(David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

Napheesa Collier is experiencing the life of a returning All-American. Her phenomenal sophomore season a year ago put a target on the back of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's forward.

The Huskies' opponents are going harder at her than ever before. But her rivals' efforts pale compared to how hard Collier is on herself.

"I know the work that I put into this and I know that my shots are eventually going to start falling," Collier said. "I try to keep pushing and working through this slump."

Slump? About 98 or 99 percent of the country would love to be slumping so much.

Collier was everyone's All-American before a record crowd at the Sun Dome in Tampa Saturday night. She had a season high 25 points, 11 rebounds, four assists to no turnovers, and four blocked shots in 28 superb minutes as No. 1 UConn smashed South Florida 100-49 in American Athletic Conference action.

She'll go for her second straight double-double Tuesday night when the Huskies host Central Florida at Gampel Pavilion (SNY, 7 p.m.).

Collier made her first five shots Saturday night, then hit the rim on a 3-pointer while trying to beat the first-quarter buzzer. She missed a left-handed layup to start the second quarter and didn't finish a drive to the basket and committed a foul two minutes later. She then made her last seven attempts. At the end, 12-for-15 shooting wasn't good enough for her.

"I want to be the best I can be and when I miss a shot I know I should make it's frustrating," Collier said.

"I don't think I've played that great. One of the things I wanted to get better at was defense and I'm not at the level I want to be. And my shots aren't falling like I want."

Let's look at the numbers.

Collier is averaging 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.9 blocked shots, all numbers that rank in the top 10 in the AAC. She is also 13th in assists (3.2) and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.6). She has been in double figures scoring in every game since the opener and Saturday night raised her field-goal percentage to 54.9.

"Yeah, but I shot almost 70 percent last year," Collier said.

"I don't know, but maybe I spoiled myself because I want to get back up there."

Through 13 games last year, her field-goal percentage and scoring were higher (64.4/19.2) were better. All her other numbers are equal or better this year.

Does her frustration show?

"She's so hard to read. Pheesa is the same whether she's getting 30 points or getting three," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's difficult to gauge where she is. But I just go by, 'What kind of shots is she getting? How are they coming?' She has about the same number of shots after 13 games that she had a year ago, but they just don't seem like she's in a rhythm, in a flow, as the game goes on."

Collier was so good as a sophomore when she was a consensus first-team All-American, that if Washington's Kelsey Plum had not had the sensational senior season she put together, the St. Charles, Missouri, resident might have brought home a national Player of the Year award or two.

But while Collier seems to see the glass half empty, her teammates see it as full.

"There's frustration when you're not making shots that you know you can make," UConn All-American Katie Lou Samuelson said. "Last year we just got so accustomed to having Pheesa go 9-for-10, 10-for-11, making almost every shot every single night.

"But even when she's missing a couple, she still impacts every single game no matter what and she's going to have performances like this over and over."

UConn (13-0 overall, 3-0 AAC) took care of its biggest AAC rival with ease Saturday night and can start to put distance between itself and the rest of the conference in the league standings this week. The Huskies, who are in a three-way tie for the conference lead with UCF and surprising Houston, host the Knights Tuesday night and visit the Cougars this Saturday.

UCF (11-5, 3-0) pulled away late to defeat Wichita State 59-53 in Orlando Saturday and win its first three AAC games for the first time. Senior guard Aliyah Gregory was an all-AAC first-team selection in the preseason and is the Knights' top scorer alongside senior guard Zakiya Saunders. Forward Masseny Kaba was named the AAC Freshman of the Week Monday.

It will be the first time UCF has played at Gampel Pavilion. It will be the first time the Huskies have played on campus since Nov. 17.

"It's been since Cal, and I don't have a good memory of that one," said Samuelson, who suffered a left foot sprain that night that sidelined her for four games.

The Huskies flew home from Tampa Saturday night. They'll be back on the road Friday for a Texas two-step: at Houston Saturday followed by a trip to Austin to face the Longhorns Monday.

UConn pushed its winning streak in true road games to a NCAA record 43 Saturday. It has won 70 in a row -- the third-longest streak in NCAA history -- at home and that will be on the line Tuesday night.

"Leadership and maturity come in a lot of different ways," Auriemma said. "We talked a lot, and you can tell a lot about a team by the way they handle road trips. We've been on a long road trip and we've been on the road a lot since November. I think we're on the road 19 out of 31 days in January so it's not ideal. If you're not mature about it you let it affect you. Our seniors did a great job this trip especially of setting the kind of tone we need to have set. Everybody else followed suit. I hope we can get that from them every game."

And get what they got from Collier as well.

"One of the great things about this team is that no one is worried about their own stats," Collier said. "Everyone is happy when someone else does well.

"This year has been harder, but hopefully my shots start falling soon."

The Huskies hope she's on target again.


POLL POSITION
UConn was the unanimous pick as the nation's No. 1 team for the 10th consecutive week as the Huskies received all 32 first-place votes in the Associated Press poll released Monday.

Notre Dame remained second while Louisville, Mississippi State, and Baylor each moved one up one spot to round out the top five. Notre Dame visits Louisville Thursdaynight.

Rutgers (16-2) entered the poll for the first time this season at No. 21. The Scarlet Knights, who were 6-24 a year ago, have won 11 in a row and have a top 10 RPI and strength of schedule. It is their best start since they were 17-2 in 2008, a year that concluded with a loss to UConn in the NCAA Elite Eight in Greensboro, North Carolina. They are also 4-0 in the Big Ten.

Green Bay returned to the top 25 at No. 25. Villanova and Stanford dropped out. USF was the only other AAC team to receive votes.

 
SALE OF THE CENTURY
What kind of night was it for USF Saturday? UConn's Molly Bent had missed her only 3-point shot of the season coming into the game. But the reserve sophomore guard nailed a trey with 2:21 left. Then on the Huskies' final possession and the shot clock almost out, she hit a second 3 with 8.2 seconds to go to get UConn into triple figures for the fourth time this season.

The situation was similar to one UConn was in at Purdue exactly a decade earlier. On Jan. 6, 2008, the Huskies had 97 points with the clock running out when Tahirah Williams made the only 3-point shot of her career to finish a 100-50 victory. The Boilermakers fans at Mackey Arena booed. The difference in Saturday night's situation, though, was Bent needed to shoot to avoid a shot-clock violation while the shot clock was off at Purdue.

"It's a delicate situation," Auriemma said. "At one point CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey) actually said what we always say, 'Let's work on our offense, we're up a bunch, but let's not embarrass anyone, obviously.' Some of those kids just got in the game. What are you going to tell them? Don't play? Don't shoot? Don't make any basketball plays? But the guys that came off the bench played pretty well and that's the second game in a row we've gotten good minutes from them."


BULLS RUSH
After losing three times to UConn by an average of 49.7 points a season ago, USF figured its luck against the Huskies had to improve. It didn't. The Bulls lost by 51 and are now 0-24 in the all-time series.

"I went in afterwards and said, 'We're not 51 points better,' " Auriemma said. "We make them do things that they're not used to doing. We're probably the only team they play that forces them into situations that they're not comfortable in. We've done a good job against them the last couple of years. They have so much stuff they do and that European style of play is not easy to play against, it's kind of tricky. You have to be solid and on your toes. They shot the ball lousy, too. It's not like they didn't get any shots. They got a bunch of good shots but just didn't make them."

USF's top three scorers -- Kitija Laksa, Maria Jespersen, and Laura Ferreira -- combined to shoot 4-for-40 from the floor and the team finished at 27.8 percent. The teams have a rematch at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 26, which will be Senior Night for UConn's Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams and include Williams' induction into the Huskies of Honor program as a WBCA All-American.

"They are the No. 1 team in the country," USF point guard Laia Flores said. "It's good for us to have them in our conference so we have the opportunity to play them twice, hopefully three times, so we can learn from the best."


Moriah Jefferson (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)
Moriah Jefferson (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson has caught the Vegas Golden Knights' fever.

"I went to the game (the opener of the second-round series with the San Jose Sharks) that they won 7-0 and it was incredible," Jefferson said on Sunday. "It was the first hockey game that I had ever been to and I got into it. I know nothing. I started learning a few rules, a few penalties. It was madness."

The expansion Golden Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup finals Sunday by finishing off the Winnipeg Jets in five games of the best-of-seven Western Conference final. Jefferson's Las Vegas Aces, who are in their first season in Nevada after relocating from San Antonio, can only dream of similar success.

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 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Natalie Butler had not been in Connecticut in a year.

With her receiving her bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut followed by a record-setting season as a graduate transfer with the George Mason women's basketball team, being drafted by the WNBA's Dallas Wings, and receiving her masters in global affairs, it's been quite a year.

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Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse and forward Azura Stevens dance in confetti following the championship game of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA tournament against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Times Union Center. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse and forward Azura Stevens dance in confetti following the championship game of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA tournament against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Times Union Center. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Kia Nurse loved everything about the University of Connecticut. But after four years, she was ready move on.

The basketball part of her college career ended on March 30 when the Huskies lost to Notre Dame in the national semifinals at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The school part concluded Saturday when the two-time academic All-American was awarded her bachelor's degree during graduation ceremonies in Storrs.

"Graduation was amazing and my parents were excited about it as well," Nurse said Monday. "For me, it was a big goal. I'm fortunate that I had the opportunity to come back for graduation and walk, but I'm really excited to get started with this."

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First-year Connecticut Sun athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle, left, worked with 10 national championship women's basketball teams during her 18 years at UConn. (Stephen Slade/UConn)
First-year Connecticut Sun athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle, left, worked with 10 national championship women's basketball teams during her 18 years at UConn. (Stephen Slade/UConn)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Rosemary Ragle grew up in Alabama and spent most of her professional life in Storrs, Connecticut.

And while she wouldn't trade her two years in New York City working at the Hospital for Special Surgery and serving as the athletic trainer for the WNBA's New York Liberty, when the opportunity came to return to Connecticut she couldn't pass it up.

Ragle, who was the athletic trainer for 10 national championship women's basketball teams at UConn, is back in a familiar place as the first-year athletic trainer for the Connecticut Sun.

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Feb 21, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma looks on in the second period against Tulane Green Wave at Devlin Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports (Stephen Lew)
Feb 21, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma looks on in the second period against Tulane Green Wave at Devlin Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports (Stephen Lew)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- It was like old times for Morgan Tuck in Seattle last week.

The first time Tuck and Breanna Stewart played a game together was for the United States national team at the 2010 FIBA U-17 world championships. They were together again last Thursday -- along with fellow University of Connecticut alums Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tiffany Hayes, and Stefanie Dolson -- as the USA senior national team faced China in an exhibition game at KeyArena. It was the first time Tuck and Stewart were teammates since the Huskies defeated Syracuse in the 2016 NCAA national championship game in Indianapolis.

Of course, their team won as the Americans topped China 83-46.

Tuck enters Connecticut Sun camp feeling like old self

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Foley Fatukasi highlights 00:00:33
SNY rolls the highlights of UConn DT Foley Fatukasi, selected by the New York Jets in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Jets selected UConn DT Folorunso Fatukasi with their sixth-round pick (180th overall). 

Fatukasi, who also goes by 'Foley', is a Long Island ative. In his senior season, Fatukasi 45 total tackles, 7.5 for loss with 4.0 sacks. Fatukasi recorded 14.0 sacks during his career at UConn...

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Feb 21, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma looks on in the second period against Tulane Green Wave at Devlin Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports (Stephen Lew)
Feb 21, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma looks on in the second period against Tulane Green Wave at Devlin Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports (Stephen Lew)

Even as her coaching journey took her to Seattle and Chicago, Jasmine Lister never lost appreciation for the time she spent as a graduate assistant in Storrs on Geno Auriemma's staff with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

"I see them a lot, but I still want to tell them, 'Thank you,' " Lister said last December. "They've done a lot for me. They taught me a lot about basketball and a lot about myself as a person. They took someone in from another program, someone they didn't know, and treated me like one of their own. And even though I've been gone for a year they are still looking out for me and still make me feel like I'm a part of it."

Soon she just won't feel like a part of it, she will be a part of it. The 25-year-old Lister will be named an assistant at UConn to replace Marisa Moseley, who was introduced as the head coach at Boston University on Wednesday. An official announcement from the school could come as early as Thursday.

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 (Steven Branscombe)
(Steven Branscombe)

Marisa Moseley is getting a homecoming.

The University of Connecticut women's basketball assistant coach has been named the head coach at her alma mater Boston University, BU athletic director Drew Marrochello announced on Tuesday. Moseley becomes the eighth head coach -- and first alumna -- in program history. She will be formally introduced on Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Francis D. Burke Club Room at Agganis Arena.

"This is a banner day for Boston University women's basketball," Marrochello said in a statement. "As we embark on a new and promising era, we are incredibly excited to welcome Marisa back to her alma mater to lead the program she played for.

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Texas A&M Aggies forward Anriel Howard controls the ball against LSU Tigers guard Jaelyn Richard-Harris during the second half at Bridgestone Arena. (Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports)
Texas A&M Aggies forward Anriel Howard controls the ball against LSU Tigers guard Jaelyn Richard-Harris during the second half at Bridgestone Arena. (Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports)

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team is losing Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse to graduation and to the WNBA.

The Huskies appear to be looking at a pair potential graduate transfers from Texas A&M as immediate replacements.

Forward Anriel Howard, the Aggies' leading rebounder this past season, and guard Danni Williams, their second-leading scorer, are planning on visiting the Storrs campus this weekend, according to a pair of sources. The New Haven Register's Jim Fuller confirmed Howard's trip and added she has already visited Florida State and will tentatively travel to Mississippi State, Tennessee and a fifth school to be determined.

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Feb 26, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams (15) (left) and guard Kia Nurse (11) center pose for a picture with her teammates holding the regular season championship toffee after defeating the South Florida Bulls 82-53 at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Feb 26, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams (15) (left) and guard Kia Nurse (11) center pose for a picture with her teammates holding the regular season championship toffee after defeating the South Florida Bulls 82-53 at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

Gabby Williams is usually very sure of herself on the basketball court and off of it.

But Thursday was different. The University of Connecticut senior forward had no control over her future as she attended the WNBA Draft at Nike Headquarters in New York.

"I was nervous, I was anxious, I just wanted it to be here," Williams said. "You don't know what city you're going to. You don't know who your teammates are. It's a scary thing..."

Tags: Azura Stevens, Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Carl Adamec
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Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams holds up the regular season championship trophy as she and her teammates pose for a picture after defeating the South Florida Bulls 82-53 at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams holds up the regular season championship trophy as she and her teammates pose for a picture after defeating the South Florida Bulls 82-53 at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Gabby Williams, Azura Stevens and Kia Nurse were all selected within the top ten picks of the 2018 WNBA Draft. Williams was picked 4th overall by the Sky, Stevens went 6th to the Wings and Nurse went 10th to the Liberty.

The trio led the Huskies to a 36-1 record and another trip to the Final Four, where they lost to Notre Dame. 

This season, Williams averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.4 steals in her senior season and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Albany Regional. 

Tags: Azura Stevens, Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse
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Feb 18, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams (15) and forward Azura Stevens (23) and guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) and guard Kia Nurse (11) and forward Napheesa Collier (24) return to the court after a break in the action against the Temple Owls in the second half at XL Center. UConn defeated Temple 106-45. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Feb 18, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams (15) and forward Azura Stevens (23) and guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) and guard Kia Nurse (11) and forward Napheesa Collier (24) return to the court after a break in the action against the Temple Owls in the second half at XL Center. UConn defeated Temple 106-45. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, and Azurá Stevens will travel to New York Thursday and attend the 2018 WNBA Draft being held at Nike Headquarters there.

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How did the Huskies lose? 00:03:25
Michelle Yu, Kara Wolters and Meg Culmo discuss what went wrong for UConn women's basketball against Notre Dame in the Final Four.

Ollie dismissed after six years 00:03:47
Taylor Rooks, Vin Parise and Tarik Turner recap Kevin Ollie's six-year tenure as the head coach of UConn men's basketball.

 (Aaron Doster)
(Aaron Doster)

Napheesa Collier's dream of cutting down the nets at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, did not come true.

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 (Reinhold Matay)
(Reinhold Matay)

Azura Stevens' playing career with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team is one and done.

Stevens, a 6-foot-6 forward from Raleigh, North Carolina, will give up her final year of college eligibility and enter the 2018 WNBA Draft, according to a source familiar with the decision and confirmed by UConn Monday afternoon. Stevens has the option to leave as she is 22 years old, and her original college class is graduating in May.

The WNBA Draft will be held April 12 at Nike Headquarters in New York City.

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn's loss 00:00:45
UConn women's head coach Geno Auriemma discusses the team's response after losing to Notre Dame in the Final Four to end their season.

UConn women's head coach Geno Auriemma discusses the team's response after losing to Notre Dame in the Final Four to end their season.


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- From the moment it clinched its spot in the NCAA Final Four, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team promised it would be different here.

But the heartbreaking end for the Huskies was the same, almost eerily so.

All-American Arike Ogunbowale's jump shot from just inside the 3-point line with one second left in overtime Friday night gave Notre Dame a 91-89 win over UConn in a national semifinal game before a crowd of 19,564 at Nationwide Arena.

"My team trusted me to have the ball at the end," Ogunbowale said. "I mean, it felt good. I didn't know it was going in, but it felt good..."

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn loses 00:02:47
Hear from UConn women's head coach Geno Auriemma and players after their heartbreaking, 91-89, loss to Notre Dame in the Final Four.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Arike Ogunbowale's jumper from the corner with a second left lifted Notre Dame to a 91-89 overtime victory over UConn on Friday night in the national semifinals.

She finished with 27 points and Jackie Young had a career-high 32 to lead the Irish back to the championship game for the first time since 2015.

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Geno on Final Four 00:01:33
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma talks about what went wrong for the Huskies in last year's Final Four, and how they can win it all this year.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There will be 19,000 fans inside Nationwide Arena and many more at home watching Napheesa Collier as she tries to help the University of Connecticut women's basketball team get past Notre Dame Friday night and earn a spot in the 2018 national championship game.

But after struggling in last year's national semifinal loss to Mississippi State, the junior forward will not be out to prove anything to anyone -- except herself.

"I never want to be timid like I was that night ever again," Collier said. "All I could think of was to not make mistakes, but then by doing that I did make mistakes. It was one of the reasons we lost. I think we were all timid and afraid to make mistakes. When that happens, you get beat..."

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Feb 26, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Seniors Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams (15) and guard Kia Nurse (11) high-five fans after defeating the South Florida Bulls at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Feb 26, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Seniors Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams (15) and guard Kia Nurse (11) high-five fans after defeating the South Florida Bulls at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Gabby Williams has picked up her share of honors as a member of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

But the Senior CLASS Award she got on Thursday figures to find a special place in the trophy case of her Sparks, Nevada, home.

"It means a lot to me because it's something that's beyond basketball, which we don't always get recognized for," Williams said. "It's too bad it gets lost because there are so many athletes doing so many good things. Sometimes athletes struggle with showing that they're more than athletes in a world that perceives them as just athletes. They're capable of more and should be allowed to be capable of so much more. That needs to be recognized more..."

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Carl Adamec
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 (Rich Barnes)
(Rich Barnes)

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Gabby Williams' answer was short and sweet when asked if she could get the three rebounds she needs for 1,000 in her career with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's during Friday night's NCAA Final Four semifinal game with Notre Dame at Nationwide Arena.

"I'll try," she said with a smile.

To Williams, rebounding is all about effort and there's little short or sweet about it. The only short part would be her height. If she gets the three rebounds, the 5-foot-11 All-American senior forward would become the seventh UConn player with 1,000 but, the first to be listed at under 6-feet tall.

Tags: Azura Stevens, Gabby Williams, Carl Adamec
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Mar 17, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies Kia Nurse drives the ball against Saint Francis Red Flash guard Leah Morrow (10) in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament first round game at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Mar 17, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies Kia Nurse drives the ball against Saint Francis Red Flash guard Leah Morrow (10) in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament first round game at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The road has taken the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to a record 11 consecutive NCAA Final Fours, but it's a journey it's never taken for granted.

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn advance 00:01:20
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and guard Crystal Dangerfield discuss their 94-65 win over South Carolina to advance on to the Final Four.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Crystal Dangerfield arrived in Storrs being thought of as the next great point guard for the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team.

She had her moments -- think Baylor in her second career game -- in an up-and-down freshman season that ended with her watching the final shot of the season in Dallas from the bench. She returned with a new confidence as a sophomore and through the first half of the regular season was as good as anyone in the country before shin splints in her left leg began limiting her practice time and in some cases her effectiveness.

But on a magic night Monday at the Times Union Center, the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native put forth a first half that was as good as any of the Huskies' greats have played. By the time she fed Azura Stevens for a layup to close out the second-quarter scoring, UConn's berth to the NCAA Final Four was all but secured.

Dangerfield scored 19 of her 21 points in a decisive first half as the top-seeded Huskies blasted No. 2 and defending national champion South Carolina 94-65 in the NCAA Albany Regional final before an enthusiastic pro-UConn crowd of 9,522.

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Connecticut Huskies guard Crystal Dangerfield reacts to a made basket against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first half in the championship game of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA tournament at Times Union Center. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies guard Crystal Dangerfield reacts to a made basket against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first half in the championship game of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA tournament at Times Union Center. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

Crystal Dangerfield scored 19 of her 21 points in the first half, and top-seeded UConn routed No. 2 South Carolina 94-65 on Monday night to reach the Final Four for the 11th consecutive year.

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Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier reacts to a play with teammate Crystal Dangerfield against the Duke Blue Devils during the first half in the semifinals of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA tournament at Times Union Center. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier reacts to a play with teammate Crystal Dangerfield against the Duke Blue Devils during the first half in the semifinals of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA tournament at Times Union Center. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

The road to a 12th national championship has been paved in marshmallows thus far for Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut women's basketball team.

With one pivotal matchup on Monday, however, all that ease disappears.

The Huskies (35-0) will square off with Dawn Staley and defending national champion South Carolina (29-6) in the Albany Region final at the Times Union Center.

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Connecticut Huskies Kia Nurse drives the ball against Saint Francis (Pa.) Red Flash guard Leah Morrow in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament first round game at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies Kia Nurse drives the ball against Saint Francis (Pa.) Red Flash guard Leah Morrow in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament first round game at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Katie Lou Samuelson was coming off one of the best sophomores seasons for any University of Connecticut women's basketball player and set her expectations even higher for her junior year.

But in the second quarter of the second game of the season on Nov. 17, against California at Gampel Pavilion, Samuelson fell awkwardly after collision with the Bears' Mikayla Cowling and eventually limped off the court. She would miss four games with a left foot sprain. In January she would get a black left eye against Texas and injure her left ankle versus Tulsa, which cost her another game, and led her to joke that everything happened on her left side.

As the Huntington Beach, California, native heads into Monday night's NCAA tournament Albany Regional final against South Carolina, she and the top-seeded Huskies are all right.

Tags: Azura Stevens, Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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GEICO SportsNite: UConn 00:01:43
Justine Ward chats with UConn assistant coach Chris Dailey, who has been with Geno Auriemma on the Huskies' bench since 1985.

Connecticut Huskies Kia Nurse drives the ball against Saint Francis (Pa.) Red Flash guard Leah Morrow in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament first round game at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies Kia Nurse drives the ball against Saint Francis (Pa.) Red Flash guard Leah Morrow in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament first round game at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- History may be made Monday night, but the history between the University of Connecticut and South Carolina women's basketball teams will have nothing to do with whether it happens.

If the top-seeded Huskies can end the No. 2 Gamecocks' one-year reign as national champions in the NCAA tournament Albany Regional final at the Times Union Center, they will advance to their record 19th Final Four overall -- breaking a tie with Tennessee for most appearances -- and record 11th straight.

UConn (35-0) has beaten South Carolina the past four Februarys, including an 83-58 win at sold-out Colonial Life Arena in Columbia on Feb. 1. That was February. This is March, and this will be the first postseason meeting between the schools.

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Mar 17, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Rhode Island Rams head coach Dan Hurley looks on from the bench against the Duke Blue Devils in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)
Mar 17, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Rhode Island Rams head coach Dan Hurley looks on from the bench against the Duke Blue Devils in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Geno Auriemma doesn't know new University of Connecticut men's basketball coach Dan Hurley all that well, but that, of course, will change when Hurley gets settled in a bit in Storrs and Auriemma and his women's team wrap up their run in the NCAA tournament.

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Mar 24, 2018; Albany , NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Rebecca Greenwell (23) fouls Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier (24) on a shot during the second half in the semifinals of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA Tournament at the Times Union Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports (Rich Barnes)
Mar 24, 2018; Albany , NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Rebecca Greenwell (23) fouls Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier (24) on a shot during the second half in the semifinals of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA Tournament at the Times Union Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports (Rich Barnes)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- At the end of the first quarter Saturday, Gabby Williams grabbed a rebound and got out on the break that led to a beat-the-buzzer layup by Kia Nurse. Right before the halftime horn, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's senior All-America hit an 18-foot jump shot.

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Auriemma on Elite Eight matchup 00:01:13
UConn women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma discusses his expectations for their matchup against South Carolina in the Elite Eight.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Napheesa Collier had 16 points and 11 rebounds to help top-seed UConn beat Duke 72-59 on Saturday and advance to the Elite Eight for the 13th consecutive season.

UConn (35-0) will face defending national champion South Carolina on Monday night in trying to reach an 11th straight Final Four.

The Huskies scored the first seven points of the game beginning with a banked-in 3-pointer from Kia Nurse and they were off and running.

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 (David Butler II )
(David Butler II )

Back in the Sweet 16 for the 25th consecutive season -- with a scheduled Saturday matchup against No. 5-seeded Duke, the No. 1-seeded Connecticut women's basketball team is nevertheless not looking down the line.

Even if this season they might just have reason to.

The Huskies (34-0) enter regional matchups not as defending champions, like they have in so many recent years past, but hoping to climb the mountaintop once more.

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 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- About two dozen media members with either cameras, microphones, or tape recorders were waiting for her inside the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's locker room Friday.

Then, in walked Azura Stevens, sporting her best and biggest smile.

"Why would I dread this?" Stevens said with a laugh.

Tags: Azura Stevens, Katie Lou Samuelson, Carl Adamec
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Hurley named UConn head coach 00:02:02
UConn officially hires Dan Hurley as the new head coach of the men's basketball team and comments on the team's transitional period.

UConn officially hires Dan Hurley as the new head coach of the men's basketball team and comments on the team's transitional period.


GEICO SportsNite: UConn prepare 00:01:50
The UConn women prepare for their 25th straight Sweet 16 appearance, but their matchup with Duke means more to forward Azura Stevens.

The UConn women prepare for their 25th straight Sweet 16 appearance, but their matchup with Duke means more to forward Azura Stevens.


 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Katie Lou Samuelson's older sister, Karlie, had moved on to Stanford as she entered her junior year at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, California. It didn't take long for her to develop a family-like tie with one of the Monarchs' newcomers -- Jayda Adams.

The two will be together again Saturday but on different sidelines. Samuelson and the top-seeded University of Connecticut women's basketball face Adams and No. 5 Duke in a NCAA tournament Albany Regional semifinal at the Times Union Center.

"I love her. In high school I called her my little sister," Samuelson said. "When I was a junior, she was the only freshman on varsity. I saw her develop as a player at Mater Dei and I've watched her since she got to Duke. I'm happy for her and excited to see her."

Tags: Azura Stevens, Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Napheesa Collier has 23 double-doubles in three seasons with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, all via points and rebounds.

That number would be 24 to match her uniform if not for a mistake by the stat crew at Gampel Pavilion during last Saturday's NCAA tournament first-round game with Saint Francis of Pennsylvania. In the opening minute of the third quarter, Collier passed the ball out to Katie Lou Samuelson, who connected on a 3-pointer. Gabby Williams, however, was credited with the assist. Collier would finish the game with a career high nine assists, three better than her previous best.

"That's interesting," Collier said. "But I really don't care."

Tags: Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
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UConn hires Dan Hurley 00:01:31
The Daily News Live crew discusses the choice of former URI coach Dan Hurley as UConn's next men's basketball coach.

The Univeristy of Connecticut has found their new men's basketball head coach in Dan Hurley, the team announced Thursday. 

Hurley, the son of legendary high school basketball coach Bob Hurley, began his collegiate coaching experience at Wagner College in 2010. He spent two seasons there, turning the program around from a 13-17 team during the 2010-11 season to a 25-6 team the year after. 

He would transition to the University of Rhode Island in 2012, where he has spent the last six years. He owns a 113-82 record at URI, while also bringing his team to the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons. The Rams recently lost to Duke University in the second round of this year's tournament. 

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Mar 19, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Azura Stevens (23) drives the ball against Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Paula Strautmane (4) in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament second round game at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Mar 19, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Azura Stevens (23) drives the ball against Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Paula Strautmane (4) in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament second round game at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

STORRS, Conn. -- As soon as Azura Stevens saw the final score from Athens, Georgia, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's redshirt junior forward knew what the first question to her would be when the media made its way inside the Huskies' locker room Monday night.

How about playing Duke next?

"They're a good team and it's going to be a good game," said Stevens, who spent her first two seasons with the Blue Devils before transferring to UConn in 2016. "We're going to be looking forward to it."

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Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Jen Fay defends against Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson in the first half of the women's NCAA tournament second round at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Jen Fay defends against Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson in the first half of the women's NCAA tournament second round at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

STORRS, Conn. -- Katie Lou Samuelson turned toward a television in the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's locker room Monday night to see the final moments of Central Michigan's upset of Ohio State, which followed minutes after Buffalo's upset of Florida State.

"The biggest thing, especially on the women's side, is understanding that you have to be ready to play no matter what," Samuelson said. "When you watch a team like a Buffalo or Central Michigan do what they did, they were probably underestimated by someone and they were good enough to take advantage of that. It's just a warning you have to be ready no matter what because neither Florida State or Ohio State came out and expected them to play the way they did. Anything can happen on any day."

The top-seeded Huskies were a prohibitive favorite heading into their NCAA tournament second-round game with No. 9 Quinnipiac, but knew there were no guarantees. They played like their season was on the line, which, of course, it was.

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn 00:00:56
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma discusses his team's win over Quinnipiac and his expectations for the Sweet 16.

Napheesa Collier scored 23 points and top-seeded UConn beat in-state neighbor Quinnipiac 71-46 on Monday night to advance to a 25th straight Sweet 16.

Azura Stevens added 14 points and Kia Nurse chipped in with 13 for the Huskies (34-0), who found themselves in a much slower-paced game than their 140-52 first-round rout of Saint Francis (Pa.).

But Connecticut was not threatened in this one either. They opened with a 9-2 run and never trailed.

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Rhode Island Rams head coach Dan Hurley reacts in the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament at PPG Paints Arena. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)
Rhode Island Rams head coach Dan Hurley reacts in the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament at PPG Paints Arena. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

The University of Connecticut has reached out to Dan Hurley about their vacant men's basketball head coaching job, though no decision is imminent, reports Adam Zagoria.

Pittsburgh has also reached out to Hurley, according to Zagoria.

Hurley, 46, led the University of Rhode Island to the second round of the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. The seventh-seeded Rams lost to Duke on Saturday after beating 10th-seeded Oklahoma on Thursday.

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Geno on team ball and jazz music 00:01:37
UConn Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma talks about how great team basketball is equivalent to a great jazz band.

Twenty years after their only matchup, No. 1 seed Connecticut will play Quinnipiac on Monday in the second round of the NCAA Women's Tournament at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.

Though the schools are located some 55 miles from each other, they might as well be a million miles apart in expectations.

At least they were in 1998, when the Huskies scored the biggest win in program history over the Bobcats 117-20 >> Read more

 

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn hoops 00:01:21
UConn Huskies guard Crystal Dangerfield hopes the team doesn't get stagnant after its big win on Saturday as it prepares for Quinnipiac.

Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma shakes hands with Saint Francis Red Flash head coach Joe Haigh after the women's NCAA tournament first-round game at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma shakes hands with Saint Francis Red Flash head coach Joe Haigh after the women's NCAA tournament first-round game at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Geno Auriemma knows what it's like to build a program from the bottom up. The University of Connecticut women's basketball team had one winning season before his arrival in Storrs in 1985. Today, Auriemma has the highest winning percentage for a coach in NCAA history and the 11-time national champion Huskies are second all-time to Tennessee in wins.

He's also watched Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri build her program from Division II into a nationally-known Division I club, and that included her team hitting rock bottom.

When No. 1 UConn entertains the ninth-seeded Bobcats on Monday in an NCAA tournament Albany (New York) Regional second-round game at Gampel Pavilion, it will be their first postseason meeting and second overall. On Dec. 27, 1998, the Huskies routed Quinnipiac -- which was in its first season in Division I -- 117-20. Auriemma had four players on his roster that would go on to play in the Olympics. Fabbri had players that were originally recruited to play against the likes of LeMoyne, Stonehill, American International and Merrimack.

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Mar 17, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Crystal Dangerfield (5) and forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) defend against Saint Francis Red Flash guard Leah Morrow (10) in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament first round game at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Mar 17, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Crystal Dangerfield (5) and forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) defend against Saint Francis Red Flash guard Leah Morrow (10) in the first half of the women's NCAA Tournament first round game at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

STORRS, Conn.-- Crystal Dangerfield jogged to the bench at the end of the first quarter of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's NCAA tournament opener Saturday and glanced at the scoreboard.

"I thought it was halftime already," Dangerfield said.

No, the Huskies' record-setting onslaught would continue for another 30 minutes...

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GEICO SportsNite: UConn 00:01:58
Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma discusses UConn's record-setting win against St. Francis in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

STORRS, Conn. (AP) Azura Stevens scored 26 points to lead six UConn players in double figures and the Huskies opened their NCAA Tournament with a record-setting 140-52 rout of Saint Francis (Pa.) on Saturday.

The tournament's top seed set a record for points in a tournament game and all-time NCAA records for points in a period (55 in the first) and a half (94 in the first).

And UConn's 88-point margin of victory was the second-biggest in tournament history. Baylor beat Texas Southern by 89 in the 2017 tournament.

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