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Battle Of The Undefeated

On Monday afternoon UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said “There’s no matchup for Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd. I don’t think anybody in the country has figured out how to guard those two. And I’m not sure we’re going to be able to guard them either.” Maryland thought they had a plan but Notre Dame dispatched them easily with an 87-61 victory. Now two undefeated teams will compete for the national championship Tuesday night. For Lori Riley’s story on the rivalry click here:

Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Kayla McBride (21) drives up court as Maryland Terrapins guard Laurin Mincy (1) reaches in for the ball during the first half of the 2014 NCAA Women's Final Four in Nashville, TN., Sunday night. McBride scored 28 points and Notre Dame easily advanced with an 87-61 victory.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Kayla McBride (21) drives up court as Maryland Terrapins guard Laurin Mincy (1) reaches in for the ball during the first half of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four in Nashville, TN., Sunday night. McBride scored 28 points and Notre Dame easily advanced with an 87-61 victory.

Notre Dame and UConn did not play each other this year and the rivalry has become more intense over the years so Tuesday nights game should be a beauty. For more photos of how the two teams reached the final click here:

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The Road To Perfection

With a decisive 69-54 win over the Texas A&M Aggies in their NCAA Elite 8 game at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in the Lincoln Regional Monday night, the UConn women’s basketball team (38-0) is two games away from a perfect season. A win over Stanford in the national semi-final in Nashville Sunday night would send them to an expected – well, at least hoped for – championship showdown with the only other undefeated team – the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. On the eve of the Huskies pursuit of a record ninth national championship, here is a look back at their Elite 8 victory in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Click here to read John Altavilla’s game story. Click here to read Lori Riley’s preview story on UConn’s semi-final game against Stanford.

LINCOLN, NE 03/28/14 UConn Huskies center Stefanie Dolson (31) (left) does a victory dance as her teammates celebrate as time runs out in the second half of the NCAA Lincoln Regional Championship at the Pinnacle Bank Arena Monday. UConn defeated the Texas A&M Aggies, 69-54, to advance to the Final Four. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

LINCOLN, NE 03/28/14 UConn Huskies center Stefanie Dolson (31) (left) does a victory dance as her teammates celebrate as time runs out in the second half of the NCAA Lincoln Regional Championship at the Pinnacle Bank Arena Monday. UConn defeated the Texas A&M Aggies, 69-54, to advance to the Final Four. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

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UConn Women Beat BYU In Sweet 16

The UConn women defeated the BYU Cougars, 70-51, before a packed house at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, in an NCAA Sweet 16 game in the Lincoln Regional. Stefanie Dolson was given the assignment to guard BYU’s 6’7″ center, Jennifer Hamson.  After a tight first half, with eight lead changes and three ties, and UConn only up by one point at the half, the Huskies came out swinging in the second half, pulling away to win it and advance to the Elite 8.  They will play the Texas A&M Aggies as they continue their journey toward the Final Four and a record ninth national championship.  Read John Altavilla’s game story here.

LINCOLN, NE 03/28/14 UConn Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) is defended by Brigham Young Cougars forward Morgan Bailey (41) in the first half of an NCAA Sweet Sixteen game at the Pinnacle Bank Arena Saturday.  CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

LINCOLN, NE 03/28/14 UConn Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) is defended by Brigham Young Cougars forward Morgan Bailey (41) in the first half of an NCAA Sweet Sixteen game at the Pinnacle Bank Arena Saturday. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

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New Conference, Old Champions

After winning 18 Big East titles, the UConn women steamrolled their way through the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship tournament this past weekend at the Mohegan Sun Arena with three decisive wins in as many days, going 34-0 on the season. They defeated Cincinnati 72-42, Rutgers 83-57, and Louisville 72-52. To read John Altavilla’s tournament wrap-up, click here. UConn will enter the upcoming NCAA tournament as an undefeated top seed in their pursuit of a ninth national title.

UNCASVILLE 03/10/14  The UConn women pose with the trophy after winning the American Athletic Conference Championship game at the Mohegan Sun Arena Monday. UConn defeated Louisville, 72-52.   CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

UNCASVILLE 03/10/14 The UConn women pose with the trophy after winning the American Athletic Conference Championship game at the Mohegan Sun Arena Monday. UConn defeated Louisville, 72-52. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

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UConn Seniors Swan Song

On Saturday, UConn All Americans and fan favorites Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley were honored at Senior Day ceremonies before a packed house at Gampel Pavilion on the Storrs campus. Each player was escorted into the arena by their parents to thunderous applause and cheering by the faithful fans and students.  Hartley, grinning from ear to ear, hoisted her framed jersey as she enjoyed the adulation at the close of her stellar UConn career.  Dolson, ever the cut-up, came out dancing in her inimitable style to the roar of her adoring fans. Then the two got to work: Hartley scored 20 points and Dolson surpassed the 1,000 rebound mark in UConn’s 72-35 trouncing of Rutgers.  They made it look easy, as usual, in their final regular season home game under the dome.  (They will play again in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament starting the weekend of March 22 at Gampel.)  To read about their final home game, see John Altavilla’s story here.

STORRS 03/01/14 UConn seniors Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson hug after they were honored at Senior Day ceremonies at Gampel Pavilion before their game against Rutgers Saturday. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

STORRS 03/01/14 UConn seniors Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson hug after they were honored at Senior Day ceremonies at Gampel Pavilion before their game against Rutgers Saturday. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

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Lady Huskies Destroy SMU Mustangs

On the eve of a forecast winter storm, the University of Connecticut Women’s basketball team created their own weather pattern inside Gampel Pavilion. The winds started suddenly at the tip off, and only picked up speed from there. The total team effort saw five players score in double digits, and led by Stefanie Dolson, they had a combined 14 blocked shots. The game was a college women’s version of this years Super Bowl.

For a better understanding of the game, please read John Altavilla’s game story by clicking here!

University of Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson, 4, is fouled on her way to the basket as Southern Methodist University guard Keena Mays, 23, left, and Southern Methodist University guard Korina Baker, 10, try to stop the break away during the first half.

University of Connecticut Huskies guard Moriah Jefferson, 4, is fouled on her way to the basket as Southern Methodist University guard Keena Mays, 23, left, and Southern Methodist University guard Korina Baker, 10, try to stop the break away during the first half.

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UConn Women Take on Temple in Bridgeport

UConn took on the Temple Owls at Webster Bank Arena Saturday afternoon. Bria Hartley led all scorers with 19 points and Kiah Stokes pulled down 18 rebounds. The Huskies improved to 17-0 before heading to Texas for Monday’s game against Baylor.

UConn Women's Hoops vs. Temple–  Bridgeport, CT – 01/11/14  - UConn’s Breanna Stewart battles Temple’s Natasha Thames for a loose ball during the first half of Saturday’s contest at Webster Bank Arena. Photo by BRAD HORRIGAN | bhorrigan@courant.com

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UConn Heats Up A Cold Night

The temperature outside was 5 degrees, but the UConn woman created their own heat early in the game and beat the University of Houston Cougars by a score of 90 to 40. The starters sat for long portions of the game or the score would have been even more lopsided. The game was remarkable in that the women had a total of 17 blocked shots, tying a school record. Read John Altavilla’s game story here.

University of Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart, 30, blocks the shot of University of Houston Cougars forward Destini Texada, 12,  during the first half.

University of Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart, 30, blocks the shot of University of Houston Cougars forward Destini Texada, 12, during the first half.

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Huskies Vanquish Knights

The UConn women’s basketball team added another game to the win column when they visited the University of Central Florida Knights at UCF Arena in Orlando, Florida, on New Years Day.  In UConn’s second game playing in the new American Athletic Conference, they moved into the Knight’s house, with a large Husky fan section in tow, and rolled to a 77-49 victory. Stefanie Dolson rang in the new year with a 25 point, 12 rebound performance. Read John Altavilla’s game story here.

ORLANDO, FL 01/01/14 UConn Huskies guard Brianna Banks (13) grabs a loose ball from UCF Knights forward/center Erika Jones (55) in the first half against UCF at UCF Arena Wednesday.  UConn beat the Knights, 77-49. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@couant.com

ORLANDO, FL 01/01/14 UConn Huskies guard Brianna Banks (13) grabs a loose ball from UCF Knights forward/center Erika Jones (55) in the first half against UCF at UCF Arena Wednesday. UConn beat the Knights, 77-49. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@couant.com

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UConn Women Overpower Cal at MSG

Offensively the UConn women started off slowly in the first half of their matchup with California at Madison Square Garden Sunday.  But as the game wore on, the Huskies proved to be far superior to their west coast adversaries.  Breanna Stewart led the way with 29 points (in only 27 minutes) and 10 rebounds.

UConn women's Hoops Versus CalNew York, NY – 12/22/13 – UConn players, left to right: Brianna Banks, Bria Hartley, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson celebrate on the bench after a basket by Tierney Lawlor  (not pictured) against California in the Maggie Dixon Classic Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.  Photo by BRAD HORRIGAN | bhorrigan@courant.com

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UConn Women Dominate Duke 83-61

We all have “Bucket Lists”, mine included Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of the “Cameron Crazies”, which open in 1940 on the West Campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. It has been the site of many memorable basketball games, Tuesday night pitted the #1 UConn Huskies women’s basketball team against #2 ranked Duke. When the dust settled from the wood bleachers one thing was certain, UConn has few teams that can play 40 minutes at their level…

It was #1 UConn against #2 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC, Tuesday evening. At the conclusion of the game it was clear there are few teams that will be able to knock the Huskies from their lofty perch.

It was #1 UConn against #2 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC, Tuesday evening. At the conclusion of the game it was clear there are few teams that will be able to knock the Huskies from their lofty perch.

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A Time For Giving Thanks

Living in an increasingly divided, tumultuous and complicated world, the Thanksgiving holiday offers an opportunity to truly reflect on our personal blessings. For many, the value of these blessings is even more treasured as they reflect on times of struggle. To some, adversity came long ago. Others are in the midst of difficult challenges today. Yet finding genuine reasons to be thankful can help us to persevere. There is a time to focus on our troubles for it helps us to recognize them, confront them and, with luck, overcome them. But our nature also demands time for reflection, which helps us establish our priorities, realize how much we depend upon each other, and remain humble. Here we offer you the stories of a few individuals who have faced challenges in their lives, and their brief reflections on what makes them grateful.

I asked one question “What are you thankful for?”

Giving Thanks

Dan Crowley, Simsbury

On April 9, 1942, U.S. General Edward King surrendered to the Japanese army after a battle on the Philippine peninsula of Bataan. Dan Crowley and a group of other soldiers didn’t obey that order — they fought on. Swimming to the small island of Corregidor, in Manila Bay, Private Crowley somehow dodged the artillery for nearly a month before being forced to surrender. The horrific World War II event that followed is now known as the Bataan Death March. U.S. and Philippine soldiers suffered unspeakable atrocities, and later, Crowley was enslaved 2,000 feet underground in a copper mine until Japan finally surrendered in September of 1945. Through the years, Crowley shared those memories with a fellow P.O.W. and best friend, Harry Johnson, who also survived the experience after being lucky enough to be dug out of a pile of corpses when someone heard him moan. That friendship ended three years ago at the passing of that kindred soul. Over the last year or so, Crowley also lost his wife of sixty-six years to cancer, and has been pre-deceased by his sixty-two-year-old son.

Crowley answers my question about thankfulness and shares his stories with so much passion and perspective.

“I’m thankful to be alive. Thankful that I was somehow chosen to still be alive. All my friends, who I was with in the rotten Japanese slave labor camps are dead,” he says sitting in the drivers seat of his bright red 1997 Mustang Cobra sports car. “I savor life, the Simsbury resident says. “I was in bad shape for a while. No corporation would hire us, when we got home. I went out and sold on my own for straight commission.” Crowley is also grateful for his family, especially his father who he learned so much from, and his wife, who’s parting advice to him was to find a young woman and enjoy life. So what is he doing with the life he is lucky to keep living? “Eat, sleep and make love,” he punctuates with a hearty and sustained laughter.

At 2:00 p.m. on December 7, the state of Connecticut is dedicating a bridge in the Weatogue section of Simsbury the “Bataan Corregidor Memorial Bridge.” Crowley will be communication with the pilots to perfectly time the military fly-over.

“I’m thankful that finally recognition is being given to the memory of the men of Connecticut and throughout the United states,” he says. Crowley has led the effort for years, saying, “his is not about veterans, it’s about those who died in the battle and aftermath as prisoner slave laborers. They must not be forgotten.”

VIEW FOUR MORE  STORIES HERE

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UConn Women Top Penn State

With only five players seeing over 20 minutes of playing time, and only seven players playing, the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team beat Penn State University at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. by a score of 71 to 52.

UConn’s senior guard, Bria Hartley led the way for the Lady Huskies, scoring 29 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, and was just named Player of the Week for the American Athletic Conference.

Please read John Altavilla’s game story by clicking here. John also wrote about a WNBA recruiter who was at the game, see that story by clicking here.

Bria Hartley dries to the basket over Penn State University junior forward/center, Tori Waldner. Hartley led the game in scoring with 29 points.

Bria Hartley dries to the basket over Penn State University junior forward/center, Tori Waldner. Hartley led the game in scoring with 29 points.

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Team of Nine UConn Women Huskies Beat Maryland

With two players injured and unable to play, the number one ranked  University of Connecticut women’s basketball team played eighth ranked University of Maryland Friday night. Junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and sophomore forward, Morgan Tuck could only watch from the bench. After a close first half, UConn played tough defense in the second half and won the game by a score of 72 to 55 to retain their number one ranking.

Please Click Here to read John Altavilla’s game story on how the short handed Huskies, held off the Terps.

Please Click Here to read Jeff Jacobs’ column about Moriah Jefferson’s Sweet Moves being the difference.

With two players out due to injuries, each player needed to step up for their game against eight ranked Maryland. Here, UConn's sophomore guard, Moriah Jefferson, 4, shoots as Maryland Terrapins head coach Brenda Frese shouts in her ear  during the first half.

With two players out due to injuries, each player needed to step up for their game against eight ranked Maryland. Here, UConn’s sophomore guard, Moriah Jefferson, 4, shoots as Maryland Terrapins head coach Brenda Frese shouts in her ear during the first half.

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UConn Defeats Stanford 76-57

STORRS — Most times, it happens just once a season. But for some strange reason, the sight of Stanford-UConn doesn’t seem to generate the kind of national excitement it seemingly should.

Then again, sometimes in the midst of a hard-fought game between two elite programs, the fire and joy of what transpires is overshadowed.

Not by disinterest, but by the concern for a young woman injured in its pursuit.

No. 1 UConn beat No. 3 Stanford, 76-57, on Monday at Gampel Pavilion, their first meeting at Geno Auriemma‘s castle in the cow pasture since 1993, when national championships were just a dream for him. For the rest of John Altavilla’s story click here:

Jonathan the Husky Dog unveils the 8th national championship banner before the No.1 UConn women defeated No. 3 Stanford 76-57 at Gampel Pavilion Monday night.

Jonathan the Husky Dog unveils the 8th national championship banner before the No.1 UConn women defeated No. 3 Stanford 76-57 at Gampel Pavilion Monday night.

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Tune-Up For The New Season

The defending national champion UConn women’s basketball team dispatched  Philadelphia University with a lopsided score of 93-28 in a fast-paced exhibition game at the XL Center Tuesday night.  It was the second of two pre-season games in which UConn easily rolled over lesser opponents before the new season gets underway on Saturday when they meet Jen Rizotti’s Hartford Hawks.  No. 3 Stanford rolls into town on Monday.  Read John Altavilla’s game story here.

HARTFORD 11/05/13 UConn's Stefanie Dolson (31) is fouled by Philadelphia's Monica Schacker (23) in the first half in an exhibition game at the XL Center in Hartford Tuesday night.  CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

HARTFORD 11/05/13 UConn’s Stefanie Dolson (31) is fouled by Philadelphia’s Monica Schacker (23) in the first half in an exhibition game at the XL Center in Hartford Tuesday night. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

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UConn’s First Night

UConn previewed the 2013-14 basketball season with their annual First Night celebration before a packed house at Gampel Pavilion Friday night. The event included the usual autograph signing, player introductions – with several showing off their dance moves – and a few trivia games for the players and contests for the fans. Then, for the first time, the two teams merged for an inter-squad scrimmage pitting Team Geno, in white, against Team Kevin in blue. Team Geno came from behind to win it, 51-49. To read Jeff Jacob’s column and see more coverage of the event, click here.

STORRS 10/18/13 Members of Team Geno seek crowd support during a trivia game at UConn's First Night festivities.  They are Phil Nolan, Omar Calhoun, Breanna Stewart, Shabazz Napier, Bria Hartley (back to camera), Tor Watts and Niels Giffey (l-r.)  CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

STORRS 10/18/13 Members of Team Geno seek crowd support during a trivia game at UConn’s First Night festivities. They are Phil Nolan, Omar Calhoun, Breanna Stewart, Shabazz Napier, Bria Hartley (back to camera), Tor Watts and Niels Giffey (l-r.) CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

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We’re Baaaaack!!!!

For the third time during his tenure as president, Barak Obama welcomed the UConn Women’s basketball team to the White House Wednesday in honor of their eighth national championship.  The team has been a frequent visitor to Washington since winning their first title in 1995, having been honored twice by President Bill Clinton and three times by President George W. Bush.  They stood before a packed East Room crowd of guests and media and presented the POTUS with an autographed basketball and a UConn jersey. Perhaps they should keep a bag packed for next year…

2013.07.31 - Washington, D.C. - President Barack Obama (center) addresses the crowd during a Connecticut Huskies visit to the White House. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

2013.07.31 – Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama (center) addresses the crowd during a Connecticut Huskies visit to the White House. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

 

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Kara Wolters Big Dream Basketball Camp

Former UConn star basketball player, Kara Wolters, has a problem most basketball camp directors probably wish they had. Many of her coaches/counselors can’t attend Wednesday’s session because they have a prior commitment.

Since some of Wolter’s camp counselors are members of the reigning N.C.A.A. National Women’s Basketball Championship UConn Huskies team, they will be in Washington D.C. to attend a White House reception in their honor hosted by President Barack Obama. Click here to read that story by John Altavilla.

In seven of the fifteen years the Kara Wolters Big Dream Basketball Camp has been running, the UConn Huskies have won the Championship, however, the White House visit has never coincided with the two weeks the camp is held. “I’ve been lucky,” Wolters says after finishing another day of the first session held at Avon High School this week.

However, the campers probably won’t mind, since Wolter’s was able to find star replacements — her former teammates  Rebecca Lobo, and  Carla Berube of the perfect 35-0 team that won the 1995 N.C.A.A. Women’s National Championship. That team went to the White House, for Wolters first trip there, and she made it back there after she was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team in 2000.

The second session of the camp is held at East Longmeadow High School in Massachusetts next week for girls in grades 5 through 10. That session is still accepting campers so click here for more information.

Former UConn basketball player Kara Wolters ends Tuesday's Kara Wolters Dream Big Basketball Camp for girls held at Avon High School, by gathering the girls at center court and doing a really high five.

Former UConn basketball player Kara Wolters ends Tuesday’s Kara Wolters Dream Big Basketball Camp for girls held at Avon High School, by gathering the girls at center court and doing a really high five.

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WNBA All-Star Game Played at Mohegan Sun

The best women’s basketball players in the country were in Connecticut Saturday, a few of which were former UConn women players. Here are a few photos from the game of our favorite players and a few other interesting moments. The west won by a score of 102 to 98.

Tina Charles, of the Connecticut Sun, 31, reacts after missing a shot late in the fourth quarter.

Tina Charles, of the Connecticut Sun, 31, reacts after missing a shot late in the fourth quarter.

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Eighth Wonder

The UConn women won their eighth national championship earlier this month in New Orleans when they crushed rival Notre Dame, 83-65 in the semi-final and rolled over Louisville, 93-60, in the title game. They made it look easy in the Big Easy. They were led by freshman wunderkind Breanna Stewart, affectionately known as “Stewie” who was named the tournament Most Outstanding Player after scoring a total of 52 points over the two games. But the victory was truly a team effort. They were unstoppable.

Covering the Final Four was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. It was a whirlwind of events starting with the Parade of Teams to kick off the weekend. Then the real work began with shooting team practices, press conferences, autograph-signing sessions, locker room scenes, the high school All America game, both semi-final games, more press conferences, and finally the big game.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorite images from the tournament.

UConn's practice and media session; photos of ND as well. Here is  the sked, and UConn is the No. 1 seed in the second game: News Co

Morgan Tuck, Breanna Stewart, Kiah Stokes, and Moriah Jefferson get into the spirit of the Big Easy all dressed up complete with feather boas in the Parade of Teams at Mardi Gras World Friday night where the four teams were introduced to fans.

UConn's practice and media session; photos of ND as well. Here is  the sked, and UConn is the No. 1 seed in the second game: News Co

Stefanie Dolson shoots a layup during an open practice at the New Orleans Arena the day before taking on Notre Dame in a semi-final game.

UConn's practice and media session; photos of ND as well. Here is  the sked, and UConn is the No. 1 seed in the second game: News Co

Associate head coach Chris Dailey sets a light-hearted mood during practice.

UConn's practice and media session; photos of ND as well. Here is  the sked, and UConn is the No. 1 seed in the second game: News Co

Skylar Diggins and the Irish looked relaxed and confident as they posed for a team photo at their open practice the day before the semi-final game.

UConn's practice and media session; photos of ND as well. Here is  the sked, and UConn is the No. 1 seed in the second game: News Co

Back in the locker room after practice, Stefanie Dolson removes an ice pack from her right leg which was healing from a stress fracture.

UConn's practice and media session; photos of ND as well. Here is  the sked, and UConn is the No. 1 seed in the second game: News Co

Breanna Stewart playfully tickles Chris Dailey as she is interviewed in the locker room after practice.

Assuming UConn wins Sunday, this is for presser and locker room stuff on Monday.

Moriah Jefferson reacts to a card delt while playing UNO with Morgan Tuck and Brianna Banks and Heather Buck (off camera), a locker room ritual for the group.

UConn's practice and media session; photos of ND as well. Here is  the sked, and UConn is the No. 1 seed in the second game: News Co

The team holds an autograph session for the legions of loyal fans who made the trip to New Orleans to cheer on their Huskies.

UConn plays notre dame at 8:30, but also get some pix of the first game between Cal and Louisville for Monday coverage assuming UConSkylar Diggins asserts herself against Bria Hartley early in the semi-final game, but UConn’s defense eventually brought the hammer down on Notre Dame’s shooting star, holding her to 10 points.

UC ND

UConn’s Kelly Faris was instrumental in keeping Skylar Diggins away from the ball as the two former high school opponents from Indiana faced off.

UConn plays notre dame at 8:30, but also get some pix of the first game between Cal and Louisville for Monday coverage assuming UCon

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw takes issue with a ref’s call in the second half as UConn pulls away.

UConn plays notre dame at 8:30, but also get some pix of the first game between Cal and Louisville for Monday coverage assuming UCon

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis showed off her considerable skills adding 16 points against the Irish.

UConn plays notre dame at 8:30, but also get some pix of the first game between Cal and Louisville for Monday coverage assuming UCon

Caroline Doty shows why she’s the emotional leader for the Huskies as she leaps for joy as a teammate scores in the second half.

UC ND02

Stefanie Dolson battles Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride for a loose ball.  McBride was the high scorer for the Irish with 16 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Huskies stifling defense.

UConn plays notre dame at 8:30, but also get some pix of the first game between Cal and Louisville for Monday coverage assuming UCon

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma directs his squad as they hold off Notre Dame.

UConn plays notre dame at 8:30, but also get some pix of the first game between Cal and Louisville for Monday coverage assuming UCon

Bria Hartley drives to the hoop as Skylar Diggins defends.  Hartley scored 15 points in the game.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for Fari

UConn fan Liz Manning cheers as the Huskies roll over Notre Dame.

UConn plays notre dame at 8:30, but also get some pix of the first game between Cal and Louisville for Monday coverage assuming UCon

As the clock winds down, Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride and Skylar Diggins can only watch as their 30-game winning streak comes to an end.

UConn plays notre dame at 8:30, but also get some pix of the first game between Cal and Louisville for Monday coverage assuming UConThe Huskies leap into each other’s arms as they celebrate their victory over Notre Dame to advance to the national championship game. They lost to Notre Dame three times during the season.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for Fari

The New Orleans Arena fills up as UConn and Louisville warm up before playing in the national championship.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for Fari

Stefanie Dolson gets a mouthful of fingers from Louisville’s Bria Smith in the first half of the championship game.  Dolson played through pain from a stress fracture throughout the tournament but managed 12 points and 6 rebounds in the game.

NCAA Tournament

The Huskies, feeling the momentum building, celebrate after Breanna Stewart was fouled on a play.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for Fari

Breanna Stewart dominated the game with 23 points and 9 rebounds.

UConn plays notre dame at 8:30, but also get some pix of the first game between Cal and Louisville for Monday coverage assuming UCon

Louisville head coach Jeff Walz gets in Shoni Schimmel’s face as UConn has it’s way with her in the championship game.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for Fari

A highlight of the game came late in the second half when senior Heather Buck stole the ball from a Louisville player and scored on the fast break.

UC LU36The bench erupts into cheers for Heather Buck as she punctuates UConn’s victory with a layup.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for FariMembers of the UConn pep band celebrate as UConn win is imminent.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for Fari Geno Auriemma is waiting with open arms as senior Kelly Faris leaves the game for the final time in a UConn uniform in the final minutes of the championship.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for Fari

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis cuts the last piece of one of the nets after UConn won the national championship.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for Fari

Former UConn greats Maya Moore, Kalana Greene and Mel Thomas watch the celebration from the stands. Heather Buck’s Dad, David, is at left.

NCAA Tournament

The Huskies hoist the championship trophy for the fans to see.

uconn vs. louisville for national title game... Please make sure to get pix afterward if the team poses together. Last game for Fari

The team carries coach Geno Auriemma across the floor after UConn won their eighth national championship, tying Pat Summit’s record at Tennessee.

 

 

 

 

 

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Women’s Final Four – UConn Bounced Again

When I heard I would be covering the UConn women’s basketball team during the post season I was excited at the prospect of them making it to the Final Four.

For selfish reasons I was looking forward to hooking up with my brother Jeff who has lived in Denver for 22 years and I haven’t been able to visit him as often as I would like. We would get together every other year to do a little skiing but I haven’t strapped my boards to my feet in a couple years now. I also have former colleagues from the Hartford Courant living in Boulder and Golden and really wanted to see them as well.

Sunset heading to Boulder Saturday night to meet with Michael Kodas and Carolyn Moreau for dinner. Shot with iPhone 3s using Instagram app.

Inside the Pepsi Center the court awaits for  teams to compete for the national title and 30,000 fans cheering on Baylor, Stamford, Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut.

Fans lined the concourse to wait for a chance to get an autograph for the Huskies, some were fortunate, some left with empty hands due to a time constraint.

Jenny Sohm, of Witchita, KS, (L) and Catherine Kello of Washington, DC, aim their cameras towards the UConn women’s team hoping to take a souvenir home of their favorite players like…

 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis who holds her 2 year old brother Xander Ali alongside teammate Brianna Banks.

When the autograph session ended the Lady huskies took to the court for a little practice for the fans.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma gives Tiffany Hayes advice on a play during practice as associate head coach Chris Dailey, Kia Stokes, Caroline Doty and Kelly Faris listen in.

Some fans sported “net” hats and temporary tattoos as they watched teams work out.

The UConn women’s basketball team take a half-court shot as the buzzer sounds during their practice session.

Kia Stokes is serenaded by her teammates for her 19th birthday Saturday afternoon after the UConn women finished their practice, tradition calls for the birthday girl to skip around the court afterward.

There are always photos you wish you had at an event like this. One photo I wish I had been in a position to take was a meeting between UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and Tennessee head coach Pat Summit. I was on one end of the court when I saw a commotion at the other side, I wasn’t sure what it was but a small group of reporters and photographers had gathered off the baseline. By the time I realized what was going on and made my way there it was over and I missed the two coaches greeting and hugging one another. The once bitter rivals and titans of the women’s game have recently begun to mend their relationship after it was announced Summit is dealing with the effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I used to beat myself up over missing a shot like that but today I realize you can’t be everywhere all the time. Be grateful for the ones you are able to capture and hope the next time you’re in the right place at the right time. I was able to follow her around for a few moments as she stopped to sign autographs for fans.

She brought smiles to the faces of many Tennessee fans as they lined up along the sidelines for a change to meet their idol.

Sunday afternoon Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson were the first of the Huskies to walk the walkway to the locker room before their semifinal game against Notre Dame.

The UConn marching band plays as Bria Hartley leads the Lady Huskies onto the court before a crowd of 30,000 in the first semifinal.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ 2 year old brother Xander Ali raises his arms to cheer for the team as they enter the arena.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, associate head coach Chris Dailey, and assitant coaches Shea Ralph and Marisa Moseley know they have a tough task at hand as they face Big East rival Notre Dame for the 8th time in 15 months.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw (L) and associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis (R) greet UConn head coach Geno Auriemma before tip-off.

Freshmen Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of UConn drives through Brittany Mallory of Notre Dame during the first half of the 2012 Women’s Final Four. at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, Sunday afternoon. KML played with assertiveness and scored 6 points in 13 minutes in the first half.

 Kelly Faris of UConn splits the defense of Kayla McBride (L) and Devereaux Peters (R) of Notre Dame to hand out 4 of her first half assists.

Stefanie Dolson of UConn is double teamed by Devereaux Peters (L) and Natalie Achonwa (R) of Notre Dame in the first half but Dolson scored 12 points to help the Huskies take a 36-33 lead at the half.

 Bria Hartley of UConn pushed the ball up court against Natalie Achonwa and Notre Dame during the first half scoring 10 points in 20 minutes.

(L to R) Tiffany Hayes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scramble for a loose ball against in the first half, Hayes had 4 points and 3 steals while Mosqueda-Lewis scored 6 points.

It was a physical game as Stefanie Dolson found out late in the first half as she tries to keep her contact lens from dropping to the floor.

The coaching staff and bench look on during the first half as Notre Dame builds a slight lead but the Huskies took a 36-33 lead at the half.

Bria Hartley drives past Natalie Achonwa of Notre Dame during the second half as the two teams exchanged baskets for most of the second half as neither one could get a lead larger than five points.

It was a very physical game as Bria Hartley gets fouled by Devereuax Peters of Notre Dame during the second half.

When Stefanie Dolson picked up her fourth foul at the 17:19 mark of the second half UConn had to put sit their starting center and play a four guard line-up and use freshmen Kia Stokes until Dolson returned with 10:09 remaining.

With Dolson in foul trouble head coach Geno Auriemma, associate head coach Chris Dailey and Kelly Faris ponder their game plan after Dolson picked up that 4th foul.

Freshmen Kia Stokes is triple teamed as she takes a shot during the second half. Stokes only scored 2 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in the second half but gave Uconn a presence inside while Dolson sat with four fouls.

 Natalie Novosel helps Skylar Diggins up after drawing a charging foul against Bria Hartley during the second half of the first game keeping the Irish up by a point at the 14:28 point.

(L to R) Skylar Diggins and Bria Hartley battle for a loose ball during the second half, Diggins grabbed the ball and called timeout.

Tiffany Hayes looked for the foul as she drove to the hoop against Devereaux Peters (R) as Kayla McBride looks on during the second half.

(L to R) Kia Stokes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are pumped after Mosqueda-Lewis scored a basket and drew the foul late in the second half against Notre Dame. After hitting the free throw the Huskies trailed by two with 12:48 remaining.

Kelly Faris splits the defense of Natalie Achonwa (L) and Devereaux Peters (R) late in the second half to rally the Huskies.

Kelly Faris stole the ball from a stumbling Natalie Novosel with 01:22 left in regualtion. It was the beginning of a wild finish of the second half.

Caroline Doty leads the UConn bench in celebration as the Huskies close the gap at the end of regulation against Notre Dame when Kelly Faris stole the ball, drove to the hoop and was fouled.

Faris gets encouragement from Tiffany Hayes, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kia Stokes after drawing the foul and heading to the line for two free throws.

She hit them both to give UConn a 67-65 lead with :11 remaining in the game, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma had this to say about the end of regulation. “I made a huge mistake of taking Kia Stokes out of the game at that point. We went with five guards so that we could switch all their screens. And in the end one defensive rebound would have won it for us. That’s the part I’m going home with.”

With five guards on the floor the Huskies pressed and Skylar Diggins missed layup bounced off the backboard as Caroline Doty lies on the floor and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis tries to keep Natalie Novosel from the rebound…

but Novosel had the inside position on Mosqueda-Lewis and beat her to the ball with less than 5 seconds remaining…

and made the shot that tied the score at 67 forcing OT.

I used a remote mounted along the catwalk high above the basket. With all the commotion in the closing seconds of the game I didn’t have time to pick up my camera with a long lens for the far side of the court so I reached over to the remote and just pushed the trigger hoping for something. When I got the card and started to edit the images I was happier than a pig in you know what at the results. With Doty on the floor and the sequence of players streaming into the frame it captured the what ended up being the play of the game.

“The game sometimes hangs on one play,” Auriemma said. “Kelly Faris steals the ball, misses the layup and gets two free throws. If she gets the layup and the foul shot, we’re up three instead of two.”

Stefanie Dolson listens to head coach Geno Auriemma during a timeout before the start of overtime.

Auriemma pleads with Caroline Doty, Tiffany Hayes, Kelly Faris Stefanie Dolson and Kia Stokes to defend their ground in OT.

Tiffany Hayes drove to the basket against Brittany Mallory for 2 of her 10 points but she turned the ball over 6 times in 39 minutes and a couple of 3 pointers by Mallory…

Extended Notre Dame’s lead in the extra period. Mallory finished with 11 points and 5 assists in 41 minutes.

“As most games do, the game turned on one great play by a great player,” Auriemma said of Novosel. “And once we got into overtime, we just didn’t have enough. Brittany Mallory made two shots and that’s who we wanted to take them. God bless her, she stepped up and made them.”

When the final buzzer went off Stefanie Dolson wiped tears from her face as Notre Dame celebrated their 83-75 victory. Dolson finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds in 34 minutes.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw and her bench jump in joy after defeating UConn and earned the change to play Baylor for the national championship on Tuesday night.

Stefanie Dolson tries to compose herself as reporters ask her questions in the locker room after the 83-75 defeat. “It just sucks” she said trailing off into tears. “We worked so hard all season, and to end just end it this way, it doesn’t feel good.”

Tiffany Hayes said she was proud of her team and teammates after suffering an 83-75 loss in overtime. Many didn’t think the Huskies would make back to the Final Four but Hayes was happy they were able to be there but wished the season hadn’t ended this way.

“What can I say?” coach Geno Auriemma said. “We put ourselves into position to win.”

Pro Tip: I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended a few Final Four championships. I worked as an editor/technician for staffers Rich Messina and Bradley Clift in 1999 when the men won their first title. I was in Philly and San Antonio for the women when they won in the mid 2000′s. I went to Detroit for the men’s Final Four when they lost to Michigan State in 2005. Each time I’ve gone I have had the privilege to work with some outstanding people from the Courant, the NCAA and other newspapers and wire services. Each time time I’ve come away with new friendships and knowledge.

Tim Rasmussen, Director of Photography at the Denver Post, hooked me up with his chief photographer John Ledya. He gave me advice as to what lens to use for the overhead shots at the end of regulation. He also was able to secure a spot for me on the catwalk so I could mount my camera, next to probably 8 others from various papers and wires services. I owe a lot to them and Jamie Schwaberow ?of NCAA photos, who I met through Jay L. Clendenin, a former Courant photog. Contacts, experience and a little luck helped me to achieve the results I hoped for. I wish I could have stayed longer but hey, there’s always next year, and listening to Geno after the game, I would love to be in New Orleans next year for another go round. Until then…

Archive

Finding their Mojo

The UConn women got down to business at the XL Center Tuesday night.  They brought their fighting game to defeat the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, 63-54, to win the Big East championship, their fifth consecutive title and 18th overall.  After a four-loss season and coming into the tournament as the third seed (13-3, Big East) they finally jelled as a team to defeat their nemesis who had beat them in their last three meetings, starting with last year’s heartbreaking national semi-final when Notre Dame eliminated the Huskies, 72-63.  The last straw was on February 27, when they lost 72-59 at the XL Center.  But Tuesday, they came out with energy and confidence and didn’t flinch when Notre Dame fought back.  They made head coach Geno Auriemma proud, finally playing the game “his way.”

Bria Hartley leads the team onto the court before the Big East Championship game. They wore their road uniforms and sat on the visitors bench, something they are unaccustomed to, since they were the third seed this year coming off a 13-3 Big East season.

Head coach Geno Auriemma gets the attention of his starting lineup for some last minute instructions before the game.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis fights Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins and Devereaux Peters for a rebound in the first half.

Tiffany Hayes has the ball tipped away by Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins in the first half.

Geno Auriemma makes a point to his team during a time out.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Tiffany Hayes and Kelly Faris crowd the paint while battling Notre Dame's Kayla McBride and Devereaux Peters for the rebound late in the second half .

Big East Player of the Year and Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins (center) shows her frustration with UConn's defense in the second half. Notre Dame led by one point at the half, but UConn came out strong to dominate in the second half.

Kelly Faris, who contributed two huge threes in the second half, was fierce defensively as she wrestled a loose ball away from Devereaux Peters.

Bria Hartley drives the lane hard to score against Skylar Diggins during a furious scoring flourish in the second half. Hartley finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Caroline Doty, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Tiffany Hayes hug teammate Bria Hartley after she scored and drew a foul in the second half.

After getting a bloody nose in the second half, Bria Hartley is still in the game even as she sits on the bench.

Tiffany Hayes playfully points to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis just before she is announced as the tournament Most Outstanding Player. The freshman scored 19 points in the championship game and 58 points in the tournament.

Geno Auriemma hugs senior Tiffany Hayes after UConn won the Big East championship. It was Auriemma's 800th career win, UConn's 18th title and Hayes' last Big East tournament.

Tiffany Hayes hoists the championship trophy as she and her teammates pose for photos after their hard-fought victory.