Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What a game!

I think we saw a few of the things I wrote about in today's paper. Kaili McLaren's late-game heroics made all the difference in the world. Playing with four fouls, McLaren played with smarts that had escaped her most of the year.

Let's not forget Renee Montgomery making big shot after big shot, especially after the Huskies fell behind with nearly six minutes on the clock.

I was also impressed with the job UConn has done at the free throw line over the last two games. Maybe they are turning a corner in that area. Now if they can play smart and not play down to their competition.

Anyhow, they have a few days until they visit Marquette, which may prove to be the toughest game for UConn this season to date. I know, I know that sounds stupid considering games against Purdue, Carolina and Tennessee...just wait and see.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Huskies are getting ready to travel to Mel Thomas' hometown of Cincinnati to face the Bearcats Tuesday night. I find this to be an interesting matchup for a few reasons. Namely, it is a road game. But also because Cincy just played Marquette, the Huskies opponent after the Bearcats.

Beating Notre Dame, a quality opponent is nice, especially after struggling aganist DePaul. But that was a home win, and the Huskies rarely lose at home.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Huskies are now up by 19 and Tina Charles is a blocked shot from a triple-double.
Charles is back.
Charles seems to have injured or bothered her troublesome right shoulder and has left the game for the time being.
Through 9:40 of the second half, UConn has 14 blocked shots.
A pair of baskets serving as bookends to a Irish turnover has give UConn the largest lead of the game, 44-30.
Tina Charles just tied her career high with six blocks.
A nice start to the second half. The Huskies picked up a couple of baskets from Tina Charles, who also had the team's first missed free throw, and a clucth layup from Charde Houston. Houston, who is playing with three fouls, push the lead to 10....35-25.
halftime...UConn 29, Notre Dame 23
Just that quickly, the lead is down to 3. A layup and a jumper and onehave gotten the Irish within 3.
Mel Thomas sank a 3 with 4:33 remaining in the opening half to push the Huskies' lead to 8, the largest lead of the game.
This is going to be one of those games where whichever team wins they would have had to grind out the win. There is 11:41 left in the half and UConn holds a 10-8 lead.
Stonington High School star Heather Buck, who has been linked to several colleges including UConn and Notre Dame, is in attendance at the game. She is sitting a few rows behind the Huskies' bench.
Tina Charles has come out with a good amount of energy. She has two points , a rebound and a block.
The house appears to be full for the first time all season. It's nice to see the fans come out and support their Huskies.
Hi my name is Joe Perez and I am the Norwich Bulletin's UConn women's basketball beat writer (Thanks, Rich). You may not know me because I missed the DePaul game. And, as everyone in these parts knows, if you missed the DePaul game, you might as well have missed the entire season. At least the seems to be the case today.

As I attempted to enter through the SAME DOOR I have entered Gampel Pavilion from ALL SEASON, I found the door was locked. Coming behind me was Assistant coach Chris Dailey. When she asked me to confirm the door was locked, she tried to enter through an ajacent set of doors. She told the door security detail that she "didn't know about about" me. I flashed a smile and my media credential and the Guardians of Gampel let me through. As I made my way down the stairs, Dailey turned to the security at the base of the stairs and told them I didn't belong here.

The "guard" is someone who knows me by name and they held their ground saying I entered illegally. I suppose I will be deported to Mexico any day now. Thanks, Border Patrol.

I guess Dailey had a valid concern. The combination of media credential and wearing pink in support of the WBCA's cancer awareness initiative gave me away as an international spy (if you consider Norwich to be outside the U.S.) who timed my entrance to swipe away the secrets of the Huskies' superb free throw shooting.

What is more amusing is the "guard" who knows me by name was likely on his radio calling for help to handle a security breach. When you hear about the writer carried out of Gampel in handcuffs, you'll know why there wasn't a game story in tomorrow's editions.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Geno Auriemma was asked about the possibility of starting Ketia Swanier instead of Renee Montgomery considering Swanier has been, in the coach's words, the team's best player.

To that Auriemma said, "That would mean I'd have to sit somebody that's starting now. I don't think I'm comfortable doing that. I don't think anyone who's starting now would be justified to move them. I don't like changing roles that have taken all this time to kind of be somewhat solidified."
Hey everybody!

I'm back. But before I write any more, I'd like to thank Marc Allard and Arthur Sherman for filling in for me while I have been sick.

The Huskies are returning to the court tomorrow night against Notre Dame. They have a lot to prove after a less than impressive win against DePaul Wednesday night. Sure, a win is a win, but Wednesday's contest wasn't -- on paper -- supposed to be as close as it was.

Later today, it will be interesting to hear what coach Geno Auriemma has to say. The Irish aren't a pushover. Despite coach Muffett McGraw not having as good of a team as she has been used to, Notre Dame can cause some havoc.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

This game is slowly getting out of hand. St. John's missed two shots and had one blocked by Kaili McLaren on the same possession before the ball went out of bounds and remained the Red Storm's ball.
At the half, UConn is hanging on, 37-24.
SJU is playing some uninspired ball. The Huskies have extended their lead to 35-16 with 3:21 to play.
Thomas is killing the Johnnies. Five bombs in less than eight minutes....30-14 UConn with 8:13 left in the first half.
The Huskies went 3:10 without scoring, but St. John's was only able to score four points. Without Angela Clark, who left the team because of personal reasons, the Red Storm are not much more than a warm breeze.
I've got a great seat. Right next to the SJU pep band.
I said pep band.
I said PEP BAND!

Thomas nailed another 3 and Charde Houston picked up her 99th career block. One more and she will be the seventh Husky with 100 blocks, steals and asists.
The Huskies haven't been shooting particularly well, missing many short-range shots. On the other hand, Mel Thomas has knocked down back-to-back 3s. The Huskies lead 13-8 with 15:52 left.
This is my second time coming "home" in a week. First was North Carolina. Now, NYC. This is where I was born and have lived most of my life. I love it here. But I guess what makes it special is this is the second time I worked at the Garden. I did stats for a Spurs-Knicks game in 2002. This, however, is my first time working at MSG as a writer. It feels good.
Sometimes media types (myself included) are spoiled. We are spoon-fed quite a bit. You might even say we are spoiled on a basic level. What I mean by that is we are given prime seats to games so we can cover them; we are provided food (usually good except at Providence) and in return we are expected to report the news. Some "journalists" think news is defined by whatever their agenda is and not what is happening. I don't like this element of my profession.

But then there are times when the environment we work in is less than. Again, see Providence's ham fried rice, or like today at MSG, Because there is a doubleheader, seating is at a premium. And so is food.

You'd think the folks at MSG would be better prepared for a larger media contingent, but they weren't. They were also more than ready to charge the media $8 to eat. Of course they claim the $8 is going to benefit the children of New York. I am also sure it will be under the guise of a donation by the Dolan family, which has systematically destroyed the Knicks with bonehead signings and hirings. But that's another story.

Then we can go back to the writers, who despite knowing seating in the work room is limited, show up an hour before tip off and then are insensed they don't have a seat.

I suppose the late bird gets the worm.
New York is an interesting place. The sheer volume of people makes it possible to see things that you otherwise wouldn't, or at least would be seen by few if any people.

When weather is as cold as it has been recently, you always here people being advised to drive carefully, especially with the presence of ice.

As I got out of my cab and began walking towards the Garden, a man wanted to take a photo of cops and fell on a large patch of ice. Part of me wanted to laugh, but he fell so hard, I felt bad for the guy. I wonder if he got a photo of the sky as he fell?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tahirah Williams appeared to have turned her ankle and is leaving the game with the Huskies up 90-45 with 5:06 left.
It's scrap time. Coach Auriemma has inserted Tahirah Williams, Jacquie Fernandes, Meghan Gardler and Cassie Kerns. And there is still 9:30 to play.....UConn up 82-43.
Houston was not credited with her second blocked shot.
15:14 to go in the game, UConn leads 71-36.
More on Houston.

If she gets that third block, she will become the 7th Husky to get 100 assists, blocks and steals.
A couple tidbits:

Marandola has her shorts on correctly...I guess no more points for her.

Charde Houston has two blocks, one more for 100 in her career.
Kaili McLaren is making her presence felt. She scored a quick basket and then followed that up with a silly foul.

UConn leads 42-27 with 3:18 to play.
It's retro night at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Providence's Chelsea Marandola is paying tribute to 90s hip-hoppers Criss Cross by wearing her shorts backwards. Apparently, her success thus far -- 11 points -- does not explain why Criss Cross was a one-hit wonder.
Kalana Greene continues to do it all -- except hit the three. She is graceful, like a gazzelle, when she sprints towards the hoop.
We've got 11:51 here at the Huskies lead 21-13.
BREAKING NEWS:UConn's Brittany Hunter is playing!!

OK, so it isn't breaking, but thought you'd care.
What's worse than bad Chinese food? Faux Chinese food. At Providence, the pre-game spread is ham fried rice and salad. What, was pork unavailable? Did all of the pigs used by the pork industry go on strike and refuse to be slaughtered? I just realized PETA is going to be on me for this. I don't care. I'm hungry.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Yesterday I was the beneficiary of a upgraded hotel room and rental car. For someone who travels frequently, those are nice gestures that you are sometimes presented by generous vendors. So I would like to thank Enterprise rental car and the Hampton Inn - Chapel Hill.

Today, is clearly not one of those days travelers enjoy. My flight home is connecting in Newark. But snow caused my flight to not arrive here on time from Cleveland. I have an angry mother traveling on this flight. Her son, about eight, has a nasty cough. The mother is furious the flight is delayed. She complained that she and her son ran to make the flight, which they were told was still on time. Call me rotten, but I have no sympathy. Anyone who flies knows to get to the airport on time. It's not like a wedding where if you are minus the bride, the ceremony takes place anyway.

My biggest concern is that there is another passanger who has a cat. On a leash. I hate cats. Why? I'm allergic to the buggers. God help me if she is sitting anywhere near me. Mine eyes will see the swelling from the presence of el gato.

While on the topic of travel, all the people who complain about having to check in their toiletries, etc., should pipe down. How can you act surprised? Do you not read or watch the news? Are they hermits, living under rocks, who one day suddenly decide they want to go on a trip?
It's the morning after and my mind is still processing the events of last night. My flight out of RDU is delayed at least 45 minutes, so that's an extra 45 minutes the game marinates in my mind.

I know to some this may be offensive, but I was not impressed with Ivory Latta. I had not seen her play before last night and all I heard was hype. Is she good? Yes. But she was outplayed by a backup last night. That is just one game, one night. I was far more impressed with Carolina's size and depth.

Monday, January 15, 2007

This one is all but done...82-76
I'm not sure why, but the Huskies decided to not foul Erlana Larkins when she came down with the rebound. Instead, they allowed more time to run off the clock and allow Ivory Latta to get the ball and foul her. She sank both free throws. UNC leads, 81-76, with 39.6 left.
With 1:02 left, Kalana Greene slipped and Ivory Latta drained a three-pointer, giving the Tar Heels a 79-76 lead. There is now 53.6 seconds left on the clock.
It is crunch time. The game is tied at 76. Charles is gone. Greene has 23 points. 1:41 to play.
Tina's done...she drew her fifth foul while defending a driving Ivory Latta.

UConn 74
UNC 72
3:16 to play in the second half.
The lead is the Huskies', 70-68.
Tied 66-66
Tina Charles cleared out the cobwebs and is playing like the talent she is. She is on a 7-0 run over the last 1:10. Uconn trails by 2, 64-62.
It's funny how a six-point lead can seem so much larger. It isn't because the Tar Heels are outplaying the Huskies. The Huskies just aren't all there, if you will. The mental mistakes, the blown layups, these may haunt them.

UNC 64
UConn 58
7:39 left in the half.
The Huskies are hanging around. But if they want to pull out the win here, they will have to go on a run sooner rather than later. 64-55, UNC...8:28 to go.
She's back...Hunter returns to sub for Charles (four fouls).

It is 60-49 UNC with 11:56 to go.
UConn kept giving UNC open looks from behind the 3-point line. After a Tar Heel miss, they took another, this one by Rashanda McCants went into the cyclinder.

UNC 55
UConn 44
14:20 to play.
Brittany Hunter has been a force early in the second half, but it appears she may be done. She is having her ankle taped, so hopefully it isn't serious.
Halftime...UNC 41, UConn 36
OK...the Huskies drew within one, but the Tar Heels have been able to open the lead back to six, 39-33, with 1:34 remaining in the half.
The Tar Heels have been ripping balls out of the hands of the Huskies. Finally, Charde Houston had enough. She used her elbows to create space and forced a foul against the home team. It is UNC 33-27 with 3:54 to go.
The Huskies are standing around flatfooted being outhustled and outplayed for rebounds and loose balls. Because of this, UNC has upped the lead to 26-17 with 7:19 to play.

It also hasn't helped the Huskies have left Heather Claytor wide open for two long jumpers, one of which was good for three points.
Coming out of that last timeout, UNC built the lead to 10 and in less than 30 secoinds, the Huskies cut it back to six. 18-12, 10:35 left.
North Carolina has begun pressuring the ball and have cut down on turnovers but the Huskies are still blowing layups seemingly every time down court. If they made a quarter of their missed sots, they would be leading right now. Instead, with 11:19 left, they trail UNC 16-8.

I'm really impressed with Tar Heel forward Erlana Larkins. She is built similarly to UConn's Kaili McLaren, but is faster, stronger and has a sweet shot.
The Huskies need to start sinking their layups and short jumpers. Eventually the Heels will stop turning the ball over. They have seven in the first 4:35 of play.
Turnovers have been a problem so far, especially for the Tar Heels. UConn needs to respond with baskets and not fouls. Charles and Houston both have a pair of fouls with 16:15 left in the half.
Early foul trouble for Tina Charles, two in 2:10...enter Brittany Hunter....

UNC 6, UConn4
It looks as if Kaili McLaren and Brittany Hunter will be available for tonight's contest.

It is LOUD in here. There is about 90 percent capacity and the crowd is seemingly on top of you. This is not like playing at Holy Cross.

I am finally in North Carolina and ready to blog the night away.
Blogginging the night a-waaaaaay!

Please humor me and laugh. Thanks.

Anyway, it's been a crazy day. Between the rain while driving to the airport and forgetting my phone in the car, it's not that bad. The guy at my hotel gave me wrong directions to Carmichael Auditorium, which caused me about an extra 30 minute delay getting here. And it is sweltering in this joint. I mean, you'd think the Heels turned up the heat. Maybe they did.

But all is not lost...we've got great wireless setup here, so I will be bloging througout the game, so keep checking back for updates.

Also, this is a homecomming of sorts for me. I went to school in North Carolina and lived here for almost eight years. 75 degree weather in January and sweet tea (oh, how I have missed this treat) are tough to beat.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Looks like Kaili's foot is keeping her from playing. The guess here is coach Geno Auriemma is resting McLaren and Brittany Hunter until Monday's big game at No. 2 North Carolina.
Keep a close eye on Kaili McLaren today against Syracuse. After Friday's practice she was limping on her left foot, for which she had recieved injections earlier this season. I asked her as she hobbled past me whether she was OK and she said she was fine. Look for McLaren to play limited minutes if her foot causes a problem today.

Friday, January 12, 2007

You know what is great? Perspective.

After the team spent Wednesday at the Manchester Homeless Shelter, coach Geno Auriemma told the Huskies he didn't want to hear any complaints of being tired. After all, he told them, they can very easily switch places with the people they were helping.

It may not be the holidays despite school still being on holiday, but being able to appreciate what we have and what we can do, be it writing, basketball or anything else, should keep us grounded.

Sometimes when you see how little some have, you really appreciate every ounce of what you have.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

No Brittany Hunter, no problem. The Huskies are manhandling the Pirates, 58-29, at the half. I think the six turnovers may be a little high considering the opposition, but regardless of that, there are lots of good things coming out of tonight's game.

Another solid night from Charde Houston: 13 points, three steals.
It may be a coincidence that in consecutive years that the Huskies face the Seton Hall Pirates in the game following a loss to Tennessee. But that is about where the similar paths come to an end and we keep in mind that this is a very different team; a much younger team.

How will the Huskies respond to their first loss of the season? We'll find out shortly. I think the keys to a positive response will come from freshmen Tina Charles and Kaili McLaren. I suspect that both will have big games. We should also see a return to action by Meghan Gardler.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It's the day after a tough home loss to Tennessee. The teams obviously had different moods about them in post-game interviews. But what I found particularly interesting was the exact attitudes each had.

Tennessee was cocky, even defiant. They seemed more concerned with comments West Virginia coach Mike Carey made earlier this week. They sat on the dais rolling their eyes, seemingly annoyed they had to speak to the media.

Connecticut was sullen and knew they cost themselves the game. There were moments where the four players didn't seem to agree with the assessment of coach Geno Auriemma. In my opinion, Renee Montgomery and Brittany Hunter took this loss hard. I'm not saying the others did not, but I think the two I mentioned took the loss harder.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

That should do it. Candace Parker's block of Kalana Greene's shot with less than eight seconds left, all but ices the 70-64 win for Tennessee.
It's down to three points, 65-62, Tennessee with 1:22 to play.
Oh yeah...Tennessee 63-60, 2:50 to play.
When Mel Thomas hit the game-tying three pointer with 4:50 left, the crowd reached a decibel level unmatched this afternoon.

Sidney Spencer's three with 3:49 to go is Spencer's lone points thus far in the half.
If the Huskies are able to complete the comeback and rally from 18 down, where does this game fit in with the rest of the games in this rivalry?
Closer and closer they come...The Huskies rest Brittany Hunter, who served as the bane of Candace Parker's existance, holding her scoreless and picking up two fouls, and turn to Charde Houston.

Tennessee leads 56-53 with 7:47 remaining.
Brittany Hunter is playing with the heart of a warrior. She has stymied Candace Parker and along with Renee Montgomery, have brought the Huskies back from the point of no return. Since Parker's dunk, the Huskies have outscored the Lady Vols 19-7.

Charde Houston is feeling it, even if feeling it means passing up wide-open teammates. Instead of passing the ball to Kalana Greene, who was open by a few miles, Houston went hard into the paint. Fortunately for her, she drew a foul on Nicky Anosike, her third.

Lady Vols still lead 50-39, with 14:27 to play.
Could there be life? Is there a pulse? The Huskies, down 19 moments earlier, have cut the Tennessee lead to 11 and are doing what they do best -- running the break. Tennessee, 48-37, 15:31 left in the second half.
How incredible is Candace Parker? She gets out on the break, flashes a smile, dunks, goes back down the court, blocks a shot and then dishes an assist.

47-27, Tennessee with 17:54. The Huskies need help.
Just a few more seconds until the second half begins. Trailing 41-29, the Huskies need to not be affraid of Candace Parker and defend the three-pointer better if they are to win.
The Huskies have not learned. You would think after numerous games in which they allowed teams to tee off from long range, that when you face a high quality team that can, get this, SHOOT THE BALL, you would play defense. Instead, UConn leaves Shannon Bobbitt open from behind the arc.
Thanks to allowing 5-foot-2 Shanon Bobbitt to be left wide open from three-point range twice in 1:02, the Huskies are trailing 34-26 with 2:09 left in the first half.
Look for the technical fould called on UConn coach Geno Auriemma to be a turning point in this game. The Huskies were down three, but both free throws and a score on the possession made it seven.
No sooner do I remark about the Tennessee run, does UConn make a small push of their own. A putback my Kaili McLaren, plus layups from Charde Houston (who appears to have something in her eye since tip off) and Tina Charles pulled the teams even. Then Sidney Spencer went down the other end of the court and nailed a clutch three pointer...20-17 Tennessee with 7:38 to go in the first half.
In a case of role reversal, instead of the opposition getting out to a fast start and the Huskies putting together a streak to climb back into the game, UConn got out to a fast five-point lead, but Tennessee has gotten themselves back into the contest.

Thanks to a 9-1 run, which was highlighted by UConn's Tina Charles missing three of four free throws, the Lady Vols are in the lead, 12-11, with 11:58 to play.

Charles looks hesitant at the line. Instead of her typical too strong free throw attempts, she seems to be taking a little bit too much off her shots and they aren't really that close. For the Huskies' sake, Charles needs to get a better grip on her emotions.
What great effort from Kaili McLaren against Candace Parker. McLaren refused to be intimidated by the nation's bets player, attacking the basket -- and Parker to help UConn out to the early 6-3 with 15:48 left in the first half.
And the tip off goes to...Tennessee.
This place is loud. I can't hear the people next to me or even myself, for that matter. It's nice to see a near full house for a women's basketball game.
The Tennessee-UConn rivalry brings out some of the best quotes in people. Here are a few leading up to today's game that stand out and weren't seen in the Bulletin.

Geno Auriemma, on whether the rivalry is "sexier" when it focuses on him and Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt:
"Not for me. I don't think Pat has ever looked at me in sexual terms. I don't think she finds anything attractive about me whatsoever."

Mel Thomas:
"This whole week you can tell there's added excitement, coach is more fired up than usual."

"You think Tennessee, you just want to go out there and destroy them. ... When I signed here and when I was watching games on TV, I didn't like Tennessee and I wasn't even part of the program."

Former UConn guard Maria Conlon:
"Three out of four my years at UConn, when I was playing, every time we played Tennessee, there seemed like there was some huge snow storm. There's ice on the roads and hazardous conditions, and we're still selling out."
Stay posted to this blog throughout the day, especially during the game, as I will post updates to bring you the emotion and energy from courtside to your computer screen.
Today's the day all UConn fans -- and players -- have been looking forward to for sometime: the Tennessee game. Maybe that's a good thing because it's a reflection of the confidence level. But maybe it is a bad thing, considering the way the Huskies tend to get out to slow starts and don't shoot particularly well from the foul line. Those are two things that can't happen today or the Huskies will experience their first loss of the season.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Looks like a typical first half for the Huskies. Start slow and then pull away at the end. There needs to be concern that a slow start against a good team, ahem, Tennessee, could prove fatal.