CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck have three national championship rings for a reason.

A big game, a big moment, and the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's seniors rise to the occasion -- again, again, and again. Monday's night battle of unbeatens was just the latest example of doing just that.

The trio combined for 53 points, with Stewart netting a game-high 25, as the top-ranked Huskies rolled past No. 2 South Carolina 66-54 before a sellout crowd of 18,000 at Colonial Life Arena.

"We know that we're the ones everyone looks towards to make a play when the game is on the line," Stewart said. "But even when we're just setting the tone, setting the pace for the game, they look at us to see what we're going to do.

UConn (23-0) is now 19-3 in games featuring the top-two teams in the Associated Press poll, winning six straight and 14 of 15.

"I like those numbers," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.

South Carolina (22-1) is 0-3 in 1-2 affairs, including both its losses to the Huskies in the last two seasons.

UConn has also won 15 consecutive games against Southeastern Conference dating back to a 2007 loss to LSU. The Huskies have not lost to an Atlantic Coast Conference team in nine years as well and have beaten every Big Ten team they've faced since 2005.

"Some of the teams in the Power 5 should join our conference," Auriemma said.

"But our guys get fired up and they love that challenge," he added. "They know that's the kind of challenge that they are preparing for every day. People are putting too much emphasis on who we play to prepare us for that challenge. We prepare for these challenges every day. You don't have to kill yourself to prove that you're ready. You just have to be ready. It doesn't matter who we play or who we are competing against. A game like this, I'm not surprised we won because we have more players that have been in this environment than they do. And those guys played great tonight."

Stewart was 9-for-18 from the floor and recorded her 35th career double-double by adding 10 rebounds and blocking five shots.

Jefferson, who along with Stewart played the entire 40 minutes, had 12 points, six assists and a pair of steals.

Then there's Tuck. In her two games back since she sat out four due to right knee soreness, she totaled 33 minutes of action. She matched that Monday night and had 16 points and five rebounds along with a solid defensive effort against the Gamecocks' Alaina Coates.

"Coach asked me about it and I told him I was good and I still feel good," Tuck said.

"That's Morgan Tuck," Auriemma said of the Bolingbrook, Illinois native's performance. "It's something that everyone on our team and on our staff knows. There was a point in time that I asked if she wanted a breather. She said, 'I'm good. I'm good the whole game.' That's Morgan."

UConn did not trail for the sixth consecutive game en route to its 60th straight victory.

An 8-0 run -- two free throws by Stewart, two baskets by Jefferson, and a Tuck hoop -- gave the Huskies a 12-4 lead. It was 17-8 after one quarter.

With UConn leading 30-15, South Carolina sophomore standout A'ja Wilson went out with an ankle injury. But the Gamecocks responded to pull within 35-25 at the break.

South Carolina got no closer. Tuck had eight points as the Huskies built their lead to 21 going to the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks got it down to 15 with 6:39 left but baskets by Gabby Williams and Stewart, both assisted by Jefferson, started the exodus to the exits for the sellout crowd.

"I don't know how many UConn fans we had here," Auriemma said. "Maybe it was double digits. But there was a time that I heard them all because they were the only ones making noise. It was nice."

Williams finished with five points and matched Stewart's game high of 10 rebounds. The Huskies matched the Gamecocks' vaunted frontcourt on the boards (35-35) and in points in the paint (30-30).

Wilson, who returned late in the third quarter, and reserve Sarah Imovbioh led South Carolina with 13 points each. All-American Tiffany Mitchell added 12 points but was unable to get much going. Coates had just two points.

UConn will return to AAC action Sunday against second-place Temple at McConigle Hall in Philadelphia.

Before the game Monday night, UConn and South Carolina announced that they had signed a two-year deal to extend their series. The Gamecocks will visit Connecticut next season with the Huskies returning here in 2018.

Stewart and Jefferson won't be a part of that and whether Tuck will be there remains to be seen. But they left a lasting impression on 18,000 people Monday night.

"We've been playing for so long together that we have a lot of confidence in each other," Stewart said. "We know that we'll do this for our team and they will follow us through."

 


 (Kim Klement)
(Kim Klement)

University of Connecticut senior Moriah Jefferson is considered by many to be the best point guard in the country, and the All-American is in position to win the award that goes with that position for the second straight year.

Jefferson is one of 10 candidates for the 2016 Nancy Lieberman Award, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Monday. The list will be narrowed down to five finalists in early March with the winner being announced during the WBCA Award Show in Indianapolis at the NCAA Final Four in April.

In 2015, the Glenn Heights, Texas, native became the fourth UConn point guard to win the honor.

"The women on this list exhibit many of the attributes that made Nancy Lieberman such an extraordinary player and team leader," Hall of Fame President and CEO John L. Doleva said in a statement. "With the annual Nancy Lieberman Award, the Basketball Hall of Fame is pleased to recognize the phenomenal point guards who continue to advance women's college basketball and inspire the next generation of athletes."

Jefferson is averaging 13.5 points for the top-ranked Huskies, who play at No. 2 South Carolina Monday night. She leads the American Athletic Conference in assists (5.6) while ranking second in assist-to-turnover ratio (plus-2.5) and steals (2.9), fourth in field-goal percentage (58.9), and fifth in three-point shooting percentage (40.8).

She reached the 1,000-point plateau for her career last season. She currently ranks fifth all-time in assists at UConn with 573 (Sue Bird is fourth with 585), and is third in steals at UConn with 318 (Jennifer Rizzotti is second with 349).

The other candidates are Lindsay Allen (Notre Dame), Jessica January (DePaul), Niya Johnson (Baylor), Kelsey Minato (Army), Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State), Brene Moseley (Maryland), Jasmine Nwajel (Wagner), Kelsey Plum (Washington), and April Robinson (Duquesne). Candidates can play their way onto and off of the watch list and the final five.

The Lieberman Award winners from UConn are Jefferson (2015), Renee Montgomery (2009), Diana Taurasi (2003-04), and Bird (2000-02).

BRAGGING RIGHTS

Molly Bent and Araion Bradshaw make up the starting backcourt at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts. But the dynamic duo will be watching TV from different angles Monday night.

Bent signed a letter of intent with UConn last November while Bradshaw signed with South Carolina. The Huskies and Gamecocks tip off at 7 p.m. at sold-out Colonial Life Arena.

"The team is amazing and I had a fun time on my visit," Bradshaw said of her decision. "The basketball is great. Then there's Dawn Staley. She played my position and did everything that I hope to do. There's no one better to learn from."

While they agree on most things, they differ on what the outcome will be on Monday night.

"It's going to be a very close game," Bent said. "If UConn does win, and I think they will win, they'll be able to contain their transition and make them hit outside shots and contain their bigs."

"We're going to play tough defense and outwork them," Bradshaw said. "We're going to beat them on the boards."

The two did agree on an arrangement. If the Huskies win, Bradshaw will put on a UConn t-shirt. If the Gamecocks win, Bent will put on a South Carolina t-shirt.

POLL POSITION

While the UConn-South Carolina showdown Monday night has been promoted as a 1-2 matchup for days, it didn't become official until the release of the Associated Press poll on Monday afternoon.

The Huskies remained at No. 1, receiving all 32 first-place votes. The Gamecocks stayed at No. 2, getting 29 of 32 second-place votes.

But the drama of the poll was whether Tennessee's 31-year stay in the top 25 would continue after the Lady Vols fell to 14-9 with a loss Sunday to Texas A&M. It did, though Tennessee dropped two spots to No. 25, the lowest it's been ranked in its 564-week run that began on Feb. 17, 1985. The Lady Vols totaled 49 points. Missouri, which lost twice last week to fall out of the poll from No. 21, was tops in also receiving votes at 35 points. Washington, which was No. 24 a week ago, also dropped out after two losses last week. DePaul and West Virginia entered the poll at No. 23-24 respectively.

Notre Dame, Baylor, Maryland, Texas, Ohio State, Oregon State, Arizona State, and Florida State round out the top 10. South Florida dropped three places to No. 22 after its loss to Temple on Saturday.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma and his assistant coaches look on from the sideline (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma and his assistant coaches look on from the sideline (David Butler II)

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- There certainly will be no cutting down of the nets. There likely won't be some crazy celebration -- barring some last-second or buzzer-beating heroics -- if the University of Connecticut women's basketball team wins Monday night.

Those things are reserved for the national championship and the 10-time champs can wait till April for an opportunity to do those things and raise their index fingers high.

But that doesn't mean they Huskies don't enjoy being the top dog during the regular season.

Top-ranked UConn will put its position in the polls on the line Monday night when it takes on No. 2 South Carolina at sold-out Colonial Life Arena.

"It's the fight for No. 1 right here," UConn All-American Moriah Jefferson said. "We have to go out and play really hard. We have to be aggressive and try to hit them from the start."

The Huskies and Gamecocks are the last of the unbeatens at 22-0. UConn is 18-3 in games featuring the top two teams in the Associated Press poll, including an 87-62 win over South Carolina a year ago at Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies were the No. 2 team going into that game and have held the top spot ever since.

But Monday night a partisan crowd of 18,000 -- the first sellout in South Carolina program history -- will be on the Gamecocks' side.

"I think last year we got caught up in the whole, 'We're playing UConn,' kind of mindset," South Carolina All-American Tiffany Mitchell said. "We were a young team last year so hopefully we are past that. We are a year more seasoned and hopefully we can play them like they are any other team. We can't look at them and just go, 'They're UConn.' We have to look at them as anyone else and just play our game.

"We were used to playing in front of big crowds when we went to Connecticut, but they were all against us. The tables are turned so maybe we will be a lot more comfortable."

The last time the Huskies played a road game against such a large crowd was two years ago when they defeated Louisville before 22,163 at the KFC Yum! Center. But the only players that had key roles that night that will be on the floor Monday night are Jefferson and fellow All-American Breanna Stewart.

"It's definitely going to be the first time that I'm in that kind of atmosphere," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "I'm trying to take all the experiences that I have had overseas where France really comes out strong with their crowds, and our national team played against Turkey in Turkey and their fans are crazy and come out strong. There's the stuff we did with the national championship and at Notre Dame last year. I'm just focusing on what my team is doing and my teammates, because they always make sure we are kind of level headed."

UConn will also put its 59-game winning streak, the third-longest in NCAA history, on the line. South Carolina has the longest current home winning streak in the country at 45. The Huskies' only other appearance at Colonial Life Arena came on Dec. 28, 2008, when they beat the Gamecocks 77-48 before a crowd of 5,113 in a homecoming game for South Carolina native Kalana Greene.

But that was in coach Dawn Staley's first season here. The Naismith Hall of Fame player has built the Gamecocks into a national championship contender and they are coming off their first NCAA Final Four appearance.

"We don't look like what other teams look like," Staley said. "You always hear about UConn. You always hear about Notre Dame. Maryland is up in there, too. Baylor has always been up in there. But South Carolina looks different than all of them. We haven't been a traditionally rich basketball program. It has given hope to the rest of Division I to say, 'If you get lucky enough to have local kids in your area that are really good that everybody wants, pound the pavements and coach them up. Get to them to believe in a vision, and it can happen.' Our program touches the masses, because we look like the average program."

But the average program doesn't have an All-American like Mitchell, who could be a lottery pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft in April. The average program also doesn't successfully land the nation's No. 1 recruit as Staley did two years ago when she convinced A'ja Wilson to stay in her home state. There's certainly nothing average about junior forward Alaina Coates. The only thing she averages is a double-double and she teams with Wilson to form a formidable 1-2 punch inside.

Then add on their talented complementary players and the Gamecocks believe they're as good as anyone.

"As a player, you're tired of saying that UConn is going to win everything, but I guess that gives us another motivation to change the way people think," Mitchell said. "We can't just change people's opinions and the way they're going to think until something is done. It won't change itself.

"They're definitely at the top, and people are gunning for them all the time. Just to see where they are and what needs to be done to get there is a good thing. And with us playing them last year, I think that played another part is letting our team see there is another level of basketball out there that we haven't reached yet. That's our challenge and our goal now, to get there."

UConn would like to make South Carolina take a step back Monday night.

The Huskies have faced few challenges since going 5-0 against top 25 opponents in their first 10 non-league games. Over their last seven games (280 minutes) in the American Athletic Conference, they have trailed for 14 seconds after they gave up the first basket to Central Florida.

They arrived here Sunday after scoring the first 14 points in their 92-46 rout of hapless East Carolina Saturday at Gampel Pavilion.

"This is huge," Stewart said. "Obviously this team is going to give us our biggest test of the season thus far, especially with their post presence it is going to be a battle to say the least. These are the games we look forward to. This is why we come to UConn, to play in these games."

And that's why the Huskies schedule games like this.

"I just hope it's a great game," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I hope it is a great showcase, that everyone watching on television says, 'Wow, this women's basketball thing is pretty cool. If these are the two best teams in the country then you know what? I want to watch the games.'

"Everybody wants to win, don't get me wrong. But there are a lot of coaches on a lot of teams that don't want to play these games in February. I'm glad Dawn does. I always do. I always think they're good."

No changes are expected for UConn. Morgan Tuck played 17 minutes against East Carolina in her second game back after missing four with right knee soreness.

The Huskies will face Temple in Philadelphia on Sunday regardless of what happens here. But they want to go there coming off a win tonight.

"It does feel good that it's finally here," Stewart said. "We needed the games leading up to this because of how our team is built on continually getting better. But now that it is here, we're ready to go."

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse shoots against East Carolina Lady Pirates forward DeVaughn Gray in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USATSI)
Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse shoots against East Carolina Lady Pirates forward DeVaughn Gray in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USATSI)

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Kia Nurse is a basketball player, not a fighter.

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's sophomore guard's older brother, Darnell, is a hockey player with the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. Thanks to YouTube, there's proof that he is a fighter.

The video of Darnell's second NHL fight lasts 45 seconds. But the sight of the Oilers' defenseman decking the Ottawa Senators' Max McCormick Thursday will last much longer. As of Sunday night, it had some 160,000 views.

"He's viral," Kia said with a laugh. "It was hilarious. I called him (Friday) and said, 'Are you too big-time for me now?' That video was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. But they get pumped up for things like that. His second career fight on his birthday, he pummeled the guy ... Fantastic."

The other memorable part of the video is the reaction of their parents, Richard and Cathy, after their son's encounter.

"We're a really competitive family," Kia said. "But as you can tell when we see someone doing something really well we all get fired up about it. He's an enforcer, in a sense, so we expect things like that to happen. I was never a fighter."

Never?

"I've never been in a fight," she said. "There would be a tough box out when I was younger but not an actual fight. He was in boxing classes."

Kia added that her brother gets his edge from his mother.

"She's the quietest but the most tough," Kia said. "Darnell gets that from her. My dad will say it's him, but it's from her."

Kia did deliver a knockout punch of her own Saturday, but did so with her jump shot. She broke out of her shooting slump by scoring 20 points in UConn's 92-46 American Athletic Conference rout of East Carolina at Gampel Pavilion. She finished 8-for-11 from the floor including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. She had made only four treys in 19 tries over her previous five games.

After an 0-for-6 showing in the win over Tulane last Wednesday, she had a sit down with coach Geno Auriemma.

"We kind of just talked about understanding the importance of what you do on the floor," Kia said. "It doesn't have to be scoring or those kind of things. The plays you make on the floor impact the game in other ways. That is something I have been focusing on."

She had 13 points in the first 11 minutes as the Huskies (22-0 overall, 12-0 AAC) took an insurmountable 26-point lead. It was her first game in double figures since Jan. 10 against South Florida. She added four assists and a pair of steals.

"I don't even know how to answer some of the questions these guys have for me on our team," Auriemma said. "It's harder and harder to get kids to understand that shooting the ball well doesn't necessarily indicate how well you played. And shooting the ball poorly doesn't indicate how poorly you played. In the world that these kids live in, it's all about points and recognition. So when it doesn't happen, you get goofy in the head and it affects your ability to do other things."

"I wasn't surprised that Kia made a bunch of great plays. She plays really hard every day. She's a competitive kid. She has a certain intensity level about her every game. You can't let whether this went in or didn't go in or that went in or didn't go in dictate who you are. If you just keep doing the right things, everything will be alright in the end."

The timing for Kia and the Huskies couldn't be better as they prepare for their showdown with No. 2 South Carolina (22-0) at sold-out Colonial Life Arena. It wouldn't be surprising if the Gamecocks challenged her to hit perimeter shots. It's also likely she'll spend a lot of time defending against Gamecocks' All-American Tiffany Mitchell.

But, like her brother, Kia isn't one to back down from a challenge.

"Obviously it's going to be a test that is a little bit different than what we see every day," she said. "At the same time, these are the games we really enjoy playing. For us, it's about not changing anything that we do. We work every day to make sure every game we are prepared the same way. So to go into the next one we are doing the same things we've been doing, obviously fixing the little things that we found in the East Carolina game, and then just rolling forward."

Tags: Carl Adamec

UConn's Jalen Adams (2) drives to the basket against East Carolina's Michael Zangari (34). (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
UConn's Jalen Adams (2) drives to the basket against East Carolina's Michael Zangari (34). (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Box score

STORRS, Conn. -- Shonn Miller and Rodney Purvis led five UConn players in double figures with 16 points each and the Huskies beat East Carolina 85-67 on Sunday to pick up their third consecutive win and sixth in their last seven games.

Daniel Hamilton filled up the scoresheet again, scoring 12 points and grabbing 16 rebounds and dishing out five assists. Jalen Adams added 14 points for UConn (17-6, 7-3 American Athletic).

Prince Williams scored 21 points to lead East Carolina (10-13, 2-8), which has lost two in row.

UConn used a 9-0 run early in the second half to take its lead from 48-44 to 57-44 in just over two minutes. A 3-pointer by Sterling Gibbs a short time later made it 65-47 and another made it 70-49 midway through the second half, putting the Huskies in control.

Read more. . . .


South Carolina coach Dawn Staley is very familiar with UConn and coach Geno Auriemma. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley is very familiar with UConn and coach Geno Auriemma. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Geno Auriemma was familiar with Dawn Staley even before he began his Hall of Fame coaching career with the University of Connecticut and Staley began to make her mark in a playing career that got her enshrined in the Naismith Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.

"It's like she was the original Mo'ne Davis," Auriemma said.

Auriemma and Staley will be on opposite sidelines Monday night when the top-ranked Huskies take on Staley's No. 2 South Carolina club at sold-out Colonial Life Arena.

But the pair also work together. Staley was an assistant to Auriemma with the United States national team when it won gold at the 2014 FIBA world championships and she'll serve in the same capacity at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Auriemma remembers Staley from her days growing up in Philadelphia. She would go on to be a two-time Player of the Year at the University of Virginia and was the star of the Cavaliers team that beat UConn in the 1991 NCAA Final Four semifinals, a standout in the ABL and WNBA, and a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

After starting her coaching career at Temple, she has turned South Carolina into a national contender. "There isn't any area where you would say Dawn Staley hasn't had an impact in the world of basketball," Auriemma said. "As somebody from that area and somebody that has seen her since she was in high school, obviously I'm very proud and thrilled that I have gotten a chance to work with her a little bit. I hope she has learned a little bit from her time with us. I learned a few things from her.

"People remember Dawn as a great college player and a great player for USA Basketball. Not many of those players that do that go on to have great success as a coach. For her to go and do it and then have her college team to the level where they are right now, that is pretty amazing. So she has had the same success in college that she has had as a player. Then she has coached USA Basketball and won gold medals. So she has done the same thing as a coach in USA Basketball that she has as a player."

The respect is mutual. "Being a competitor, I love being around people who are great at what they do," Staley said. "Geno is great at what he does. You watch and you see how he operates and what makes him great. You take little things from him like I have done with every coach I've been around. I've taken little bits and pieces from what makes them great and how I can see it fitting into what we do.

"It has to fit. You can't force it to fit into what you are trying to accomplish with the personnel you have. It is great. I learned so much. I have been known as a defensive coach. Probably as much time as he spends on offense, I have had to spend on defense. That is why we are very, very good defensively. That's the reason they are very, very good offensively. He spends a lot of time on it."

A number of players from UConn and South Carolina who will compete against each other Monday night have been teammates on USA Basketball rosters.

UConn's Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson were teammates of South Carolina's Alaina Coates and Tiffany Mitchell on the United States Pan American Games team last summer. Napheesa Collier and the Gamecocks' A'ja Wilson helped Team USA win gold at the 2015 FIBA U-19 world championships.

Stewart and Jefferson were the top scorers as they paced the Pan American Games team to the final but Team USA fell to host Canada and Kia Nurse. Mitchell missed the tourney with an injury but Coates averaged a double-double in the event.

"Playing with Alaina and Tiff was a lot of fun," Stewart said. "You're able to learn how they are on and off the court. On the court they are fierce competitors, but off the court they are just like us here. They want to have a great time. They're fun to be around."

Wilson was top scorer and second-leading rebounder for Team USA, which was coached by Staley, in the U-19 event and was named the Most Valuable Player. Collier was second in scoring and tops in rebounds and steals. It was actually Wilson's second U-19 gold as she was on the 2013 USA team with Stewart, Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck. "A'ja is a cool person and a great player," Collier said. "I enjoyed playing with her."

UConn and South Carolina each enter Monday night's showdown at 22-0. The Huskies are 18-3 in games between the top two teams in the Associated Press poll while the Gamecocks are 0-2 including an 87-62 loss at UConn a year ago.

Staley is hoping to become the first woman to defeat an Auriemma-coached team as a player and as a head coach.


UConn Women's Post Game: Recap 00:02:16
The UConn women's basketball team defeated East Carolina on Saturday, 92-46, behind Kia Nurse's 20 points and four assists.

STORRS, Conn. -- If East Carolina was hoping the University of Connecticut women's basketball team would overlook it Saturday with No. 2 South Carolina on the Huskies' schedule two days later, the Pirates should have considered this statistic.

In the 21 games leading up to their previous 1-2 matchups, UConn was 21-0 with an average margin of victory of 39.95 points with no game closer than 19.

It was more of the same Saturday.

Kia Nurse had a season high 20 points while All-American Breanna Stewart added a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds as the top-ranked Huskies clobbered East Carolina 92-46 in American Athletic Conference action before 9,780 at Gampel Pavilion.

"All week, everything starts to come out, everyone's talking about the next game," Nurse said. "For us, we do a really good job of staying in the moment. We're focused on what's next in front of us. When we come out of the locker room we always say we want to have a good start and for us to have one is building on what we've been working on."

UConn (22-0 overall, 12-0 AAC) will fly to Columbia Sunday and face the unbeaten Gamecocks (22-0) at sold out Colonial Life Arena Monday at 7 p.m. The Huskies defeated South Carolina 87-62 in a 1-2 matchup here a year ago.

Since facing Tennessee in its first 1-2 game on Jan. 16, 1995, UConn is 18-3 in such affairs with five straight wins and 13 of the last 14. South Carolina is 0-2 in 1-2 games.

"We're going into a hostile environment to play against the No. 2 team in the country," Stewart said. "It's going be crazy. That's what you want.

"South Carolina has a chip on its shoulder from last year when they came here and then falling short in the Final Four. They want to redeem themselves in front of their home fans."

The win was also the 100th for the Huskies' junior class of Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor. UConn is 100-1 since their arrival including 59 straight victories. No other AAC school's senior class has reached 100.

All-American Moriah Jefferson chipped in 16 points, eight assists, and three steals. Off the bench, Gabby Williams had 10 points and Napheesa Collier eight.

Morgan Tuck made her second straight start after missing the previous four games with right knee soreness. She finished with seven points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.

Jada Payne had 15 points for East Carolina (9-14, 3-8).

Nurse finished 8-for-11 from the floor including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. The sophomore had made only four treys in 19 tries over her previous five games. The low point was an 0-for-6 effort at Tulane last Wednesday.

"The last couple of days were not my favorite days ever," Nurse said. "But I do think it was a matter of getting my mind right and being in the right state of mind. Sometimes you can get that from other people and get that support but most of the time it has to come from within you. It was a matter of sitting down and really reflect on what I should be focusing on and what I shouldn't be focusing on.

"I was just frustrated, more with myself than anything. Obviously that game didn't go the way I wanted it to. I sat down and watched film on the way home and I did make some really good plays in that game that I didn't give myself credit for."

It was the first time in double figures for Nurse since she had 16 points at South Florida on Jan. 10.

"It was great to see her come out today and see her confidence," Stewart said. "One game doesn't define you as a player, and today she came out and did what she does. Whenever a player is down we're here to lift them back up."

UConn flattened East Carolina in the first 3:30, scoring the first 14 points. Baskets by Tuck, Nurse, and Stewart, two free throws by Stewart, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Nurse and Jefferson accounted for the early surge.

So much for the Huskies possibly overlooking the Pirates.

"The idea of looking ahead ... I know that happens in sports and I don't understand it," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You're 20, 21 years old. What are you looking ahead to? You don't have 82 of these games a year and a no-cut contract paying you millions of dollars. You're 20 years old and you have 39 of these if you're lucky. The most important thing you're doing is what you're doing right now. If we do a really good job of what we're doing right now, we can build on what we're going to do Monday.

"So the way we played today, I'm not surprised. We did the same thing at Tulane and in three or four other games that we've had in this stretch. What I liked about that 14-0 run was it wasn't like Tulane was, it wasn't all Stewie all of the time. We spread it around more, which is good. I like the way the ball is moving and I like it when the ball goes in the basket."

It was 52-23 at halftime, but that didn't stop the Huskies from playing hard. With 2:30 left in the third quarter, Stewart stuffed a shot by Payne and took possession. Her outlet pass to Nurse was a floater, but Nurse was able to out-jump an East Carolina defender and tip the ball ahead to Williams for an uncontested layup that brought a roar from the crowd.

"Stewie just threw it and I thought, 'This is going to be short,' " Nurse said. "I came back for it and I saw Gabby running so I just hit it. Maybe the fact it was Gabby because we have such a close relationship, but I was just fired up beyond belief. That was fun."

The fourth-quarter cheers went to senior Briana Pulido, whose steal and layup had Stewart and the bench jumping up and down in celebration.

UConn forced East Carolina into 24 turnovers, the eighth straight game the Huskies have forced at least 20, and it helped them to a 39-8 advantage in points off of turnovers.

The Huskies and Pirates will have a rematch in Greenville on Feb. 20.

The win also keeps UConn two games ahead of Temple in the AAC race. The Owls stunned South Florida 68-66 in Philadelphia Saturday to move into second place.

Now, South Carolina.

"We can finally talk about it," Jefferson said with a smile. "It will be fun. This is what you come here for, to play in the big games."

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson shoots against the Tulane Green Wave during the second quarter of a game at the Devlin Fieldhouse. (Derick E. Hingle/USATSI)
Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson shoots against the Tulane Green Wave during the second quarter of a game at the Devlin Fieldhouse. (Derick E. Hingle/USATSI)

STORRS, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson loves the postseason.

Is it because that's when the University of Connecticut women's basketball team plays its most meaningful games against the best competition? Is it because she loves the pressure? Is it because she is 20-0 as a postseason starter for the Huskies and owns three national championship rings?

The answer is yes to all of the above. But is there anything else the senior All-American point guard loves about the postseason?

"You get tournament snacks so you start thinking about things like that," Jefferson said. "You have fun with it. Otherwise the pressure gets to you. You come into the locker room and there are snacks everywhere. That's the start to your day. You come in, you grab all your snacks and put them in your bag. You're good for the day."

Her Senior Day is three weeks away and the end of her college career is, at most, two months away. For Jefferson and the Huskies, now that the calendar has turned to February the fun is just beginning.

"We try to think that way the whole season so that when the tournaments get here you're ready and you don't have to change anything," Jefferson said. "But at the same time it's like the season is winding down and it's tournament time.

"The biggest games are coming up."

The top-ranked Huskies opened the new month in impressive fashion with their rout of Tulane in New Orleans on Wednesday. They'll try to keep the momentum going as they host East Carolina in American Athletic Conference game Saturday at Gampel Pavilion (SNY, 1 p.m.).

UConn has won 19 consecutive February games since a loss to Baylor three years ago and is 54-3 (.947) in the month since the 2008-09 season.

In that span, the Huskies are also 53-2 in March and 11-2 in April and now you know why they've won five of the last seven national championships.

"Realizing we're getting close to the end of the regular season, we kind of have to gear up for what's to come and get ready for the second season, which is March and April," UConn All-American Breanna Stewart said. "We're doing that. I think over the past few games there's been a difference in how we play. Our defense has been very aggressive and we're making teams struggle with that."

The Huskies have forced their last seven opponents into at least 20 turnovers and are giving up an average of 35.0 points per game in that span.

In the first half against Tulane, UConn had a 32-0 advantage in points off of turnovers and it had a total of 63 points, more than the Green Wave had been allowing on the average in their first 21 games.

"You have to stay mentally focused and that starts with the upperclassmen playing the way you're supposed to every day" Jefferson said.

The Huskies have received boosts from their freshmen Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier.

Samueslon has a run of seven straight double-figure scoring games going and is averaging 13.7 points in that stretch on 47.7 percent shooting. Collier is averaging 9.7 points on 66.7 percent shooting and 5.4 rebounds in the same span.

"I would think that as you start getting into February that you have been here long enough that you don't actually walk around and act like you're a freshman," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You've played in more than 20 games by now. You feel like you know what you can do and you know what you can contribute to us winning. Then it's just going out there and having the confidence that you can do it. I think that's hopefully where they are right now.

"But the problem with young players is that it fluctuates. They don't capture it and hold onto it for long stretches like you see Moriah do now or the way Stewie does right now. If you remember when those guys were freshmen, they couldn't capture it and hold onto it for long stretches. So you just hope that at some point in the next two months we can get them to a certain point and then hold onto it until the end of the season. Little by little, that's what they're trying to do, too."

When the Huskies faced Memphis last Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford, Auriemma let Samuelson know in the huddle before the start of the second half that her effort wasn't what he wanted it to be. She responded well and it carried over with a solid performance at Tulane.

"I need to stay consistent the whole time," Samuelson said. "I've had to challenge myself more mentally, more than I thought I would. Mentally pushing myself to go as hard as I can consistently and just doing what I need to do is probably the hardest part."

Auriemma has said since the fall that in order for UConn to win an unprecedented fourth straight national championship, his freshmen will need to play well.

The Huskies need that to continue for, they hope, two more months.

"They know what the expectation is by this time," Jefferson said. "You have to come in here ready. It's February so you're not a freshman any more. That's what we've always said and they are definitely rising to the occasion."

UConn (21-0, 11-0 AAC) will be playing only its third game on campus this season Saturday. But after it returns from its road trips to South Carolina and Temple next week, four of its last five regular season games will be played here.

The Huskies have won 58 straight and hold a two-game lead in the AAC standings over South Florida and Temple entering the weekend. The Bulls take on the Owls at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia on Saturday.

East Carolina (9-13, 3-7) has been a major disappointment after being picked for fourth in the AAC preseason poll, though fifth-year guard Jada Payne has enjoyed a solid season.

The Huskies and Pirates will meet again in Greenville on Feb. 20.

Tags: Carl Adamec

GEICO SportsNite: UConn wins 00:00:31
Highlights of the UConn men's basketball team's 77-57 win over Memphis on Thursday night.

Box score

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Daniel Hamilton had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Shonn Miller scored 12 of his 14 points after the break and UConn used a second-half burst to defeat Memphis 77-57 on Thursday night.

The Huskies (16-6, 6-3 American Athletic Conference) outscored Memphis 41-20 after the Tigers took a lead into halftime. Hamilton also had eight assists.

Rodney Purvis finished with 15 points as the Huskies won their second straight and fifth in the last six.

Ricky Tarrant Jr. led the Tigers (13-9, 4-5) with 16 points, but was 2 of 7 from the field. Jeremiah Martin added 11 for Memphis, which dropped its second straight.

UConn shot 49 percent (19 of 39) in the second half, while holding Memphis to 25 percent on 4 of 16 shooting. The Tigers also committed 13 turnovers in the second half to further stymie their hopes.

Read more. . . .


 (The Bent Family)
(The Bent Family)

When Marisa Moseley spotted Molly Bent at an AAU tournament last spring, she and the rest of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's coaching staff didn't rush out to check where any recruiting services had her rated before expressing their interest.

They didn't care.

Bent -- a 5-foot-9 guard from Centerville, Massachusetts, and senior at Tabor Academy -- is a throwback in many ways with her work ethic. She's also a throwback to a time the Huskies recruited regionally and not nationally.

"Sometimes we get a little ahead of ourselves," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I asked the coaches, 'Back in the day if we saw a kid practice or play like this, would we recruit her?' And they said, 'Yeah, for sure.' So why would we not recruit her now? If that's the kind of kid that we like and who we admire for how hard she plays, how athletic she is and some of the things she can do, why would we care about, 'Oh people don't know her that well. She doesn't do this. She doesn't play here.' Why should that be a problem? It never used to be an issue before.

"We don't want to get away from our roots, and Molly is the kind of kid that has helped us become who we are. When you see her play next year, you'll understand why."

Bent committed to UConn last June and signed her letter of intent in November. She is part of a three-player class that includes McDonald's All-American guard Crystal Dangerfield and forward Kyla Irwin.

A straight-A student, Bent had been looking at Ivy League schools Brown and Princeton as well as mid-majors Providence and Holy Cross. But during her junior year she started to receive interest from higher-profile programs before accepting Auriemma's scholarship offer.

"Staying focused is easy because I love to play," Bent said. "It's never a chore to go to the gym and get shots up. Tabor's gym is always open and I can go ask Coach (Will) Becker for the key. When you love to play, it's easy. And having the teammates I have pushing me at practice, it's a fun time and it's easy to stay focused."

Bent has Tabor Academy -- located in Marion, Massachusetts -- off to a 10-1 start with a nine-game winning streak. The Seawolves host Worcester Academy on Friday.

"It's been a little up and down as a team but I think we've started to play well by getting points off transition and with our defense," Bent said. "That's when we're at our best. It's been really fun and I'm trying to enjoy the last six weeks of it."

Tabor dropped its second game of the season to Noble & Greenough School on Dec. 19. The Seawolves avenged that loss 10 days in the championship game of the Nickerson Holiday Tournament with Bent being named the event's most valuable player.

"I'm playing OK," Bent said. "My 3-point percentage isn't very good and that kind of bugs me because I've been working on that a lot. I'm happy with my free throws. I need to cut down on my turnovers and I'm always working on that."

Ask her former or current teammates, and they'll tell you working hard is never an issue for her.

"Molly is a tremendous athlete," said Colgate University sophomore guard Ariel Etheridge, who played one year of soccer and basketball (2013-14) with Bent. "She gives it her all, all 24/7. She is the hardest worker that I've ever met. She puts her heart and soul into the game and that's what makes her a great player. Her dedication to the game is like no other and her skill set is really good and will continue to improve at UConn."

In a win over Marianapolis Prep here last week, Becker started four Division I players including Bent and South Carolina signee Araion Bradshaw.

Bradshaw is one of Bent's biggest fans.

"Molly pushes me more than anyone that I've ever played with," Bradshaw said. "It's a testament to her. She works hard on every single play. She doesn't take a play off, and that makes me want to do the same thing. Molly motivates me."

Bent began her high school career as an eighth grader at Barnstable High. Coached by her father, George, she scored 1,001 points in three seasons.

She then transferred to Tabor Academy and repeated her sophomore year. She's been a New England Prep School Class A all-star in both her seasons at the school. This winter, she was nominated to play in the McDonald's All-America Game.

"I'm feeling it now in terms of the academics, my fifth year of high school," Bent said. "In terms of basketball, I am so glad that I made the switch. Coming from Barnstable, my dad and Coach Paul Tilton, who was the assistant, they just engrained in me to push the ball, push the ball, give 100 percent on defense. We didn't run too many plays. Coming to Tabor, repeating my sophomore year and gaining an extra year that helped me in AAU, I have that background and have been pushed my good players. And here I learned to slow it down and make good decisions with the ball."

While Bent would have a target on her back as a UConn signee at most places, she said Tabor's overall talent doesn't allow opponents to single out an individual.

"It's very different playing in our prep school league," Bent said. "When I was at Barnstable, they could play a box-and-one or whatever against us. With this team, you can't play those junk defenses because of the players we have. So it's different. And I try not to think about what other people think about me. I just go out and play my game, work hard on every play." 

Starting with Friday's matchup, Tabor has eight regular season games before the start of its bid to being home a New England championship.

The stretch drive is on and Bent is keeping her eyes on what she has to do to for her team to get the prize.

"We need to be consistent," Bent said. "We've had games that we've come out really slow. We have to make sure that if we don't get points in transition, that we execute our halfcourt offense well. We have to make sure that we're giving 100 percent at all times because that's when we're getting steals, that's when we're getting out in transition, and like I said that's when we're at our best."

Bent took her official recruiting visit in October and was at the annual First Night program at Gampel Pavilion alongside Dangerfield and Irwin, who both hit milestones on Tuesday night. Dangerfield reached the 2,000-point plateau in her career at Blackman High in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, while Irwin had a career-high 43 points for her State College (Pennsylvania) High club.

She's made trips from Massachusetts to see the Huskies play LSU at the XL Center in Hartford and Maryland at New York's Madison Square Garden. Bent hopes her schedule will allow her to see UConn play in the American Athletic Conference tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena and/or the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament which will likely be at Gampel Pavilion. She hopes to talk to Auriemma about watching his United States senior national team practice when it holds its training camp Feb. 21-23 in Storrs.

While she is still not sure when she will start school at UConn, Bent knows that the first summer session begins May 31. Her graduation date is May 30. So much for summer vacation.

"I'm really pretty excited to be able to spend it at UConn," Bent said with a smile. "I would be playing basketball anyway. But instead of playing one-on-one with my brother, it will be with those great players at Connecticut."

Auriemma is looking forward to working with her.

"She's built a little bit like Kelly Faris, but smaller," Auriemma said. "And she is a good athlete. When you look at Molly you think, 'Oh, she must be your typical smart point guard.' Then she goes right by guys and you think, 'How did she do that?' I'm telling you, that kid is tough."

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies head coach Bob Diaco on the sideline as they take on the Houston Cougars in the first quarter at Rentschler Field. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Bob Diaco on the sideline as they take on the Houston Cougars in the first quarter at Rentschler Field. (David Butler II)

Coming off its first bowl game in five seasons, UConn concentrated its recruiting efforts on players from winning programs, signing a class of 16 on Wednesday.

The Huskies recruits went 140-40 in high school, winning a combined seven state titles, said second-year coach Bob Diaco.

Diaco, whose team improved from 2-10 in his first year to 6-7 last season, said it was important to him to add "achievers" as he continues to build the program.

"The cement is still wet, so we need to be careful," he said.

Other things to know: UConn's class has four players from Connecticut, and added another two in-state players as walk-ons.

Top 25 Class: No.

Best in class: Jay Rose, QB, Southington.

Best of the rest: Donovan Williams, QB, Woodbridge, Va.

One that got away: Mike Lonsdorf, OL, Somerville, N.J.

How they'll fit in: UConn has most of the players back from the two-deep chart at the St. Petersburg Bowl. Because of that, most of his recruiting class is expected to redshirt. Diaco says he plans to use Rose, a national recruit who played quarterback at Southington, as what he called an "F" back, a tight end-running back hybrid. Diaco called Williams the one true quarterback in the class.

Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press


UConn Women's Post Game: Sound 00:02:44
Geno Auriemma and Breanna Stewart react to a 96-38 win but know they have to keep pushing to improve moving forward.

Breanna Stewart's favorite memory of New Orleans as a member of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team will always be winning the 2013 national championship at New Orleans Arena.

But the Huskies' senior All-American added another memorable moment to her collection at Tulane's Devlin Fieldhouse Wednesday.

Stewart had 20 points to become the No. 2 scorer in UConn history as the top-ranked Huskies routed Tulane 96-38 in an American Athletic Conference game.

Stewart (2,351 points) passed 2010 national Player of the Year Tina Charles (2,346) by making two free throws with 1:31 left in the first half. Needing 16 points to move by Charles, Stewart scored 14 points in the first 8:31. The only reason it took Stewart so long to get the next two points was that UConn coach Geno Auriemma kept his star on the bench for most of the second quarter.

Three-time Wade Trophy winner Maya Moore is UConn's all-time leading scorer with 3,036 points. If the Huskies reach the AAC and NCAA tournament finals, they would play 17 more games and Stewart would have to average 40.4 points in them to pass Moore. Stewart's career high is 37 set two years ago.

"Maya was a machine at both ends of the floor," Auriemma said at his postgame press conference. She scored off transition baskets, scored off of offensive rebounds, off of 3-pointers and her mid-range game. She just had a much more productive freshman year than Stewie did and that's probably the biggest difference."

Moriah Jefferson also made some history for herself. The senior All-American point guard had six assists to break a tie with former teammate Bria Hartley for fifth on UConn's all-time list. With 565, she is 20 shy of No. 4 Sue Bird, the 2002 national Player of the Year. The Glenn Heights, Texas, native also had six steals to pass Moore for third at UConn in that category with 315. Jennifer Rizzotti, the 1996 Wade Trophy winner, is second at 349.

Morgan Tuck returned to the starting lineup for the Huskies after missing the previous four games due to right knee soreness. She finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes but some of her rust showed as she committed four turnovers.

"Morgan said she was ready to go," Auriemma said. "She was good after yesterday's practice. She felt good at this morning's shootaround. We figured we'd get her half a game and see how she looked. She felt great at halftime. We'll keep playing it day by day and keep our fingers crossed."

Three others finished in double figures for the Huskies. Gabby Williams had 15 points, Katie Lou Samuelson 14, and Napheesa Collier 10.

UConn (21-0 overall, 11-0 AAC) delivered an early knockout punch in rolling to its 58th consecutive victory.

Three Stewart mid-range jumpers made it 6-0 with 1:11 gone. After Kolby Morgan scored for Tulane (15-7, 6-4), the Huskies went on a 16-2 run. Then after two free throws by Morgan, consecutive three-point plays by Stewart and Jefferson and a hoop by Williams made it 30-8 after one quarter. Stewart either scored or assisted on nine of 12 baskets in the period. She finished with seven assists and two blocked shots.

UConn then scored the first nine points in the second quarter. It was 63-20 at halftime against a Green Wave club that entered Wednesday allowing an average of 60.6 points per game. The Huskies forced 18 turnovers and had a 32-0 advantage in points off of turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

"We get our hands into the passing lanes and we're active one through five," Stewart told SNY's Kerith Burke in a postgame interview. "When we get a tip of the ball, most likely we're going to get it and get an open layup."

Tulane got no closer in the second half. Leslie Vorpahl led the Green Wave with 11 points.

UConn and Tulane will meet on Feb. 27 at Gampel Pavilion, which will be Senior Day for Stewart, Jefferson, and Briana Pulido.

The Huskies return to action Saturday when they entertain East Carolina at Gampel Pavilion (SNY, 1 p.m.). Monday is their showdown with No. 2 South Carolina in Columbia.

"We have a big week ahead of us," Stewart said, "and we wanted to make sure we started it off right."

Tags: Carl Adamec

UConn Women's Post Game: Recap 00:02:08
The UConn women's basketball team defeated Tulane on Wednesday night, 96-38, behind Breanna Stewart's 20 points.

Breanna Stewart made her first seven shots in a 20-point performance and No. 1 UConn easily remained unbeaten with a 96-38 victory over Tulane on Wednesday night.

Moriah Jefferson scored 16 points, Gabby Williams 15 and Katie Lou Samuelson 14 for the Huskies (21-0, 11-0 American Athletic Conference), who led wire-to-wire and won by at least 40 points for the 14th time this season.

Tulane struggled to match up with the quick, lanky and accurate Stewart, whose 6-foot-4 height and long arms allowed her to shoot easily over defenders who lost track of her for even a moment before she received a pass. >> Read more


Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson defends against Memphis Tigers guard Brea Elmore in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II/USATSI)
Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson defends against Memphis Tigers guard Brea Elmore in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II/USATSI)

The first two American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year award winners have been University of Connecticut centers.

Could a Huskies' guard make it a three-peat?

Moriah Jefferson locked up another scorer Saturday, this time Memphis' Ariel Hearn. The senior was limited to five points, 10 below her average, and No. 1 UConn rolled to an 83-40 win over Memphis at the XL Center in Hartford.

"What makes Mo so effective is even if she's smaller, her quickness will frustrate anyone," UConn All-American Breanna Stewart said. "She makes the person she's guarding frustrated and they don't want to play anymore. Once you got the mental part of them out of the game, the physical part follows quick."

Jefferson's next challenge comes Wednesday night when the Huskies (20-0, 10-0 AAC) go for their 58th straight win as they visit Tulane in league action at Devlin Fieldhouse in New Orleans (SNY, 8 p.m.).

The Green Wave (15-6, 6-3) are led by their guards. Sophomore Kolby Morgan averages 16.0 points per game, while junior Leslie Vorpahl is their other double-figure scorer at 12.2. Vorpahl also tops the AAC in assists by the narrowest of margins over Jefferson -- 5.476 to 5.474 per game.

UConn's senior All-American point guard would like the one she's guarding to feel like Hearn did on Saturday.

Hearn, who had 33 points in the Tigers' upset of South Florida on Jan. 20, was just 2 for 5 from the floor in 29 minutes against the Huskies. But it's far from the first time Jefferson has done that to an opponent the past three seasons.

"As big of an impact as she has on the offensive end for us, it's the same on the defensive end," Stewart said.

Jefferson added 11 points and seven assists on the offensive side Saturday. Her assist total of 559 ties her with ex-teammate Bria Hartley for fifth on UConn's all-time list. She had two steals and needs one more to tie Maya Moore (310) for third at UConn.

"I think my on-ball defense is the best," Jefferson said. "My off-ball defense, I'm really lazy and I get caught watching the ball so I don't get a lot of steals that I should get. But on the ball is where I'm the most comfortable and the most aggressive.

"Even in fifth, sixth grade my AAU coaches were teaching me that. We played full-court defense and a run-and-gun style all of the time so I was used to it before I got here. I do the same things here until the score is out of hand."

UConn's Stefanie Dolson was the AAC and national Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, while Kiah Stokes won the league honor in 2015.

Stewart leads the AAC in blocked shots this season and Jefferson is No. 2 in steals behind Temple's Alliya Butts. UConn also tops the league in field-goal percentage defense at 33.4 and in scoring defense at 49.1 points, 11.5 points better than second-place Tulane.

Could a guard be rewarded this time around? One coach thinks so.

"I haven't seen anybody that we have played against so far that I think day in and day out plays as consistently well defensively as Moriah does," UConn's Geno Auriemma said. "I think she should take more chances. I think she is a little too conservative. I would like to see her be even more aggressive, but I haven't see anybody better."

UConn enters Wednesday with a two-game lead in the AAC race over South Florida and Temple. The Bulls
entertain Cincinnati Wednesday while the Owls host SMU.

While Jefferson is seeking a big night on the defensive end, it could be a milestone night for Stewart on the offensive end. With 2,331 points, the North Syracuse, New York, native trails Tina Charles (2,346) by 15 for the second spot on UConn's all-time scoring list.

Her production does not surprise Auriemma.

"Whenever we recruit kids, I never think in terms of numbers or what they're going to be able to do statistically," he said. "I'm just not wired that way. I don't say, 'This is what I project for this player.' I try to just measure it in terms of what I think they can do to help us win. Can this kid be a building block toward winning a national championship? Can this kid be somebody that over a period of four years can help us do this, and can we get them to a certain level? So numbers whether they be points, rebounds, assists, steals, those are just kind of things that accumulate over a period of years. It's not anything I ever give any thought to because you just never know."

UConn is 5-1 playing in New Orleans, with the only loss coming in the 1991 Final Four semifinals to Virginia at Lakefront Arena. The Huskies won the 2004 and 2013 national championships at New Orleans Arena and defeated Tulane last Feb. 23, 94-47.

They are scheduled to fly home Wednesday night and will host East Carolina on Saturday (SNY, 1 p.m.) before their showdown at No. 2 South Carolina on Monday.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Napheesa Collier (24) shoots the ball between Colgate Raiders guards Randyll Butler (3) and Ariel Etheridge (12) during the second half at Cotterell Court. (Rich Barnes)
Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Napheesa Collier (24) shoots the ball between Colgate Raiders guards Randyll Butler (3) and Ariel Etheridge (12) during the second half at Cotterell Court. (Rich Barnes)

STORRS, Conn. -- Napheesa Collier would have the usual disagreements with her younger brother, Kai, that siblings have growing up.

Then again, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's freshman forward would have some unusual disagreements -- particularly on the football field that was the backyard of her family's home in Missouri.

"Every time we played anything it would turn into a fight," Collier said. "We're both so competitive. He does have a football mentality."

But that football mentality has served him well. Kai Collier -- a 6-foot-3, 170-pound senior wide receiver at Fort Zumwalt South High in St. Peters, Missouri -- will sign a letter of intent Wednesday to play for Division II Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.

"I loved everything about it and it just felt right when I was there," Kai Collier said in a text message.

Napheesa Collier is one of a number of Huskies who have siblings playing sports at a high level.

Kia Nurse's older brother, Darnell, is a defenseman for the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. Morgan Tuck's older sister, Taylor, played basketball at the University of Illinois. Katie Lou Samuelson's older sisters, Bonnie and Karlie, were instrumental in Stanford's upset of UConn a year ago, the Huskies' only loss in the last 105 games. Courtney Ekmark's younger brother, Andrew, was a McDonald's High School All-America Game nominee.

But there's something different about a football player, isn't there?

Napheesa's memory of the matchups with Kai: Winning.

"We would play all the time like before dinner," Collier said. "It was one-on-one between me and my brother. My dad would be the coach for both us and he would draw up plays for us. That was a big part of my childhood.

"I was better at first because I was so much taller than he was. But he's so quick and, after all, he's a football player."

Quick note: Her father, Gamal, played rugby at Buckingham University in England.

Napheesa's a basketball player. She led Incarnate Word Academy of St. Louis to three state championships and was a consensus high school All-American, and has also made an immediate impact on the nation's No. 1 college team.

Entering the Huskies' American Athletic Conference game with Tulane at Devlin Fieldhouse in New Orleans Wednesday, Collier is averaging 7.2 points on 53.2 percent shooting from the floor and 92.9 percent from the foul line in 19.8 minutes. She is 14th in the league in rebounding (6.2), 12th in steals (1.8), and fourth in blocked shots (1.6).

As her younger brother prepares to make his college decision official, she admits to one small disappointment during the process.

"I wanted Kai to come here to UConn and be with me, so that was the only advice I gave him," Collier said. "But he saw what I went through in recruiting so there was nothing that I could tell him that he hadn't seen. So this was like his second time through it."

"I'm so proud of him that he found a school that he loves and he'll be able to play at."

PLANTING SEEDS

Selection Monday is less than six weeks away. But if the NCAA tournament started on Monday, UConn (20-0 overall, 10-0 AAC) would be the overall No. 1 seed.

The NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship Sport Committee provided a look into its thinking Monday by providing the first of three February top-10 rankings in seed order. Following UConn were South Carolina, Notre Dame and Baylor as the top four teams.

"One of the committee objectives in releasing the top 10 was to generate conversation about women's basketball, and that certainly has been accomplished," said Chris Dawson, chair of the committee and associate commissioner at the Pac-12 Conference. "The committee had in-depth discussions about both the teams on the list, and their rank order. There were numerous other teams in the conversation, each with factors that merited them being in the mix. Every team in this initial top 10 will have its challenges over the next month, and we look forward to revisiting the rankings in a couple of weeks."

Texas, Ohio State, Arizona State, Oregon State, Maryland, and UCLA rounded out the top 10. Florida State, Louisville, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M were in the conversation.

Tags: Carl Adamec

 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

Breanna Stewart's goals for the 2016 calendar year include winning a fourth straight national championship with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team and being a part of the United States Olympic squad. The senior All-American will face a conflict between those two things later this month.

USA Basketball announced last week that the Geno Auriemma-coached senior national team will hold a training camp in Storrs Feb. 21-23 and that Stewart is one of 25 finalists for a spot on the team heading to Rio de Janeiro.

But with the Huskies playing at East Carolina on Feb. 20 and hosting SMU at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 24, will Stewart be involved in the training camp?

"She'll be involved to whatever extent she can be," Auriemma said. "I don't know what that will involve. A lot will depend on how healthy she is and making sure she's 100 percent. But we'll leave it up to her. 'How much do you want to be involved?' We'll leave it up in the air for now. But asking her to go two-a-days might be a lot, or maybe not. We'll see how she feels."

Stewart has played for a USA Basketball team every year starting in 2009 after finishing up her freshman year at Cicero North Syracuse High in New York.

She's won gold medals at the 2009 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship, the 2010 FIBA U-17 world championships, the 2011 FIBA U-19 world championships, the 2012 FIBA Americas U-18 Championships, the 2013 FIBA U-19 world championships, and the 2014 FIBA world championships.

In 2011, she became the first high school player since Nancy Lieberman in 1975 to represent Team USA at the Pan American Games, though the Americans missed out on a medal. Stewart picked up a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto as Team USA fell to Kia Nurse and Team Canada in the final.

Stewart said she'll be discussing her situation further with Auriemma and with senior national team director Carol Callan as the training camp draws nearer.

"Coach, Carol and I are going to have to come to an agreement on that," Stewart said. "Being in the middle of our season makes it tough but we'll see what happens."

Stewart was named to the American Athletic Conference weekly honor roll Monday after averaging 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in UConn's wins over Tulsa and Memphis. She became the sixth player in UConn history to reach 1,000 rebounds last Wednesday in Tulsa.

When the top-ranked Huskies (20-0 overall, 10-0 AAC) take on Tulane this Wednesday at Devlin Fieldhouse in New Orleans (SNY, 8 p.m.), Stewart could move up on the all-time scoring list. With 2,331 points, she trails No. 2 Tina Charles (2,346) by 15. Her production does not surprise her coach.

"Whenever we recruit kids, I never think in terms of numbers or what they're going to be able to do statistically," Auriemma said. "I'm just not wired that way. I don't say, 'This is what I project for this player.' I try to just measure it in terms of what I think they can do to help us win. Can this kid be a building block toward winning a national championship? Can this kid be somebody that over a period of four years can help us do this, and can we get them to a certain level? So numbers whether they be points, rebounds, assists, steals, those are just kind of things that accumulate over a period of years. It's not anything I ever give any thought to because you just never know."

Temple sophomore guard Alliya Butts was named the AAC Player of the Week while South Florida forward Kitija Laksa was the league's Freshman of the Week.

POLL POSITION

We're a week away and three results from UConn's 22nd game potentially featuring the top two teams in the Associated Press poll.

The Huskies maintained their hold on the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll Monday, receiving all 32 first-place votes. South Carolina (21-0) remained a solid No. 2, 35 points behind.

UConn visits South Carolina on Feb. 8. The Huskies play at Tulane Wednesday and host East Carolina at Gampel Pavilion Saturday before traveling to Columbia, South Carolina. The Gamecocks have one game this week as they entertain No. 18 Kentucky on Thursday. South Carolina already owns an 11-point win over the Wildcats in Lexington.

Last year's meeting between the Huskies and Gamecocks was a 1-2 affair with UConn rolling to an 87-62 win in Storrs that put it back at the top of the polls. Overall, UConn is 18-3 in 1-2 games with five straight wins and 13 wins in the last 14 outings. South Carolina is 0-2.

The top nine in Monday's poll remained the same as the Huskies and Gamecocks were followed by Notre Dame (20-1), Baylor (21-1), Maryland (19-2), Texas (20-1), Ohio State (16-4), Arizona State (18-3), and Oregon State (17-3). Florida State (18-4) moved up one spot to round out the top 10.

South Florida (15-5) improved one place to 19th. Tennessee (13-8) kept its poll streak alive at 563 consecutive weeks. Losses to Kentucky and Mississippi State cost the Lady Vols only four spots as they fell to No. 23. Two teams entered the poll -- No. 22 Florida and No. 25 Oklahoma State as they replaced DePaul and West Virginia.

MOVING ON UP

Ten days ago, Moriah Jefferson passed Maya Moore on UConn's all-time assist list. The senior All-American point guard now needs two steals to pass the three-time Wade Trophy winner for third place in that category.The thought of being on any short list with Moore leaves the Glenn Heights, Texas, native shaking her head.

"It's ridiculous and it's crazy," Jefferson said. "I'm just happy that I have a chance to do that. I didn't think about it. I didn't know that I was anywhere close. The type of player Maya was is the type of player that came here every day ready to work harder than anybody. To say that I've done something like that means a lot to me."

Jefferson finished with 11 points, seven assists, and two steals in UConn's 83-40 rout of Memphis Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford. Her assists gave her a share of fifth place on UConn's all-time list with her former teammate, Bria Hartley, at 559.

Her 1,319 points, however, leave Jefferson 1,717 short of Moore's school-record total. But with as many as 18 games to play, she is not conceding anything yet.

"I've got a few games left so I think it can happen," Jefferson said with a laugh.

QUOTE NOTE

Auriemma, with departing athletic director Warde Manuel in the room, on Saturday's season high crowd of 12,047 for the Memphis game: "It was a great crowd. I'm really appreciative of that, and I know the players are as well. It's not 113,000 like Michigan Stadium, but it's still pretty good."

Tags: Carl Adamec

Amida Brimah (left) goes up with Kentan Facey to try to block a Central Florida shot. Brimah returned to the UConn lineup after missing 11 games with a broken finger. (Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports)
Amida Brimah (left) goes up with Kentan Facey to try to block a Central Florida shot. Brimah returned to the UConn lineup after missing 11 games with a broken finger. (Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports)

Box score

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Shonn Miller scored 11 points, hauled in eight rebounds and had five steals to lead UConn to a 67-41 win over Central Florida on Sunday as center Amida Brimah returned to the UConn lineup.

Jalen Adams added 10 points while Daniel Hamilton, Sterling Gibbs and Rodney Purvis had nine apiece for UConn (15-6, 5-3 American), which held UCF to just 24 percent shooting and controlled the glass 41-33. Brimah entered at the 16:31 mark of the first half, played 18 minutes, and had six points, two rebounds and two blocked shots.

UCF (10-9, 4-4) got the first bucket of the game and led 4-2 before UConn took control by scoring the next 19 points to build a double-digit advantage it would hold the rest of the way. Purvis and Omar Calhoun and both hit 3-pointers in the run and the Huskies rolled to a 38-20 advantage at the break and bounced back from Thursday's 58-57 loss to Cincinnati.

Matt Williams had 10 points to lead Central Florida, which finished with its lowest score of the season.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press


Center Amida Brimah could return to the UConn lineup Sunday at Central Florida. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
Center Amida Brimah could return to the UConn lineup Sunday at Central Florida. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

UConn center Amida Brimah, who had been out since mid-December with a broken finger, returned to the Huskies lineup Sunday at Central Florida.

Brimah, who had missed the past 11 games, did not start, but entered with 16:31 remaining in the first half.

His return comes at an opportune time for UConn, which is trying to move off the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Huskies (14-6, 4-3 AAC) are coming off a 58-57 loss to Cincinnati in Hartford in which their offense struggled in the final minutes.

Central Florida, which has lost two in a row, is 10-8, 4-3.


Teddy Allendinger of Avon (Conn.) High has committed to UConn has a preferred walk-on (Photo via Twitter / Teddy Allmendinger)
Teddy Allendinger of Avon (Conn.) High has committed to UConn has a preferred walk-on (Photo via Twitter / Teddy Allmendinger)

Teddy Allmendinger, a fullback/linebacker from Avon High in Connecticut, has committed to UConn as a preferred walk-on. He announced his decision on Twitter Sunday (Jan. 31).

Later Sunday, Mason Donaldson, a punter/wide receiver from Allentown, Pa., also announced on Twitter that he had committed to the Huskies.

Allmendinger, projected to play fullback at UConn, told the New Haven Register Saturday he will have an opportunity to earn a scholarship (Jan. 31)

UConn cannot comment on signings until national signing day Wednesday, but signaled it has 19 commitments from high school seniors by putting 19 paw prints in a Tweet sent Sunday (Jan. 31). Their number may include other preferrred walk-ons and transfer Tre Bell/

National signing day is Wednesday. Commitments aren't official until signed letters of intent are received.

Players in UConn's Class of 2016:

  1. Teddy Allmendinger: FB, 6-0, 230, Avon (Conn).*
  2. Noel Brouse: DL, 6-5, 260,Allentown, Pa.
  3. Tyler Coyle: S/WR, 6-1, 190, Windsor
  4. Cam DeGeorge: OT, 6-5, 262, Lynnfield, Mass.
  5. Mason Donaldson: P/WR, 6-3, 200, Allentown, Pa.
  6. Keyion Dixon: CB/QB, 6-3, 178, Glastonbury
  7. AJ Garson: TE, 6-6, 232, West Palm Beach, Fla.
  8. Ryan Gilmartin: LB/FB, 6-0, 230, Matthews, N.C.
  9. Brett Graham: P/TE, 6-3, 230, State College, Pa.
  10. Eddie Hahn: QB/ATH, 6-3, 200, Red Bank, N.J.
  11. Tahj Herring: CB/WR, 6-1, 186, Suffield Academy (Hartford)
  12. Nate Hopkins: RB, 6-1, 215, Flower Mound, Texas
  13. Nino Leone: OL, 6-3, 335, South Hamilton, Mass.
  14. Jay Rose: TE, 6-3, 220, Southington
  15. Quayvon Skanes: WR, 5-10, 170, Chicago  
  16. Ja'Kevious Vickers: RB, 5-10, 195, Belle Glade, Fla.
  17. Donovan Williams: QB, 6-3, 202, Woodbridge Va.
  18. Nick Zecchino: LS, ATH, 6-1, 205, Cedar Grove, N.J.

*-preferred walk-on


Dec 7, 2013; East Hartford, CT, USA; University of Connecticut director of athletics Warde Manuel
          speaks to media regarding the football head coach position currently held by interim head coach T.J. Weist. The Connecticut Huskies play against the Memphis Tigers at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Dec 7, 2013; East Hartford, CT, USA; University of Connecticut director of athletics Warde Manuel speaks to media regarding the football head coach position currently held by interim head coach T.J. Weist. The Connecticut Huskies play against the Memphis Tigers at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Warde Manuel doesn't feel he's turning back the clock returning to his alma mater.

The University of Connecticut athletic director is looking forward to his new job in the same position at Michigan with the same passion he showed here and as a football player under legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler.

"It really hasn't changed," Manuel said Saturday as he met the media at halftime of the UConn-Memphis women's basketball game at the XL Center. "It's the combination of academic and athletic success. I went to Michigan and I was a pharmacy major and some of you are thankful that I'm not your pharmacist now. I am, too. The diversity of the academics attracted me. Also in my mind, if you look at the record books, you look at the academic strength of Michigan, those two things are hard to match anywhere in the country. That's why I chose it back then and that's what I think of the place now.

"Then there was Bo."

Manuel was introduced in Ann Arbor Friday as the replacement for interim athletic director Jim Hackett. He said Saturday he'll be around the women's basketball team through its appearance in the American Athletic Conference tournament in early March.

"It's a place where I spent 16 years of my life. It does feel like home in many ways," Manuel said. "I was born in New Orleans, but I did most of my growing up in Michigan. All those things lead me now to go back there."

It was as a high school senior that Manuel -- a highly regarded football recruit -- decided the first time that Michigan was the place for him.

He recalled making that call Saturday.

"It was the week before signing day and I was done with all of my visits," Manuel said. "Bo and two assistants were there, there was (Nebraska's) Tom Osborne and two of his assistants, two Notre Dame assistants and Lou Holtz was going to fly in if it came down to that, LSU had a few coaches. I got out of class and my head coach was talking to all of them and he said, 'OK, Warde's here. Who wants to go first?' All the coaches deferred to Bo. He walked in and gave his pitch, remember what we're about, remember the stadium, whatever he said in Bo's own words. I was already impressed by Michigan. But I was really impressed by the high regard his colleagues had for him to let him go first. Maybe they thought, 'Well, if I go last I'll leave the last impression and have the best shot.' For me, it worked in reverse."

Then Manuel gave UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma what, for him, is the ultimate compliment.

"Geno has a lot similarities to Bo in the sense of the high regard that he's held in by other coaches in the industry," Manuel said.

Manuel was hired by UConn in February, 2012. His key hires include football coach Bob Diaco, men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie, and hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh. Ollie guided the Huskies to the 2014 national championship and the team has posted back-to-back perfect academic progress reports to the NCAA after being banned from the 2013 NCAA tournament. Diaco, in his second season, helped the Huskies improve from 2-10 to 6-7 and an appearance in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Under Cavanaugh, the hockey team has transitioned into Hockey East.

In Manuel's four years, UConn won six national championships: 2014 men's basketball, 2013-15 women's basketball, and 2013-14 field hockey.

"You approach any job and you hope to leave the place better than you found it," Manuel said. "I'll leave it to others to really talk about my legacy here. I'm proud of the academic success of our student-athletes and the strength of the academics now. I'm proud of them as young people. I'm proud of the relationships I've developed with the coaches and staff. I'm proud of the championships we've won -- conference and national championships. We got through the transition of the break up of the Big East into the American as well or better than people expected.

"So those are the accomplishments. But I told my staff that I didn't accomplish this alone. It's taken a great effort of a lot of people."

But if UConn is to move from the AAC to a Power 5 Conference, it will be under another athletic director.

Manuel said he doesn't how close or far UConn is to getting one of those desired invitations. He believes the Huskies' success puts the school among the top tier of universities.

He was asked whether he could be an advocate to help that UConn make that move.

"I've got a job to do for Michigan, right?" Manuel said. "At the appropriate points in conversation about it certainly I will talk highly, very highly of UConn. I try not to mince words. I don't say things I don't believe and I believe in this place. I believe in this place as much as the day that I took the job for the same reasons.

"The success we've had speaks for itself. The prestige of the university academically speaks for itself. The people here, the fans base, the things we have ... If you look at media households in close proximity to us, if you look at our dominance in the New York market when we go down there to play, there are so many positives about UConn. It's not hard to say if it comes up in conversation.

"But let me say this so it's not twisted. The American has been a great conference and I'm proud that we're in the American and we're representing the American. I don't want anything I'm saying to take away from that and the strength of these colleges that have come together to play in the American and the great colleagues I have in the conference. We had four teams ranked in the top 25 in football this fall. I don't want anybody to take my words and say because we're not in the Power 5 we're still second-class citizens. I 've never approached this job that way. I don't talk much about it. Some people criticize me for not talking a lot about it. I just don't think you talk about it and all of a sudden an application appears. You have to work at it and have the success that we've had. You have to show people who we are. And if you don't let us in, we're going to still beat you. If you let us in, we're going to still beat you. That's the way I drive our teams, our coaches, our staff, our student-athletes, to be the best no matter where you are. I think of UConn highly. I always will."

But while he'll return to Michigan for what seems to be his dream job, saying goodbye to UConn will not be easy for him.

"UConn is always going to be a part of me," Manuel said. "The friendships that I've developed are always going to be with me. I leave sad because of the relationships and the people that I won't see on a consistent basis. But I leave happy knowing that the people here know how to win, know how to be extremely successful, and the future is very bright for UConn."


Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart and guard Moriah Jefferson react after a play against the Memphis Tigers in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II/USATSI)
Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart and guard Moriah Jefferson react after a play against the Memphis Tigers in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II/USATSI)

HARTFORD, Conn. -- It was the first of the farewells for Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson on Saturday.

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's senior All-Americans did it in style.

Playing their final game at the XL Center, Stewart had 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals while Jefferson moved into a tie for fifth place on UConn's all-time assist list as the top-ranked Huskies walloped Memphis 83-40 in an American Athletic Conference affair before a season high crowd of 12,047.

"It's a home away from home," Stewart said. "The biggest memory for me will be having so much fun here. It seems like it's always loud here and we get a good amount of fans. What I'd like to forget are the losses to Baylor and Notre Dame."

Stewart and Jefferson were 27-2 at the XL Center during their careers with the losses coming to Baylor in a regular season game and to and to Notre Dame in the Big East tournament final their freshman year.

"There are too many memories," Jefferson said. "It's just the experiences that I've had with my teammates. It's always been fun to play on the floor with them and in front of these fans."

The victory was the 57th straight for the Huskies (20-0 overall, 10-0 AAC) and clinches their 23rd consecutive 20-win season. They reached 25 wins in the previous 22 seasons and 30 wins in 20 of those 22 seasons.

Jefferson finished with 11 points, seven assists, and two steals. Her assists gave her a share of fifth place on UConn's all-time list with her former teammmate Bria Hartley at 559. She is two steals shy of passing Maya Moore for third in that category.

Memo to Hartley: A text message from Jefferson is coming.

They'll have their Senior Day at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 27 against Tulane, though their final appearance in Storrs will likely be in the NCAA tournament second round.

UConn will play its final five regular season home games on campus.

"We're really looking forward to playing however many home games we have at Gampel the next month," Stewart said. "We've only played two games there this season. Gampel is our favorite place to play."

Katie Lou Samuelson added 13 points Saturday while Gabby Williams and reserve Natalie Butler scored 10 points apiece.

UConn played its fourth straight game without Morgan Tuck, though the redshirt junior forward did take part in practice Friday after being shut down for 10 days due to right knee soreness.

"It was her call. It's always going to be her call from here on in," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "When she knows she's good to go, she'll go. When she says she's not ready, I trust her.

"She said she felt pretty good today but just not where she wants it to be quite yet. I respect that. Hopefully, we'll see her Monday at practice. We have Monday, Tuesday, then shootaround on Wednesday. So we have three more looks at it. If she goes all three days, we'll figure it out. I would like to get her back, obviously."

UConn did not trail. After an Ariel Hearn 3-pointer brought Memphis within 6-5, the Huskies ran off 10 unanswered points. Kia Nurse hit at trey and Jefferson followed with a hoop. Two free throws by Williams and a 3 by Jefferson put the Huskies in front by double figures for good.

It was 22-8 after one quarter, the closest margin for UConn after 10 minutes since the South Florida game on Jan. 10. After a Mooriah Rowser jumper opened the second-quarter scoring, UConn put together a second 10-0 run with Stewart scoring the first six and Nurse and Butler contributing hoops.

The Huskies' lead was 38-16 at the break but they were far from satisfied. It was Jefferson's voice that was heard.

"I don't usually do too much yelling, but I did a little bit at halftime saying that our energy wasn't there," Jefferson said. "It wasn't so much about the things we were doing. We were making plays. We were getting stops. But it wasn't enough. It was low energy and we can't have that in any game we play."

Memphis got no closer as UConn opened the third quarter on a 17-2 run.

Rowser had eight points for Memphis (12-10, 6-5), which committed 34 turnovers. Hearn, who scored 33 points in the Tigers' overtime upset of South Florida on Jan. 20, had just five points on Saturday. Credit Jefferson.

"I have not seen anyone that we've played against so far that day in and day out plays as consistently well, defensively, as Moriah does," Auriemma said.

Auriemma took Stewart out for good with 8:02 left with Jefferson following 2:30 later. Both received warm receptions from the fans.

"The crowd was great, wasn't it?" Auriemma said. "I mentioned that to the coaches. That's when you like playing here, when you get that type of crowd. It makes a big difference."

UConn goes back on the road Wednesday to face Tulane at Devlin Fieldhouse in New Orleans (SNY, 8 p.m.).

Tags: Carl Adamec

Jan 6, 2016; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Morgan Tuck (3) shoots against Tulsa Golden Hurricane forward Tyjae' Scales (25) in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Jan 6, 2016; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Morgan Tuck (3) shoots against Tulsa Golden Hurricane forward Tyjae' Scales (25) in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

STORRS, Conn. - Morgan Tuck feels ready, not rushed.

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's redshirt junior forward returned to practice Friday for the first time since being shut down early last week due to soreness in her right knee. Whether she plays in the top-ranked Huskies' American Athletic Conference game against Memphis Saturday (SNY, noon) at the XL Center in Hartford will be determined the morning of the game.

"She just did a couple of things, mostly halfcourt," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after practice at the Champions Center. "She said yesterday, 'I want to give it a try.' We'll see how she feels afterwards, but I was encouraged when she said she wanted to give it a shot. It's been 10 days, 11 days. We'll see how she feels and we'll go from there."

Tuck has missed UConn's last three games as it was announced on Jan. 19 she would rest for two weeks. The Bolingbrook, Illinois, native missed 32 games two seasons ago due to a pair of surgeries on the knee. 

She took the floor Friday after discussing her situation with athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle.

"I wanted to get into practice, try it out, and see how it felt," Tuck said. "Me and Rosie talked about it, and two weeks wasn't necessarily set in stone. It was something we were going by. We go by how it feels. I don't think it hurt to go out there. I didn't do the entire practice. I kept it a little more halfcourt. I wanted to go out there and I need to get back in shape so I need to practice."

Tuck, who also missed the Jan. 8 game at Houston with right knee soreness, has established herself as a strong All-American candidate.

She is averaging 14.9 points on 53.8 shooting from the floor, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 28.9 minutes per game. She leads the AAC in assist-to-turnover ratio and is in the top 10 in scoring, field-goal percentage, and assists. She reached the 1,000-point plateau on Dec. 28 against Maryland.

UConn (19-0 overall, 9-0 AAC) hasn't missed a beat in the three games she has sat out. But don't tell that to Auriemma.

"Having Tuck back on the court is like having three other players out there," he said. "She solves so many matchup problems before they come up.

"Tuck and Rosemary do their own thing. So when they no, I just go OK and walk away. When they say she's got a shot, I go OK. When they say she's good to go, then I know she's good to go. Tuck doesn't mess around. She knows her body better than anyone. When she says it's no good, it's no good. When she says I'm good, I trust her."

Tuck said last week that she wanted to be sure she'd be ready for the Huskies' showdown at No. 2 South Carolina on Feb. 8. After facing Memphis Saturday, UConn visits Tulane Wednesday and hosts East Carolina Feb. 6 before heading to Columbia.

Practicing even on a limited basis was a good step forward.

"It was rough, it was like I haven't played in a long time," Tuck said. "I have to get out there and it felt good to be out there with my teammates. I want to get that feel back with them.

"I'll know (whether I'll play against Memphis) tomorrow. It's pretty clear on how it feels. When I wake up in the morning, if it's feeling good then I'll be good. If not, then I'll be in dress clothes."

Tags: Carl Adamec

 (Kevin Jairaj)
(Kevin Jairaj)

The University of Michigan hired UConn's Warde Manuel as its new athletic director on Friday, bringing back a well-regarded alumnus who once played football for the Wolverines - just like its coach, Jim Harbaugh.

The 47-year-old Manuel, who had been Connecticut's athletic director since 2012, was given a five-year deal by Michigan. The salary was not immediately disclosed.

"Athletics plays a key role in the UM community and beyond," school President Mark Schlissel said. "Warde Manuel knows how to succeed in the classroom, compete on the field and positively contribute to the social fabric of a vibrant university."

Manuel played football at Michigan under coach Bo Schembechler - as Harbaugh did - before serving as an athletic administrator for the school. The former defensive end also was a track athlete.

Manuel went to UConn after being the AD at the University at Buffalo, which he helped establish as a Division I program. He took over UConn's athletic department in February 2012, when the school was dealing with academic sanctions that kept the Huskies out of the 2013 NCAA men's basketball tournament. In his tenure, the school won six NCAA national championships.

"When he came in, there were a lot of unanswered questions that were floating around the university," UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma recalled. "We were getting a new president and that was going to be a big change, obviously. The whole conference thing was a huge issue when he was coming in. ... I mean, it's a different job now than when he got here, and he had a lot to do with that. No one does anything alone, but I want to say that he set a tone that was the right tone for us, exactly what we needed."

He navigated UConn through the retirement of Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun, agreeing to hire Kevin Ollie, Calhoun's hand-picked successor. But he gave Ollie just a seven-month contract, signing him to a five-year deal only after Ollie had proved he could lead the Huskies to academic and athletic success.

The team has since posted back-to-back perfect academic progress reports to the NCAA.

"That's one of his legacies," Connecticut President Susan Herbst said Wednesday. "We are not in APR trouble. He brought high academic standards to the athletic department in a way that is permanent and lasting."

Ollie said Manuel also will be remembered for breaking down the walls among the various athletic programs and getting every team to work not for the benefit of UConn basketball or UConn football, but for the university as a whole.

"When I came back everybody had different logos on," Ollie said. "Now everything says UConn."

Michigan has not hired experienced athletic directors in the past, but made the most of an opportunity to change that as it searched for a leader to run a department with a $151 million budget, 900 athletes and a staff of 350.

Jim Hackett had served as Michigan's athletic director since Oct. 31, 2014, when he came out of retirement to replace Dave Brandon after Brandon resigned. Hackett was not interested in the full-time job. Potential candidates, all of whom are currently athletic directors with ties to Michigan, also included Jeff Long at Arkansas, Boston College's Brad Bates and Colorado State's Joe Parker.

Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press

Tags: University of Michigan

Connecticut Huskies guard Gabby Williams drives against Southern Methodist Mustangs guard McKenzie Adams in the second quarter at Moody Coliseum. (Tim Heitman/USATSI)
Connecticut Huskies guard Gabby Williams drives against Southern Methodist Mustangs guard McKenzie Adams in the second quarter at Moody Coliseum. (Tim Heitman/USATSI)

Gabby Williams averages playing about half the game for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team. But the Huskies' sophomore forward is into it for a full 40 minutes.

Whether it's having her actions speak for her on the court or her being vocal on the bench, Williams is being heard around the American Athletic Conference.

"Last year coming in, it was easy for me to stay within myself," Williams said. "There were a lot of things to learn, and now things that hadn't been hard for me before were. Now that I understand being vocal will help me get outside myself, it makes it more fun to play and I think you play better when you're more involved."

Williams is set to make her fourth consecutive start Saturday when No. 1 UConn entertains Memphis in AAC action at the XL Center in Hartford (SNY, noon). In the last three games, she is averaging 9.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.7 steals in just 17.7 minutes.

No wonder coach Geno Auriemma believes she's playing her best ball since she arrived here.

"That's the hardest thing for players today to do, actually be in the game when they are sitting on the bench," Auriemma said. "You watch a lot of teams around the country, the guys on the bench, they're in a coma, 90 percent of them. Then when they go into the game, they have no idea what's going on.

"I want them to be alive on the bench. Be alive. Be in the game. Don't just be in the game when you're in the game. Be in the game when you're sitting there because that will help you be better when you actually get in the game. Gabby understands that now."

On the season, Williams is averaging 9.8 points and 6.3 rebounds in 19.4 minutes. She leads the AAC in field-goal percentage (61.9), as she did a year ago when she shared the league's 2015 Sixth Man Award and was an all-freshman team selection, and is fifth in steals (2.2). She's also raised her free throw percentage from 46.2 percent a year ago to 71.4 percent.

But, unlike last year, she's getting the job done in the early stages instead of when victory is secure.

"These last several games my defense and energy have been better," Williams said. "It's mostly been about being more aggressive. And I'm doing more things when it matters, when the game could be decided. That's what I'm here before."

In their last five games starting with their win at Memphis on Jan. 13, the Huskies have outscored their opponents by at least 18 points and by an average of 22.0 points in the first quarter. With Williams starting the last three as Morgan Tuck sits out with right knee soreness, the Sparks, Nevada, native has made her impact felt from the opening tip.

Against Central Florida on Jan. 20, she had nine points, three rebounds, and a steal in the first eight minutes as UConn built a 19-point lead. At SMU last Saturday, she contributed four points, six rebounds, and a steal in the opening eight minutes as the Huskies took a 14-point lead. Then Wednesday at Tulsa, she had six points, five rebounds, and two steals in a 24-0 run that gave UConn a 29-3 bulge early in the second quarter.

She doesn't stop when she's taking the rest. That's when she's leading the cheers.

"If you ask any of my teammates they will tell you that I'm very vocal off the court," Williams said. "I try to have a lot of energy and it was a matter of me bringing it to the court."

Williams opened the season with double-doubles against Ohio State and Kansas State. But over the next five games, Auriemma didn't see the aggressiveness out of her that he wanted.

When the Huskies took the Mohegan Sun Arena floor for their game against Florida State on Dec. 11, Williams was on the bench and freshman Napheesa Collier was in the starting lineup.

"You don't want to say that you don't care," Williams said. "But you have to trust the coaches. It's like when they changed my position. I wasn't necessarily happy to be a forward. But look where I am now."

She went back to her role of a year ago and was productive. When Tuck was shut down to rest her knee last week, Williams got the call and hit the floor running.

"When Gabby becomes tentative then she's just like everyone else," Auriemma said. "What sets her apart from everyone else is her explosiveness, her ability to just instinctively make plays. If there is any kind of 'Should I or shouldn't I?' it takes away one of her biggest strengths. So I think as she settled into 'Coach wants me to do this. OK, I'm good with that,' it's come back to her. It's nothing that we didn't expect."

But Williams expects to do even better. With February around the corner and the stretch drive to the postseason near, it's time to pick up the pace.

The Huskies (19-0 overall, 9-0 AAC) have a two-game lead over South Florida and Temple in the league race and host the Bulls Feb. 29 and travel to Philadelphia to face the Owls Feb. 14. And, of course, there's that game at No. 2 South Carolina -- the nation's only other unbeaten team -- Feb. 8.

"I need to finish better, so I need to be focused," Williams said. "I have to avoid turnovers. But maybe the big thing will be being a better defender on the ball. I'm starting to get deflections off the ball, but I want to be able to put pressure on someone to turn them over."

While Williams is playing her best ball, Saturday's opponent -- Memphis -- is as well. The Tigers (12-9, 6-4) have matched their season high of three wins to move into the top half of the AAC standings. Their run started on Jan. 20 when they upset USF in overtime at Roane Fieldhouse.

Senior guard Ariel Hearn had 33 points that night against the Bulls and is the reigning AAC Player of the Week. Hearn and teammate Asianna Fuqua-Bey got into early foul trouble when the Tigers faced UConn earlier this month and they never recovered as the Huskies rolled to an 86-46 win.

It will be the last appearance at the XL Center for senior All-Americans Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson. Stewart recorded her 1,000th career rebound and 350th blocked shot in the win over Tulsa. She is also within 34 points of second-place Tina Charles (2,346) on UConn's all-time scoring list. Jefferson needs eight assists to pass Bria Hartley (559) for fifth place at UConn and four steals to pass Maya Moore (310) for third in that category.

A victory would be the Huskies' 57th straight and give them their 23rd consecutive 20-win season.

Tags: Carl Adamec

GEICO SportsNite: UConn defeated 00:01:06
Highlights from the UConn men's basketball team's 58-57 defeat against Cincinnati on Thursday night.

Box score

HARTFORD -- Gary Clark's 3-point play with 12 seconds left lifted Cincinnati to a 58-57 win over UConn on Thursday night.

Clark and Farad Cobb scored 13 points apiece for the Bearcats (16-6, 6-3 American Athletic), who won their third consecutive game.

Sterling Gibbs had 14 points to lead UConn (14-6, 4-3), which had won three in a row coming in.

Gibbs missed a jumper on UConn's final possession. Shonn Miller could not put in a follow-up attempt and Jalen Adams' desperation shot at the buzzer hit the rim and bounced away.

Cincinnati scored just four points over the final seven minutes, but Clark was able to draw a foul on Miller in the lane, and his jumper and free throw provided the winning margin.

Copyright The Associated Press

 


UConn Women's Post Game: Post 00:02:53
Geno Auriemma and Breanna Stewart react to UConn's 64-point win over Tulsa and know that, even with the win, the Huskies have to improve.

Breanna Stewart had more points and rebounds and as many blocked shots as Tulsa did in the opening quarter of UConn's rout during Wednesday's American Athletic Conference game.

It was that kind of night for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's senior and the Golden Hurricane as well.

The two-time national Player of the Year had a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds, joining the Huskies' 1,000-rebound club in the process, as No. 1 UConn pounded host Tulsa 94-30 before a crowd of 2,091 at the Reynolds Center for its 56th consecutive victory.

Stewart (1,007) joins Tina Charles (1,367), Maya Moore (1,276), Rebecca Lobo (1,268), Stefanie Dolson (1,101), and Jamelle Elliott (1,054) in the Huskies' 1,000-rebound club.

"I'm not surprised when our best players do some great things because you come to expect that from them," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Sometimes I'm amazed at some of the accomplishments that our players reach individually because it's not a normal situation where they'll get 35 minutes every night and take every shot and everything is geared around them. So when they get this stuff, it's really significant for them. There's a lot more that Stewie is going to accomplish in the next couple of months, but this is a great milestone for her."

The North Syracuse, New York, native also passed the 2,300-point mark as she is within 34 of Charles (2,346) for second behind Moore on UConn's all-time scoring list. Plus, Stewart recorded her 350th career blocked shot with four in the game while tacking on five assists.

Katie Lou Samuelson added 14 points, 11 of which came in the first half, for the Huskies (19-0 overall, 9-0 AAC). Moriah Jefferson also had 14 points. Napheesa Collier was the fourth player in double figures with 12 points while adding eight rebounds. Gabby Williams, making her third straight start in place of the injured Morgan Tuck, finished with eight points, eight rebounds, and four steals.

UConn -- which beat Tulsa by 60 on Jan. 6 -- did not trail Wednesday, scoring the first five points. But after a three-pointer by Kelsee Grovee got Tulsa (7-14, 4-6) on the board with 2:08 gone, the Huskies held the Hurricane without a point for 9:33 and the hosts missed 16 consecutive shots.

Stewart finished the first quarter with 12 points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots as UConn led 27-3. Williams capped the 24-0 run with a hoop to begin the second quarter.

After slow starts against Houston and South Florida that saw the Huskies face their two largest deficits of the season of seven and eight points, UConn has outscored its last five opponents by at least 18 points and by an average of 22.0 points in the opening 10 minutes.

"We get most of our work done in practice," Auriemma said. "And for us, practice is a lot more meaningful than showing up and running throuh our plays. We try to set a tone for how we want to play. That's one of the things we've tried to do. Getting Stewie back in the lane for the most part has really helped. It's a different mindset as you get towards the end of January going into February. Things just change mentally."

Tulsa did not reach double figures until 33 seconds remained in the first half. It was 53-12 at the break and the Hurricane got no closer the rest of the way.

UConn held Tulsa to 17.9 percent shooting from the floor. It also held big advantages in rebounds (49-29), points in the paint (36-8), and points off of turnovers (31-8).

"A couple of days before the Memphis game we changed up some things defensively and it's made a big difference," Auriemma said. "We've gotten more involved and more aggressive. We've become more of an attacking kind of team than we were a month ago."

Tatyana Perez led Tulsa with six points.

The Huskies will look to secure their 23rd consecutive 20-win season on Saturday when they entertain Memphis at the XL Center in Hartford (SNY, noon).

Tags: Carl Adamec

UConn Women's Post Game: Recap 00:02:00
The UConn women's basketball team defeated Tulsa on Wednesday night, 94-30, behind 24 points and 10 rebounds from Breanna Stewart.

Breanna Stewart scored 24 points and had 10 rebounds to help lead Connecticut to a dominating 94-30 victory over Tulsa Wednesday night.

Moriah Jefferson and Katie Lou Samuelson each added 14 points for the three-time defending national champion Huskies (19-0, 9-0 American), who won their 56th consecutive game.

For Stewart, who also added five assists and four blocked shots, her rebound total pushed her over 1,000 for her career, becoming the sixth UConn player to reach the milestone.

Tatyana Perez scored six points to lead Tulsa (7-14, 4-6), which lost for the fourth time in its last five.


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

The University of Connecticut athletic director, Warde Manuel, is leaving his post and taking the same job at the University of Michigan, according to The Detroit Free Press.

The Free Press reports Michigan "intends to hire" Manuel as AD, citing a source familiar with the situation (Jan. 27).

Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald would neither confirm nor deny the report. 

Manuel is a Michigan graduate, played football for Bo Schembechler, and worked as an assistant AD at the school. He played alongside current Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh.

There are no reports on who may replace Manuel at UConn.

 


Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) works for the rebound against UCF Knights forward Joslyn Massey (32) in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) works for the rebound against UCF Knights forward Joslyn Massey (32) in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II)

Breanna Stewart's work on the defensive end has been a work in progress ever since she showed up to play for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

Coach Geno Auriemma reminds her of it most every day that she's on the court.

But the senior All-American and two-time national Player of the Year is about to reach an impressive milestone. She enters No. 1 UConn's American Athletic Conference game at Tulsa Wednesday (SNY, 8 p.m.) three rebounds away from 1,000 for her career.

"He's saying it for a reason. He's looking for some kind of response," Stewart said. "Coach Auriemma is trying to get the best out of me as an overall player. Defense is something I need to get better at. I know that. So when he says that it makes me want to work on it more and get better."

Stewart would join Tina Charles (1,367), Maya Moore (1,276), Rebecca Lobo (1,268), Stefanie Dolson (1,101), and Jamelle Elliott (1,054) in the Huskies' 1,000-rebound club.

Wednesday's game at the Reynolds Center will be the 133rd of Stewart's career.

"One thousand rebounds would be a big deal because not too many people can get to that milestone," Stewart said. "And you have to after rebounds. You have to fight for rebounds. Points just come sometimes, but rebounds you have to go get them. Rebounds take effort."

Stewart averaged 6.4 rebounds per game as a freshman, 8.1 as a sophomore, 7.8 as a junior, and is at 8.3 in her 17 games of her senior year.

"My effort has gotten better," Stewart said. "I need to rebound better, but from my freshman year to now I've become more aggressive in seeking out rebounds instead of having them come to me."

Moore, Charles, and Lobo also have 2,000 points like Stewart (2,288) has.

Lobo and Charles have 300 blocked shots like Stewart (346) has. Lobo is UConn's all-time leader in rejections with 396. If the Huskies play their maximum 20 games, the North Syracuse, New York, native would have to average 2.55 blocks to pass the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.

Stewart is averaging 3.4 blocks per game as a senior and had a career high nine in last Saturday's win at SMU. She's done it while staying out of foul trouble for the most part.

"You have to have good timing to block shots or I would foul a lot," Stewart said. "I've never fouled out. Close, though."

While Auriemma will continue to push Stewart -- who was named as a finalist for the 2016 United States Olympic Team on Monday -- to improve on the defensive end, even he can't deny the numbers.

"Obviously anytime you get 1,000 points or 1,000 rebounds, that says something about you," Auriemma said. "That number - 1,000 - is the gold standard for a college basketball player.

"Some players are in the lane all of the time and they get 1,000 rebounds. Then there are some players like Stewie who are knocking in threes and are playing all over the floor and are guarding every position and they still get 1,000 rebounds. That's one heck of an accomplishment."

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) claps as they beat the South Florida Bulls during the second half at USF Sun Dome. (Kim Klement)
Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) claps as they beat the South Florida Bulls during the second half at USF Sun Dome. (Kim Klement)

Breanna Stewart will likely be spending a good portion of the summer in Seattle.

But will there be a trip to Rio de Janeiro as well?

The University of Connecticut's senior All-American as well as five other ex-Huskies have been named as finalists for the 2016 United States Olympic women's basketball team, USA Basketball announced on Monday. Twenty-five finalists in all were selected by the USA Basketball women's national team player selection committee, which will choose the 12-member Olympic Team later this year.

Also on the list of 25 are former UConn All-Americans and WNBA players Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm, Tina Charles of the New York Liberty, Stefanie Dolson of the Washington Mystics, Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx, and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury. Bird and Taurasi will be looking to match the mark of Hall of Fame inductees Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie with four Olympic gold medals. Charles and Moore won their first Olympic gold in 2012. 

UConn's Geno Auriemma will coach the Americans for the second time after leading them to a fifth straight gold medal in London four years ago.

"I think the committee has a tough decision ahead of it," Auriemma said in a statement. "When I look at this list of athletes, we could split them down the middle and have two very competitive teams. We have a great mix of gold medalists and players who are hungry to play in their first Olympics. There is versatility at all positions. Our posts are the strongest we've seen in years, we have guys who can shoot, guys who can defend, and I'm just happy I don't have to make the decision as to who will be playing in Rio."

Also, as reported last month here, USA Basketball will conduct a training camp Feb. 21-23 at UConn. Athletes taking part in what is expected to be the final camp before the Olympic team is selected, will be announced at a later date and will come from the pool of finalists.

Stewart said after UConn's win against Maryland on Dec. 28 that she would talk to Auriemma and national team director Carol Callan about whether she'll take part in the camp.

The North Syracuse, New York, native was part of Team USA that won the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA world championships. She is averaging 19.3 points per game as a senior at UConn and ranks in the top 10 in the American Athletic Conference in rebounds (8.3), assists (4.1), assist-to-turnover ratio (plus-2.6), blocked shots (3.4), field-goal percentage (58.1), free-throw percentage (81.8), and 3-point field goal percentage (44.9).

The other finalists are Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, and Lindsay Whalen of the Lynx, Candice Dupree and Brittney Griner of the Mercury, Tamika Catchings and Briann January of the Indiana Fever, Elena Delle Donne and Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky, Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims of the Dallas Wings, Kayla McBride and Danielle Robinson of the San Antonio Stars, Nneka Ogwumike, Jantel Lavender and Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks, Angel McCoughtry of the Atlanta Dream, Chiney Ogwumike of the Connecticut Sun, and also Jewell Loyd of the Storm.

"Naming the Olympic team finalists is another step in our selection process," Callan said in a statement. "Because of the quality and talent in the USA national team pool, every time we pare the list it is a difficult task. Yet, we eventually have to get down to a 12-member team, so we conscientiously look at the present goal of winning a gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games with an eye to sustaining our success in the future. This list of finalists is a mix of veterans, youth, international savvy and USA Basketball experience.

"What adds to the challenge of picking a team is the devotion and commitment all of our athletes have to our USA National Team and representing their country, especially given the year-round play many of them have in the WNBA and on overseas teams."

The 2016 Olympic Games will be held in August 5-21. UConn sophomore guard Kia Nurse will take part as a member of Team Canada.

POLL POSITION

UConn and South Carolina moved closer to a potential 1-2 showdown two weeks from Monday.

The Huskies (18-0) remained the No. 1 team in the Associated Press released Monday, receiving all 32 first-place votes. South Carolina (19-0) stayed a solid No. 2.

UConn visits Tulsa Wednesday (SNY, 8 p.m.), hosts Memphis Saturday, travels to Tulane on Feb. 3, and entertains East Carolina on Feb. 6 prior to going to South Carolina on Feb. 8. The Gamecocks host Ole Miss Thursday and No. 12 Kentucky Sunday, then go to College Station Feb. 4 to take on No. 10 Texas A&M before UConn comes into Columbia.

Notre Dame, Baylor, Maryland, Texas, Ohio State, and Arizona State also maintained their spots from three through eight. Oregon State moved up two spots to ninth and Texas A&M rose three places to round out the top 10.  

South Florida (13-5) dropped five spots from its all-time high of No. 15 last week to 20th following its overtime loss at Memphis. The Huskies and the Bulls continue to be the only AAC teams to receive votes.

Washington (15-4) joined the poll at No. 25 for the first time since 2003 as Florida dropped out. Morgan Valley, a three-time national champion at UConn (2002-04), is in her first year as an assistant coach for the west-coast Huskies.

WATCH LIST

Senior All-Americans Stewart and Moriah Jefferson along with redshirt junior forward Morgan Tuck have been named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award women's national Player of the Year midseason watch list by the United States Basketball Writers Association.

Stewart was the 2014 and 2015 USBWA Player of the Year.

Jefferson is averaging 13.4 points, 5.5 assists, and 2.7 steals. The Glenn Heights, Texas, native became the third UConn player with 500 career assists and 300 career steals -- joining former Wade Trophy winners Moore and Jennifer -- during Saturday's win at SMU.

Tuck, who is sidelined with right knee soreness, is averaging 14.9 points per game and reached the 1,000 plateau against Maryland on Dec. 28.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Jay Rose of Southington High posted this picture of other players who have committed to UConn who attended the Huskies basketball game against Georgetown Saturday in Hartford. (Picture from Twitter / Jay Rose)
Jay Rose of Southington High posted this picture of other players who have committed to UConn who attended the Huskies basketball game against Georgetown Saturday in Hartford. (Picture from Twitter / Jay Rose)

UConn added three commitments to its incoming football Class of 2016 over the weekend, including a second high school player who had originally committed to Syracuse.

Noel Brouse, a defensive lineman from Allentown, Pa., orginally committed to the Orange, but withdrew after Syracuse fired Scott Shafer as coach in November. Cam DeGeorge, an offensive tackle from Lynnfield, Mass., also changed from Syracuse to UConn in December after Shafer's firing.

UConn also got committments from long snapper Nick Zecchino, from UConn coach Bob Diaco's hometown of Cedar Grove, N.J., and Brett Graham, a tight end from State College, Pa.

UConn cannot comment on signings until national signing day Feb. 3, but signaled it has 17 commitments from high school seniors by putting 17 paw prints in a Tweet sent Sunday (Jan. 23).

Commitments aren't official until signed letters of intent are received. The Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner has reported other schools have contacted players who have committed to UConn, including Rutgers (Cam DeGeorge, Donovan Williams, Mike Lonsdorf), LSU (Nino Leone), Purdue and Wake Forest (both contacted DeGeorge, according to Conner).

UConn's Class of 2016:

  • Donovan Williams: QB, 6-3, 202, Woodbridge Va.
  • Keyion Dixon: CB/QB, 6-3, 178, Glastonbury
  • Eddie Hahn: QB/ATH, 6-3, 200, Red Bank, N.J.
  • Quayvon Skanes: WR, 5-10, 170, Chicago
  • Tahj Herring: CB/WR, 6-1, 186, Suffield Academy (Hartford)
  • Ryan Gilmartin: LB/FB, 6-0, 230, Matthews, N.C.
  • Nino Leone: OL, 6-3, 335, South Hamilton, Mass.
  • Jay Rose: TE, 6-3, 220, Southington
  • Nate Hopkins: RB, 6-1, 215, Flower Mound, Texas
  • Ja'Kevious Vickers: RB, 5-10, 195, Belle Glade, Fla.
  • Mike Lonsdorf: T, 6-7, 270, Somerville, N.J.
  • AJ Garson: TE, 6-6, 232, West Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Tyler Coyle: S/WR, 6-1, 190, Windsor
  • Cam DeGeorge: OT, 6-5, 262, Lynnfield, Mass.
  • Nick Zecchino: LS, ATH, 6-1, 205, Cedar Grove, N.J.
  • Noel Brouse: DL, 6-5, 260,Allentown, Pa.
  • Brett Graham: P/TE, State College, Pa.

UConn routs SMU, 90-37 00:02:08
Breanna Stewart finished a block shy of a triple-double while Moriah Jefferson chipped in with 19 points in UConn's 90-37 win over SMU.

Moriah Jefferson and the University of Connecticut women's basketball team made a little history for themselves Saturday.

Jefferson became the third UConn player with 500 assists and 300 steals, while the top-ranked Huskies took hold of the top three winning streaks in NCAA history by defeating SMU 90-37 in American Athletic Conference play at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas.

Playing about 20 minutes from her home in Glenn Heights, Texas, Jefferson finished with 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the floor, six assists and six steals. With 549 assists and 304 steals, she joins former Wade Trophy winners Jennifer Rizzotti and Maya Moore in that UConn 500/300 club. The 2015 Nancy Lieberman Award winner as the nation's top point guard also moved past Moore (544) and Pam Webber (546) into sixth at UConn all-time in assists. Bria Hartley is fifth with 559. Jefferson passed Svetlana Abrosimova (299) into fourth place at UConn in steals. Moore is third at 310.

"The game she played today is a perfect example of how much she's grown as a player," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in his postgame press conference. "I didn't want to take her out and I would have left her play the whole 40 minutes so her family and friends could see her. She put on quite a performance and it's typical of what she's done. Every year she's added something physically and mentally to her game. There are times she plays the way she did today for long stretches.

"I go back to all the great guards that we've had, and there's a quiet confidence that she has that she thinks she can do anything."    

It was likely the final collegiate game for Jefferson in Texas -- Dallas is hosting a 2016 NCAA tournament regional though the Huskies seem destined to be placed in Bridgeport. In seven games in the Lone Star State (one each at Texas A&M and Baylor, two at Houston, and three at SMU), the Huskies are 7-0 and Jefferson is averaging 11.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. She had the lone double-double of her 135 games in a UConn uniform two years ago at Moody Coliseum.

The Huskies (18-0 overall, 8-0 AAC) won their 55th straight game to break a tie with Louisiana Tech for the third-longest winning streak in NCAA history. UConn also holds the top two at 90 (2008-10) and 70 (2001-03) as well as No. 5 at 47 (2013-14).

"Obviously, everyone wants to win every game that they play," Auriemma said. "We've been through this before, you know. It's nothing new for me.

"I don't worry about what the score is or what the streak is. I'm trying to make sure that we're better and we're trying to do the right things and that we're playing the right way, and that we're in position to be really good when March comes around." 

Breanna Stewart had 15 points, 12 rebounds (997 in her career), seven assists, and a career high nine blocked shots before leaving with 41.1 seconds to go in the third quarter.

UConn has had only four triple-doubles (Laura Lishness, Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes) but never a quadruple-double. Auriemma knew where the senior All-American stood but it was time to get her out of the game.

"It's good and bad that we get these updates on the bench now," Auriemma said. "We used to not get those and I wouldn't know until the game ended what was going on. Someone mentioned that (a quadruple-double) was a possibility. Stewie put on a nice show for these fans. It was a great crowd and this is a great place to play basketball."

The only thing Stewart didn't do was dunk, though she came up just short attempting to slam a Jefferson miss in the third quarter.

"People put a lot of stock into if a woman can dunk," Auriemma said. "It's obvious they can and a bunch of them do and Stewie is no different. I've seen her do it a bunch of times in practice. The fact that it may not happen in a game ... We don't go out of our way to create it and I wouldn't go out of my way to stop it."

The Huskies put away SMU (8-10, 3-4) early.

After a McKenzie Adams basket tied it at 2, UConn went on a 16-2 run. Jefferson and Gabby Williams started it off and Jefferson followed with a 3-pointer. Katie Lou Samuelson then got a layup off a Jefferson steal before Gabrielle Wilkins got on the board for the Mustangs. A Williams hoop, a trey by Saniya Chong and a Stewart bucket made it 18-4.

It was 24-6 after one quarter and a second 16-2 run in the second quarter pushed the lead to 31. A Chong 3-pointer made it 52-20 at halftime and SMU got no closer as the Huskies scored the first 15 points of the third quarter, holding the Mustangs without a point for 6:31.

Samuelson added 13 points while Williams had 10 points, seven rebounds, and four steals. Chong came off the bench for 10 points.

Redshirt junior forward Morgan Tuck missed her second straight game due to right knee soreness. It's hoped that she'll return in about 10 days.

McKenzie Adams had 13 points for SMU, which was outscored 32-3 in points off of turnovers.

UConn was hoping to return home after the game Saturday. The Huskies are scheduled to fly to Oklahoma on Tuesday for an AAC game with Tulsa on Wednesday (SNY, 8 p.m.).

 

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies guard Rodney Purvis and guard Sterling Gibbs react after a basket against the Georgetown Hoyas in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II/USATSI)
Connecticut Huskies guard Rodney Purvis and guard Sterling Gibbs react after a basket against the Georgetown Hoyas in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II/USATSI)

(AP) -- Rodney Purvis made two foul shots with 17.7 second left to help UConn lock up a 68-62 win over Georgetown on Saturday.

In a throwback to the old Big East days, the Huskies (14-5) grinded their way to a win at the foul line, hitting 20 of 25 in the second half. Purvis finished with 17 points and Sterling Gibbs added 16. Shonn Miller added 15 and Daniel Hamilton 11.

UConn, which led 40-33 at the break, won despite shooting just 19 percent in the second half (4-for-21). It went 29 for 36 at the line for the game. Georgetown (12-8) was 7 for 8.

Reggie Cameron led the Hoyas with 13 points, L.J. Peak and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera each added 12.

This was the first meeting between the schools since Feb. 27, 2013 when the Hoyas beat UConn 79-78 in double overtime in their final Big East meeting. >> Read more...


Jan 10, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson (4) drives to the basket against the South Florida Bulls during the second half at USF Sun Dome. Connecticut Huskies defeated the South Florida Bulls 75-59. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Jan 10, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson (4) drives to the basket against the South Florida Bulls during the second half at USF Sun Dome. Connecticut Huskies defeated the South Florida Bulls 75-59. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Over a six-day span that started Friday, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team will spend more time on airplanes than it will on the court.

The top-ranked Huskies flew to Dallas on Friday and will take on Southern Methodist University in an American Athletic Conference game Saturday at Moody Coliseum (SNY, 3 p.m.). Weather permitting, they will head back to campus after the game.

On Tuesday, they will fly to Tulsa for an AAC game with the Golden Hurricane on Wednesday. Again, they will fly home right after the game.

That's about 6,000 miles of air travel. But if UConn could go right from Dallas to Tulsa, a 265-mile journey, that amount would be cut almost in half.

"Well, the SMU game is Saturday and, unfortunately, the Tulsa game is not until Wednesday," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We're not going to be able to go down there and play Saturday and stay down there Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and come home Wednesday night or Thursday morning. That's just not going to happen.

"So we have to go down there and play, come back Saturday night, hopefully if the snow is not a problem, and then head back down that way on Tuesday. It's not ideal. I wish the game was Monday and we could play Saturday-Monday. But it is what it is. We have to come back and then make another trip out there."

If the Huskies stayed in Texas or in Oklahoma, the players would miss three full days of classes. By returning from Dallas Saturday night and going to Tulsa late Tuesday afternoon, they'll miss only one day of class.

Why didn't the AAC package the games to be a Saturday-Monday or a Sunday-Tuesday deal?

"A lot of times it could be the building is not available, or the men'" schedule," Auriemma said. "I'm sure if everybody had their druthers, they would do it that way. Who wouldn't want to do it that way? Apparently, there are glitches that you can't do it that way, otherwise of course we would try to do it that way. Who wants to take two trips out that way?"

The SMU men are not on campus this weekend as they play at Temple Sunday. The Tulsa men are home Sunday but then go on the road to play Houston Wednesday.

Auriemma would like to see the AAC use travel partners (UConn/Temple, UCF/USF, for example) more. He agrees that too much travel can wear the players down.

"It can, if you're not careful," Auriemma said. "That's why I think you have to recruit a certain kind of kid. You have to recruit kids who are going to do well in school. That's a priority. Don't go to a game on Wednesday and worry about the class you're missing Wednesday afternoon. You have to know you have it under control. That is a big part of recruiting for us, too. We know the demands and the pressures on these kids, and we try to find those kids that can handle that. Otherwise, it is not feasible."

UConn (17-0 overall, 7-0 AAC) takes a two-game lead over USF, Temple, and Tulane in the AAC race into Saturday's game. A victory would be its 55th straight, which would break a tie with Louisiana Tech and give it the three longest winning streaks in NCAA history.

The Huskies are coming off their 106-51 rout of UCF in Hartford Wednesday. They have had back-to-back 100-point games. The last time they reached triple figures three games in a row came from Nov. 26-30, 1999. They scored 109 against Old Dominion, 101 against Pepperdine, and 100 against Illinois.

It's also a homecoming for senior All-American point guard Moriah Jefferson, who grew up about 20 minutes away from the SMU campus in Glenn Heights, Texas. This is her first trip home since tornadoes hit Glenn Heights the weekend after Christmas.

"It's right around the corner from my house, so if I get a chance to go home I will see some of those guys, see some of the damage and see how they fixed some of it already," Jefferson said. "They're doing a good job of rebuilding already so it will be nice to get back there and see it."

Jefferson can also make her way up the charts on a pair of UConn's all-time lists. She has 543 assists and can move past No. 7 Maya Moore (544) and No. 6 Pam Webber (546). She is also two steals short of 300 for her career. If she gets them, she'll move past Svetlana Abrosimova into fourth place at UConn and join Moore and Jennifer Rizzotti as the only Huskies with 500 assists and 300 steals.

Redshirt junior forward Morgan Tuck will miss her second straight game due to right knee soreness and sophomore Gabby Williams is expected to again get the start. Williams had a career high 19 points along with seven rebounds and three steals in the win over UCF. She leads the AAC in field-goal percentage at 61.5 with teammate Breanna Stewart second (58.8).

"Right now, her confidence is really high," Auriemma said.

Stewart could become the sixth UConn player to reach 1,000 rebounds, but needs 15. Her career high is 16 set against Dayton in the 2015 NCAA Albany Regional final.

SMU (8-9, 3-3) is coming off a 54-42 home loss to Tulane. Sophomore guard McKenzie Adams leads the Mustangs in scoring (14.1). Her classmate, forward Alicia Froling, is one of three AAC players averaging a double-double as she checks in at 12.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.

UConn is 4-0 against SMU. In their last visit to Moody Coliseum a year ago, the Huskies led 74-9 midway through the second half en route to an 87-28 victory. The Mustangs are improved and lost to No. 10 Mississippi State by just two on Dec. 21. But they struggle to score and have reached 60 points in one of their last six games.


Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson (4) shoots against Florida State Seminoles guard Emiah Bingley (3) in the first half at Mohegan Sun Arena. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson (4) shoots against Florida State Seminoles guard Emiah Bingley (3) in the first half at Mohegan Sun Arena. (David Butler II)

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson no longer has to set the alarm clock to get up and go to class. All that's left for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's senior to get her bachelor's degree in May is a thesis that she is writing this semester.

But those who have watched her make the Huskies go the past four seasons know she doesn't like to stay in one place very long.

"I still get up early," Jefferson said. "Not early, but we have a set breakfast schedule that we have to go through every morning so I get up, I go down there, and it gives me an opportunity to do a lot more shooting and get some shots in at the gym. I still have to meet with teachers. I still have meetings and I still have a regular schedule. I'm not going to be staying in bed and sleeping all day, definitely not."

There will be no rest for Jefferson this weekend. The Glenn Heights, Texas, native will play what will likely be her final college game in her home state Saturday when No. 1 UConn takes on Southern Methodist University in American Athletic Conference action at Moody Coliseum in Dallas (SNY, 3 p.m.).

Jefferson calls her individualized major "Youth in Sport" and the subject of her thesis is "The positive versus the negative effects of sports on youth."

The reason for her thesis goes back to her days in Glenn Heights.

"Where I'm from, the area I live in, a lot of times when kids are playing sports they are in a structured setting and they can keep out of trouble," Jefferson said. "But if they're not playing sports ... I've seen some of my friends get in trouble and some have been killed. I wanted to go in and look at the backgrounds of what happens when you're in a sports setting and also when you're not."

Jefferson was home schooled growing up and made her name on the basketball court playing for the Texas Home Educators Sports Association. She joined THESA as an eighth grader and helped the program win five National Christian Homeschool Basketball national championships.

Add the three NCAA titles at UConn and she has never lost the final game of her season.

She made two unofficial visits to UConn including to the 2010 First Night program. She was joined there by future teammates Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, and Kiah Stokes. She became the first Texan to commit to coach Geno Auriemma in May, 2011, but it wasn't easy.

"It's tough, I mean, you're going so far away from home," Jefferson said. "In my situation, I was home schooled, too, so that's a big thing about being around family. But I knew I could handle it. I knew if I came here I could do that. I had support from my family, support from family friends. I had family friends here that I learned to get along with so that made it a lot easier kind of bonding with my teammates and connecting. It's one of those things that you can't really explain. You just come and you feel it. When I came here, something clicked.

"I had really good relationships with Texas A&M and Baylor for the most part. They were in my top three. Those were two schools that I was around from about eighth grade because they were so close. It was tough to make a decision to come this far instead of staying home, but it was one that me and my family decided was best for me, and I'm really happy with the decision I made."

Jefferson reached the 1,000-point plateau in a 2015 NCAA tournament game against Rutgers and is making her way up the charts in assists and steals. With 543 assists coming into Saturday, she can move past No. 7 Maya Moore (544) and No. 6 Pam Webber (546) on UConn's all-time list. She is also two steals short of 300 for her career. If she gets them, she'll move past Svetlana Abrosimova into fourth place at UConn and join Moore and Jennifer Rizzotti as the only Huskies with 500 assists and 300 steals.

She was a 2015 WBCA All-American and will be inducted into the Huskies of Honor program on Senior Day next month. She also joined Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and Renee Montgomery as Huskies to win the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard. She and Stewart are among 30 candidates for the 2016 Senior CLASS Award.

Her success has followed her back to Texas. In six games in the Lone Star State (one each at Texas A&M and Baylor, two each at SMU and Houston), the Huskies are 6-0 and Jefferson is averaging 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. She had the lone double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) of her 134 games in a UConn uniform two years ago at Moody Coliseum.

"It's a great homecoming for her," Auriemma said. "She's had a chance to play down there a few times with this being the third year in a row. She has lots of family and friends. They all come to the game. It's one thing to watch the games on television and it's one thing to follow the team, but to actually be there and be in a position where you can have a lot of the people who supported you growing up and were a big part of your high school career around is kind of neat. You don't get that on a regular basis. So it is nice when you do get it.

"You think back to her freshman year, and there were times where she was really, really struggling to find her way on the court and off the court. Being far from home and coming to a program like this and having the pressures that go with it ... Where she was then and where she is now, I can't say enough about how much she has changed dramatically for the better on the court and off the court, and the kind of leader she has become. It's been fun to watch."

Jefferson has spent several days working to get tickets for Saturday from her teammates. She estimated there will be somewhere between 50 and 100 family members and friends at SMU for her.

But Jefferson should get more chances to play in the Dallas area. It likely won't be in the 2016 NCAA tournament Dallas Regional in March as the Huskies (17-0 overall, 7-0 AAC) are on track to get the No. 1 seed in the Bridgeport Regional. But the WNBA's Tulsa Shock have relocated and are now the Dallas Wings and will begin play in the Dallas-Fort Worth area this summer.

"They will be great with it," Jefferson said. "They love women's basketball in Dallas and everybody will come out and support it a lot. The area they're in, it's pretty close to get from Dallas to Arlington. It's right in the middle of everything so it will be a good fan base for them."

The Wings own the No. 6 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft, though it seems unlikely at this time that Jefferson would be available in that slot. Plus a point guard is not their priority with Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims on their roster.

So she'll come back in a visiting uniform, just like she will on Saturday.

It's still a thrill.

"I'm not going to go out and try to do anything that I wouldn't do ordinarily," Jefferson said. "I'm just going to just go play the game and be excited."

BOYKIN JOINS PENN STATE

Penn State women's basketball coach Coquese Washington announced Friday that former UConn player De'Janae Boykin has joined the Lady Lions program. The forward from Springdale, Maryland, is subject to the NCAA transfer rules, meaning she must sit out two semesters before being eligible for competition. Boykin will be able to compete following the conclusion of the fall 2016 semester.

"De'Janae is a wonderful addition to the Penn State community and to our program," Washington said in a statement. "We are very excited that she has joined our Lady Lion family."

Boykin was a McDonald's All-American in high school and is a three-time USA Basketball gold medalist. She was slowed by wrist and Achilles' injuries at UConn and did not play in a game before her decision to transfer was announced in December.

She is the second former UConn player to transfer to Penn State in two years. Brianna Banks left after the 2014 season to use her final year of eligibility with the Lady Lions.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Geno Auriemma on blowouts 00:01:49
A new episode of The Geno Auriemma Show premieres on Friday night at 8 p.m. on SNY.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma talks about how he motivates his team despite blowing out most of the opponents they play.

The show premieres tonight at 8:00 p.m. on SNY.


UConn athletc director Warde Manuel has reportedly interviewed with Michigan, his alma mater. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports) (David Butler II)
UConn athletc director Warde Manuel has reportedly interviewed with Michigan, his alma mater. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports) (David Butler II)

University of Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel is the frontrunner for the same job at the University of Michigan, according to reporter Mark Blaudschun (Jan. 21).

Blaudschun, a former Boston Globe sportswriter, reported on his personal website Thursday that Manuel interviewed Wednesday. Manuel is a Michigan graduate, played football for Bo Schembechler, and worked as an assistant AD at the school.

Blaudschun reported an announcement could be made in the next few days if Manuel came out of the interview process "without making any major mistakes" and that there is "little question" Manuel would accept the job if there is an offer.

Another top candidate is Boston College AD Brad Bates, who also has Michigan ties.

Manuel has led UConn through challenging times since replacing the forced-out Jeff Hathaway in February 2012. With UConn's ongoing conference uncertainty as a backdrop, he made two major coaching hires and one notable firing while replacing a Hall of Fame coach.

In football, Manuel fired Paul Pasqualoni in September 2013, 2 1/2 years after Hathaway hired the former Syracuse coach against the advice of major UConn donor Robert Burton. The Huskies were 10-18 under Pasqualoni, including a four-game season-opening losing streak that prompted his ouster.

After the Huskies finished 3-9 in 2013 under interim coach T.J. Weist, Manuel hired Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who has gone 8-17 in two seasons. The Huskies were 2-10 in Diaco's first year in 2014, then went 6-7 and reached a bowl for the first time in five years this past season.

In men's basketball, Manuel oversaw the transition from Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun to Kevin Ollie. That came just before the 2012-13 season, when the Huskies were banned from the postseason for poor academic performance two years after winning their third national title under Calhoun. Under Ollie, the Huskies won their fourth NCAA crown in 2014 and have improved their academic standing.

One constant has been the perormance of the top-ranked women's basketball team under Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma. The team has won the past three national titles and favored to win its 11th overall this April.

Manuel is credited with leading the effort to get the basketball teams' long-delayed practice facility built.

UConn's conference affiliation has overshadowed Manuel's UConn tenure. The Huskies landed in the American Athletic Conference in 2013 after the breakup of the old Big East. Nine former Big East teams are now members of "Power 5" conferences, a club UConn is eager to join.

In November 2012, the ACC chose Louisville over UConn to replace Maryland, prompting criticism that Manuel was not proactive enough in his 10th month on the job in Storrs.

Manuel's interaction with Michigan comes as UConn is being mentioned as a possible candidate to join the Big 12 should it expand. Big 12 presidents are meeting Feb. 4, with University of Oklahoma president David Boren pressing  to add at least two teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Login with Facebook Login with Twitter Login with SNY.tv