(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.

"I'm not going anywhere," Collier said as UConn got ready to face Mississippi State in a NCAA Final Four semifinal game at the American Airlines Center Friday night. "I want to stay and have my college experience. That lasts four years."

Until recently, that would be a done deal. College players did not enter the draft early and the ones that left with a year of eligibility remaining -- like former Tennessee All-American Candace Parker did in 2008 or UConn's Morgan Tuck did a year ago, for example -- went out with their original class.

But there was speculation in 2012 when Baylor's Brittney Griner and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins were juniors but eligible to go into the draft as 22-year-olds that they may leave. They did not. But things changed in 2015 when Notre Dame junior Jewell Loyd, a day after the Irish lost to UConn in the national championship game, announced she was turning pro. She was the overall No. 1 pick in the draft by the Seattle Storm.

Just this week, Ohio State All-American Kelsey Mitchell -- who will be 22 this calendar year -- announced she would return for her senior year.

"Getting a degree from the Ohio State University was one of my top goals when coming to college and I look forward to completing my degree next spring," Mitchell said in a statement. "My teammates and I also have a number of goals we have yet to accomplish on the court. One of those goals is to play in the Final Four and we have a tremendous opportunity to do that next year here in Columbus."

Collier, a communications major, also stressed her desire to graduate.

"It's really important to me to get my degree," Collier said. "My parents have always stressed how important my education is because, God forbid, I'd get hurt and I couldn't play basketball. I need my degree to fall back on. And when I'm done playing I need my degree to help get a job."

Collier enters the game with Mississippi State leading the Huskies and the American Athletic Conference in scoring (20.6), field-goal percentage (68.6), and blocked shots (2.1) while also grabbing a team-high 9.1 rebounds per game. She has recorded 16 double-doubles and became the seventh sophomore in UConn history to reach the 1,000-point plateau on Monday, the night she was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Bridgeport Regional.

The St. Peters, Missouri, native was the AAC Co-Player of the Year and named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press and the United States Basketball Writers Association. She is a finalist for the Wade Trophy, the Wooden Award, and the Naismith Trophy as national Player of the Year. All this after a freshman season that saw her average 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in 38 games followed by hip surgery last April.

"I knew that I had a lot more in me and so I really worked hard over the summer to get better and stronger," Collier said. "I didn't know that I would be in this exact situation but I did hope I would get better."

She's been exactly what the Huskies have needed.

"Pheesa doesn't take herself or things too seriously," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She doesn't really stress about much, including guarding people. She doesn't really hold onto things. If she makes a mistake, she doesn't wallow in it. She just moves on to the next thing.

"She has tremendous confidence in herself. It's a confidence based on she's worked at it, she's put the time in. She has a lot of God-given things. She's a little more mature than her years as a player. As a person, she's exactly her age and maybe that helps her a lot."

WILLIAM TELLS

During a dinner Wednesday saluting the four teams in the national semifinals, Mississippi State point guard Morgan William picked Auriemma out of the crowd.

"I saw him and I was like, 'Oh my goodness, there's Geno. There's the man, the God of basketball,' " William said. "So I wanted to go up to him and get a picture with him. Listening to what he was saying about it being an incredible performance, I mean he has coached some great players for him to say that it really hit my heart."

The performance Auriemma spoke of was William's emotional and courageous effort against Baylor in the Oklahoma City Regional final last Monday. She had 41 points -- going 6-of-8 from 3-point range -- and seven assists to become the Bulldogs' all-time leader in that category as the Bulldogs upset the Bears 94-85 in overtime to get to their first Final Four.

William's drive with 22 seconds left forced overtime. She gave the Bulldogs the lead for good with a jumper with 2:22 left then hit a 3 on the next possession to make it 85-81. A 5-for-6 effort at the foul line over the last 49 seconds iced it.

"The game was on the line, and I was hot," William said. "I'm the point guard so I was running plays for me. They couldn't stop me. If they was going over the screens, I was going to the basket. If they were going under the screens I was shooting. It was kind of hard to guard me that day."

The performance was 29 more points than she had scored in her first three NCAA Tournament game and 12 more points than her previous career-high. It was also a record for a Southeastern Conference player.

TIME OF THEIR LIVES

This is the first Final Four with a Friday-Sunday format since 2002. From 1982-1995, it was held on back-to-back days (Saturday-Sunday). When ESPN took over the television rights in 1996, it became a Friday-Sunday format. The NCAA then went to Sunday-Tuesday from 2003 until last year.

The starting times for the semifinals here were pushed back an hour later than in the past with the Huskies and Bulldogs not expected to hit the court until around 10 p.m.

"I've said this in the past," Auriemma said. "TV and what's going on in the actual arena don't go together. So what's best for television is a 10 o'clock start on the East Coast, or a 9:30 start on the East Coast. It's not best for my players to sit around till 9:30, but it's best for TV because they're paying the bills. So they get to show the game whenever they feel like it.

"How does that affect attendance in the arena and what's more important? We say, 'Well, you know, at the regionals there weren't a whole lot of people there.' You think anybody cares about that? No. They were on TV, weren't they? That's all that counts. So what are we trying to do? Fill the arena or make sure people are watching on television?"

The games this weekend are sold out. Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport was sold out for UConn's appearance there at the regional but the attendance at regionals in Lexington (Kentucky), Oklahoma City, and Stockton (California) was dismal.

"The people in Dallas have done an amazing job," Auriemma said. "The arena is sold out. Is it because it's Friday-Sunday and people don't have to take five days off from work to wait till Tuesday night to play? I don't know. Does ESPN like Friday-Sunday? No. Are they going to make sure it gets back to Sunday-Tuesday? Yes. Is that good for us? No. Is it good for them? Yes. In the end, who is going decide what's what?

"I'm not blaming anybody. I'm just saying that's the world that we live in. In 2002, we played in front of 30,000 people at the Alamodome. Now we're worried about sellouts? A lot has happened in that time. We have to figure out how to work together, make it work for the actual student-athletes. We always use that term -- 'What's best for the student-athletes?' Playing at 10 at night, that's not best for the student-athletes."

FREE THROWS

Uconn will start four 1,000-point scorers Friday night -- sophomores Samuelson and Collier and juniors Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams. The last time that happened was in the 2014 national championship game against Notre Dame at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville with Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, and Breanna Stewart ... Saniya Chong will play in her 145th game Friday night moving her into a tie for 12th with Jessica Moore on UConn's all-time list. The senior guard recorded her 300th career assist against Oregon last Monday.

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

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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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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