Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just to follow up

The point HondoHurricane made in the last entry is worth noting. She doesn't play for UConn, but I don't think there's an opposing player at least as long as I've covered the team that UConn fans have grown to respect more than Angel McCoughtry.

I always mention this, but it's worth noting because of who and what she was and now is. Three years ago, McCoughtry threw a tantrum on the court during the Big East Tournament. That was her sophomore year. The fans at the Civic Center were on her like I had not seen again. But Angel has grown up immeasurably. Her maturation has caught up with her talents and when they hooked up, she's blossomed even more.

So, yes, it was very classy by the UConn fans to give her a standing ovation. It also shows how much everyone else -- outside of Louisville -- recognizes her growth.

What else can be said

...about the number UConn put on Louisville?

Let's start with the most significant number coming out of the game. That is three.

Three was the shot of choice for Tiffany Hayes, who by many was considered the third freshman of her team's class (EDD and Doty).

Three was the shot that sparked the Huskies' big run when they took control of the game for good.

Three is the number of top six teams UConn has defeated by no fewer than 28 points.

I'm saving Hayes for another blog, hopefully in the morning when I have more rest. The threes? check out Tuesday's Bulletin.

What UConn has done is mind blowing. The ease, and increasing ease, at which it is winning games makes you wonder where the peak will be. Do they peak? Geno Auriemma said after the game that until everyone is clicking, there's room to improve on a nightly basis.

Jeff Walz refused to say UConn is the best team in the country. I don't know if he has a grudge or thinks someone is better, but who's feelings are you going to hurt by not saying UConn?

What I think is a bit of sportsmanship. He's confident that the Big east title game comes down to these same teams and if he waxes amazement than his team might believe it can't hang with the Huskies. I thnk we saw that the Cardinals can, in fact, play with the Huskies.

Had it not been for some sloppy play and a load of missed gimmie baskets, we have a different game. Maybe it's a 12-point game instead. And what if Tiffany Hayes plays more toward her average? Then Louisville might win. I doubt it, though. I find that the Cardinals are MUCH better than they showed -- and how can you not like Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham?

I mentioned at halftime to someone who had never seen Angel play how I thought she is better than Maya Moore. I think Angel is more complete right now. Statistically, McCoughtry is the better player. That can't be argued. Plus, she has less talent -- substantially so -- than Moore. McCoughtry has single-handedly made Louisville a power.

Moore is more graceful, and compared to where McCoughtry was as a sophomore, is light years ahead in development. Meaning, two years from now, Maya is going to be twice as good...at least.

Anyhow, the season seems anticlimactic now. It shouldn't be and I suspect there will be a few tough games between now and the Big East tournament. But there are only a handful of teams that I think can give UConn trouble.

They are:
Stanford
Baylor
Cal
Maybe Auburn (need to see more)

Most everyone will disagree with me on Baylor and Cal, but I think they are athletic enough to cause problems for UConn.

OK, so that's it for now...but more after sunrise.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Misc. notes

Prior to the start of Monday's game against Louisville, which should be either No. 1 vs. No. 4 or No.1 vs. No 4, there will be a moment of silence in honor of Kay Yow. No pink jerseys or anything like that - I'll break out a pink shirt/tie combo for Kay, though. If you are going Monday, try to wear pink. If you know someone going, ask them to wear pink. Sure, UConn will have its "Think Pink" game in a few weeks, but it's not going to hurt you to do it twice.

Also, Maya Moore will be presented with a ball to commemorate her 1,000th point, which she scored last week against Syracuse. as part of her 40-point outburst.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thanks, Coach

Conn coach Geno Auriemma sat deeper into his seat during Thursday's media gathering, looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable. For a man who usually has a quick response to anything, Auriemma was caught off guard.

His eyes drifted toward the floor, as to not make eye contact, but there was no hiding the emotions welling up inside.

All this for an opposing coach, a friend.

North Carolina State coach Kay Yow, 66, lost her battle with cancer Saturday.

Auriemma said he knew this most recent leave of absence was a sign of the disease taking a deeper hold of Yow, who twice before fought cancer into remission after her initial diagnosis in 1987. The last came in 2007 and she returned to the Wolfpack's run in the NCAA Tournament, which ended with a loss to the Huskies in Fresno, Calif.

Yow was what was right about sports, humanity.

She fought with a gusto and a determination that you realize if everyone shared those qualities, there is nothing mankind couldn't accomplish. She gave millions -- if not more -- hope, basketball fans or not, with her tireless advocacy toward cancer awareness and fund raising.

A Hall of Fame coach with 700 wins and a gold medal, Yow will be remembered for being both fighter and sheppard.

She is the reason next month college teams across this land will wear pink. Not many people can transcend their sport, yet Yow managed to do so.

Yow's efforts weren't fruitless. If the attention she drew to the cause led to one person to get checked out and catch the disease before it spread, I am sure she'd tell you every ounce of energy was well worth it.

Unfortunately, no matter how much others honor Yow, it simply won't be enough to do her justice.

Thanks, Coach.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Doty's surgery

Freshman guard Caroline Doty underwent surgery Thursday morning to repair her torn left ACL. That's the same ACL she tore playing soccer during her senior season of high school. She should need six-to-nine months to recover, but the question that is a ways away from being answered is how will Doty respond when she's back on the court? Will she be tentative? Will she hold back? Will she favor the left leg?

I spoke with two people who know a thing or two about knee injuries - Kalana Greene and Shea Ralph.

Greene said the hardest part was during games and not being able to give anyone a breather. In a lot of ways, that time becomes a reminder that you are hurt. Ralph said she has already assigned responsibilities to Doty, such as charting stats, to keep her involved and her mind off of the injury. The other thing Greene said was that practices were even tougher.

“I didn’t watch practice last year, I couldn’t do it,” Greene said. “I rehabbed during practice because practice is long and you’re doing drills and you see people play. Games are hard enough, but watching practice every day, it sucks because you want to be out there and part of the team.”


Ralph said she had five knee surgeries all told. After the fifth, the doctors told her that should she require another operation, Ralph would need knee replacement. Hopefully Doty doesn't go beyond two surgeries. My uneducated assumption is two in two years doesn't bode well dor Caroline.


Anyhow, Ralph said the subsequent surgeries and rehab were easier in the sense that she knew what was in front of her but she still had some measure of uncertainity. The keys are not getting too bogged down. It helped to have a good support system to lift her spirits, naming her roommate, Paige Sauer, as one person in particular that stepped up for her.


“At first it’s very physical because you lose your muscle like that, your knee is this big (gesturing a foot wide with her hands); the simplest things are painful and hard,” she said. “It’s hard physically. And once that starts to subside, it’s completely mental. I think the biggest is once your healed, is being back out on the court.”


Ralph said there isn't much you can tell an athlete when they're on the verge of surgery, but mentioned she stopped by to see Doty Thursday morning and deleivered a care package for the freshman.





Sunday, January 18, 2009

Syracuse pics and a video






The video is Orange coach Quentin Hillsman displaying his frustrations with the officiating.



video

Clarification

First off....I need to respond to the last couple of comments regarding the Syracuse game.

1. Anyone who saw the game, especially if you were there, knows Geno didn't try to trip anyone. If you believe that, you are making up your own story and have no idea what happened. From my perspective, it looked like Geno tripped on a television cable. He said he stepped on someone's foot. A clip with a close up, but not entirely concrete shows Nicole Michael appearing to have stuck out her foot.

Everyone on the press row side of the court said he tripped on the cable. Everyone on the bench side said he was tripped, not that he instigated a trip. The line of players also blocked many people from seeing the cable.

Instead of name-calling and making up accusations, let's stick to the facts.

From what I saw, he tripped on a cable, but Syracuse played a dirty, dirty game.

2. Running up the score? You bet. The players and Auriemma wanted to make a point, send a message. 'Cuse coach Quentin Hillsman told the Orange;s radio team that he felt Auriemma was "trying to send me a message that I won't accept."

Auriemma said that if Hillsman thought a message was being sent he must have done something to warrant a message.

After Syracuse players said anyone on their team can guard Maya Moore and that the only difference between the Huskies and the Orange is the No. 1 ranking UConn has, I think what we saw was a Orange squad hat realized they aren't close and a Huskies team that wanted to make sure their foe knew its place.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

War of words

Syracuse's Nicole Michael threw down Maya Moore midway through the second half, and during a timeout that immediately followed the play, Geno Auriemma spent the 30 seconds starring down at the Orange bench. After the game, it escalated as Auriemma exchanged words with Michael, who on her way back around, barked back at the coach. Both needed to be pulled away.

Auriemma doesn't like to punish the kids on the opposing team by running up the score, but today, he clearly did that.

Maya Moore became the fastest player to reach 1,000 points in school history, made the most 3-pointers in a game by a Husky with 10 and scored 40 points and 13 rebounds in the 107-53 win.

Renee Montgomery had 14 points and 11 assists, Tina Charles scored 20 with nine boards and Caroline Doty, who left with a knee sprain in the first half, scored 17.

Doty hurt

UConn freshman Caroline Doty scored a game-high 17 points, but twisted her surgically repaired left knee with 27.9 seconds left in the Huskies' 48-28 halftime lead over Syracuse at the XL Center on Saturday.

Doty was on a fastbreak along with Renee Montgomry and awkwardky turned to receive a long pass from Maya Moore (17 points) under the basket before falling to the court. She yelled, "My knee," as she the team's training staff ran to her aid.

It was a banner half for Doty, who missed her senior season due to a torn ACL. She was 5-for-11 from 3-point range and hit a pair of technical foul shots.

She had tangled with Syracuse's Juanita Ward and letter hit a 3 and looked in Ward's direction heading back uo court. Ward then directed some choice words at Doty leading to the technical foul shots.

Extended play

According to North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, the contract between UConn and UNC, which was set to expire after next season, has been extended for two additional years, taking the rivalry through the 2011-2012 season.

A UConn official said that the deal hasn't been signed, but is being finalized.

Calm before the storm

Frankly, today's game between UConn and Syracuse seems pointless. All of the attention is already on Monday's clash between UConn and North Carolina. It's the sort of game that the nation's women's basketball loving public can't wait to see. Me, included.

Oddly, the hype isn't at the same level as when Oklahoma came into Storrs in Novemeber. I think come Monday that should change.

UConn has spanked pretty much everyone, so the blade is a little dull. But UNC is undefeated and provided UConn wins today, which it should, this will be a clash for the No. 1 ranking. A UConn win, especially by a large margin, will make the rest of the season seem moot.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how sharp the Huskies are with their final tuneup for the Tar Heels. My guess is it won't be pretty even though the Orange are a pretty decent team.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fernandes' scholarship extended

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Tuesday that former Stonington guard Jacquie Fernandes will have her scholarship extended for her senior season.

“Jacquie made the decision to come here and I hope she doesn’t regret it and never will. … There’s not a kid on our team that doesn’t appreciate her being here and all the things she does for us.” Auriemma said .

Fernandes has seen an increase in her minutes, scoring, field goal percentage and rebounding from either of her previous two seasons. She scored a career-high five points and four rebounds against Holy Cross last month.

“Like every other year it wasn’t guaranteed and I have to get it and work for it,” Fernandes said of the scholarship. “It’s good to know I have it.”

She added, “You can’t put a money value on the experiences I have had."

Sloppy play

Twenty minutes in and the Huskies have a 15-point lead, but they should be thankful.

* They've played sloppy and seem to rush their offensive sets
* DePaul's Deirdre Naughton, the team's leading scorer, is having a bad night. She has made just one of seven shots while getting into foul trouble

Tiffany Hayes is really impressing. She's flying all over the court, tallying 10 points in 15 minutes. Kalana Greene has shown hints of her slahing ability that we haven't seen in over a year. Maya Moore leads all scorers with 16.

Check back later for pictures from the game.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

post game

What LSU coach Van Chancellor had to say about Renee Montgomery is bonkers. That is, who says stuff like that? Chancellor does. For those of you who think Geno Auriemma is charming, you need to meet Chancellor. He is the epitome of a Southern Gentleman.

Anyhow, Auriemma couldn't disagree with his counterpart saying that Montgomery will be one of two point guards on the USA's 2012 Olympic basketball team. In fact, Auriemma went as far as to say he would imagine Montgomery and Sue Bird as the pair of points on the team.

He did note that Montgomery can't take 20 shots a game with the Olympic team or there might be a revolt, led by Diana Taurasi.

LSU still tough

Some -- myself including myself -- but the athleticsim and defensive intensity of the Lady Tigers is really impressive. LSU has controlled the boards and forced UConn into taking some bad shots.

Recruiting news

There's always specualtion about who UConn has interest in and who has interest in UConn. Of course, who wants to play at UConn is far less important than who UConn wants to play there.

With Samarie Walker and Stefanie Dolson in place for the class of 2011, speculation is rampant that NFA standout Kastine Evans is on the radar. Evans recently said that she was being looked at by UConn and Tennesee, among others.

I can tell you that, yes, the Huskies have interest in the guard, as program sources have confirmed as much. And a little birdie told me that contrary to Evans' claims, the Lady Vols just aren't that into her.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Star spotting and more

If you are at tomorrow's game or watching it on TV instead of the bowl game, keep an eye out for some people of note in the Husky universe. Former Huskies Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Ashja Jones, Maria Conlon and Ashley Valley, as well as recruit Stefanie Dolson are expected to be in the stands.

*****
Tomorrow's game against LSU will be the last game between the teams, at least that's scheduled, for some time. The deal between schools expires after this season. Personally, I've grown attached -- almost comfortable -- with the Lady Tigers. Baton Rouge is my favorite place that I've visited with the team and I have a lot of respect for the success attained there.

Geno Auriemma said that it's time for a "break" between teams. Maybe he's right. Let LSU reload in a couple of years and come back when there should be a little more juice. UConn leads 4-1, but that one loss came in Fresno to reach the Final Four a couple of years ago.

Next year, UConn will have its hands full: Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Duke and Stanford on top of an always tough Big East schedule. I can see how North Carolina might step in and become that rival that Tennessee was/is. I like LSU better, but UNC is so impressive.

*****

Renee Montgomery is hating life right now. Well, to be clear, she's hating her busted lip. It's considerably larger and she asked reporters to not look at her lip. Frankly, it's hard not to. There are people who have been in a car accident that had smaller lips.

She says it hurts badly in the morning, as if she "was hit by a truck." It's starting to heal and "Ne-Ne" wishes the swelling would go down because the game is nationally televised.

Montgomery said she can't pronounce the letter F, but when I asked her to say "food," she sounded fine. I also suggested she speak with her lip covered up if she's bothered. So she turned to a nearby camera and asked if they could hear her OK. Auriemma said he's never seen anyone use so much ice as Montgomery.