single area that we had marked down that we wanted to get accomplished, we got accomplished.
"When you have 40 assists in a basketball game, and I talked to the team about it, there can't be anything better in the game of basketball then when you get an assist. You can get rebounds, blocked shots, whatever, all that's great. You get a bucket, but when you know you made it possible to help one of your teammates get an easy basket, that to me, that's basketball. You can't play it any better than we played it in the first half. That was really fun to watch."
Also Sunday, Spain earned the No. 2 seed out of Group B by defeating Canada 73-60. Spain led by just two before opening the fourth quarter with 11 unanswered points. UConn junior guard Kia Nurse had eight points (1-for-8 from the floor, 6-for-7 at the foul line) and two assists in 25 minutes. The loss puts the Canadians in the Americans' half of the draw, setting up a potential meeting in the semifinals Thursday.
TUESDAY (times TBA): Game 1: United States vs. Japan; Game 2: France vs. Canada; Game 3. Australia vs. Serbia Game 4: Spain vs. Turkey.
THURSDAY (times TBA): Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner; Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner
BRONZE-MEDAL GAME: Semifinal losers, 10:30 a.m.
GOLD-MEDAL GAME: Semifinal winners, 2:30 p.m.
(Quotes courtesy of USA Basketball)
The United States national team averaged 111.3 points in its first three games at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Team Canada wasn't going to let the Americans just run up the score Friday and it slowed down the pace. But Team USA can also grind it out as well as anyone.
Maya Moore had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists as Team USA clinched the top seed out of Group B with an 81-51 win over Canada, its 45th straight in Olympic play.
"If you're placed on this team, it's because you understand that the game is played on both ends of the floor," Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said, according to USA Basketball. "The only thing we have to do is make sure that we're in the right defenses, and not get too complicated, not get too tricky, do things that don't take a lot of time. We tweak it each game a little bit here and there, and the rest is, 'How bad do they want to play?'
"The beauty of having 12 players like this is you say, 'Look, here's the deal. If you play defense, if you play hard, you'll all get minutes.' But how many minutes and the quality of minutes is going to depend on how hard you play on the defensive end. And they all want to play."
The Americans wrap up pool play on Sunday against China at 11:15 a.m ET. They will then face the No. 4 seed out of Group A in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
Team USA struggled through the first quarter that ended with it leading 18-16. The Americans then turned to their defense to build their advantage.
Team Canada managed only one second-quarter field goal -- a three-point play by Nirra Fields with 39.4 seconds left in the period. Moore had eight points and a Diana Taurasi 3-pointer capped a 15-2 run that gave Team USA a 14-point lead. Taurasi then answered Fields' hoop with her second straight trey to make it 36-22 at halftime.
"They are a disciplined team with what they are trying to do on offense," Moore said, according to USA Basketball. "They cut a lot, they move a lot, so you have to constantly be on your toes. We had our hands full when we were playing them in the half court. We were just trying to communicate and use our athleticism and our versatility to make some of their offenses a little bit harder to run."
Tamara Tatham's 3-pointer brought Team Canada to within 12, but back-to-back threes by Taurasi and a Brittney Griner hoop pushed the Americans' lead to 20 at 47-27.
It was 60-36 after three quarters and Team USA's biggest lead was 34.
Taurasi matched Moore's 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting from 3-point land. Tina Charles chipped in 10 points and five rebounds while Breanna Stewart had five points off the bench. Sue Bird did not score but had nine assists, matching the second-highest total in U.S. Olympic history.
"I think we played really hard on defense," Bird said, according to USA Basketball. "I think people fall in love with points at times, but it's our defense that's been the most consistent. Tonight was a good example of that. It wasn't that we couldn't score, we just weren't scoring at the rate that you saw the first three games. It was our defense that was there for us to rely on. And it's not easy, especially against a team like Canada. They make you work. We worked hard."
Miranda Ayim had eight points for Team Canada.
UConn junior guard Kia Nurse had just three points -- a first-quarter free throw and a third-quarter layup -- on 1-for-9 shooting and a pair of rebounds. The Hamilton, Ontario native still leads the Canadians in scoring (11.8 points) coming off the bench.
"For such a young player, what an experience," Auriemma said. "You haven't even started your junior year in college, and you're playing in the Olympics against players she probably watched growing up. I think she's done an amazing job. She's fun to coach. There were a bunch of times this year when she'd do something goofy - throw the ball away, commit a dumb foul or do something and I'd (joke to her), 'I can't wait until we play you guys in the Olympics.' And she'll just roll her eyes.
"She's one of the toughest competitors I've ever been around. That kid is tough, physically tough. She's just an unbelievable kid."
Team Canada faces Spain Sunday with the winner taking the No. 2 seed out of Group B.
Taurasi tops Team USA in scoring (16.3) and is shooting 62.1 percent from behind the arc. She tied her own single-game American Olympic record with five treys in the opener against Senegal last Sunday and broke the mark with six treys against Serbia Wednesday.
Olympic rookie Stewart is averaging 11.5 points, shooting 77.8 percent from the floor and 80.0 percent from the foul line, along with 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 steals. Charles checks in at 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds, while Moore's numbers are 9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
Bird, who is seeking her fourth Olympic gold medal as are Taurasi and Tamika Catchings, is scoring at a 4.0 clip but is averaging 6.3 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 8.3-to-1.
GROUP B STANDINGS (x-clinched berth in quarterfinals): x-United States 4-0, x-Canada 3-1, x-Spain 3-1, Serbia 1-3, China 1-3, Senegal 0-4
Tags: Carl Adamec
Geno Auriemma has guided the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to four of the five longest winning streaks in NCAA history, including its record 90-game run (2001-03) and its current 75-game unbeaten stretch.
The Hall of Fame coach has also led the United States to the last 11 of its current 44-game Olympic winning streak. The Americans put that streak on the line against Canada in Group B pool play on Friday.
But Team USA's domination is leading to the same questions the Huskies have dealt with: Are they bad for the game?
"We live in that Trumpian era where it's OK to be sexist and degrade people that are good, just because they're the opposite sex. We are what we are," Auriemma said after Team USA's win over Serbia Wednesday. "We're never going to apologize for being that good. We're never going to apologize for setting a standard that other people aspire to achieve. We got a guy in the pool with a USA swim cap on (Michael Phelps) who nobody can beat. And if he wasn't in swimming, there would be a lot of other guys with gold medals.
"So, it is what it is. The world needs times when such great, great teams or great individuals are doing great things, that other people can talk about and other people say, 'Wow, wouldn't it be great to be at that level?' These are Olympians. They're supposed to play at a high level. They're professionals, they're supposed to put on a show, they're supposed to entertain. So, what are we supposed to do? Just go out there and win by a little?
"We're not bad for women's basketball. Just like I say at UConn, 'We're not bad for women's basketball. What's bad for women's basketball is when nobody's great because then you could say, 'You know what? I don't think anybody really knows how to play this game.' I think people will say that there are some really good teams out here and when you see them play each other, they're great games. Serbia was up 20 the other day and lost to Canada. These are great games. We just happen to be somewhere else right now. That's OK. I don't mind."
Team USA is the prohibitive favorite to win a sixth straight gold medal. On Monday, it won by 40 over Spain, the third-ranked team in the world and 2014 FIBA world championship silver medalist. Australia, which clinched the top seed out of Group A with a come-from-behind win over Japan on Thursday, is seen as the Americans' top threat. If Team USA wins Friday, it would not play Australia until the gold-medal game.
UConn has dealt with the same question, particularly in the Huskies' current run that has seen them win four straight national championships and lose just once in their last 123 games. In six NCAA tournament games last March/April, they trailed for 1:44 (all in the first quarter against Duquesne in the second round) out of a possible 240 minutes. Their margins of victory were 52 (Robert Morris), 46 (Duquesne), 60 (Mississippi State), 21 (Texas), 29 (Oregon State), and 31 (Syracuse).
Senior All-Americans Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck -- who were the top three picks in the WNBA Draft -- won a record 151 games.
"They've created an amount of excitement that the game has not seen in a long, long time, if ever," Auriemma said on April 5 after the final win over Syracuse. "And they've left an imprint on this game that's going to last a really long time. And I think it's a blueprint for kids coming after them that if you want to know how to do it, they showed everybody how to do it. And they did it the right way. And they did it together and they did it with people that they love."
The question of whether UConn was bad for women's basketball came up during the United States U-17 national team trials in May.
"They work hard at what they do," said Mikayla Coombs, a guard from Buford, Georgia, who would make a verbal commitment to the Huskies in July. "I've talked to Coach Auriemma and he said their practices are 10 times harder than games. They're working hard to do the things they need to do. It's not necessarily time for someone else. Everyone needs to up the level of what they're doing and match them."
"It's not bad," said Christyn Williams, a guard from Little Rock, Arkansas, and a UConn recruiting target. "It's like people will ask me what it's like to be the top player in my state. I worked hard for that. The UConn players have worked hard to get where they're at. Nothing was given to them. I actually went on a Snapchat rant about this because people are saying it's bad. The other schools need to get better, do the things that they're doing."
"I have different sides to it," said Sam Brunelle, a forward from Ruckersville, Virginia, and also a UConn recruiting target. "If you're that good, keep getting even better. UConn has done that. It's fun to watch their style of basketball. It would be nice to see other people win, but that takes nothing away from what UConn does and how they play."
UConn will put its winning streak on the line in its regular season opener Nov. 14 at Florida State.
Team USA (3-0) can wrap up the top seed out of Group B with a win over Canada (3-0) Friday. The Americans close pool play against China (1-2) Sunday while the Canadians face Spain (2-1) the same day. Both Team USA and Canada have clinched berths in the quarterfinals. The top four teams in each of the two six-team groups advance.
Former UConn star Diana Taurasi tops Team USA in scoring (17.7) and is shooting 58.3 percent from 3-point land. She tied her own single-game American Olympic record with five treys in the opener against Senegal and broke the mark with six treys against Serbia Wednesday.
Olympic rookie Stewart is averaging 13.7 points on 75.0 percent shooting from the floor, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.7 steals. Tina Charles checks in at 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Maya Moore's numbers are 9.0 points and 4.7 rebounds. Sue Bird is averaging 5.3 points and 5.3 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 16-to-1.
Kia Nurse, a UConn junior guard, leads Team Canada and is averaging 14.7 points, 3.0 assists, and 1.7 steals.
The USA and Canada met in an exhibition game on July 29 in Bridgeport, with the Americans rolling to an 83-43 victory.
(Auriemma quotes courtesy of USA Basketball)
Tags: Carl Adamec
Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Lexi Gordon and Mikayla Coombs got to spend some time together while attending the United States U-17 national team trials in Colorado Springs in May.
The three University of Connecticut women's basketball team Class of 2017 commits will have a reunion in Storrs next month. And they'll have some company.
Espinoza-Hunter, Gordon and Coombs will make their official recruiting visits to UConn the weekend of Sept. 16. Megan Walker, the top-ranked player in the Class of 2017, will join them then. Walker has narrowed her choices to UConn, Notre Dame and Texas. ESPNW reported that Walker will visit the Longhorns Sept. 2-5 and the Irish Sept. 23-25, as well as being the first to report her trip to Storrs.
"I can't wait to go back to Connecticut," said Gordon, who made an unofficial visit in January and made her verbal commitment a month later. "I loved it there earlier this year, just the good feelings and the good vibes. It will be exciting to see my future teammates again and see Andi and Mikayla. It won't be the same without Moriah [Jefferson], Morgan [Tuck] and Stewie [Breanna Stewart], but it will still be fun because all of the girls get along so well.
"I met Megan last year at a Maryland camp and we've talked since," Gordon added. "If she wants to come to UConn, too, I would love it because she's such a good person and good player."
Walker (6-foot-1 wing, Chesterfield, Virginia) was her state's 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year after leading led Monacan High to a 29-1 record and a second straight Virginia Class 4A state title.
She picked up her first two medals with USA Basketball this summer. She earned all-tournament honors as she teamed with TCU signee Amber Ramirez, California signee Jaelyn Brown and Sidney Cooks to win silver at the FIBA U-18 3x3 world championships in Astana, Kazakhstan.
She then averaged 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals as she helped Team USA capture gold at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile.
Walker has made two unofficial visits to UConn. She was at the 2014 First Night program at Gampel Pavilion. Then, last April, she spent a day on campus and attended the final team dinner for the 2016 national champions, as senior All-Americans Stewart (Seattle Storm), Jefferson (San Antonio Stars) and Tuck (Connecticut Sun) left to join their WNBA teams after being the top three players taken in the draft the night before.
Espinoza-Hunter (5-11 guard, Ossining, New York) was the first player in the Class of 2017 to commit to UConn on Dec. 30, 2014. She averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists as a junior to lead Blair Academy to a successful defense of its MPAL and New Jersey Prep A state tournament titles.
She will play her senior year at Ossining High, where she started her high school career. As a seventh and eighth grader, she was a teammate of UConn senior Saniya Chong with the Pride.
Gordon (6-1 guard, Fort Worth, Texas) announced her commitment last Feb. 19. As a junior at L.D. Bell High she averaged 24.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals for a 20-11 squad.
A three-year starter, she'll enter her senior season with 1,985 points and 760 rebounds. She'll be joined at L.D. Bell this year by her younger sister, Myra, a point guard and Division I prospect who already holds a scholarship offer from her parents' alma mater TCU.
Coombs (5-8 guard, Buford, Georgia) announced her decision to attend UConn on July 14. She averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists as a junior to lead Wesleyan School to the Georgia Class AA state final. She missed almost all of her sophomore year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the first quarter of the first game.
"Mikayla is a great kid from a great family and such a good basketball player," Gordon said.
In Class of 2018 recruiting news, four players in the ESPN HoopGurlz top 10, all members of the USA bronze-medal winning team at the 2016 FIBA U-17 world championships, have released college lists and all have UConn on them.
Charli Collier (6-4 forward, Baytown, Texas) is ranked No. 1 in the class. Her list of 12 has Baylor, Connecticut, Duke, Houston, Louisville, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and USC. Collier averaged 5.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 7.7 minutes per game for the U-17 squad. She took in the Huskies' game at Houston last January.
Christyn Williams (5-10 guard, Little Rock, Arkansas) is ranked No.2 in the class and has narrowed her list to eight: Arkansas, Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and UCLA. She averaged 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals in a team high 30.9 minutes at the U-17 championships. Williams took an unofficial visit to UConn the same weekend as Gordon last January.
Sedona Prince (6-7 center, Liberty Hill, Texas) is ranked No. 5 in the class. Her final six are Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Texas and TCU. She averaged 1.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in 6.2 minutes for the U-17 team. She also won a bronze medal with the 2015 U-16 club at the FIBA Americas Championship.
Aquira DeCosta (6-1 forward, Stockton, California) is ranked No. 6 in the class and has a lengthy list of 20 that includes perennial powers Connecticut, Baylor, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and Maryland, along with seven Pac-12 Conference schools. She averaged 6.6 points and team highs of 10.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots in 19.3 minutes at the U-17 event. She, like Prince, won a bronze medal with the 2015 U-16 club at the FIBA Americas Championship.
Taurasi sets USA mark; Nurse leads Canada
Former UConn star Diana Taurasi scored 25 points and broke her own United States Olympic record with six 3-point baskets, as Team USA downed Serbia 110-84 in Group B pool play Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro.
With the win, Team USA (3-0) wrapped up a spot in the quarterfinals -- the top four teams in Group A and in Group B advance -- and can now clinch the top seed in its group by beating Canada (3-0) on Friday. Tip off is at 2:30 p.m. Team Canada stayed perfect as UConn junior guard Kia Nurse had 14 points in a 68-58 win over Senegal Wednesday.
Taurasi was 7-for-12 from the floor and 6-for-10 from 3-point land. Her previous record for treys was five, which she matched in the Olympic opener against Senegal. She made her sixth three just 1:17 into the third quarter. The Chino, California native also had six assists.
"Usually Diana doesn't assert herself like she has in the first three games," Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said, according to USA Basketball. "She's usually waiting for the game to come to her, get everybody else involved. And these first three games of the tournament, she's just come out and taken over right from the beginning.
"Why is that? You know, that's a good question. I talked with her yesterday during our off day. We talked about a lot of things that she and I have been through in the past, we talked about where we are right now, we talked about whether there's a future at all at the Olympics. I said, 'If this is going to be your last,' ... I don't know if it is or not, it looks like she can play until she's 50. But I said, 'Let's go out in a bang.' This reminds me of her in college and she's doing whatever she wanted. She's doing it against the best players in the world."
Three other former Huskies were in double figures for the Americans. Stewart had 17 points (5-for-8 from the floor) and five rebounds. Tina Charles chipped in 15 points (4-for-8 from the floor) with eight rebounds and four assists. Maya Moore finished with 10 points (4-for-9 from the floor) to go with six rebounds and four assists.
Angel McCoughtry also had 13 points for Team USA, which shot 54 percent from the floor (38-for-71) and made all 26 of its free throws.
Serbia (0-3) led 17-16 before Taurasi hit a trio of 3-pointers and a Stewart layup capped a 13-2 run that put Team USA in front to stay. At 40-30, treys by Taurasi and Moore started an 11-2 spurt that broke it open as the Americans reached triple figures for the third straight game.
Nurse, who had 25 points in Canada's come-from-behind win over Serbia Monday, was 4-for-13 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the foul line in 27 minutes in the win over Senegal (0-3). She also had a pair of steals. The victory assured the Canadians a spot in the quarterfinals.
"She's something else, isn't she?" Auriemma said, according to USA Basketball. "Kia's finally healthy. She struggled most of the season and she got it taken care of at the end. She's playing with a lot of confidence because they had great success last summer in the Pan Am Games, in FIBA Americas.
"If you remember the last Olympics, the Olympics before that, nobody was saying that Canada was a possible medal team. Well, they're talking about them now. That's a good thing, right? More good teams, more good players, and Kia's just one of a handful of young players who are going to be great."
Group B Standings (top four advance to quarterfinals): United States 3-0, Canada 3-0, Spain 2-1, China 1-2, Serbia 0-3, Senegal 0-3).
Tags: Carl Adamec
University of Connecticut and United States national team coach Geno Auriemma thought Kia Nurse looked "pretty good" as she played her first game for Team Canada on July 27 in the USA Basketball Showcase following sports hernia surgery in the spring.
The road to recovery hasn't been easy for the Hamilton, Ontario, native, however, particularly on the offensive end of the floor.
But the Huskies' junior guard, who made a lasting impression on the Canadians during the 2015 Pan American Games and the FIBA America Championships, made her first mark for Team Canada on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Nurse had 25 points off the bench Monday as Canada rallied from an 18-point third-quarter deficit to defeat Serbia 71-67 in Group B action. It's the first time the Canadians have been 2-0 in Olympic play.
"It was just a complete team effort," Nurse said. "After the first half we said, 'Let's get it done on the defensive end,' and that's what we did. We came down with some boards, got out in transition and made them run and executed extremely well in the second half."
Serbia led 40-32 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 12-2 run to take the 18-point lead. Team Canada responded with 11 unanswered points, seven by Nurse, to pull back within seven, though Serbia was able to stretch its lead back to 57-45 at the end of the period.
The Canadians' second 11-0 run of the half cut it to one and they took their first lead at 63-61 on Kim Gaucher's 3-pointer with 2:46 to go. A three-point play off an offensive rebound by Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe with 48 seconds left gave Canada the lead for good at 68-67. A 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining and the shot clock expiring by Miah-Marie Langlois iced it.
"The pressure was huge," Team Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis. "Being able to bring in Nirra off the bench to cause some problems, Nayo was tremendous, and Kia had a huge effort tonight. It was amazing what she was able to do, she was a game-changer and she wanted the ball when the game was close and caused a lot of turnovers with her pressure."
Nurse played 29:36. She was 7-for-11 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from 3-point land, and 8-for-10 from the foul line. The Hamilton, Ontario, native added five assists to three turnovers and a pair of steals.
Team Canada faces Senegal Wednesday before taking on Team USA Friday.
Also Monday, the Americans improved to 2-0 in Group B play with a 103-63 rout of Spain.
Spain, which lost to Team USA in the gold medal game of the 2014 FIBA world championships by 13, is ranked third in the world behind the Americans and Australia.
"I'm sure it's tough (playing against us)," Team USA guard and UConn graduate Sue Bird said. "I just got interviewed out there and the way the reporter phrased the question was, 'I just finished talking to one of the Spanish players who said it's impossible to beat the U.S.' I haven't been on very many underdog teams in my career, in Seattle a little bit the last couple of years, so I do have an awareness of what it's like to feel like no matter what you do you have no chance and it's not a good feeling. But on the flip side, there's also that opportunity to upset, there's also that opportunity to make history that I'm sure is in the back of all their minds and that's what we're guarding against. So would I want to be in their shoes? Probably not. I mean they're trying to make history, too, by beating us, so there is a plus side to it."
Team USA has won 43 straight Olympic contest since losing in the 1992 semifinals in Barcelona, Spain.
Diana Taurasi led the Americans with 13 points. Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles added 12 each while Brittney Griner had 10. Bird and Breanna Stewart chipped in nine points apiece while Maya Moore and Tina Charles had eight points each.
It was the first time since 2004 that the United States recorded consecutive 100-point games in Olympic play after setting an Olympic scoring record with a 121-56 blow out of Senegal Sunday.
"I think it would probably just be our depth that's making that happen," Bird said. "I think a lot of Olympic teams that I've been on have had offensive power, but now we go all the way down to the 12th player and the minute you sub there's no let off, that person who comes in can do just as much offensively as the next. And also, we have our foot on the gas pedal. We're trying to get better with every single game and you can't relax. I know the score, it is what it is, but we don't relax regardless."
Spain led 8-6 early, but seven straight points gave the Americans the advantage for good. Three-pointers by Taurasi and Delle Donne and four points by Fowles fueled a 10-0 run that put the Americans up 29-14 at the end of the first quarter.
It was 54-37 at halftime and 74-51 after three quarters. A free throw by Stewart got Team USA to the century mark.
"We talk about it all the time. We know we can score points, we know we've got a lot of good offensive players," Auriemma said. "But I think it's the work that we're going to do at the other end that's really going to determine things because I think as you get into the medal games, all the teams you play are pretty good offensively. But that's the pressure we can put on teams is that everybody we bring in off the bench can score and can make a play. It's fun to watch. For as little time as we've had together, we do a lot of really nice things out there which is nice to see."
Team USA faces Serbia on Wednesday.
Group B standings (top four advance to quarterfinals): USA 2-0, Canada 2-0, Spain 1-1, China 0-1, Senegal 0-1, Serbia 0-2.
(Quotes courtesy Canada Basketball and USA Basketball)
DePaul University coach Doug Bruno refers to it as the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's "little secret." While the Huskies' have had many of the best offensive players in winning 11 national championships, Bruno believes it is their work on the defensive end that separates them.
Bruno is now serving a second term as an assistant to UConn coach Geno Auriemma with the United States national team. But some things are still the same during the summer for Team USA as they are in the winner on the NCAA circuit. While the Americans have some of the best offensive players in the world with them in Rio de Janeiro, it will be their defense that separates them in their bid for a sixth consecutive gold medal.
Team USA begins Group B pool play Sunday at 11 a.m. against Senegal.
"Once you play with the U.S. team you are not worried about shots," Team USA guard Diana Taurasi said during the USA Basketball Showcase tour. "You aren't worried about touches. You are worried about other things that you probably don't worry about on your WNBA team like denying the wing, bumping the cutter, making sure you box out. All those things are what is going to keep you on the court, because we all can score. It's those things that are going to take us to the next level, and it has always been that way since I have been with the team since 2004 with Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes and Dawn Staley."
Team USA features three players who have combined to win the last seven WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards: Tamika Catchings (2009-10, 2012), Sylvia Fowles (2011, 2013), and Brittney Griner (2014-15).
Of course, the Americans also have five of the last seven WNBA Most Valuable Players: Taurasi (2009), Catchings (2011), Tina Charles (2012), Maya Moore (2014), and Elena Delle Donne (2015).
"I'm sure when the team was being picked, I don't know that they said, 'You know what? These two guys are really great defensive players and that is why they're on the team.' " Auriemma said. "The fact that they are such great offensive players and they want to play defense, that's a unique combination to be able to have players that can score and want to make that commitment on the defensive end.
"Certainly when you look at how many WNBA MVPs we have in Maya and Tina and Diana and Catch and Elena last year, when you have that many great players, it's just a matter of getting them committed to the defensive end. And they are for sure. You have to be, because the teams we are playing against are good. They are good offensively."
Nine of the players -- Taurasi, Moore, Charles, fellow former Husky Sue Bird, Catchings, Fowles, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, and Angel McCoughtry -- won gold at the 2012 Games in London. The three newcomers are Delle Donne, Griner, and Breanna Stewart, who just four months ago led UConn to its unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship.
Bird, Taurasi, and Catchings are seeking their fourth gold medal, which would tie Leslie and Teresa Edwards for the most in Olympic women's basketball history. A gold medal victory would make Griner the 10th player to win NCAA (with Baylor in 2012) and WNBA (with Phoenix in 2014) titles along with FIBA world championship (in 2014) and Olympic gold medals.
Catchings is retiring at the end of the WNBA season. Bird and Taurasi admit this is likely their last Olympic run.
Bird, who owns the record for most world championship medals (three gold, one bronze), turns 36 in October. She is enjoying a solid summer with her WNBA team, the Seattle Storm.
"If Sue was old and played old and thought old and acted old, she wouldn't have made this team," Auriemma said. "But Sue, at her age, thinks quicker, moves quicker and makes more plays for other people than any other guard in the league. Her feet are almost as quick. And her mind is exactly the way it was when she was in college or even more so because of her experiences. I'm not privy to all the huddles out there, but I'm sure Stewie will tell you that when there is a huddle there is only one person talking and everybody is nodding their head."
Taurasi, who turned 34 in June, is also playing at a high level. If she's not the best player in the world, she's on the very short list.
"Diana wants to win," Moore said. "She wants to be great. She wants to seize the moment of whatever opportunity she has in front of her. Most of the time she is going to be in a position to be a championship contender because that is the leadership and the competitiveness that she brings. She has that level of confidence to her. And the plays she makes are so heart-breaking, because she will make a dagger of a three or she will make a great pass and make tough plays."
Of course, there is a strong UConn flavor to the team with Auriemma and five of his former Huskies. For anyone that questions the legitimacy of the players selected, Taurasi has the answer.
"Just look at the resumes," she said. "I mean, when people say that, just look at the resumes."
After facing Senegal, Team USA continues Group B play Monday against Spain at 11 a.m. It takes on Serbia Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., Canada and UConn junior guard Kia Nurse Friday at 2:30 p.m., and China on Aug. 14 at 11:15 a.m. The top four teams in Group A and Group B advance to the quarterfinals on Aug. 16. The semifinals are Aug. 18 with the bronze and gold medal games Aug. 20.
Team USA has not lost an Olympic game since the semifinals in 1992, two years before Stewart was born.
Canada opened Group B play with a 90-68 win over China Saturday. Nurse had five points (0-for-6 from the floor, 5-for-6 from the foul line), two rebounds, four assists, and a steal in 17 minutes as she continues to work her way back from sports hernia surgery. Tamara Tatham led four Team Canada players in double figures with 20 points.
BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut -- Breanna Stewart didn't notice as coach Geno Auriemma gave his final instructions in the United States national team's locker room prior to its USA Basketball Showcase exhibition against Canada Friday night.
Then the introductions came and it was impossible to miss. Playing in the state where they became college legends, Auriemma started his five former UConn players -- Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Stewart. It wasn't unusual for the Hall of Fame coach. In the exhibition against France at the University of Delaware on Wednesday night, he started local favorite and former Blue Hens' All-American Elena Delle Donne.
"That was really cool," Stewart said. "I didn't really realize it until they called out the starters. You heard the fans get louder and louder and louder. Coach obviously has his reason for that. It was cool to see everyone's reaction from it."
The fans were loudest when Stewart, who led the Huskies to their unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship four months ago, had her name called. They roared again when the North Syracuse, New York native addressed the crowd of 6,371 at Webster Bank Arena before the opening tip. She was also successful off the court Friday. Red USA t-shirts with Stewart's name and number 9 were sold out at a pair of concession stands.
The veterans noticed the reception.
"She did (get the biggest ovation), she did. But she'll become old news some day," Taurasi said with her biggest and best smile.
It was April 5 that Stewart shared a final hug with Auriemma and teammates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck with 1:46 left of UConn's historic 82-51 rout of Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament final at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Olympian Stewart is hardly the same.
"We played France in 2014 in Turkey," Taurasi said. "Stewie ran down the court and she got hit in the chest and she stopped. [Wednesday night] the first possession she was in she got hit again by them and she ran right through it. That tells you the difference, one play like that. That's all you need to know."
Stewart is the youngest player on Auriemma's squad that will head to Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday for the 2016 Games. By the time she turns 22 on Aug. 27, she hopes to have added Olympic gold to her 2014 FIBA world championships gold and her unmatched college career.
The Americans begin pool play in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 7 against Senegal. Team USA has not lost a game at the Olympics since 1992, two years before Stewart was born.
"Stewie's completely different, completely different," Auriemma said. "She's one of them. She was in college before so I think she always felt that she had something to prove. The way she carries herself now, the way that she plays, the way that she practices, she walks around like she feels, 'I'm not only one of them, I'm better than some of them.' "
Stewart had five points in 15 minutes Friday night, making both of her shots from the floor after being limited by two early fouls as the Americans defeated Team Canada 83-43.
"There's a slight difference and it's the experience of knowing, having played with and against these players on this team and some we'll be playing against," Stewart said. "At UConn, I couldn't prepare as well as I could for that. I wasn't facing that every day."
She is facing it every day in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm.
Stewart is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors and is putting Most Valuable Player-type numbers as the Storm contend for a playoff berth. The 6-foot-4 forward is fifth in the league in scoring (19.2), second in rebounds (9.3), third in blocked shots (2.1) and tops in minutes played (35.2).
"My comfort level with the Storm is getting better and better," Stewart said. "Having the opportunity to be on the court through the good and the bad helps. Knowing that the coaches and players have confidence in what I'm trying to do also helps."
On July 17, Stewart led a Seattle rally against the Chicago Sky from a 25-point deficit midway through the second quarter. A 3-pointer by Sue Bird with 18.9 seconds left tied it and the Storm were in position to pull off the greatest comeback in WNBA history. But Chicago now had the ball.
And the Sky have Delle Donne. The reigning WNBA MVP got the ball near the top of the key and Stewart had the defensive assignment.
"We had the opportunity to go to overtime or win the game," Stewart said. "Obviously the ball was going to her. They ran a set for her and there were 10 seconds left. I was trying to make her shoot the toughest shot she could possibly take. She takes a step-back 3 and she makes it. I was like, 'Aaahh.' All the work we did to come back and she knocks down this shot."
Welcome to the bigs.
Delle Donne and Stewart are teammates for the next four weeks as they and Brittney Griner are the first-time Olympians on the 2016 club. They are fitting in.
"Each day we're getting better and better," Stewart said. "I think that off the court, it definitely comes faster than on the court. People's personalities seem to just fit together. And with our limited court time, seeing what players like to do, what they don't like to do ... Some of us have played together on other national team tours in the fall, or world championships and that kind of thing.
"The biggest piece of advice has been to enjoy this and not taking it for granted. You don't know if it's going to happen again. On the court, almost everybody has been in this situation and they know the ropes."
After a slow start Friday night, the Americans broke it open with a 23-2 run. Lindsay Whalen had seven points and Delle Donne six off of the bench. Team Canada shot just 2-for-16 in the first quarter and the visitors needed almost four minutes to score in the second quarter as Team USA took a 28-6 lead.
It was 44-20 at halftime and the Canadians got no closer over the final 20 minutes.
"We wanted to get better than we were against France Wednesday night and we were," Auriemma said. "We were as good defensively as we could be with the amount of work that we've been able to put in. When you're good defensively, it leads to a lot of other things."
Delle Donne (12) and Whalen (11) joined Taurasi in double figures for Team USA. All 12 Americans hit the scoring column.
UConn junior guard Kia Nurse, who had 33 points against a USA team made up of collegians -- including Stewart and Jefferson -- at the 2015 Pan American Games final, was scoreless in 25 minutes Friday night with Taurasi doing a lot of the work against her on the defensive end. It was her second game since sports hernia surgery in the spring.
"They put pressure on you all over the floor and defensively they really get after it," said Nurse, who also received a loud ovation when announced in Team Canada's starting lineup. "They have such a good lineup that they're able to do that.
"Today was not a good day but we'll be better next time."
The Americans will wrap up play in the Showcase against Australia on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Australia is also 2-0 in the event following its 76-67 win over France here Friday night.
Stewart, who won five gold medals with USA Basketball youth teams (ages 16-19), hopes to continue her winning ways in Brazil.
"I do try to be there to give her little advice here and there," Bird said. "But Stewie will have her own path."
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- If it seems like Diana Taurasi has played basketball for coach Geno Auriemma for half her life, it's only because she just about has.
Taurasi had just turned 18 years old when she was selected to her first USA Basketball squad, the Auriemma-coached junior national (U-18) team, in 2000. The previous November, she had signed a letter of intent to play for Auriemma at the University of Connecticut. She would get an early education to what she was getting into.
Team USA had given up a fast-break layup during a training camp scrimmage in Colorado Springs against three players from the Colorado College men's team, their friends, and former Old Dominion player Natalie Diaz. Auriemma stopped the scrimmage and expressed his displeasure to, and with Taurasi: "You just jogged back on defense," he said. "Why did you jog back? That's unbelievable." He benched her for the last 14 minutes of the first half.
"I think he said that I had one too many burritos and this is not an all-star game," Taurasi said Thursday after the United States Olympic team wrapped up practice here. "Then I watched for two hours. That gave me some insight of what it was going to be like when I got to school at UConn. It was."
Taurasi would lead the Huskies to three national championships in her four years in Storrs before moving on to the professional ranks. She and Auriemma were reunited in 2009 when the Hall of Fame coach was selected to guide the national team and they've combined for two FIBA world championship gold medals and an Olympic gold.
The Chino, California, native hopes to make some history at next month's Games in Rio de Janeiro as she, Sue Bird, and Tamika Catchings seek to match the USA's Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards as four-time Olympic gold medalists. The preparations continue Friday night when Team USA faces Team Canada in the USA Basketball Showcase at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
And barking instructions at the 34-year-old from the sideline will be Auriemma, the first person to coach two United States Olympic teams.
"It is much different now. Our relationship has grown to a different level," Taurasi said. "When he's in the building, when I'm talking to him or he's talking to me, I still have a sense of being that kid who walked into Storrs as an 18-year-old. That's a good thing.
"As you get older, as your career moves on, you lose some of that where the players have so much control. When Coach Auriemma says something, when he is in the gym, you want to do everything right for him. It's an interesting feeling for me when I come back and play USA Basketball."
The brashness and confidence Taurasi has is still there, perhaps more than ever. So is the talent. If she isn't the best guard or best player in the world, the Phoenix Mercury star is on the short list.
She still has a lot of kid in her -- she recently served a one-game suspension from the WNBA for receiving seven technical fouls. For every two she gets for the remainder of the season, she'll have to sit out another game. But she has grown up.
"I can talk to her like a normal person, like a normal human being now," Auriemma said with a laugh. "I can actually have a conversation with her about basketball and she would nod her head and actually agree with me. Since 2008, I'm confident that I'm going to say something that she agrees with. But other than that, it's the same. She's a way better player now, but in some ways she is exactly the same person she was. Her experiences have added a lot to her personality and who she is. But I still see the same things on the court that were evident when she was 18.
"I don't really have to coach her anymore. I don't really have to direct her. You have to manage her frustration level sometimes because she wants everybody to be on her level and that's not always possible."
Taurasi also has a long history with Bird. They played two seasons together at UConn before teaming up with USA Basketball for the last 12 years.
Her intensity carries over to her teammates.
"D is a very strong-willed person and she's got a strong-willed personality," Auriemma said. "She affects people. When she walks into a room, the entire room reacts to her. You have to understand that. She is really, really good at getting people onto the same page and getting them to do what she wants them to do. That's what great leaders do and she is that."
Taurasi had 10 points as Team USA defeated France, 84-62, in the first game of the Showcase Wednesday night at the University of Delaware. The event wraps up Sunday when the Americans take on Australia at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Team Canada, which lost to Australia in its opener, is led by UConn junior guard Kia Nurse. The last time Nurse played against an American team, she had 33 points as the Canadians won the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. But that USA squad was made up of collegians, including Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson.
"This is a different team," Stewart said. "They (Taurasi and Bird) probably know her. But I'll tell them she's a hard-nosed player and really a workhorse and she won't let up the whole time she's out there."
For Team USA, it's another chance to prepare for what's ahead.
"There's always pressure, but every team goes down there with pressure to win," Taurasi said. "Australia has it, the home team has it, we have it because we have that legacy. But all those other games mean nothing going to the next Olympics. They don't carry over. There might be old faces, new faces, but it's a different makeup. We're still trying to find the identity of this team."
For Taurasi, it may be her Olympic swan song. Even though her conditioning is strong and she has been able to stay relatively healthy in recent years, she would be 38 years old when the 2020 Games arrive.
It's never smart to bet against her, though. She'll take it a day at a time.
"It's weird. 12 years ago was my first one," Taurasi said. "When I see Dawn Staley coaching us ... Dawn had a great line when we were in Athens in 2004. We had been practicing for about an hour and she told Van Chancellor, 'I have alarm clocks on these sneakers. They went off and practice is over.' I looked at her today and said, 'I have the alarm clocks now.' It tells you where I'm at.
"I'm going to treat this one like my first one. I'm going to really enjoy it. But I'm a realist, it is probably going to be my last one. I'm going to go for it."
Tags: Carl Adamec
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- They say that time flies when you're having fun.
When it comes to winning basketball games, no one has been living the good life more than Maya Moore. She won won three Georgia state titles at Collins Hill High, two national championships at the University of Connecticut, three WNBA crowns with the Minnesota Lynx, and two FIBA world championship and one Olympic gold medals with USA Basketball.
How fast can time fly? It's been 10 years since Moore announced her decision to attend UConn.
"It's unbelievable, isn't it?" UConn and Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said. "She's accomplished a lot, even for someone as confident and self-assured as Maya. To think when you're 17 that you're going to accomplish everything that she already has done is a stretch. She's had a magical career, at UConn, overseas. WNBA, with USA Basketball ... It's been one magic carpet ride for her and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon."
Moore hopes to add a second Olympic gold medal at the Games next month in Rio de Janeiro. The Americans continued preparations at the New York Liberty practice facility here Thursday and they will face Canada in the USA Basketball Showcase Friday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.
She's a veteran now, though she's still just 27. But even if she was told a decade ago this is where she'd be in her life today, she would have had a tough time believing it.
"I would have said, 'You're sweet. That's nice of you,' " Moore said with a smile. "That's a lot to think about. There's no way I could have imagined back in 2006 I would have the opportunities that I've had. I was a junior in high school. It's hard to think because I have been going so fast for so long that I haven't been able to stop and think for a lot of it. But when I do get the moments to reflect, I know I've had blessing and blessing and I'm trying to squeeze the life out of every opportunity and work my hardest to accomplish what I can on whatever team I'm on."
Where Moore has gone, success has gone with her.
She was a two-time Naismith Trophy winner as the high school player of the year and is UConn's only four-time All-American and three-time Wade Trophy winner. She was the 2014 WNBA Most Valuable Player and the MVP of the 2015 Finals.
A month after her 23rd birthday, she joined the exclusive club -- now at nine players -- to have won NCAA and WNBA titles, and Olympic and world championship gold medals.
Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and Tamika Catchings are the acknowledged leaders of the 2016 Olympic team. But Moore wants to be one her teammates can look to.
"I'm a little more comfortable knowing what to expect not being the baby, the youngest, on the team anymore," Moore said. "It's fun to be able to still want to learn from the best and being appreciative of them, but also being able to show the way to our younger players. It's a fun place to be in and I'm still trying to find my way this year on this team.
"You're, hopefully, never lacking for voices. Most of the players are used to being vocal on their teams. I'm more the cheerleader. That's what I enjoy the most. Even before the shot goes in I'm already cheering for the player to keep their energy and celebration going. I'm just focusing on little details. I love being back in this environment. Here you're a player on an awesome team. My role is still the same, trying to do a little bit of everything. And continue to learn and push myself to be a better player."
Nine players from the 2012 team in London will be going to Rio. Three are Lynx teammates -- Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, and Sylvia Fowles. Moore played three years at UConn with Tina Charles.
Of course, being with the national team gives her a chance to reunite with her Hall of Fame college coach.
"It's really cool," Moore said. "I feel like I'm in college sometimes, doing the things that he's been teaching before I even got to UConn. It's cool to see that basketball is still basketball. I love the way he keeps it simple for us and puts us in positions to make plays. You've never mastered the game and there's always something that you can get better at. It's the opportunity to do it here with the best players in the world.
"It's fun to realize how much he's influenced the way I think about the game. I can hear him in my head when I'm doing things on the court still. Even before he tells me something I know what he's going to say. It's just fun. But the tone he tells me things now is a lot better. I appreciate that more than anything. He's a lot less angry when I'm out there."
Moore had 13 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals in 26 minutes of Team USA's 84-62 win over France at the University of Delaware Wednesday night.
After facing Canada Friday, the USA Basketball Showcase wraps up Sunday with the Americans taking on Australia at New York's Madison Square Garden.
"I'm so appreciative of the history this part of the country has with basketball," Moore said. "Be it Delaware, Connecticut, New York, they appreciate their basketball and we're going to be embraced. We don't take it granted. We appreciate it, and we show it by coming out and playing as hard as we can."
After the Olympics, Moore will head back to Minnesota. The Lynx are 21-4 and trail the Los Angeles Sparks (21-3) by one-half game for the best record in the WNBA. The teams have split two meetings with one more set for the Staples Center on Sept. 6. While Minnesota has won three titles in Moore's five seasons, it has never done so back to back.
The way she's going, there may be no stopping her, maybe for another decade.
"What she'll be able to accomplish in the next 10 years is a record number of championships that no one will be able to beat," Auriemma said. "I'd like to add up all the championship that Maya, D, and Sue have won. Then go, 'OK. I'll put that number up against any other three that have ever played.' "
Moore is a bit more philosophical.
"The next 10 years? Hopefully have a family and be transitioning from basketball ... We'll see," Moore said. "I have no idea how long I'm going to play. I want to be able to continue to do things in my community, trying to share what I've been given whether that's knowledge or philantrophy. I hope I'll be doing something that I enjoy doing."
Time does fly when you're having fun.
NEWARK, Del. -- If the best thing about a women's college basketball freshman is that they become a sophomore, is the first two-time Olympic women's basketball coach better prepared the second time around?
After leading Team USA to gold in London in 2012, University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma accepted the challenge of trying to do it again. The Americans will seek their sixth consecutive Olympic gold at the Games next month in Rio de Janeiro.
"I've got a feeling when we get down there that it's going to be torture for me," Auriemma said Wednesday night after Team USA defeated France 84-62 in the USA Basketball Showcase at the Bob Carpenter Center. "I want it to be easier. I want to be able to enjoy it more. I want all of those things. But by my nature, I worry about everything. I'm nervous about everything. Now I know what the pitfalls are, so in some ways ...
"The first time I went in with a sense of 'Of course, we're going to win.' Now it's, 'Oh my God. This team is really good that team is really good.' Like you saw today, everyone is really good. Everyone can do real good things. Let's put it this way, when August 22 comes around, I want to be sitting there with a gold medal and relax and let out a deep breath."
Auriemma is already the first coach to guide Team USA to two gold medals at the FIBA world championships.
Nine of the 12 players on the 2016 Olympic roster -- including former Huskies Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, and Diana Taurasi -- were with him when the Americans swept the competition four years ago. The Americans held off Australia 86-73 in the semifinals before routing France 86-50 in the finale.
"I don't know what I learned four years ago other than it's hard and it's grueling," Auriemma said. "I have incredible players. I have an incredible team. I've been with them, a lot of them, for eight years. They know me and I know them and I think that I know what to expect. I hope they know what to expect. I just want to make sure that I'm doing what I need to do to help them. The sense of responsibility is greater the second time around."
Of course, he has three players that want to win gold for the first time -- Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Breanna Stewart. Griner could become the 10th player to win NCAA and WNBA titles along with FIBA world championships and Olympic gold.
Delle Donne is the reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player. Stewart completed a histroic career at UConn in April, leading the Huskies to four straight national championships while being named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four each time.
Team USA will continue play in the USA Basketball Showcase Friday when it takes on Kia Nurse and Team Canada at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Showcase concludes Sunday at Madison Square Garden with the Americans facing Australia.
They open pool play in Rio de Janeiro Aug. 7 against Senegal.
After the 2012 Games, Auriemma was quiet about the possibility about coming back a second time. It wasn't until September of 2013 that he accepted the position for another term.
Would he be interested in keeping the job through 2020? He would be 66 years old.
"Let's put it this way," Auriemma said with a smile. "I hope that when we get back that I'm in a position that they really, really want me to do it and it's my choice. I don't want to go down there and come back and it's not my choice because we lost. We'll worry about all of that down the road."
Elena Delle Donne has been playing games at "The Bob" since she was an eighth grader at Ursuline Academy in nearby Wilmington. But this was the first game the former University of Delaware All-American has played on campus as an Olympian.
The sellout crowd of 4,711 was a testament to her.
"It was awesome for her to come home and the support for us and for her was amazing," Taurasi said.
Delle Donne received the loudest ovation from the crowd in pregame introductions as the one-time UConn signee joined former Huskies Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, and Maya Moore in the starting lineup. She also addressed the crowd and thanked them for that support.
"This has been by far the most special night that I've ever played here, and there's been a lot of special nights on this court," Delle Donne said. "This being a dream come true for me and for a lot of Delaware fans as well, to see a Delawarean heading to the Olympics to compete for a gold medal. I'm not here to just represent myself, or the team, we're really representing everybody, trying to make this dream come true for everyone."
Delle Donne finished with 10 points against France and was one of four Americans in double figures.
A source said Wednesday that UConn is no longer recruiting Chantel Horvat, a 6-foot-2 forward from Australia. The Huskies had learned about Horvat from Australia Olympian and Phoenix Mercury standout Penny Taylor ... UConn received the American Athletic Conference academic excellence award in women's basketball. The national champions were the only UConn team honored ... Team USA needed a Moore jumper to take a 32-31 halftime lead against France. Charles opened the third quarter with a bucket and Moore followed with a 3-pointer to push the advantage to six. At 51-44, the Americans used a 12-0 run to blow it open. Sylvia Fowles had all seven of her points in the 2:50 stretch while Taurasi buried a three-pointer that brought a roar from the crowd. France got no closer than 15 and the biggest lead was 26. Charles led Team USA with 17 points.
Tags: Carl Adamec
NEWARK, Del. -- Kia Nurse had been going nonstop even before she arrived in Storrs to play for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team in 2014.
That summer, the guard led Team Canada to its best finish in the world championships in 28 years. As a freshman at UConn, she helped the Huskies win the third of four consecutive national titles. Last summer, she led Canada to gold-medal wins in the Pan American Games and FIBA Americas Championships, the latter giving Canada a spot in next month's Rio Olympics.
But coming off UConn's fourth straight NCAA title win in April, Nurse is working her way back to where she needs to be with the start of the Olympics 10 days away after surgery for a sports hernia following the college season.
"It's a matter of just kind of listening to it," Nurse said Wednesday. "Sometimes you don't want to because you're an athlete and competitor and you want to be out there every second. At the same time, if there are two practices in a day I'll do one of them and maybe 20 minutes of the other. If it starts to hurt, you have to take it back a notch and step out. You have to manage it depending how you feel."
Nurse returned to the court for Team Canada last weekend. She saw her first game action since April on Wednesday, scoring seven points with three rebounds in 22 minutes of Canada's 80-67 loss to Australia in the USA Basketball Showcase at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center.
"I'm getting the kinks out now," Nurse said. "It was fun. I felt a lot better than I thought I would."
Nurse has not missed a game in her two seasons at UConn. The Hamilton, Ontario, native averaged 9.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists as a sophomore for the Huskies, who capped a 38-0 season with a rout of Syracuse in the national championship game April 5 in Indianapolis.
She said she wasn't sure when the injury occured, but nothing was going to stop her from helping UConn's senior class of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck make history.
"It just happened over time," Nurse said. "I've been playing a lot of basketball for a long time and it was probably a progression-type thing. Obviously we're dealing with a lot of different things throughout the year. We had our follow-up meetings and it was right after the follow up when my MRI came back. So we made the decision to have surgery.
"I had an eight-week period of pretty much doing nothing other than the bike, treadmill, some water stuff. I got back on the court and started training camp with these guys four days ago."
Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis played Nurse in spurts Wednesday. She was 2-for-7 from the floor and made both of her free throws.
She seemed to get more comfortable as her minutes increased, though she obviously was not sharp.
"Pretty damn close," Nurse said with a smile when asked how close to 100 percent she was. "The doctors here and the trainers at school did a fantastic job getting me ready for this."
It was a year ago that Nurse led Canada to its first Pan Am gold medal in Toronto, scoring 33 points in the final against Team USA-led Jefferson and Stewart. A month later, Nurse was the Most Valuable Player in the FIBA Americas Championship.
It was obviously no surprise that Nurse was included on the 12-player Olympic roster when Team Canada was introduced last Friday.
"It is a dream come true, obviously," Nurse said. "When I with the cadet team I would watch our veterans play in the Olympics. To kind of be with them and with people that worked hard to bring Canada to where we are now, I feel fortunate and proud to be a part of it."
Also named were seven players who competed at the 2012 London Games for Canada: Natalie Achonwa, Miranda Ayim, Kim Gaucher, Lizanne Murphy, Michelle Plouffe, Shona Thorburn and Tamara Tatham. First-time Olympians are Nurse, Nirra Fields, Miah-Marie Langlois, Katherine Plouffe and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe.
Canada will face China in its first game in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 6. The Canadians and Team USA meet in pool play Aug. 12. The Americans are coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma and have five former Huskies on the squad -- Stewart, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, and Diana Taurasi.
Team USA is the favorite for the gold but Nurse believes Canada has what it takes to medal.
"We have to peak at the right time and go and play good basketball," Nurse said. "It sounds easy, but it's not."
Team Canada will continue play in the USA Basketball Showcase Friday when it faces Team USA at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. The Canadianstake on France Sunday at New York's Madison Square Garden before heading to Rio.
"I love playing against the USA, obviously it's a lot of fun," Nurse said. "You get to see some of your friends and coaches and those things. It's a great test for us before the Olympics.
"Every game is a chance to get better."
For Team Canada, and for Nurse as well.
Tags: Carl Adamec
One of Kia Nurse's dreams officially came true on Friday.
The University of Connecticut's junior guard will represent Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as announced by the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canada Basketball. The Hamilton, Ontario native is the only NCAA athlete on Team Canada's 12-player roster.
"We're extremely proud of these 12 athletes and what they've sacrificed and accomplished to get to Rio," Team Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis said in a statement. "We're ready to take that passion and dedication to the world stage and continue to make Canada proud to support our team."
Nurse will be the first active UConn player to take part in the Olympics since Svetlana Abrosimova represented Russia in 2000. Rashidat Sadiq transferred into UConn the fall following the 2004 Games.
The 20-year-old's Nurse's selection is no surprise.
She first made her mark on Canada's senior national team when she made its 2014 club that competed in the FIBA world championships, finishing fifth.
Nurse led Team Canada to its first Pan American Games gold medal last July in Toronto, scoring 33 points in the final against Team USA-led UConn teammates Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart. A month later, Nurse was the Most Valuable Player as the FIBA Americas Championship as the Canadians' gold medal performance qualified them for the Olympics.
As a sophomore for the Huskies, Nurse averaged 9.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. The 2015 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and a 2016 all-league third-team pick has 753 career points in 77 games. She has started 74 games in her two seasons and UConn is 74-0 in them. She was the only player to start all 38 games a season ago.
Earlier this month it was reported that Nurse had surgery for a sports hernia, but Thomaidis believed her point guard would be fully recovered in time for the start of the Games.
Team Canada will take part in a tournament with the national teams of the United States, Australia, and France from July 27-31. Team USA and Team Canada will play in the round-robin event on July 29 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Team USA is coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma and has five former Huskies on the squad -- Stewart, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi.
Canada will face China in its first game in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 6. The Canadians and Americans will meet in pool play Aug. 12.
Also named were seven players who competed at the London 2012 Games: Natalie Achonwa, Miranda Ayim, Kim Gaucher, Lizanne Murphy, Michelle Plouffe, Shona Thorburn, and Tamara Tatham. First-time Olympians are Nurse, Nirra Fields, Miah-Marie Langlois, Katherine Plouffe, and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe.
Tags: Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- UConn's new athletic director says he's waiting to hear from the Big 12 about its interest level in the school before reaching out with an official pitch to join the conference.
The Big 12's school presidents on Tuesday moved closer to expansion, directing Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to begin evaluating schools interested in joining.
UConn's David Benedict, in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on Friday, acknowledged the Huskies are interested in being evaluated.
"At this point in time the Power Five conferences certainly are looked to as the most competitive conferences," he said. "They derive the most money from their multi-media agreements, their television agreements. And therefore, certainly we aspire to be in those conferences and compete at that level."
UConn currently competes in most sports in the American Athletic Conference.
Benedict was hired in March to succeed Warde Manuel after he left for Michigan. Benedict said of all possible candidates, UConn is the most similar to the Power Five schools, with $71 million athletic budget.
He noted it was one of three division one schools this past year to send its football, baseball and men's and women's basketball teams to the postseason. And since 1995, UConn has won 11 women's national basketball championships, four men's basketball titles, two in field hockey and one in men's soccer. The school's football program also has been to six bowl games.
But Benedict said he has no plans to pick up the phone and call Bowlsby or head to Texas with a PowerPoint presentation.
He said it's his understanding that the Big 12 will reach out to those it knows have an interest.
"I don't think circumventing that process is the way to go," he said. "But I don't think there is a question as to whether or not the Big 12 is aware that we would have an interest if they are interested in us."
Benedict said if the school does join the Big 12, he believes it would eventually need to expand its 40,000-seat football stadium in East Hartford. But he said they can't do that until Husky fans consistently sell out the building.
He said the school is currently concentrating its efforts on raising private donations to upgrade its baseball, softball, soccer and hockey facilities. There is still no timetable for construction, but Benedict said the school has about $14 million committed to the project, with a goal of raising another $11 million.
"That's a priority for us, because it also sends out the message that we are going to invest in facilities that are up to (Power Five) standard," he said
Benedict said an intact American Conference is still a viable alternative should the Huskies be passed over by the Power Five. But he said the idea that UConn would consider rejoining the Big East for sports other than football is not currently on the table.
"Everybody is jockeying for position," he said. "Part of my role and responsibility is making sure we're looking at all options, keeping all options open to make sure we put ourselves as a university and an athletics program in the best possible position to compete."
Natalie Butler entered the NCAA tournament final against Syracuse on April 5 for the first time with 1:46 remaining, and she was on the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at the final buzzer when the University of Connecticut women's basketball team won its unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship.
The Huskies will need to see much more of the 6-foot-5 junior center during the first 37 games if their drive for five is to succeed.
"I definitely think there is going to be an opportunity to play," Butler said. "I don't feel nervous. I feel at this point it has been two years, and honestly it feels like it has been two years without playing. I don't mean that in a sense that I'm bitter or anything like that. It's just that I'm very eager to play. I'm going to try to work myself in the position where I will have the opportunity to play."
It's been two years since the Fairfax Station, Virginia, native decided to leave Georgetown after averaging a double-double with the Hoyas and being named the 2014 Big East Freshman of the Year.
She sat out the 2014-15 season at UConn due to NCAA transfer rules but got herself in great shape and appeared ready to make an impact when practice for the 2015-16 campaign began. But she tore ligaments in her left thumb and the surgery sidelined her for two months.
Every time there was light at the end of the tunnel on the comeback trail, it went dark.
"I think it really mentally messed with my head," Butler said. "Unfortunately I put back on weight, and it was very frustrating to go through that. I lifted as much as I could and worked out as much as possible, but it's not the same as playing.
"Just getting confidence back after an injury is important. It was just one thing after another last season, and I couldn't get things back on track. It was very difficult for me."
She made her UConn debut in Game 11 on Dec. 30 and had 11 points and eight rebounds in a win at Cincinnati. She matched those totals against Temple on Jan. 16 and had a season high 20 points against Central Florida the next game.
Her only start came on Feb. 17 against the Bearcats and she recorded her first and only double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in a season-high 22 minutes.
But with All-Americans Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck filling the post and Butler's own inconsistency, meaningful minutes were hard to come by. In nine postseason games, she averaged 2.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in 6.9 minutes.
"I think it was a mixture of things," Butler said. "It was hard to come into an established team that had already been playing for half the season. Then not being able to strengthen my hand, having the extra weight, not being as physically strong as I was in the summer ... It was all frustrating. I wanted to be there and play. Having the aspiration to play and not being able to play at the level I wanted to just became more and more frustrating."
For the season, Butler averaged 5.6 points on 55.9 percent shooting from the floor and 4.0 rebounds in 12.0 minutes over 27 games.
With Stewart and Tuck now in the WNBA, Butler -- who has spent her offseason working with associate head coach Chris Dailey and assistant Marisa Moseley -- knows her time is now.
"I feel a lot different," Butler said. "Coach (Geno Auriemma) told me it wasn't about my physical shape at all. It was more about me making the mental connection and stepping up to my abilities. Confidence is a huge part of your game and can actually help take you to the next level. I definitely feel that I'm coming into my own a little bit. I can just tell. I feel more confident in my skill development.
"Coming in to the No. 1 team in the nation can be a little intimidating. I've had all this adversity and it's like one thing after another where you can't get your feet on solid ground. Now it is finally like I know what to expect because I've been through this before. I've handled all these different obstacles and now it is like, 'OK, let's move forward.' I am very, very excited to play and very hungry to play. I really want to do something special with this team."
UConn will take a 75-game winning streak into the 2016-17 season opener at Florida State Nov. 14. Three days later, the Huskies host Baylor, which may have the most talented collection of post players in the country. Notre Dame, Ohio State, Maryland, DePaul, and South Carolina figure to give UConn stern tests during the non-league portion of the schedule.
Temple and South Florida hope they have closed the gap on the Huskies in American Athletic Conference play.
Looking far down the road, the 2017 NCAA Final Four is in Dallas. To get there, Butler -- whose father, Vernon, played alongside Hall-of-Famer David Robinson at the United States Naval Academy in the 1980s -- will need to come up big.
"It's a team effort," Butler said. "The coaching staff here has given me lots of positive feedback and things that I can work on. It's great to know they have my back and it's the same with my teammates. They have always been incredibly supportive. "My dad has always said that confidence has to come from within. They can only do so much for me. At some point I have to sort of say, 'OK, this is on me. This is my turn. If I want it I have to go get it.' "
LISTER JOINS WEST-COAST HUSKIES
Jasmine Lister, who served as a graduate assistant coach for UConn's last two national championship teams, has been named an assistant coach at the University of Washington.
"You don't have to look too deeply into Jasmine Lister's basketball journey to find excellence," Washington coach Mike Neighbors said in a statement. "One doesn't start every game of her career at Vanderbilt, play more minutes than anyone in the history of the program, earn All-SEC accolades on the court and in the classroom, play in the WNBA, then win two consecutive NCAA championships with UConn without having excellence. Now that she's a Husky, we're excited for her to have the opportunity to mentor our student-athletes and share how she was able to be successful at a high level -- through hard work and sacrifice."
Lister came to UConn after helping Vanderbilt to four straight NCAA tournament appearances. She played for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks for part of last summer and was in their training camp this spring. In May, she finished her masters degree in sports management at UConn.
At Washington, Lister will work alongside second-year assistant coach Morgan Valley, a three-time national champion at UConn. After reaching the Final Four for the first time, Washington assistants Adia Barnes (Arizona) and Fred Castro (Eastern Michigan) took head coaching jobs.
Tags: Carl Adamec
Mikayla Coombs won't step onto the University of Connecticut campus for the first time until this fall. But she's already sure she wants to spend four years in Storrs.
Coombs, a 5-foot-8 guard from Buford, Georgia, became the third player from the Class of 2017 -- joining Andra Espinoza-Hunter (5-11 guard, Ossining, New York) and Lexi Gordon (6-0 wing, Fort Worth, Texas) -- to make an oral commitment to UConn, as she announced her decision Thursday.
"I haven't seen the campus, but that's not important to me," Coombs said Friday night. "What's important to me are the people there. I've built a good relationship with the coaching staff and I have good relationships with the players in my recruiting class, Andi and Lexi. I sent them a text before I put out on Twitter that I had committed to let them know what I was doing and they were very excited. I'm really looking forward to playing with them."
Coombs said she will take her official recruiting visit in September. She'll sign her letter of intent in November.
Calling the opportunity to attend UConn a dream come true, Coombs informed coach Geno Auriemma of her decision two weeks ago. She kept it quiet until she had informed all the other coaches recruiting her of her choice. She had also considered Georgia, Penn State, Stanford and Virginia.
"There were so many great opportunities for me, as well, at Stanford, Penn State, or Virginia," Coombs said. "That's what made it such a hard decision. It was hard telling the coaches that I had made a decision and it was not them.
"But I chose Connecticut because of my relationship with Coach Auriemma and the coaching staff. They started recruiting me when I was a freshman and they stayed with me and were so supportive through the times that I dealt with my knee injury. That meant so much to me. It showed what kind of people they are. They don't just care about you as a player. They care about you as a person. I believe, at Connecticut, they can help me become the best player and the best person that I can be."
She added that academics were an important factor in her decision. An honor roll student in each of her three years in high school, she plans to major in sports broadcast journalism.
"ESPN isn't far away. Hopefully at some point I can get an internship there," Coombs said.
Coombs averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists as a junior to lead Wesleyan School to the Georgia Class AA state tournament final. She missed almost all of her sophomore year after tearing the ACL in her left knee in the first quarter of the first game.
She was one of 35 players invited to the United States U-17 National Team trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado in May. A total of 139 players, including applicant candidates that paid their own way, started on May 26.
She was not among the last 40 that made it to the final day of the trials on May 29. It was her first USA Basketball trials. Coombs was invited to the 2015 U-16 trials, but could not attend after suffering the ACL tear.
UConn's first recruit from Georgia since Brianna Banks in 2011 returned to her AAU team (FBC Motton) this summer better for the experience.
"I feel great," Coombs said. "I feel like I'm all the way back. They told me it would take awhile after the surgery for me to get back to being myself. It has. But I think I'm there again."
She competed in AAU tournaments in Emerson, Georgia, and in Nashville, Tennessee, and members of the Huskies' coaching staff were at both events to watch her.
They will see her again in September and Coombs will see the campus and meet the rest of her future teammates for the first time.
"It's a relief," Coombs said of the end of her recruiting process. "I'm looking forward to the rest of the summer and having a fun senior year."
With Coombs' commitment, UConn has two scholarships remaining for the Class of 2017.
Espinoza-Hunter Comes Full Circle
Espinoza-Hunter announced on Twitter Friday that she will finish her high school career where it began.
"Extremely excited to say that I'll attending my senior year of high school back home in Ossining," Espinoza-Hunter wrote.
Espinoza-Hunter, who committed to UConn on Dec. 29, 2014, played varsity basketball at Ossining High in seventh and eighth grade and was a teammate of current UConn senior Saniya Chong. She totaled 478 points in her two seasons with the Pride and, as an eighth grader, helped Ossining to its first state championship.
She then transferred to Blair Academy and helped Blair to three conference and New Jersey Prep A state tournament titles. As a junior she averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Chong will be gone when Espinoza-Hunter gets to Storrs next year, but there will be a familiar face there for her. Batouly Camara, who transferred to UConn from Kentucky in May, was Espinoza-Hunter's teammate at Blair Academy for two seasons.
Tags: Carl Adamec
Former Big East rivals Syracuse and Georgetown are again on the UConn men's basketball schedule for the 2016-17 season.
The Huskies will play the Orange Dec. 5 at Madison Square Garden, the site of many of their classic Big East tournament matchups. The teams met last season in the Bahamas, with Syracuse winning, 79-76. UConn plays the Hoyas Jan. 14 in Washington; Georgetown visited Hartford last season.
The Huskies will play 12 non-conference games, plus two exhibitions, in addition to 18 games in the American Athletic Conference. UConn will defend its AAC tournament title at the XL Center in March.
UConn opens the season Nov. 11 against Wagner, which won the Northeast Conference regular-season title last season. Three days later the Huskies host Northeastern.
On Nov. 17, the Huskes travel west to face Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles From there, it's off to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational Nov. 21-23. The field includes North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Georgetown and Chaminade. The bracket has not been set.
UConn is 8-1 in the Maui Invitational and won the event in 2005 and 2010.
Following its return home, UConn hosts Boston University. Nov. 30. After the Syracuse game in New York Dec. 5, the Huskies travel to Columbus, Ohio, to meet Big Ten contender Ohio State Dec. 10..
After the exam break, the Huskies host North Florida Dec. 18 and Auburn Dec. 23. UConn athletic director David Benedict came to Storrs from Auburn.
UConn will play exhibitions against New Haven Oct. 30 and Southern Connecticut Nov. 5.
The dates of conference games, as well as game times and home venues, will be announced in the coming weeks.
UCONN MEN'S BASKETBALL 2016-17 NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE
Sun., Oct. 30 - New Haven (exhib.)
Sat., Nov. 5 - Southern Connecticut (exhib.)
Fri., Nov. 11 --- Wagner
Mon., Nov. 14 --- Northeastern
Thurs., Nov. 17 --- at Loyola Marymount
Mon., Nov. 21 - at Maui Invitational
Tues., Nov. 22 --- at Maui Invitational
Wed., Nov. 23 --- at Maui Invitational
Wed., Nov. 30 --- Boston University
Mon., Dec. 5 --- vs. Syracuse (Madison Square Garden)
Sat., Dec. 10 --- at Ohio State
Sun., Dec. 18 --- North Florida
Fri., Dec. 23 --- Auburn
Sat., Jan. 14 --- at Georgetown
Mikayla Coombs knew what she was looking for in a college when she was attending the United States U-17 national team trials in May.
"I want a coach that will make me better every day and want to work with a coaching staff I feel comfortable with and feel I can go to with anything," Coombs said. "I want to be at a place where I can improve my character. And academics are a big part to me. I want to major in broadcast journalism so I'll be looking at that."
She found what she was looking for at the University of Connecticut.
Coombs, a 5-foot-8 guard from Buford, Georgia, announced her decision on Twitter Thursday to commit to UConn. She is the third player from the Class of 2017 to commit to UConn, joining Andra Espinoza-Hunter (5-10 guard, Ossining, New York) and Lexi Gordon (6-0 wing, Fort Worth, Texas).
She had also considered Georgia, Penn State, Stanford, and Virginia.
Coombs averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists as a junior to lead Wesleyan School to the Georgia Class AA state final. She missed most of her sophomore year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the season opener.
"The first part of the season, my shooting was there but my first step really wasn't," Coombs said. "In January I felt like everything was coming into place. Then we got into the postseason and I had a triple-double in a game and I felt really back again."
Her father, Stephen, was a member of Jamaica's national soccer team.
With Coombs' commitment, UConn has two scholarships remaining for the Class of 2017.
Kia Nurse has not missed a game in her two years with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team and was the only player to start all 38 games a season ago as the Huskies won their unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship.
Offseason surgery will not keep the junior guard from reaching another one of her goals - playing for Team Canada in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
A report by Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press says Nurse is recovering from a sports hernia that required surgery, adding that coach Lisa Thomaidis believes her point guard will be fully recovered in time for the start of the Games Rio Olympics next month.
"Timeline is she's 100 percent by Tuesday, and cleared for everything," Thomaidis said in Ewing's story. "We're confident she'll be good to go when we get together in Toronto."
Team Canada hosts China in three exhibition games at Edmonton's Saville Centre Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Nurse will join the team next Thursday in Toronto.
The Canadians will also take part in a tournament with the national teams of the United States, Australia, and France July 27-31. Team USA and Team Canada will play in the round-robin event on July 29 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Canada will face China in its first game in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 6.
According to the report, doctors discovered the sports hernia shortly after Nurse's sophomore season at UConn. She attended Team Canada's camp in Edmonton.
"It wasn't something she could work through and play through this summer, it was a necessity," Thomaidis said.
"That's a tremendous luxury that she's been with us this entire quad, she can just jump in. What they do at UConn is something similar in terms of systems, and she was here for the first few days of camp, she got to see some of the things that we're doing that are new. And she's a very intelligent basketball player, it won't take long for her to get up to speed."
Nurse led Team Canada to its first gold medal at last July's Pan American Games, scoring 33 points in the final against Team USA-led UConn teammates Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart. A month later, Nurse was the Most Valuable Player as the FIBA Americas Championship as the Canadians' gold medal performance qualified them for the Olympics.
The Hamilton, Ontario, native averaged 9.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists as a sophomore for the Huskies, who capped a 38-0 season with a rout of Syracuse in the national championship game. She has 753 career points in 77 games. She has started 74 games in her two seasons and UConn is 74-0 in them.
She joins UConn's walking wounded. Sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson is working her way back from a broken bone in her left foot suffered in the national semifinals on April 3. Sophomore Napheesa Collier (in April) and freshman Crystal Dangerfield (in June) had hip surgery. Freshman Kyla Irwin has a cast on her broken right hand. All are expected to be ready for the start of the 2016-17 season at Florida State Nov. 14.
Stewart, Charles honored
Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm was named the WNBA Rookie of the Month Thursday for games played in June. She won the honor for the second month in a row.
The top pick in the 2016 Draft out of UConn led all rookies in scoring, rebounds, and blocked shots while ranking second in assists in 11 June games. Overall, Stewart is seventh in the league in scoring (18.7), first in rebounds (9.8) and minutes played (35.0), and third in blocked shots (1.9).
Tina Charles of the New York Liberty was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for June, the second straight month she has been so honored.
The top pick in the 2010 Draft out of UConn led the WNBA in scoring and was second in rebounds and assists during the month. Overall, Moore tops the league in scoring (22.8), is second in rebounds (9.6) and minutes played (34.9), and tied for 10th in assists (4.1).
Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks was the Western Conference Players of the Month.
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UConn has hired Temple assistant men's basketball coach Dwayne Killings to fill a similar role with the Huskies.
The 35-year-old is a native of Amherst, Massachusetts, and played at the University of Massachusetts for two years before transferring to Hampton University and earning a degree in Sports Management.
He spent the past five seasons at Temple, where he had previously served as an assistant director of basketball operations. He also has worked at Boston University, for the NBA's Developmental League and for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Geno Auriemma has coached the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to win 11 national championships, including the last four, and 17 NCAA Final Fours. The 2006 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame has the highest percentage of any coach in his sport's history.
He admits that running his own team is tough enough. So when he hears another coach comment about he should do it, he does not take it that well.
Auriemma responded briefly to comments by Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie in a question-and-answer session with the school newspaper The Chronicle, published Friday. In it, she questioned Auriemma and his motives in accepting a pair of transfers, including former Blue Devil Azura Stevens.
"The coach at Duke should coach the kids at Duke and let the rest of us worry about our own programs," Auriemma said.
After Duke failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994, Stevens - a 6-foot-6 wing and two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick - and guard Angela Salvadores announced their decisions to leave the school.
Salvadores signed a professional contract in her native Spain. Stevens opted to move on to UConn after also looking at a pair of California schools. She will sit out the 2016-17 season and have two years of eligibility remaining. She will be eligible for the 2018 WNBA Draft, but Stevens said Monday that she is taking things "day by day" and has not even considered looking that far ahead.
The Huskies have also welcomed Batouly Camara, a 6-foot-2 forward, who played at Kentucky last season.
"When have you known Connecticut to take transfers?" McCallie told The Chronicle. "They took two this year. Make sure you look at this stuff from a deep point of view, because why is he [Auriemma] doing that? You know why he's doing that? Because talent is down. And he wants to continue to win. Obviously, they're great.
"But really? Is that what we're about now, I'm going to take transfers? That was the neat thing they used to have. Connecticut wasn't a transfer school. Now, even if they win it, who cares? I can't even understand it because he's such a good coach and it's such a great program."
In Auriemma's 31 seasons, he has taken a seven transfers from four-year schools: Renee Najarian (from South Carolina), Sarah Northway (from Arizona), Christine Rigby (from Santa Clara), Brittany Hunter (from Duke), Natalie Butler (from Georgetown), Stevens, and Camara.
Duke accepted former Maryland guard Lexie Brown as a transfer a year ago and she will be eligible this season.
After the season, Duke conducted an evaluation of its women's basketball program, though McCallie kept her job.
"It might be a good program for other students and players, but it wasn't what I was looking for," Stevens said.
Stevens, who had a team high 16 points against UConn in an 83-52 loss to the Huskies at the XL Center on Dec. 29, 2014, played for South Carolina coach Dawn Staley a summer ago and helped Team USA win the gold medal at the FIBA U-19 world championships. Her teammates included UConn sophomore Napheesa Collier and freshman Crystal Dangerfield.
"I think she came back from USA a different player and a different person a little bit with her thoughts about things," McCallie said. "I knew all season that she was struggling. This was no surprise. Very devastating, but no surprise."
Stevens missed seven games late in her sophomore season with a foot injury and Duke struggled without her.
"She played well at times, then she had the injury with the plantar fascia," McCallie said. "That was extremely distressing for her to have that. I just think that Azurá made that decision to go to Connecticut. She told us, she told her teammates that, 'I want a guaranteed national championship.' That became something more important than a Duke education. It was really sad."
UConn has won an unprecedented four consecutive national championships. The Huskies' run of nine NCAA Final Four appearances in a row is also a record, and they've reached the Sweet 16 in 23 straight seasons. Their streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament bids is 28.
McCallie was hired by Duke from Michigan State in 2007 after Gail Goestenkors, who guided the Blue Devils to four Final Fours in her last nine seasons, left for Texas.
While McCallie did lead the Spartans to the 2005 Final Four, losing to Baylor in the national championship game, it hasn't happened for her at Duke. In her nine seasons the Blue Devils are 0-4 in Elite Eight games, including a 75-40 rout by UConn in 2011 in Philadelphia.
Under McCallie, Duke is 0-8 against the Huskies with an average margin of defeat of 28.6 points. The closest game was 16 in 2012. McCallie decided to not renew the series after the December 2014 meeting.
McCallie is 1-10 against the Huskies overall with the win coming when she was at Michigan State.
"Do you know how hard it is to coach at Duke?" Auriemma said facetiously to the Hartford Courant. "It's really challenging. It's an impossible job. She's tried so hard to get to a Final Four with all the disadvantages there. So I suggest she try a little harder and let us try to be respectable."
Back in 2002 when Hunter chose Duke over his school, Auriemma had some fun at the Blue Devils' expense, noting there were just as many Duke graduates waiting tables as UConn graduates. A few months later when the Huskies faced Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Cameron Crazies were all over Auriemma, chanting "Luigi" (his given name), among other things during UConn's win.
Fourteen years later, thanks to McCallie, the fun is out of it.
Camara undergoes shoulder surgery
Camara joined UConn's walking wounded Friday as she underwent a successful surgical procedure to repair a pre-existing injury to her right shoulder.
She is expected to be fully recovered in time for preseason practice in October.
Camara is the third UConn player to have surgery since the Huskies won the national championship in April. Collier had hip surgery for a torn labrum in her hip in late April while Dangerfield had a similar surgery three weeks ago. Freshman Kyla Irwin broke her right hand during a pick-up game and had a cast out on it last Monday.
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The University of Connecticut women's basketball team already has a connection to the National Hockey League. Junior guard Kia Nurse's older brother, Darnell, is a defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers.
Could there be another connection for the Huskies in the future?
UConn hockey standout Joseph Masonius was taken by the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the sixth round (181st overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft last Saturday. The rising sophomore defenseman's mother, Ellen Clark, served as an assistant to UConn coach Geno Auriemma for two seasons (1987-89) after wrapping up her playing career at Saint Joseph's University. She was on the staff when the Huskies won their first Big East regular season and tournament championships in 1989 and made the first of what is now 28 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
"Joe's a really great kid, a heck of a player, and a great talent," Auriemma said. "I don't profess to know a whole lot about hockey, but I know that Joe has the makeup and he certainly has the talent. If he's as tough and as competitive as his mom, then he's going to have a long career in the NHL. But first he has to finish up at UConn."
Masonius led the Huskies' defensemen as a freshman with 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) and was third on the team in blocked shots with 42.
He was one of two UConn players taken in the draft. Classmate Tage Thompson became the first Husky in program history to be selected in the first round when he was chosen No. 26 by the St. Louis Blues.
UConn finished 11-21-4 overall and 6-12-4 in Hockey East a season ago. The Huskies will open the 2016-17 regular season with a two-game series against Alabama-Huntsville Oct. 7-8 at the XL Center in Hartford.
Auriemma was at Madison Square Garden last Sunday as the Phoenix Mercury topped the New York Liberty 102-97 in overtime. Diana Taurasi sank three free throws with 7.8 seconds left to force the extra session.
"Zero. Zero. There's never any doubt," Auriemma said when asked if he thought there was a chance the former three-time All-American might miss one of the free throws.
Auriemma was also at Breanna Stewart's first professional game in Connecticut on June 10. On Tuesday night, the Seattle Storm rookie had a season-high 38 points in a win over Atlanta. Stewart's career best at UConn was 37 at Temple on Jan. 28, 2014. The three-time National Player of the Year with the Huskies followed up with 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots in a loss to Dallas Thursday night.
Stewart, who led UConn to four straight national championships, is tied for fifth with former UConn star Maya Moore in the WNBA in scoring (18.8), second in rebounds (9.3), tied for 16th in assists (3.3), tied for third with former Huskies teammate Kiah Stokes in blocked shots (2.0), and second in minutes played (34.9).
"I think the three best players in the WNBA right now are Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, and Nneka Ogwumike," Auriemma said. "Those three, right now, seem to be head and shoulders above everyone else. I'm biased, but Stewie is having a pretty good year. When you're a rookie and you're just about leading the league in rebounds and minutes played, that's pretty good."
Charles, who will join Taurasi and Stewart on Auriemma's United States Olympic team, missed the Liberty's 95-92 overtime win at Minnesota Wednesday as she recovers from a reduction procedure on a broken nose suffered a week earlier. It's the first game she has sat out in her three years with the Liberty.
The 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player with the Connecticut Sun is having that kind of season again. She leads the league in scoring (22.3), rebounds (9.9) and minutes played (35.1) while ranking sixth in assists (4.5).
"Tina's shot selection is way better," Auriemma said. "And you look at her assists and they're way up. Before she might not have had enough trust in her teammates. Look at her now, she has a lot of confidence in passing the ball and that will be huge for her going forward in the playoffs."
Ogwumike had 38 points (13-for-14 shooting from the floor, 12-for-14 shooting from the foul line) and 11 rebounds in the Los Angeles Sparks' win over Atlanta Thursday. UConn graduate Tiffany Hayes of the Dream had her career high of 32 points in the contest.
USA basketball update
The United States' run of gold medals at the FIBA U-17 World Championships is over.
Jazmin Shelley had 23 points, eight rebounds, and five assists Friday as Australia defeated Team USA 73-60 in a semifinal game in Zaragoza, Spain.
The Americans had won gold in the three previous U-17 competitions.
Australia never trailed, breaking the last tie with a 10-1 run to take a 14-5 lead. It was 36-27 at halftime. Team USA scored the first four points of the third quarter but Australia pulled away again to take a 59-46 advantage to the fourth quarter. Australia stretched it out to 66-50 before an Olivia Nelson-Ododa basket capped a 6-0 spurt and made it a 10-point game with 3:49 left. But Shelley answered for Australia and its edge stayed in double figures the rest of the way.
Nelson-Ododa led the Americans with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Aquira DeCosta added 12 points and eight rebounds and Janelle Bailey 10 points and 11 rebounds. The trio combined to shoot 14-for-24 from the floor while the remainder of the squad was 9-for-51.
Australia will meet Italy for the gold medal Saturday. Team USA will take on China for the bronze medal the same day. Italy defeated China in Friday's other semifinal 62-51.
The United States U-18 national team returns to Colorado Springs Saturday for a six-day training camp before heading to Valdivia, Chile for the FIBA U-18 Americas Championship set for July 13-17. Team USA will face Guatemala in its group play opener on July 13.
UConn freshman point guard Crystal Dangerfield was named to the U-18 team on May 30 after trials at the United States Olympic Training Center, but was forced to withdraw after having hip surgery on June 17.
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Molly Bent has wanted to meet Sue Bird for as long as she can remember. The recent visit by Bird and the WNBA's Seattle Storm to Connecticut gave the UConn women's basketball team's freshman the long-awaited opportunity.
Prior to facing the Connecticut Sun June 10 at Mohegan Sun Arena, the Storm held a practice at the Werth Family Champions Center in Storrs. Bent, already on campus taking summer classes, made her way over. It wasn't only to do some Bird watching, though. She also had a question for the three-time Olympic gold medalist and future Hall of Fame point guard.
Bent wore uniform No. 10 at Tabor Academy and wanted to keep it. No one has worn it at UConn since Bird graduated following her 2002 national Player of the Year season.
After hearing from associate head coach Chris Dailey, Bent made her move.
"When they practiced at Werth I had to ask Sue if I could wear it," Bent said. "CD texted me and said, 'It's tradition. You have to ask.' And Sue was really nice about it. I was a little nervous. She told CD afterwards that my face was red but I don't think it was. So I asked and she said to, 'Wear it proudly and do it proud.' It was nice."
So when the Huskies open their regular season at Florida State Nov. 14, coach Geno Auriemma will have a No. 10 available.
"It's not like I'm trying to be Sue Bird, obviously," Bent said. "But I've always had No. 10 and I didn't really want to change that up. And it did actually give me the chance to talk to her."
Fellow freshmen Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin have decided what numbers they will wear. Dangerfield is taking No. 5 while Irwin will keep the No. 25 she wore at State College High in Pennsylvania.
Bent, a 5-foot-9 point guard from Centerville, Massachusetts, arrived at UConn on May 30, the day she graduated from Tabor Academy. She attended her first college class the next day.
"That was hectic," Bent said. "But since things have calmed down and I could not be happier. I have learned so much in these five weeks. I'm looking forward to going home for a little while but I can't wait to get back here.
"I've learned little things, like footwork, But it's more the sense of how hard you have to work to play here. They did switch up my footwork on my jump shot, which made it feel a lot better and push my release higher. But I took the opportunity to watch how hard everyone worked. They never let you quit."
She learned that quickly.
"We'll play in pick-up games and no one ever will say, 'Let's finish up early,' " Bent said. "We play hard and if you don't someone will say something or you won't be on the court. At the same time, it's a lot of fun. It's fun to play with them and compete.
"And I've seen that in individual workouts. Say you're in a drill and you have to make a certain amount of shots in a certain amount of time. You make that many shots and it doesn't matter how tired you are, you keep going until you do it. You have to do it, and they don't let you stop. If you don't finish, that's not an option. You get it done."
Bent was a three-time New England Prep School Class A all-star and was nominated for the 2016 McDonald's All-America game.
A straight-A student at Tabor Academy, Bent had been looking at Ivy League schools Brown and Princeton before receiving interest from higher-profile programs during her junior year. Auriemma and assistant coaches Marisa Moseley and Shea Ralph watched her play in an AAU tournament. She made an unofficial visit to UConn 13 months ago and accepted Auriemma's scholarship offer.
"It seems like yesterday I sat there with Marisa and Shea watching her play in North Carolina," Auriemma said. "I said, 'Look, you guys better get her on campus, and we probably better recruit her. If we don't, don't be surprised if we're in the Sweet 16 or Final Eight and playing some mid-major and she is kicking our guards' butts just like Dayton did. I don't want to say, I told you so.'
"Molly has a pretty good sense, a good feel for the game. Every kid you talk to says she is an incredibly hard worker Her motor just never stops. We have won a lot of games with kids like her."
With Moriah Jefferson having graduated and now in the WNBA with the San Antonio Stars and Dangerfield sidelined until well into the fall following hip surgery on June 17, Bent will get the chance to make an early impression in her bid to make an immediate impact.
She'll spend the rest of the summer on Cape Cod, but it will be a working vacation.
"I want to continue to do the things I've done here and gain more confidence in my shot," Bent said. "I want to come back to practice and knock out down my shots and be confident with it. Then I have to get stronger with and without the ball."
Bird will be back in Connecticut on July 29 when Auriemma's United States Olympic team takes on Kia Nurse and Canada at Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena.
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Courtney Ekmark will spend the final two seasons of her college basketball career near home.
UConn announced Wednesday that Ekmark, a 6-foot junior guard from Phoenix, will transfer to Arizona State. She will sit out the 2016-17 campaign and have two years of eligibility.
"Courtney is a great kid and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know her and her family," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Everyone at UConn misses her already and we wish her nothing but the best in the future."
Ekmark committed to UConn at the end of her sophomore year at St. Mary's High in Phoenix. Playing for her father, Curtis, she led St. Mary's to three state championships and an 87-3 record before being home schooled for her senior year. She was the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year following a junior season in which she averaged 19.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals. In the 2013 state tournament, she averaged 21.5 points in helping lead the Knights to the title. In the 49-37 championship game win over Pinnacle, Ekmark had a game-high 14 points to become the first Arizona player to be the top scorer in three consecutive championship games. She was also the No. 1-ranked student in her class.
She played in 61 games off the bench at UConn and averaged 2.0 points per game and was a Dean's List student.
"I feel incredibly blessed to have been a UConn Husky for the past two years but I am really looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life at Arizona State," Ekmark said. "I want to thank the coaching staff and my UConn teammates for everything over the last two years and I can't wait to start playing for Coach Charli here in Tempe."
Arizona State is coached by Charli Turner Thorne and won a share of the Pac 12 regular season championship a season ago. The Sun Devils were beaten by Tennessee in the NCAA tournament second round.
"I've know Courtney since she was nine years old and it is so exciting to welcome her home," Turner Thorne said. "She was one of the greatest high school players ever to come out of the state of Arizona and we are ecstatic beyond words that she is joining our program.
"Courtney is a player who can do it all and she will have an incredible impact in every part of the game. For those that don't know Courtney, her competitive spirit and work ethic are simply in the 99th percentile among college basketball players. Complementing her exceptional talent and toughness is Courtney's giving and passionate nature that will fit perfectly into our culture. She comes from an amazing family that we are very grateful is now part of our Sun Devil family."
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WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Kyla Irwin made her way to the University of Connecticut campus during Memorial Day weekend and it's taken her just four weeks to fit right in with her women's basketball teammates.
The freshman forward arrived at coach Geno Auriemma's Fore the Kids charity tournament at the Hartford Golf Club Monday with a newly-fitted cast on her right hand and a walking boot on her left foot.
Another day, another addition to the injury report for the four-time reigning national champion Huskies.
There was fellow freshman Crystal Dangerfield on crutches after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in her right hip on June 17. Sophomore forward Napheesa Coillier is still slowed to a walk since having similar hip surgery on April 22. Sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson can wear two sneakers again but she's still recovering after breaking a bone in her left foot in the Final Four semifinal game against Oregon State on April 3.
Does Auriemma's three-day hospital stay in mid-April count?
"Luckily it's summer and it's all happening now," Samuelson said. "Everyone will be back by the start of the season."
Irwin, a native of State College, Pennsylvania, was the latest casualty. She was hurt in a collision, but, ever the good teammate, declined to identify the player that she had run into.
"We bumped into each other, just bad timing," Irwin said. "It was a total accident. It's not so bad."
The walking boot, she said, was on her foot as a precautionary measure.
Dangerfield said she originally injured the hip when she slipped and fell last June. The guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, still managed to help the United States national team to a gold medal at the FIBA U-19 world championships last summer. Last winter as a senior at Blackman High, she averaged 23.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.5 steals in leading the Lady Blaze to a 27-4 record. She was the Morgan Wootten Award winner as the national Player of the Year and picked up her third consecutive Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year honor.
"I got a cortisone shot and played my senior year because I wanted to win that third straight state championship," Dangerfield said. "Then it got worse. It was a little surprise. I was here for a week and a half and they took me to the doctor and took x-rays and an MRI. Next thing I knew they were telling me I needed surgery. There was no other option."
The injury forced her to withdraw from the USA U-18 team that was to play in the FIBA Americas Championship next month.
"I want to get back in basketball shape to be ready for the start of the season," Dangerfield said. "Maybe this is God's way of telling me that I needed a break."
Collier played in all 38 games as a rookie at UConn. She averaged 6.8 points on 53.3 percent shooting from the floor and 91.7 percent shooting from the foul line, along with 5.2 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game. Her 1.2 blocked shots ranked sixth in the American Athletic Conference. She was named to the AAC all-freshman team in March.
All this as she battled hip issues. She is not allowed to jog yet but hopes to be back in action come August.
"The labrum tore in the preseason, but it's been an on-going thing for a couple of years," Collier said. "It wasn't actually that painful when I was playing. It was bothersome more away from the court, when I would sit in certain positions or turn a certain way.
"I didn't learn anything new about myself, really, because I know anyone here would have done the same thing. They would have played. There are always going to be obstacles put in your way and you have to work your way past them. That's what I did."
Samuelson broke the bone in her left foot on a drive to the basket to open the scoring in the Huskies' 80-51 win over Oregon State.
The AAC all-freshman and all-tournament team selection actually played one of her best all-around halves of the season. The Huntington Beach, California, native had seven points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal, and her rebound hoop gave UConn a 47-26 halftime lead.
"Well, I think the reason I was able to play the whole half was due to adrenaline," Samuelson said. "The reason I played well was because I was thinking about my foot. I didn't know it was broken but it was bothering me. I wasn't over-thinking anything. I do better when I don't think."
Samuelson asked athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle for a pad at halftime to soften the impact on her foot when she ran. But Ragle decided that Samuelson should have x-rays and the break was found.
She missed UConn's championship game win over Syracuse. Samuelson admitted she would have liked to try and play but was told she could make the injury much worse. In 37 games, she averaged 11.0 points on 49.3 percent shooting from the floor and 83.7 shooting from the foul line, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists.
"I've had to focus on getting better," Samuelson said. "I'm not trying to push anything too far. There's no point or need.
"I feel like I can go. If I needed to be out there going 100 percent, I would be. I have a long season ahead so there's no reason to rush."
Auriemma said on Monday that Janelle Francisco, who has worked with UConn's baseball team, would replace Ragle as his team's athletic trainer. Ragle has joined the staff of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and is working as the athletic trainer for the WNBA's New York Liberty.
STEWART WINS HONDA CUP
UConn Class of 2016 graduate Breanna Stewart was named the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and presented with the prestigious Honda Cup on Monday in Los Angeles.
Joining Stewart as the top three finalists were senior softball player Sierra Romero of Michigan and senior soccer player Raquel Rodriguez from Penn State. The "Top Three" were selected by a voting of nearly 1,000 NCAA member schools and the Honda Cup winner was chosen by the Board of Directors of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) program.
Stewart is the fifth Honda Cup winner from UConn, giving the Huskies the most Honda Cup winners overall in the 40-year history of the awards program. All four previous Honda Cup winners from UConn have come in the sport of basketball: Maya Moore (2010 and 2011), Jennifer Rizzotti (1996) and Rebecca Lobo (1995).
"On this special 40th year milestone for the CWSA we congratulate Breanna and welcome her into the elite company of those who have held the Honda Cup for the past 39 years -- truly the best of the best in collegiate athletics," CSWA executive director Chris Voelz said in a statement.
Stewart led her team to an unprecedented fourth straight national championship and is the first player in history to earn four Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors.
The North Syracuse, New York, native swept the 2016 national Player of the Year honors in leading UConn to a perfect 38-0 record and an unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship. She became the first player to be named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Final Four four times after leading the Huskies past Syracuse in the title game.
She was taken with the overall No. 1 pick by the Seattle Storm in April's WNBA Draft and will represent the United States at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
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The University of Connecticut women's basketball team was holding its one-hour workout at the Pepsi Center in Denver a day prior to its 2012 NCAA Final Four semifinal game with Notre Dame.
But it was Pat Summitt who owned the floor.
Summitt had coached her final game with the University of Tennessee days earlier when she came to the arena to watch Lady Vols' senior Glory Johnson get honored as a WBCA All-American.
Her arrival coincided with the Huskies' practice.
Summitt took a seat near the front row to wait for the WBCA ceremony that followed UConn's workout. All seemed normal, though she had announced the previous August that she had been diagnosed with early on-set dementia. Fans flocked to her and she signed autographs and posed with pictures, all with a smile.
Soon UConn coach Geno Auriemma made his way over to see her. The two hugged and talked as the fans in the arena cheered their approval, regardless of allegiance.
"The conversation I had in Denver was maybe the second to last time that I remember speaking to her," Auriemma said Monday at his Fore the Kids charity golf tournament at Hartford Golf Club. "The way that this thing has played out, the thing that I appreciate the most is the way it evolved, like with Dean Smith, you know. There really wasn't a whole lot of information out there and it was very private. That is probably the way it needs to be. My conversations were through other people, people who were close to her who her who would go see her on a regular basis. I talked to them and told them what I thought. I had them relay it. I don't think anybody should be getting involved in those kid of things."
Summitt, the winningest coach in Division I college basketball history who uplifted the women's game from obscurity to national prominence during her 38-year career at Tennessee, died Tuesday morning in Knoxville, Tennessee. She was 64.
Her son, Tyler Summitt, issued a statement Tuesday morning saying his mother died peacefully at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.
"Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, 'Alzheimer's Type,' and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced," Tyler said. "Even though it's incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease."
Summitt helped grow women's college basketball and her Lady Vols dominated the sport in the late 1980s and 1990s. She compiled a 1,098-208 record in 38 seasons, with eight national championships, the last coming when Tennessee went back to back in 2008, and a record 18 NCAA Final Four appearances.
She won 16 Southeastern Conference regular season titles, as well as 16 conference tournament titles. She was an eight-time SEC Coach of the Year and seven-time national Coach of the Year. She also coached the United States to an Olympic gold medal at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
"We don't have a long history, women's basketball, you know," Auriemma said. "The history before Tennessee and before Pat Summitt was kind of checkered because there wasn't a lot of media attention. There wasn't a lot of interest in the game. There wasn't a lot of support from universities. So it is a short history.
"And during that short history, there's one person for a long time, nobody else was even in that category. A lot of times there is competition among a lot of coaches. For the longest time, there was only Pat Summitt. Nobody else. I mean other people took their turn at getting their 15 minutes of fame. But when people talked about women's college basketball in America, it was Pat Summitt and Tennessee. When you get on the cover of Time Magazine … When is the last time a women's team coach got on the cover of Time Magazine? It doesn't happen. So for that to happen, it's saying a lot. Our sport is synonymous with Pat Summitt and Pat Summitt is synonymous with women's basketball."
Summitt was a tough taskmaster yet enjoyed such an intimate relationship with her players that they called her "Pat."
Summitt never had a losing record and her teams made the NCAA Tournament every season. She began her coaching career at Tennessee in the 1974-75 season, when her team finished 16-8.
With a 75-54 victory against Purdue on March 22, 2005, she earned her 880th victory, moving her past North Carolina's Smith as the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history. She earned her 1,000th career win with a 73-43 victory against Georgia on Feb. 5, 2009.
The Lady Vols began a series with UConn on Jan. 16, 1995. It would become the best the game has had to offer.
In 13 seasons, the teams met 22 times with UConn winning 13. The Huskies won all four national championship game showdowns (1995, 2000, 2003, 2004) and held a 5-2 edge in postseason play.
"It certainly was unique," Auriemma said. "There certainly wasn't anything like it before that and there hasn't been anything since. Notre Dame is the closest thing that has evolved for us.
"The rivalry only lasted 12 years. That's not a long time, but we played 22 times in 12 years. That's what made the rivalry what it was, and it seemed like, what was really to me the most fun about it, that every single game we played against them there seemed to be something at stake -- either an NCAA Tournament game, a national championship or just in the minds of a lot of people, something was at stake. I don't even know how many times we were either No. 1 or No. 2 in the country when we played.
"Suffice to say, there were never any meaningless games between us and Tennessee."
By the time Summitt ended the series in 2007 after a recruiting dispute with UConn, much of it involving Maya Moore, it had become as much Pat vs. Geno as it was UConn vs. Tennessee.
"I knew we made it big," Auriemma said, "when they asked a bunch of coaches one year at the NCAA Tournament, 'Who do you think is going to win the tournament?' and they said, 'I really don't care as long as it is not Tennessee or Connecticut.' That is when I thought, 'You know what, we've got something special going on here.
"I remember saying something to her at the Final Four. I walked up before one of the semifinal games and said, 'You guys need to win and we need to win and we need to play each other, because we have a pretty good thing going on here, and we don't need anyone else breaking into this party.' She just kind of got a little chuckle out of it."
Summitt was inducted as part of the inaugural class of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. She made the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame a year later in her first year of eligibility. In 2013, she also was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
She was born June 14, 1952, in Henrietta, Tennessee, and graduated from Cheatham County Central High School, just west of Nashville. She played college basketball at the University of Tennessee at Martin where she received her bachelor's degree in physical education. She was the co-captain of the 1976 United States Olympic team, which won the silver medal.
After playing at UT Martin, she was hired as a graduate assistant at Tennessee and took over when the previous head coach left.
She wrote a motivational book "Reach for the Summitt" in 1998. Additionally, she worked with Sally Jenkins on "Raise the Roof," a book about the 1997-98 championship season, and also detailed her battle with dementia in a memoir, "Sum It Up," released in March 2013 and also co-written with Jenkins.
"It's hard to pinpoint the exact day that I first noticed something wrong," Summitt wrote. "Over the course of a year, from 2010 to 2011, I began to experience a troubling series of lapses. I had to ask people to remind me of the same things, over and over. I'd ask three times in the space of an hour, 'What time is my meeting again?' -- and then be late."
Summitt started a foundation in her name to fight Alzheimer's in 2011 that has raised millions of dollars.
After she retired, Summitt was given the title head coach emeritus at Tennessee. She had been cutting back her public appearances over the past few years. She came to a handful of Tennessee games this past season and occasionally also traveled to watch her son Tyler coach at Louisiana Tech the last two years. Earlier this year, Summitt moved out of her home into an upscale retirement resort when her regular home underwent renovations.
She is survived by her son, Tyler.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.