Ohio State Buckeyes guard Kelsey Mitchell makes contact with Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse as she puts up a shot at Value City Arena. (Greg Bartram/USA Today Sports Images)
Ohio State Buckeyes guard Kelsey Mitchell makes contact with Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse as she puts up a shot at Value City Arena. (Greg Bartram/USA Today Sports Images)

STORRS, Conn. -- It was the one game of the young season the University of Connecticut women's basketball would like to forget, but should not.

After opening up with four games in nine days, the Huskies had a week off before playing Chattanooga on Nov. 29. While UConn picked up an easy 80-43 win, its energy and effort left a lot to be desired, and coach Geno Auriemma questioned its toughness.

"We came out against Chattanooga like they would just roll over and die," UConn forward Gabby Williams said Sunday. "The coaches have told us that teams won't lose to us, we have to beat them. We have to go in with that mentality Monday."

After playing four games in an 11-day span ending Dec. 11, the top-ranked Huskies had the rest of last week off for fall semester final exams. They return to action and the XL Center on Monday at 7 p.m. to take on No. 12 Ohio State knowing a repeat of what happened against the Mocs won't get the job done.

"We've learned from our mistakes from the last time," UConn forward Napheesa Collier said. "We're trying to stay focused and locked in on the game Monday especially since we've had some time off."

That time off was spent dealing with finals as well as resting their bodies. UConn (9-0) has three players -- Kia Nurse (34.9), Katie Lou Samuelson (32.3) and Collier (31.7) -- averaging at least 30 minutes per game with Williams just missing the plateau at 28.7.

This isn't completely new for the Huskies. With their 40-0 national championship team of 2014, the five main starters averaged between Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' 29.2 minutes and Stefanie Dolson's 32.3 minutes.

"I remember when we had Stef and Kelly Faris, we had like five or maybe six players," Auriemma said. "But they were older and they knew how to manage a game. These guys are little bit younger, so I have to help them manage it a little bit better.

"You always want to be in a situation where you're playing people because they have earned the right to play. They've worked hard enough. They've figured it out and they know how to play together. If you're struggling, you want to be able to give people a breather and take them out of the struggle. People say you only learn how to play by playing. But you also learn by sitting there and watching. Sometimes, the more you're forced to sit and watch, the more there is a fire burning to want to play. Right now, I would love to be able to give some of our guys a little rest. I would love for them to be able to play a lot more aggressively and not worry about a foul here and there. But unfortunately that's not where we are."

UConn will be down a player Monday night as senior guard Saniya Chong will miss her second straight game due to concussion-like symptoms. She was hurt in the second half against Notre Dame on Dec. 7 when she was hit in the face by an inadvertent elbow. While Chong played the final 1:41 against the Irish, she did not make the trip to Kansas State for a Dec. 11 game.

Ohio State (9-3) will certainly try to make UConn's lack of depth an issue as it bids to break the Huskies' 84-game winning streak.

"We don't have a lot to begin with and it's kind of a big problem," Auriemma said. "We had a conversation with some of those young guys on the bench and said, 'We've got to figure out a way to get you involved.' I think they want to be involved but if you watch them every day you just kind of shake your head and go, 'Oh, boy.' So you might have to just close your eyes, throw them out there anyway and see what happens."

At Kansas State, Auriemma used Natalie Butler for 16 minutes off the bench while freshmen Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin didn't get in until 1:29 remained.

Ohio State (9-3) has 10 players averaging double-figure minutes and that doesn't include Kentucky transfer Linnae Harper, who became eligible on Friday and had 15 points against Alabama State. The leading scorer is All-American junior guard Kelsey Mitchell.

The Huskies opened last season against the Buckeyes in Columbus and coasted to a 100-56 win. Mitchell, the fastest player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 points, picked up two fouls in the opening 2:30 and never got things rolling for herself as she finished with just eight points.

"When I process last year's UConn game you basically take away that as a team we didn't do well, first of all," Mitchell said last month. "At the end of the day it is five players for UConn and five players for OSU, and you have to take away the things UConn did and how effective it was and what we didn't do. You start with that, and then you evaluate yourself later on. I don't think I did well at all. You just have to be honest with yourself at the end of the day."

Ohio State is averaging 90.5 points per game overall, but that drops to 78.5 points against ranked opponents. The Buckeyes have lost three of four to top-25 competition.

The Huskies have not given up more than 65 points since Nov. 14 at Florida State.

"We've gotten better at taking away the things that teams like to do," Williams said. "We have to pay attention to the scout and stay locked in to what we want to do. We're going to try and take away the things they like to do."

For the Buckeyes, one of those things is to get the ball to Mitchell, who leads the team in shots by a wide margin.

"She will shoot from anywhere at anytime," Collier said. "It will be a challenge for us and we need to stay on her."

"They are a great challenge. Their guards are explosive," Nurse added. "They can score in a hurry and get a lot of points. It's a great challenge especially for the young guys who are going to experience something that quick that will require a lot of energy on their part."

Monday's game is also the first of three straight against Big Ten opponents for UConn. The Huskies have a quick turnaround as they play at Nebraska on Wednesday. Then after a break for the Christmas holiday, they visit No. 4 Maryland on Dec. 29 before opening American Athletic Conference play against Central Florida in Orlando on New Year's Day. UConn has won 15 straight against Big Ten opponents since a loss to Michigan State on Dec. 29, 2004.

UConn isn't looking past Ohio State.

"As a team, we've done a good job of focusing on us and focusing on what we need to do," Nurse said. "Something that has really become evident is that we find a way to get things done. Every game has had its own challenges and different styles of play, different people to guard and different scoring issues. But we have found a way to get it done every single game, and that's something I'm extremely proud of."


 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker will have something to talk about with University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma when they get on campus next weekend to start summer session classes.

Maybe they can do it in Auriemma's native Italian, since Dangerfield and Walker will be spending a good portion of their summer in Italy.

"It would be good to know a few words," Dangerfield said with a laugh Sunday after she and Walker were named to the USA Basketball national team that will play in the FIBA U-19 World Cup to be held July 22-30 in Udine and Cividale del Friuli, Italy.

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield
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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

Mikayla Coombs and the Class of 2017 graduated from the Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, Saturday morning. 

But instead of wearing a cap and gown, Coombs was in her sneakers, shorts, and USA Basketball uniform shirt No. 36 at the U-19 national team trials at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For the 5-foot-8 guard from Buford, Georgia, making a run at representing her country beats walking across a stage to get a diploma anytime.

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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Carl Adamec
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 (Jim Brown)
(Jim Brown)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Bria Hartley may have had the most interesting offseason of any WNBA player.

Instead of going overseas to play like many or working on their game at home like some, the former University of Connecticut two-time All-American gave birth to her and longtime boyfriend Shakim Phillips' first child -- a boy, Bryson -- on Jan. 14. Two weeks later, Hartley was traded by the Washington Mystics to her hometown team, the New York Liberty.

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A WNBA basketball sits on the floor. (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)
A WNBA basketball sits on the floor. (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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 (Mark L. Baer)
(Mark L. Baer)

The Oakland Raiders took UConn defensive back Obi Melifonwu in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday.

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Connecticut Huskies forward Morgan Tuck (3) speaks to the media after defeating the Syracuse Orange 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Brian Spurlock)
Connecticut Huskies forward Morgan Tuck (3) speaks to the media after defeating the Syracuse Orange 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Brian Spurlock)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Morgan Tuck was in the stands at the American Airlines Center in Dallas watching her old University of Connecticut women's basketball teammates struggle with Mississippi State in the NCAA Final Four semifinals on March 31, and the 2016 All-American was ready to start looking for her old No. 3 Huskies uniform.

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Jan 14, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma and guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) and center Natalie Butler (51) clap on the bench during the second half against the SMU Mustangs at Moody Coliseum. Connecticut won 88-48, for their 91st consecutive victory an NCAA record. (Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports)
Jan 14, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma and guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) and center Natalie Butler (51) clap on the bench during the second half against the SMU Mustangs at Moody Coliseum. Connecticut won 88-48, for their 91st consecutive victory an NCAA record. (Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports)

When Natalie Butler arrived at the University of Connecticut after her Big East Freshman of the Year season at Georgetown in 2014, she seemed to be just what the Huskies needed.

With UConn losing WNBA first-round draft picks Stefanie Dolson in 2014 and Kiah Stokes in 2015, Butler was in the perfect spot to give the Huskies the post presence they'd need going forward.

The 6-foot-5 native of Fairfax Station, Virginia, impressed her teammates in the year she out due to NCAA transfer rules. But a thumb injury early in the 2015-16 campaign set her back and she never found the confidence she needed to be a consistent contributor in her two seasons.

UConn announced Wednesday that Butler has decided to transfer from UConn to her hometown school George Mason University. 

Tags: Natalie Butler
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Mar 11, 2017; Hartford, CT, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs and UCF Knights warm up before the start of the semifinals during the AAC Conference Tournament at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Mar 11, 2017; Hartford, CT, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs and UCF Knights warm up before the start of the semifinals during the AAC Conference Tournament at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is returning to Hartford, Connecticut.

The NCAA announced Tuesday that the XL Center in Hartford will hold 2019 first- and second-round tournament games with the University of Connecticut as the host school. The dates are March 21 and 23.

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Fordham guard Antwoine Anderson dribbles around George Washington's Joe McDonald (22) last season. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)
Fordham guard Antwoine Anderson dribbles around George Washington's Joe McDonald (22) last season. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

Antwoine Anderson, a graduate transfer from Fordham University, will play at UConn next season, according to multiple media reports.

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UConn guard Saniya Chong (Melina Vastola/USA Today Sports Images)
UConn guard Saniya Chong (Melina Vastola/USA Today Sports Images)

Saniya Chong was hoping to have a chance to play in the WNBA. The University of Connecticut senior guard will get that chance.

Chong was taken by the Dallas Wings with the second choice (No. 26 overall) in the third and final round of Thursday's WNBA Draft held in New York.

"I am truly blessed to be able to get this opportunity," Chong said in a statement released by UConn. "I am grateful and excited to start my new journey. Thank you to everyone out there that supported me."

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UConn Women Season in Review 00:03:54
Kara Wolters and Meg Culmo discuss how the heavily favored UConn women's basketball team was upset by Mississippi State in the Final Four.

UConn Men Season in Review 00:01:00
Taylor Rooks and Tarik Turner take a look back on the 2016-2017 UConn men's basketball season.

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

Gabby Williams had seen the act before.

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

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

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

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GEICO SportsNite: Geno on loss 00:01:33
Justine Ward talks with UConn women's head coach Geno Auriemma to discuss their buzzer-beater loss to Mississippi State in the Final Four.

Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Napheesa Collier reacts with guard Gabby Williams after a play against the UCF Knights in the second half of the semifinals during the women's AAC Conference Tournament at Mohegun Sun Arena. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)
Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Napheesa Collier reacts with guard Gabby Williams after a play against the UCF Knights in the second half of the semifinals during the women's AAC Conference Tournament at Mohegun Sun Arena. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team did not add to the Huskies of Honor on the wall at Gampel Pavilion this season.

That will change -- for the next two years.

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

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

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

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

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UConn Postgame Presser 00:04:00
Geno Auriemma and his players speak after UConn's 111-game winning streak is snapped by Mississippi State in the Final Four.

DALLAS -- In an instant, it was over.

It took until the NCAA Final Four semifinals but the University of Connecticut women's basketball team finally learned what a difference a year can make.

For 36 games, when the Huskies needed a basket they got one. When they needed a defensive stop, they got one. When they needed a play, they made one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn women 00:01:40
Justine Ward profiles the UConn women's basketball team as it heads into its Final Four matchup against Mississippi State.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Gabby Williams, Napheesa Collier, Saniya Chong, Tierney Lawlor, Carl Adamec
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GEICO SportsNite: UConn advances 00:01:40
The UConn women's basketball team defeated Oregon, 90-52, to move on to its 10th straight Final Four appearance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn women 00:01:29
Players on the UConn women's basketball team talk about their upcoming Elite 8 matchup against Oregon.

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

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

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

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

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

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Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) reacts after her three point basket against the South Florida Bulls in the second half of the championship game during the women's AAC Conference Tournament at Mohegun Sun Arena. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) reacts after her three point basket against the South Florida Bulls in the second half of the championship game during the women's AAC Conference Tournament at Mohegun Sun Arena. (David Butler II)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Katie Lou Samuelson left the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's locker room at Webster Bank Arena Sunday afternoon with an extra hop to her step.

The top-seeded Huskies' practice for Monday's NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional final with No. 10 Oregon was about to begin but the toughest part of the sophomore guard's day was done.

Moments before, she had watched on a computer as her older sister, Karlie, kept her college career alive as Stanford rallied past Notre Dame 76-75 to win the Lexington (Kentucky) Regional and advance to the Final Four in Dallas.

Tags: Katie Lou Samuelson
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GEICO SportsNite: UConn rolls 00:02:18
Gabby Williams, Naphessa Collier and Geno Auriemma discuss the different aspects of UConn's game that helped them advance to the Elite Eight

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Saniya Chong entered Saturday having played 11 games in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 and beyond for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

Her totals were 40 minutes played and six points.

But in a season where the Huskies have needed her the most, the senior guard responded -- again. And UConn is one win away from its record 10th straight Final Four appearance.

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Feb 18, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma looks on against the Tulane Green Wave during the first half at Devlin Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports (Stephen Lew)
Feb 18, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma looks on against the Tulane Green Wave during the first half at Devlin Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports (Stephen Lew)

Top-seeded UConn looks to advance to its 12th consecutive NCAA Elite Eight Saturday when it takes on No. 4 UCLA in a Bridgeport Regional semifinal game at sold-out Webster Bank Arena.

Tags: University of Connecticut
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GEICO SportsNite: UConn 00:01:23
Justine Ward talks to senior guard Saniya Chong as the UConn women's basketball team prepares for its 24th consecutive Sweet 16 appearance.

 (Logan Bowles)
(Logan Bowles)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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