For almost two decades, one of the highlights of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's schedule was its annual nationally televised game played in January on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Starting with their memorable win over Tennessee in 1995 at Gampel Pavilion through 2013, the Huskies compiled a 15-4 record on the holiday against some of the best competition the Big East and the nation had to offer.
When UConn made its move four years ago to the American Athletic Conference, though, the schedule also changed. But as dates are being made public for the Huskies' 2017-18 season, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day game tradition is returning.
Texas will host UConn on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 15, at the Frank Erwin Center. The game is the second of a home-and-home series with the Longhorns. UConn defeated Texas 72-54 at Mohegan Sun Arena last Dec. 4. It will be the second holiday meeting between the Huskies and Longhorns. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2005, UConn posted a 73-57 victory in Hartford.
With UConn releasing the dates for its non-league home games Monday, the only date still to be announced on the Huskies' 13-game non-league slate is their trip to national champion South Carolina.
The regular season opener is Nov. 12 against Ohio State at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The Huskies will then host California-Berkeley Nov. 17 and Maryland Nov. 19 before heading west for games at UCLA Nov. 21, versus Michigan State in Eugene, Oregon on Nov. 25, and at Nevada -- a homecoming game for All-American and Reno native Gabby Williams -- Nov. 28.
UConn will entertain archrival Notre Dame on Dec. 3 and visit DePaul on Dec. 8. After a break for fall semester final exams, the Huskies will take on Oklahoma in the fourth annual Hall of Fame Women's Holiday Showcase on Dec. 19 at Mohegan Sun Arena. UConn will then head to Toronto, Canada to face Duquesne in a homecoming game for Hamilton, Ontario native Kia Nurse on Dec. 22.
The final non-league home game will be against Louisville Feb. 12.
The Huskies' league schedule will be announced later.
While the AAC added a 12th team in Wichita State, it will retain its 16-game women's basketball schedule for the 2017-18 season.
UConn will play five schools -- Central Florida, Memphis, South Florida, Temple and Tulane -- home and away. The Huskies will also host Cincinnati, Tulsa, and Wichita State, while visiting East Carolina, Houston, and SMU.
Since the league's inception, UConn is 82-0 against AAC opponents with four straight regular season and tournament titles. The league announced last month that the AAC tournament will return to Mohegan Sun Arena in March.
UConn will also host Fort Hays State Nov. 1 and Division II national champion Ashland on Nov. 5 at times and sites to be announced.
TAURASI MAKES POINT
It was a drive to the basket that Diana Taurasi had made so many times.
But this hoop with 45.3 seconds left in the second quarter of the Phoenix Mercury's game against the Los Angeles Sparks at Staples Center Sunday was different. It made the former UConn great the WNBA's all-time leading scorer. Taurasi surpassed Tina Thompson's mark of 7,488 points. She finished with 19 to put her total at 7.494 in Phoenix's 90-59 loss.
After making the layup, the game was stopped, Taurasi was presented the game ball, and the announced crowd of 9,916 that included her parents and former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant gave her a standing ovation.
"Congratulations to Diana on becoming the WNBA's all-time leading scorer," Thompson said in a statement. "I am excited that it is Diana and it is my absolute pleasure to pass the torch on to her. Diana is one of the best players to ever play the game and definitely one of my favorites. She has done amazing things and I am so grateful that I've been able to share many of those with her."
Two weeks ago, Taurasi broke the WNBA record for most career 3-pointers made by passing Katie Smith's mark of 906.
Praise for the 35-year-old native of Chino, California, came from all over the basketball world.
"What an unbelievable accomplishment, DT," Cleveland Cavaliers standout LeBron James said via Twitter. "So happy for you, so proud of you on everything you've been doing throughout your career. You set the standard, not only for women's basketball and so many girls that have looked up to you, but basketball in general, the way you play the game for so many years at the level you played at."
Taurasi currently ranks seventh in UConn in scoring with 2,156 points. The three-time national championship and two-time national Player of the Year with the Huskies did graduate as UConn's all-time assist leader (648) but was passed by Moriah Jefferson (659) in 2016.
A four-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time FIBA world championship gold medalist, and three-time WNBA champion, she is one of 10 women's players in history to win a NCAA national championship and WNBA title, and gold medals from the Olympics and FIBA world championships. The others are ex-Huskies Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Maya Moore, and Kara Wolters, along with Tamika Catchings, Cynthia Cooper, Brittney Griner and Sheryl Swoopes.
Taurasi and the Mercury will visit the Connecticut Sun on Aug. 4 and Aug. 20 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
FIRST NIGHT HIATUS
UConn basketball's First Night program -- the annual October kickoff to celebrate the official start of practice for the women's and men's teams -- is taking a time out in 2017.
In a release last Thursday updating the repairs on the roof at Gampel Pavilion, the school said that the First Night activities will be on hiatus for a year and that the UConn women's volleyball team will be playing home matches in Guyer Gym in the Hugh S. Greer Field House this fall.
A budget of $10 million for the repair work was approved by the UConn Board of Trustees at the group's meeting on January 25, 2017.
Gampel Pavilion, which opened in 1990, is sealed off to the public as a massive repair job to the roof and ceiling of the building has begun. According to the release, prep work for the project started right after Commencement in May and the project will conclude at the end of October in time for the start of basketball season. The prep work included protection covering for the scoreboards, removal of the national championship banners and covering the various heating and cooling system vents.
The release noted that the construction of the roof was innovative for its time, including a network of metal clad panels with a fabric-wrapped insulated cover on the interior. As Gampel Pavilion has aged, the fabric wrap has started to tear and flake. In addition, the sealant on the exterior of the dome has started to wear-off, causing leaks to become more common. Some 2,100 individual panels -- six at a time in hexagons -- are being brought down to the floor via a pulley system. Each panel is rewrapped with new fabric and insulation.
In addition to the interior work, the exterior of the dome will get new battens and gaskets. There will also be a new cabling system for the catwalks of Gampel.