(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.

In his video to UConn, Bryant said: "Coach Geno, I know you're feeling right at home here going after your 12th championship. But I know 12 isn't the magic number. The magic number is one. Dealing with the pressure having 100-plus consecutive wins, now being on that magical stage, can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. But you guys know the message -- get better every single day and you have done that. So now it's time to go out and trust the process. Don't worry about the expectations. Don't worry about the hype. Focus on the play in front of you and execute the way that UConn does. Look forward to seeing you hang that 12th banner. 'Mamba' out."

The Huskies were impressed.

"That was pretty cool," UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield said. "Afterwards, Coach Auriemma face-timed so we we talked to him and said thank you. It left me speechless."

"That was amazing. I can't even think of another word but amazing to describe it," UConn All-American forward Napheesa Collier said. "We're so grateful that he would do that for us."

Bryant's message to Stanford ended with, "Go get that 'ship."

"Our Nike team came in and said, 'We've got a message for you,' " Stanford guard Karlie Samuelson said. "Everyone went crazy. We almost didn't hear the beginning part. Then we listened and he just said play hard and do what you have to do to win the games."

Mississippi State is affiliated with adidas while South Carolina is affiliated with Under Armour.

NEW ROLE FOR DANGERFIELD

While UConn is making its 10th consecutive Final Four appearance, it's the first for freshman Dangerfield. She had watched the Huskies win national championship in Nashville (2014), Tampa (2015), and Indianapolis (2016) from the stands.

"It's pretty cool to finally be on the players side of it instead of as a fan or as a recruit," Dangerfield said. "It's been exciting. I had always wondered what it would be like to be a player here and it's amazing just being able to experience it like this."

UConn arrived here Tuesday, less than 24 hours after eliminating Oregon in the Bridgeport Regional final. During one of the numerous events the Huskies attended during the lead up to the games, they spent time doing some line dancing. Fortunately for Dangerfield, she had experience doing it.

"I had done some in Tennessee so I was used to it," Dangerfield said. "We had some people that were lost at first but they slowed things down a bit and taught the steps and everyone got it together."

Dangerfield has played in 30 games with six starts. The American Athletic Conference all-freshman team pick is averaging 6.2 points and ranks ninth in the league in assists (3.8) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2).

This summer she hopes to try out for the United States national team that will compete in the FIBA U-19 world championships to be held in Cividale del Friuli and Udine, Italy, July 22-30. Dangerfield has won two gold medals with USA Basketball at the 2013 U-16 FIBA Americas Championship and the 2015 U-19 world championships. She made the 2016 U-18 team a year ago but was forced to withdraw with a hip injury that required surgery.

"I haven't heard anything and they're probably waiting until the season is over," Dangerfield said. "If I can do it, I want to do it."

The Huskies are scheduled to tour Italy in August.

SISTER ACT

If UConn and Stanford reach the national championship game, it would mark the first time a UConn player would face off against her sister. The Huskies have All-American sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson while her sister, Karlie, is a Stanford senior.

It appeared it was going to happen during the 2015-16 season. UConn and Stanford had met in six straight regular seasons with the last game being the Cardinal's 88-86 overtime win on Nov. 17, 2014, at Maples Pavilion. It's the Huskies' only loss in the last 159 games. But a new deal was never signed, though at first it appeared the series would only be delayed.

Coincidentally, the decision to end the series followed Katie Lou Samuelson's decision not to follow her sisters Bonnie and Karlie to Stanford.

"It's disappointing. Absolutely I wanted to play Lou in Connecticut during the season," Karlie Samuelson said. "Just playing Connecticut is an amazing experience. We are still the last team to beat them, which is crazy. I swear they must be beating the record for the most records broken in a season. That's got to be a record."

UConn's 13-game non-league schedule for 2017-18 is set. The Huskies will host California, Louisville, Maryland, and Notre Dame, visit DePaul, Nevada, Ohio State, South Carolina, Texas, and UCLA, and play neutral site games against Duquesne (in Toronto for a homecoming game for junior guard Kia Nurse), Michigan State (at Eugene, Oregon), and Oklahoma (at Mohegan Sun Arena).

Their exhibition schedule is also done as they will host Division II national champion Ashland and D-II quarterfinalist Fort Hays State. The Ashland game will be played on Sunday, Nov. 5. Ashland finished its season 37-0 by beating Virginia Union 93-77 in the D-2 final last Friday.

"When you're looking at scheduling, I was trying to schedule an exhibition game and I had a really hard time getting a game for a variety of reasons," Ashland coach Robyn Fralick said in a statement. "I kept having people kind of jokingly say, 'Well, you should just ask UConn.' One of my old college teammates worked with one of the current UConn assistants, so that was the connection. They had somebody cancel, so it worked out really well that we inquired. We were really excited that we got it."

Ashland played an exhibition against NCAA Sweet 16 participant Ohio State last November and fell 88-79 in Columbus.

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec

UConn dominates Vandy 00:01:26
Crystal Dangerfield had 19 points to lead the way as UConn routed Vanderbilt, 80-42 at Mohegan Sun Arena

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) Crystal Dangerfield scored 19 points and Napheesa Collier added 15 points and 16 rebounds to help No. 2 UConn rout Vanderbilt 80-42 on Saturday night in the Hall of Fame Showcase.

Katie Lou Samuelson added 15 points while Megan Walker had 14 for the Huskies (2-0).

Tags: Napheesa Collier
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Geno talks new UConn challenges 00:01:42
UConn coach Geno Auriemma talks about the unique challenges facing his team, as they try to rebound from last year's loss in the Final Four.

Geno Auriemma and the No. 2 ranked UConn women Huskies kick off their 2018-19 regular season play against Vanderbilt on Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena at 6 p.m.

UConn played an exhibition game against Ohio State last Sunday, where they dominated to the tune of a 85-53 victory. This is the usual result for the Huskies, as they are normally the favorite in any game they play. 

However, the Huskies still have that crushing loss in the National Championship game against Notre Dame just months ago still in the back of their heads. Auriemma noted that last season was one of the hardest years coaching over his extensive career, and he's looking to change that this season. 

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Nov 16, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Jalen Adams (4) drives to the basket against Iowa Hawkeyes guard Maishe Dailey (1) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Nov 16, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Jalen Adams (4) drives to the basket against Iowa Hawkeyes guard Maishe Dailey (1) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Jalen Adams stood in front of his teammates in the UConn locker room at Madison Square Garden Thursday night and was presented with a military coin by Kevin McMahon, a Wounded Warrior with four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt.

Adams had just gone for 16 points, 7 boards and 4 assists as UConn beat former Big East rival Syracuse in the semifinals of the 2K Empire Classic.

"To be able to have the honor to present him with the Wounded Warrior coin on behalf of this tournament, the young man earned it," McMahon, who has been embedded with UConn through their first four games this season, told SNY.tv.

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Rough night for Hurley and UConn 00:00:46
It was a tough night for the UConn men at MSG, as coach Dan Hurley was ejected, and the Huskies fell to Iowa, 91-72.

NEW YORK (AP) Luka Garza scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half, and Iowa beat Connecticut 91-72 in the 2K Classic championship game on Friday night.

Garza was named MVP of the tournament. He also joined Tyler Cook, UConn's Eric Cobb, Oregon's Bol Bol and Syracuse's Jalen Carey on the all-tournament team.

Iowa improved to 3-1 all-time against UConn.

Tags: University of Iowa
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Geno talks new UConn challenges 00:01:42
UConn coach Geno Auriemma talks about the unique challenges facing his team, as they try to rebound from last year's loss in the Final Four.

Geno Auriemma still has a sour taste in his mouth from last season. 

The UConn women's head coach is determined to have his team bounce back from last season's Final Four ouster to Notre Dame.

Auriemma enters his 34th season as UConn's head coach and discusses his title aspirations and learning from last year's finish as the Huskies prepare for Vanderbilt in the Hall of Fame Showcase Game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. on Saturday. 

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Nov 15, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Jalen Adams (4) controls the ball against Syracuse Orange guard Tyus Battle (25) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Nov 15, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Jalen Adams (4) controls the ball against Syracuse Orange guard Tyus Battle (25) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Nothing less than the first major test Dan Hurley Era awaited the Connecticut Huskies.

UConn was facing a Top 25 opponent in a nationally televised game in one of basketball's iconic venues.

For a group that has not been together for a full calendar year, it was fair to question how they would respond. Consider the test passed. With flying colors.

"They had a look the last couple days that they couldn't get here and play. They went out and performed at such a high level," Hurley said after Connecticut's 83-76 upset of No. 15 Syracuse in the first game of the 2K Classic Thursday night.

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UConn head coach Dan Hurley (right) with Kevin McMahon. (Courtesy UConn Basketball)
UConn head coach Dan Hurley (right) with Kevin McMahon. (Courtesy UConn Basketball)

NEW YORK -- Dan Hurley was nervous and stressed as he awaited his first game as head coach of the UConn men's basketball team in a sold-out environment against Morehead State last Thursday night at Gampel Pavilion. Everything from the game to recruiting concerns to facilities improvement was swirling through his head in the moments before tip-off.

In the locker room, Hurley made a point of coming over and introducing himself to Kevin McMahon, a Wounded Warrior who spent four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and was serving as the honorary UConn team captain for the opener. Kevin was there was his son Sean, a 2016 UConn graduate. Their interaction before the game helped Hurley put all his basketball concerns into perspective.

"The first game, where I'm a little bit nervous about coaching my first game at UConn, I got a chance to take my mind off it by speaking to [Kevin] about his military service," Hurley said this week by phone. "And so it was pretty cool, just getting a break [from] worrying about 2-3 zones and out-of-bounds plays [by] talking to an American hero. It was pretty cool."

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UConn beats UMKC, 94-66 00:00:43
UConn moved to 2-0 under Dan Hurley, as Tarin Smith scored 22 points to lead the Huskies over UMKC on Sunday at Gampel Pavilion.

Tarin Smith scored 22 points to lead UConn over Missouri-Kansas City 94-66 Sunday at Gampel Pavilion.

The fifth-year senior guard shot 10 for 12 from the field to lead the Huskies (2-0). Smith transferred to UConn from Duquesne, where he was the Atlantic-10 Sixth Man of the Year last season.

Jalen Adams had 20 points, Alterique Gilbert 12 and Christian Vital added 10 rebounds. The last time UConn scored at least 90 points in a game was Feb. 8, 2017 when it beat South Florida 97-51.

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Nov 11, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) and teammates react after a basket against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half at Gampel Pavilion. UConn defeated Ohio State 85-53. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Nov 11, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) and teammates react after a basket against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half at Gampel Pavilion. UConn defeated Ohio State 85-53. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

STORRS, Conn. (AP) Katie Lou Samuelson scored 19 points and No. 2 UConn opened its quest for a 12th national title on Sunday with an 85-53 rout of Ohio State.

Crystal Dangerfield had 18 points, Napheesa Collier added 17 and Megan Walker chipped in with 15 as the Huskies won their season opener for the 23rd straight year.

Carly Santoro had 20 points for Ohio State (1-2), which had to replace all five starters and its top six scorers from last season's Big Ten championship team.

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Nov 10, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies running back Kevin Mensah (34) runs the ball for a touchdown against Southern Methodist Mustangs safety Elijah McQueen (6) in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. SMU defeated UConn 62-50. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Nov 10, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies running back Kevin Mensah (34) runs the ball for a touchdown against Southern Methodist Mustangs safety Elijah McQueen (6) in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. SMU defeated UConn 62-50. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Ke'Mon Freeman and Xavier Jones each ran for more than 100 yards and combined for five touchdowns as SMU climbed within a win of bowl eligibility by outscoring UConn 62-50 on Saturday.

Ben Hicks threw for 276 yards and a score for the Mustangs (5-5, 4-2 American), who are at .500 for the first time this season.

UConn quarterback David Pindell threw for 215 yards and four touchdowns ran for 181 yards and two others. He becomes first Husky quarterback to ever to rush for 1,000 in a season and the first UConn player to do it since tailback Lyle McCombs in 2011. >> Read More

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UConn beats Morehead State 00:00:57
In their first game under new head coach Dan Hurley, the UConn started their new era by taking down Morehead State, 80-70

STORRS, Conn. (AP) Dan Hurley had a successful coaching debut at UConn Thursday as his Huskies opened their season with an 80-70 win over Morehead State.

Josh Carlton scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Jalen Adams scored 16 points and Alterique Gilbert added 15 for the Huskies, who led by just four points at halftime.

Lamontray Harris had 16 points and Malek Green 14 for Morehead State.

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Dan Hurley on UConn expectations 00:01:31
New UConn head coach Dan Hurley shares his expectations for his first season coaching the storied program, admitting some challenges ahead

New UConn coach Dan Hurley shares his expectations for the men's basketball team this season with SNY during a sit-down interview.

"Our season is going to come down to whether these guys will adopt the defensive mentality that I'm preaching every day," Hurley said. 

On Thursday, watch the UConn Men's Basketball Preview at 6:30 p.m., followed by the season opener against Morehead State at 7 p.m. and then UConn Basketball Post Game.

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Oct 27, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen tight end Kyle Horn (85) runs the ball against the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UMass defeated UConn 22-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Oct 27, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen tight end Kyle Horn (85) runs the ball against the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UMass defeated UConn 22-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

UConn watched their slim lead evaporate in the second quarter and wound up losing by 30 points in a 49-19 mess on Saturday night. 

UConn's defense prevented any touchdowns in the first quarter and the team held a 13-7 advantage in the second quarter, but then Tulsa scored seven touhdowns in seven drives and ran away with the win.

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Oct 27, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies quarterback David Pindell (5) runs the ball against the Massachusetts Minutemen in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UMass defeated UConn 22-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Oct 27, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies quarterback David Pindell (5) runs the ball against the Massachusetts Minutemen in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UMass defeated UConn 22-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Marquis Young rushed for 148 yards including a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave UMass a 22-17 win over UConn on Saturday.

Young got an assist from teammates who helped shove him into the end zone from 3 yards out to take the lead with 3:39 remaining. On UConn's next play from scrimmage, Lee Moses intercepted David Pindell's pass near midfield and the Minutemen (3-5) were able to run out the clock to snap a three-game losing streak.

Young, who carried the ball 26 times, turned in his 12th career 100-yard rushing game. Ross Comis, starting in place of injured Andrew Ford, threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

 

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Oct 20, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; South Florida Bulls running back Johnny Ford (20) gets past Connecticut Huskies linebacker Anthony Repollet (46) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)
Oct 20, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; South Florida Bulls running back Johnny Ford (20) gets past Connecticut Huskies linebacker Anthony Repollet (46) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Johnny Ford rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns to help No. 21 South Florida shrug off a slow start to remain unbeaten with a 38-30 victory over Connecticut on Saturday night.

Ford scored on runs of 15, 15 and 43 yards. He also set up a second-half field goal with a 78-yard burst, helping the Bulls (7-0, 3-0 American Athletic) pull away from a 7-7 halftime tie and match the best start in school history.

 

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Oct 6, 2018; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Tigers tight end Joey Magnifico (86) carries the ball against Connecticut Huskies defensive back Ian Swenson (44) during the first half at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports (Justin Ford)
Oct 6, 2018; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Tigers tight end Joey Magnifico (86) carries the ball against Connecticut Huskies defensive back Ian Swenson (44) during the first half at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports (Justin Ford)

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell preached to his team as they suffered through a four-win season a year ago that things would get better if they put in the work and believed in each other.

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Connecticut Huskies logo prior Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports (Jim Brown)
Connecticut Huskies logo prior Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports (Jim Brown)

The University of Connecticut and Tennessee women's basketball teams have had little in common the last decade.

They went their separate ways as far as scheduling in 2007, though they will renew their rivalry in January 2020. Over the last 10 seasons, the Huskies have been to all 10 NCAA Final Fours and won six national championships, passing the Lady Vols for the all-time lead in titles (11-8) and national semifinal berths (19-18), while Tennessee has not been past the Elite Eight since winning it all in 2008. The programs actually have not recruited many of the same players over the past decade.

Jordan Horston is an exception. The 6-foot guard from Columbus, Ohio, is the No. 2-rated player in the Class of 2019 by ESPNHoopgurlz and was the Most Valuable Player of the 2018 FIBA U-17 World Cup in July. UConn and Tennessee were among seven on schools on her list.

Score one for the Lady Vols.

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Sep 12, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) dribbles the ball against the Washington Mystics during the first quarter in game three of the WNBA Finals at Eagle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Sep 12, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) dribbles the ball against the Washington Mystics during the first quarter in game three of the WNBA Finals at Eagle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Breanna Stewart isn't just sitting on top of the basketball world, she is standing tall, all 6-foot-4 of her.

Yet the former University of Connecticut standout and the reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player remains committed to her mantra, humble and hungry, even after adding a second FIBA World Cup gold medal to her resume.

"It's just knowing that I can always get better," Stewart said Sunday. "Obviously I have won a lot, but my individual play can be better. That is what's exciting for me, knowing that I have been successful but knowing there's a lot I can improve on, too."

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Sep 29, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats running back Michael Warren II (3) runs the ball against Connecticut Huskies defensive back Tyler Coyle (25) in the second quarter at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Sep 29, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats running back Michael Warren II (3) runs the ball against Connecticut Huskies defensive back Tyler Coyle (25) in the second quarter at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder kept the Bearcats undefeated, throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns and running for another score in a 49-7 rout of UConn on Saturday.

Michael Warren II rushed for 106 yards and touchdowns of 2 and 14 yards for the Bearcats (5-0, 1-0 American Athletic).

Cincinnati found the end zone on seven of its first nine possessions. The Bearcats went 74 and 88 yards the first two times they had the ball and got to the UConn 10-yard line on their third trip before a fumbled handoff.

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Connecticut Huskies logo prior Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports (Jim Brown)
Connecticut Huskies logo prior Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports (Jim Brown)

Aubrey Griffin's dream has come true.

Griffin, a 6-foot senior guard/forward from Ossining, New York, made a verbal commitment to the University of Connecticut and women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma on Thursday, choosing the Huskies over Louisville.

"I just fell in love with it," Griffin said. "It's always been my dream school and I'm so happy. It's a great program and I'll be close to my family. I made a good connection with the coaches and the players. Once I left Sunday, I just had a really good feeling about it.

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Sep 22, 2018; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange wide receiver Sean Riley (10) makes a touchdown catch in front of Connecticut Huskies defensive back Jordan Morrison (29) during the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports (Mark Konezny)
Sep 22, 2018; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange wide receiver Sean Riley (10) makes a touchdown catch in front of Connecticut Huskies defensive back Jordan Morrison (29) during the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports (Mark Konezny)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Eric Dungey scored three touchdowns and threw for another to key a first-half blitz and Syracuse continued its early season success with a 51-21 victory over former Big East rival Connecticut on Saturday.

Syracuse, which has not yet trailed this season, has won its first four games for the first time since 1991 and only the fourth time since the end of World War II. The Orange finished 4-8 in each of the past three seasons. >> Read more

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Morgan Tuck (45) Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Morgan Tuck (45) Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Morgan Tuck was a fixture on USA Basketball's youth teams while in high school and in her first year at the University of Connecticut. It was then she set a goal -- to someday play for the United States Olympic Team.

But knee injuries with the Huskies and at the start of her career with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun had her wondering if she'd ever had a chance. She had also seen contemporaries like USA and UConn teammate Breanna Stewart emerge to stardom.

Even with her issues, though, she was named to the 2017-20 national team pool a year ago and her first healthy season with the Sun followed. Following two weeks of camp, the 24-year-old was named Wednesday to her first senior national team that will take part in the FIBA World Cup starting Saturday in Tenerife, Spain.

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Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma speaks during a press conference before a regional semifinal game against Duke in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)
Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma speaks during a press conference before a regional semifinal game against Duke in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)

Aubrey Griffin admits that the University of Connecticut is her dream school to continue her basketball and academic careers.

But reality is that she wants to be sure the biggest decision for her to date is the right one. That's why the 6-foot senior guard/forward from Ossining, New York, plans on taking four official visits - including this weekend's trip to Storrs - before making her call.

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Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma speaks during a press conference before a regional semifinal game against Duke in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)
Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma speaks during a press conference before a regional semifinal game against Duke in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's 2018-19 schedule -- featuring 14 non-league games and 16 American Athletic Conference contests -- is out.

The Huskies, who will return three starters from last season's 36-1 club that advanced to the NCAA Final Four for a record 11th consecutive year, will face nine teams that played in the NCAA tournament, including national champion Notre Dame, Final Four participant Louisville, Elite Eight representative and 2017 national champion South Carolina, and AAC rival South Florida.

Six games will be played at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs with five -- including South Carolina -- being played at the XL Center in Hartford. Vanderbilt will face UConn at Mohegan Sun Arena.

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 (Mandatory Credit: USA Basketball)
(Mandatory Credit: USA Basketball)

Over the last five years, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team has sent as many players to the WNBA (11) as it has on its current roster. Ten were first-round selections, with Saniya Chong spending a little more than a season with the Dallas Wings after being chosen in the third round in 2017.

The Huskies figure to add to that total next April when senior All-Americans Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier head to the next level.

Coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey have been able to keep UConn among the elite for a quarter-century. The Huskies own six of the last 10 national championships (11 total) and have made 11 consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances to take the all-time lead with 19. No one else has made more than five straight trips to the national semifinals.

But are those graduation losses finally going to add up? The feeling is that Auriemma must a bring in a strong recruiting class this fall if the Huskies are to stay a threat on the national stage heading into the next decade.

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 (David Butler II )
(David Butler II )

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) David Pindell threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 137 yards and two more as UConn outscored Rhode Island 56-49 on Saturday.

Pindell outdueled Rhode Island quarterback JuJuan Lawson, who threw for 351 yards and four scores and ran for 85 yards and two TDs for the Rams.

The teams combined for 1,123 yards of offense.

The Huskies (1-2), who had three touchdowns in their first two games, got into the end zone on all six of their drives in the first half, including a 74-yard strike from Pindell to freshman Heron Maurisseau who found himself wide open in the middle of the field for his first collegiate score. They led 42-28 at the break.

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Sep 12, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) poses with MVP and Championship trophy after defeating the Washington Mystics after the game in game three of the WNBA Finals at Eagle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Sep 12, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) poses with MVP and Championship trophy after defeating the Washington Mystics after the game in game three of the WNBA Finals at Eagle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Winning basketball teams, as the saying goes, have had a way of following Breanna Stewart around. They've done so from her high school days at Cicero-North Syracuse High in New York, to the University of Connecticut, out to Seattle with the WNBA's Storm, and in between with USA Basketball.

The former Huskies' great added to her resume Wednesday night when she and the Storm finished off a three-game sweep of the Washington Mystics in the WNBA Finals with a 98-82 road victory.

The triumph made Stewart the 11th player to win NCAA and WNBA titles and Olympic and FIBA world championship gold medals. The 6-foot-4 forward won four national championships at UConn, Olympic gold in 2016, and world championship gold in 2014 -- all on teams coached by Geno Auriemma.

The WNBA crown came in the Storm's first season under veteran Dan Hughes.

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Sep 10, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Detail view of logo on court before an international exhibition basketball game game between the United States and Japan at the Charles E. Smith Center at George Washington University. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Sep 10, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Detail view of logo on court before an international exhibition basketball game game between the United States and Japan at the Charles E. Smith Center at George Washington University. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Jennifer Rizzotti was right at home when the United States women's national team hosted Japan at George Washington University's Charles E. Smith Center Monday night. The Team USA assistant coach is about to start her third season as George Washington's head coach.

But her real homecoming was Saturday when Team USA traveled to Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena. The New Fairfield native was back in the state where she made a name for herself as a player at the University of Connecticut and as a coach at the University of Hartford.

"Do I miss Connecticut? Yes, of course, I miss Connecticut," Rizzotti said. "I miss not only my family, but Connecticut was always my family, the people here. It's good to be back and hear them cheering in the crowd for us. The people here will always have a special place in my heart."

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Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier attempts to control the ball as Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Jen Fay and guard Edel Thornton defend in the first half of the women's NCAA tournament second round at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier attempts to control the ball as Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Jen Fay and guard Edel Thornton defend in the first half of the women's NCAA tournament second round at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- As the United States women's national team faced an eight-point deficit against Canada at the start of the fourth quarter Saturday, coach Dawn Staley had two former WNBA MVP winners and six other WNBA first-round draft picks on the bench.

Napheesa Collier had re-entered the game midway through the third quarter, and with the University of Connecticut senior forward on the floor, the Americans began to finally show some life. So Staley stayed with what was working and she was rewarded for her faith.

Collier was here, there, and everywhere down the stretch, contributing a key rebound basket and two free throws in a game-closing 22-6 run as Team USA defeated Canada 74-68 in an exhibition game before a crowd of 3,258 at Webster Bank Arena.

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Boise State Broncos wide receiver John Hightower runs for a touchdown during first half against the Connecticut Huskies at Albertsons Stadium. (Brian Losness/USA TODAY Sports)
Boise State Broncos wide receiver John Hightower runs for a touchdown during first half against the Connecticut Huskies at Albertsons Stadium. (Brian Losness/USA TODAY Sports)

The UConn football team gave up 818 total yards, including 400 yards on the ground, in Saturday's 62-7 loss to No. 20 Boise State at Albertsons Stadium.

The Huskies allowed 24 points in the first quarter and trailed 41-0 at halftime. They were outgained 818-193 in starting the season 0-2.

The Broncos' Alexander Mattison ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns, while John Hightower had a 67-yard touchdown catch and a 55-yard touchdown run in the first half.

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Feb 18, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier (24) shoots against Temple Owls guard Tanaya Atkinson (22) in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Feb 18, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier (24) shoots against Temple Owls guard Tanaya Atkinson (22) in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

Napheesa Collier has enjoyed success in her two trips to South Carolina with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, including a strong all-around effort in the Huskies' rout of the Gamecocks last Feb. 1.

The senior forward is about to face a much more difficult test as she heads back to Columbia this weekend for the start of the United States women's senior national team training camp Monday as it begins preparations for the 2018 FIBA World Cup later this month.

But the coach who guided Team USA to the world championships gold medal the last two tournaments in 2010 and 2014 -- who is also Collier's coach at UConn -- had some simple advice for his All-American before her departure.

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Diana Taurasi, left, and Sue Bird, right, pose for a picture with Team USA and UConn coach Geno Auriemma after the victory over Spain the gold medal game Saturday. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Diana Taurasi, left, and Sue Bird, right, pose for a picture with Team USA and UConn coach Geno Auriemma after the victory over Spain the gold medal game Saturday. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

When midnight struck on the east coast late Tuesday, Geno Auriemma wasn't about to call it a day.

No one would have blamed him, though. With the Seattle Storm holding a nine-point lead on the Phoenix Mercury with two minutes to go in Game 2 of the best-of-five WNBA semifinals, it would have been easy for the University of Connecticut women's basketball coach to turn off the television.

Surely, the Storm would finish the job with veteran point guard Sue Bird and league MVP Breanna Stewart guiding them. But the Mercury had the third former Huskies' star on the KeyArena floor late, Diana Taurasi, and you know the rest of the line.

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Jim Calhoun watches the final seconds in his last game on the sidelines, a loss to Iowa State in this year's NCAA tournament. (AP)
Jim Calhoun watches the final seconds in his last game on the sidelines, a loss to Iowa State in this year's NCAA tournament. (AP)

Former University of Connecticut men's basketball head coach Jim Calhoun is coming out of retirement to coach Division III St. Joseph Connecticut, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman.

The University of St. Joseph is located in West Hartford, and is a private school comprised of fewer than 3,000 students.

So why did Calhoun decide to come out of retirment? He told USA Today he missed everything about coaching and couldn't resist the offer...

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Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; United States forward/center Breanna Stewart (9) leads the team back on to the court against Senegal during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)
Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; United States forward/center Breanna Stewart (9) leads the team back on to the court against Senegal during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)

Breanna Stewart has always known that team success will lead to individual honors. It was true at the University of Connecticut and now in the WNBA.

Stewart, in her third season with the Seattle Storm, was named the WNBA's Most Valuable Player on Sunday. She is the fourth former UConn star to win the honor joining Diana Taurasi (2009), Tina Charles (2012), and Maya Moore (2014). Only Southern California and Tennessee has had as many as two winners.

The 6-foor-4 forward from North Syracuse, New York, received 33 of 39 first-place votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters and totaled 372 points. Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage finished second with 231 points with four first-place votes. Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne received the other two first-place votes and was third with 206 points. Players were awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for a second-place vote, five points for a third-place vote, three points for a fourth-place vote, and one point for a fifth-place vote.

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Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore (23) celebrates after the game against the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals at Williams Arena. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)
Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore (23) celebrates after the game against the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals at Williams Arena. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Maya Moore could be upset. Maya Moore should be upset.

But that's just not Maya Moore.

When the University of Connecticut and Tennessee women's basketball teams sent out press releases Tuesday announcing that they would resume their rivalry that saw them play 22 times in 12 years, it was hard not to think of the Huskies' only four-time All-American and three-time Wade Trophy winner. It was her successful recruitment by UConn and coach Geno Auriemma that was the No. 1 reason Tennessee coach Pat Summitt unilaterally ended the series in 2007, about two months before Moore was to start her freshman year and six months or so before the teams were going to play in Knoxville...

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Feb 7, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights guard Zakiya Saunders (3) and Connecticut Huskies forward Azura Stevens (23) reach for the rebound during the first quarter at CFE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)
Feb 7, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights guard Zakiya Saunders (3) and Connecticut Huskies forward Azura Stevens (23) reach for the rebound during the first quarter at CFE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Pat Summitt, Tennessee's Hall of Fame women's basketball coach, ended the rivalry between the Lady Vols and the University of Connecticut after 12 years and 22 games in 2007. She retired as the sport's winningest coach (1,098) in 2012 after announcing in August of 2011 she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Glory Johnson was on her last four teams in Knoxville. As a senior in 2012, Johnson was named to the WBCA All-America team. Summitt made her way to the Pepsi Center in Denver, the site of the NCAA Final Four, for the announcement even as she struggled with the illness that would take her life four years later at age 64.

A few hours after Tuesday's announcement that UConn and Tennessee would renew the rivalry in January 2020, Johnson, now a member of the WNBA's Dallas Wings, recalled Summitt's spirit with the belief the resumption would be something that she would want now.

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Jan 18, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma talks with guard Mikayla Coombs (4) from the sideline as they take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Jan 18, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma talks with guard Mikayla Coombs (4) from the sideline as they take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

From 1995 through 2007, it was the best rivalry in women's college basketball. More than a decade later the University of Connecticut and University of Tennessee have found each other again.

UConn and Tennessee women's will resume their series beginning in 2019-20, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Tuesday.
 
As part of the two-year deal, UConn will host Tennessee during the 2019-20 season with a portion of proceeds benefitting the Pat Summitt Foundation, named after the late legendary Tennessee coach, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In the 2020-21 season, the Lady Vols will host the Huskies in Knoxville, with a portion of proceeds again benefitting the Pat Summitt Foundation and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

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Connecticut Huskies guard Gabby Williams drives the ball against South Carolina Gamecocks center Alaina Coates in the first half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)
Connecticut Huskies guard Gabby Williams drives the ball against South Carolina Gamecocks center Alaina Coates in the first half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- It's been a season of change for Gabby Williams -- just from spring to summer.

The two-time All-American and national champion at the University of Connecticut helped the Huskies to an in-state record of 80-0 during her four years at UConn, including 16-0 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Heck, the Huskies didn't lose a game in regulation time in her college career.

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 (USA BASKETBALL)
(USA BASKETBALL)

Christyn Williams was familiar with the struggles players around her age group have had representing USA Basketball in international competition.

The 2015 U-16 team settled for the bronze medal in the FIBA Americas tournament as did the 2016 U-17 team in the FIBA world championships. A year ago, the U-19 team that included Williams won a silver medal at the FIBA World Cup.

So the University of Connecticut freshman guard was hoping for a turnaround when Team USA arrived in Mexico City for the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship, an event the Americans have dominated for almost two decades.

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

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson admits that it's going to take more time to get back to being the player she can be. But the Las Vegas Aces' point guard knows time is running out on her team's chase for a spot in the WNBA playoffs.

"It's just about getting back in a rhythm, getting back to where I was before and trying to get better," Jefferson said Sunday prior to the start of the Aces' game with the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. "I would say that I'm pretty close. We have a few games left and I'm going to do my best to keep progressing each game."

Las Vegas' playoff hopes took a hit Sunday with its 109-88 loss to Connecticut. The Aces (12-15) are 1 1/2 games behind the Dallas Wings (14-14) for the eighth and final playoff spot. Dallas owns the tiebreaker against Las Vegas.

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September 29, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; during the second half in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports (Gary A. Vasquez)
September 29, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; during the second half in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports (Gary A. Vasquez)

Renee Montgomery was part of two WNBA championship teams in the three seasons of her second tour with the Minnesota Lynx.

But when she became an unrestricted free agent after 2017 campaign, the former University of Connecticut two-time All-American was looking to move on. That the stop would be the Atlanta Dream, who won just 12 games and missed the playoffs a year ago, seemed unlikely.

"I knew we had talent," Montgomery said. "The main thing for us was putting it together. It takes time. Like when LeBron James went to Miami, everyone thought it would be instantly amazing. It doesn't work like that, no matter how much talent there is.

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Jordan Horston (USA Basketball)
Jordan Horston (USA Basketball)

It was 3 a.m. Monday in Minsk, Belarus, as Jordan Horston spoke on the phone at the airport while waiting for the first of her flights that would eventually get her home to Columbus, Ohio.

There was no time for sleep, just celebrating the FIBA U-17 World Cup coming back with her to the United States.

"I am not tired at all," Horston said with a laugh. "I'm still on a high, Cloud 9. I think our whole team is. I'm just so happy and excited to be with them and for us to win the gold."

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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Christyn Williams won't play her first game for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team for four more months, but there's no doubt she is part of the Huskies' family.

The 5-foot-11 freshman guard from Little Rock, Arkansas, raised some eyebrows a month ago at coach Geno Auriemma's charity golf tournament when she predicted that UConn would win the 2019 national championship. The Huskies have seen their last two bids for a 12th NCAA title end in overtime of the Final Four semifinals.

"I was hurt. It was devastating," Williams said. "But we're going to get it back. Mark my words, guys, we're going to get it back. We're going to get that championship. People are going to feel UConn. We're going to win the national championship."

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Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (Matt Eisenberg)
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (Matt Eisenberg)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Sue Bird set the WNBA mark for games played on Sunday and will play in a record 11th WNBA All-Star Game this Saturday in Minneapolis. With every assist, the Seattle Storm point guard adds to her all-time league-leading total. 

This fall, she'll likely look to collect a fifth FIBA world championship medal with the United States national team. She is already to only player with four (three gold, one bronze).

But the former University of Connecticut star didn't accomplish all this via her work over the last week or month. Bird's commitment to take care of herself and her body has been going on for years. It has allowed her, two months shy of her 38th birthday, to be playing some of the best basketball in a career that will include her induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame once she is eligible.

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Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; United States forward/center Breanna Stewart (9) leads the team back on to the court against Senegal during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)
Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; United States forward/center Breanna Stewart (9) leads the team back on to the court against Senegal during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - With a month to go in the WNBA regular season, Breanna Stewart may be the leading candidate to be the league's Most Valuable Player.

Her most valuable work over the past year may have been done off the court.

"I don't know if I'm playing my best basketball because hopefully I can play better," Stewart said after wrapping up practice with the Seattle Storm here Thursday. "I think I'm in a good place on the court. It's Year 3 so another year of being comfortable at the professional level and knowing what I want to do and what this team wants to do...

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Credit: USA Basketball (USA BASKETBALL)
Credit: USA Basketball (USA BASKETBALL)

It was less than two months ago that Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa left Colorado Springs, Colorado, after being named to USA Basketball's U-18 national team.

As the two University of Connecticut freshmen return to the United States Olympic Training Center to begin final preparations on Friday for the 2018 FIBA Americas Championship that will be played Aug. 1-7 in Mexico City, they are different players now from what they were in May. It will be the first chance to see the progress they made during the five-week summer session they spent in Storrs.

"There was an incredible difference to anything I've done," Nelson-Ododa said. "There's this expectation at UConn to perform at a certain level and it's more than I've ever done. There are so many things I've had to learn. It was an incredible experience."

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Aug 20, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; USA guard Diana Taurasi (12) shoots the ball against Spain in the women's basketball gold medal match during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports (Jeffrey Swinger)
Aug 20, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; USA guard Diana Taurasi (12) shoots the ball against Spain in the women's basketball gold medal match during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports (Jeffrey Swinger)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Diana Taurasi was 21 going on 40 when she stepped on the court for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

Now at 36, the veteran Phoenix Mercury guard and WNBA all-time leading scorer plays like she's 26 with a bounce in her step, a joy for life, and a passion that does not waver.

"I actually feel like I can do more this year than in the past," Taurasi said Thursday after the Mercury practiced ahead of Friday night's game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. "Physically, I feel great. That time off ... People take for granted that playing year-round takes a toll on you mentally. The game of basketball is only great when you can be creative and clear-minded and play with a fun soul. Sometimes it becomes work. Right now, that's not there. It's fun."

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Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma watches from the sideline as they take on 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)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma watches from the sideline as they take on 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)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Bria Hartley is living the good life.

The two-time All-American and national champion with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team is in her fifth season in the WNBA and second with her hometown New York Liberty. She has an 18-month-old son, Bryson. While the Liberty's 6-14 record isn't appealing, Hartley left Mohegan Sun Arena Wednesday with a smile after Shavonte Zellous' 3-point bank shot at the buzzer gave New York a 79-76 win over the Connecticut Sun.

While she has a lot to look forward to, Hartley has never lost her appreciation for the people who helped her get to UConn and to the WNBA. To that end she has founded an AAU basketball program - Bria Hartley Elite - as a way to give back to her community and sport.

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Connecticut Huskies guard Molly Bent brings the ball up court. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies guard Molly Bent brings the ball up court. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

There's a sense of urgency in Molly Bent's voice as the junior guard talks about the start of the second half of her career with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

She's been to the NCAA Final Four twice with the Huskies and the team's record is 72-2. But both times, UConn's bid for a 12th national championship ended with a last-second overtime loss in the national semifinals.

What's been even more difficult for the Centerville, Massachusetts, native to take, though, is that she has not put herself in a position where she could make a difference.

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