<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Dog House]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/blogs/dog-house http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:04:14 -0500 Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:04:14 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[UConn to Co-Host 2016, 2017 Regionals]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:00:23 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

UConn has been selected to co-host the regionals for the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament for 2016 and 2017 in Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena, the school announced Thursday. Fairfield University will serve as the other host.

“We would like to thank the NCAA for honoring Webster Bank Arena with the women’s basketball regional,” said Arena President Howard Saffan in a statement. “It is a great reflection on the continued growth of the city of Bridgeport as well as the improvements throughout our venue. We could not have received this honor without our loyal partners at Fairfield University and the University of Connecticut.”

UConn Senior Associate Director of Athletics/SWA Deb Corum added: “The news today that UConn has been selected to co-host the Regionals of the 2016 and 2017 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport was exciting! This provides another opportunity for the fans in Fairfield County, and across the state, to see high level competition right here at home.

"The staff at Webster Bank Arena does an excellent job and teams that have played in that facility always enjoy a superlative experience. There has been wonderful collaboration in working with the staff at Fairfield University to submit this bid and I look forward to continuing to build that relationship as we work to make this the best regional site ever. But, my most heartfelt thanks go to the fans who have made the State of Connecticut the Basketball Capital of the World. THANK YOU!!! Without you, we would not have won this bid to host.”

And Fairfield Director of Athletics Gene Doris said, “We’re obviously delighted with the announcement. We’ve been hosting NCAA events pretty much since the building opened. We’re pleased to be partnering with the University of Connecticut and Webster Bank Arena in hosting this event.”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch was just as excited.

“This is great news,” he said. “In our improving downtown, we’re extremely proud to serve as home to Webster Bank Arena, which is a world-class sports and entertainment facility. It’s playing a key role in our city nearing a renaissance. And, I’m crossing my fingers that my alma mater, UCONN, gets to play – and win – in our backyard.”

Webster Bank Arena previously hosted two regionals, in 2006 and 2013. The 2016 tournament is scheduled for March 25-28 and the 2017 even it scheduled for March 24-27.

<![CDATA[Calhoun Gives Purvis Advice Ahead of Puerto Rico]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:46:48 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rodney+purvis_uconn.jpg

The Huskies are in Puerto Rico for the aptly named Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament, where they will face the College of Charleston on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

One of the matchups to watch will be sophomore center Amida Brimah versus 6-9 Adjehi Baru, who averages 13 points and 10 rebounds in two games this season for the Cougars.

“They have Baru down there that’s a senior,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said, via the Connecticut News. “That’s a load down there, a big-time rebounder, so we’re going to have to stick with him and have a game plan.”

Teammate Anthony Stitt added: “Baru is a tough player. He’s an animal. He’s got that length that they have down there so hopefully, he’ll be ready to compete with them tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, the redshirt sophomore Rodney Purvis said that Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun had a few words for him at practice last week. Purvis has been pressing, and it showed up during the exhibition games and the season opener.

"[Calhoun] "just be ready to make a play, just be ready to catch and shoot, things like that," Purivs said.

Ollie said, “That’s the luxury of having Coach there, because he knows so much about the game, and how to get to players. I’m just glad that he’s there if they need him. It’s just another that’s got my players’ backs, and I welcome it every day.”

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut/UConn]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco Staying With QB Whitmer]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:30:59 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+ucf+whitmer.jpg

We mentioned on Wednesday that even though sophomore Tim Boyle is averaging about a series a game, he never had any plans to leave the program. And to hear first-year coach Bob Diaco tell it, Boyle is the frontrunner to be the Huskies' starting quarterback in 2015. For now, however, that job remains Chandler Whitmer's.

But despite the competition, Whitmer and Boyle are close.

"We've been close since he got here," Whitmer said, via the Hartford Courant. "I think he just respects what I have to say and I respect him as a player. He's like a sponge, he just tries to soak everything.

"That's all you can ask for from a younger guy on your team. I've enjoyed working with him and I'm excited that hopefully he can get some more time in the next couple of games and get ready for next year."

Boyle is expected to see the field for the final three games, but Whitmer is atop the depth chart because he gives the Huskies the best chance to win, according to Diaco.

"There's no doubt that not only will he continue in his role for the final three weeks, but he'll continue to improve," Diaco said of Whitmer. "So that when he ends, he has no regrets, or maybe has righted some wrongs and move forward."

And while Whitmer won't be around when Diaco's rebuilding process is complete, he knows he's helping lay the foundation for that turnaround.

"It's tough, but also you've just got to take the mindset and approach and the responsibility that you're part of the rebuilding," he said. "You can always look back and say we were the class that helped turn this thing around.

"We went through the worst and we're in the middle of really getting the program where it needs to be. That's kind of the responsibility a lot of seniors have taken."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Mosqueda-Lewis Had Tough Night vs. Stanford]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:24:35 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

In a night in which the top-ranked Huskies were shocked by No. 6 Stanford, perhaps the most unexpected moment came at the final whistle, when senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis took the inbounds pass with 2.6 seconds on the clock and UConn trailing 88-86, made her way to midcourt ... and somehow failed to get off a shot as time expired, even though she was uncovered.

 That capped a tough evening for Mosqueda-Lewis, who finished with 12 points on 3 of 11 shooting, and with her first three-point field goal coming midway through the second half.

 "When somebody does a really good job on somebody defensively it’s really two-pronged,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the game, via the Connecticut News. “Defensively, they were really good and they kept switching people off of her. And then offensively I don’t think Kaleena really got the movement that we needed to get her open.’’

Stanford's Karlie Samuelson was responsible for slowing Mosqueda-Lewis and her effort wasn't lost on teammates.

 “Karlie did a great job,’’ Stanford's Bonnie Samuelson said. “She worked really hard all game. We did a really good job preparing for Kaleena. We know she’s a phenomenal shooter. This week our team was working really hard on the scouting report. And props to Karlie, she worked her butt off and did a really good job on her.’’

Meanwhile, Auriemma remains at a loss for why Mosqueda-Lewis never attempted at shot at the buzzer.

"We had something set up if we’re down two or if we’re down three,’’ he said. “And I can’t explain it.’’

On the bright side, sophomore Saniya Chong finished with 20 points and was one of the few players Auriemma praised after the game.

"I think I needed to step up,’’ Chong said. “Everything in general -- passing, defense, my offense -- to help the team and contribute as much as I can.’’

<![CDATA[Stewart Calls Loss 'a Shock']]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:27:55 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/215*120/AP933660798639.jpg

It's rare that the UConn's women's team is surprised by an outcome, but that was the case Monday night after an overtime loss against a very good Stanford group. The Huskies went from No. 1 to No. 4 in the national polls replaced by -- you guessed it -- Stanford.

UConn led by as much as 10 with six minutes to go, and had a seven-point lead with 3:37 left, but were betrayed by uncharacteristic miscues, missed shots and the odd spectacle of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis not even getting a shot off as time expired.

"It was a shock," Breanna Stewart said, via the Hartford Courant. "Saniya (Chong) has never lost a game (at UConn), and I was frustrated. We all could have done better. My free throws . … We talked about it in the locker room. Things need to change. This is not going to be a super successful Connecticut team if we don't change things."

Chong, a sophomore, scored 20 points, but she was one of the few bright spots in a game that should have never come down to the last shot. But it's November, the season is two games old, and there's plenty of time to fix things.

"I told the team during preseason that we're missing two things from last season (Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley) that have not been addressed yet," Auriemma said. "If we had those things, this would have never happened. We would have two more guys making shots taking pressure off Stewie.

"But it's probably a good thing it happened in November against a really good team. Now they know that this is the way it's going to be. Morgan Tuck, Stokes, Moriah Jefferson, K (Mosqueda-Lewis) and Kia Nurse need to make shots."

The Huskies host Creighton in the season opener this Sunday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco: 'This Is a Tear Down and Rebuild']]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:46:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob-diaco-boise-state-sept.jpg

We're down the home stretch in Bob Diaco's first season and on paper, this team doesn't look much different than the ones that preceded it in recent years; UConn is currently 2-7, and neither the offense nor defense is where it needs to be.

With three games left, Diaco again reiterated the talking points we've heard for weeks: Changing the culture of losing isn't an overnight process.

“This is tear down and rebuild,” Diaco said Tuesday. "That is what we’ve been doing. It needs it. It is still in the beginning phases. Kind of like a baby lifting a coffee table. Did the baby get upset that it didn't lift the coffee table? Probably not. Just frustrated. Could see it on their face, but we understand where we are at as a team. They know. We are going to be ready and excited to play this game Saturday night.  We're going to bust our butts to prepare to win a game."

So how does transforming an underachieving program into a competitive one come about?

“It's experience. It’s maturity, it’s culture," Diaco said. "It’s a lifestyle. All areas of where we need to continue to come,” Diaco said. “There is enough instances and examples of not quite getting and understanding the lifestyle necessary to be a champion, collectively. There's examples of a lack of mature football intelligence in situations and game situations which takes coaching and time and experience. There’s instances of a lack of physical strength necessary to consistently do the jobs well. All the jobs. There's just development needs to take place in every area.”

Diaco also stressed that turning this around won't be easy, and it may not happen as quickly as some like.

“The fact of matter is it was a mess,” he said. “A giant mess. It is just a much smaller mess. Never shied away from what it it was. Whether physical development of team, that was what was shockingly so profound. How weak and fat the players were and bad their blood work and nutrients were. That was profound. ... Doesn’t mean that there was nothing here. Talented and enough players here to have a good team. We just aren’t a good team.”

And it's not clear when the Huskies will be good. But with Diaco in charge, it won't be for lack of trying.

<![CDATA[Boyle Looking Forward to Starting in '15]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:27:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tim+Boyle_722.jpg

Casey Cochran retired from football after suffering a concussion in Week 1. Chandler Whitmer is a senior and his college career will be over in three weeks. That leaves Tim Boyle, the sophomore who was forced into duty as a freshman and sees about a series a game in relief of Whitmer this year.

And when the Huskies take the field for the season opener in 2015 Boyle expects to be the starter. Partly because first-year coach Bob Diaco has called him UConn's future at quarterback, but also because, despite two pretty tough seasons, Boyle doesn't want to be anywhere else.

"Not even a thought in my mind about leaving," he said Tuesday, via the Hartford Courant. "One hundred percent, I'm staying."

Through six games, Boyle has completed 14 of 26 passes for 75 yards with two interceptions. He's expected to play against Saturday against Cincinnati and continue to gain experience that will hopefully serve him well when the job is his. Still, Boyle admits that playing just a series a game can be difficult.

"It's tough trying to keep a positive attitude, but the way I see it is I get to wake up and play football and go to school for free," Boyle said. "I don't see anything negative with that. I see playing one series in a game a blessing that I've got to get some game experience. Obviously I'd like to be playing more as a competitor but I'm completely and 100 percent OK with the decision he's making because it's what's best for the team right now -- and I can't be selfish in what I want to do. I have to understand what's best for the team," he told the Courant.

And that, in part, explains why Boyle is staying in Storrs.

"I've dedicated a lot of time and energy and passion to this program and I truly think Coach Diaco is the real deal and I think that we're actually, legitimately, going to go down a path of winning championships and I want to be a part of it," Boyle said. "I trust him 100 percent and I trust the players on this team. I think we're going to go places."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Auriemma Hopes to Use Loss as Learning Experience]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 11:38:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/AP562462179147_1200.jpg

UConn's 47-game winning streak is over after the top-ranked Huskies lost 88-86 to No. 6 Stanford in overtime Monday night. And while how a team plays in its second game of the season generally doesn't mean much, this stat is an eye-opener: Since Maya Moore left for the WNBA, the Huskies are 0-8 in overtime games decided by five or fewer points.

“That’s not good,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “It’s a double-edged sword. You have some teams that play so well that you’re not in that situation very often. I don’t know what our record was in those games before Maya graduated. I’m sure we won a couple."

But Auriemma has long stressed the importance of facing tough competition, especially early in the season when he's trying to mold his team for the rigors of February, March and April basketball.

“The players themselves are not in that situation enough times. That’s unfair to them. But what are you supposed to do? You can’t create them. I’m sure there were reasons for every loss that you would look back on … Sometimes it comes down to one play, one free throw. One play doesn’t cost you a game but one play can win the game. Some players just have the inherent ability to make those big plays in big moments. No matter how much you work on them, you need big-time players to make big-time plays at big-time moments.”

Junior forward Breanna Stewart dropped 23 points and pulled 10 rebounds against the Cardinal, but this is a new-look Huskies team without Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, who left for the WNBA after last season's national title.

“We need more contributions from more people because we’re Connecticut,” Auriemma said. “I don’t know how many more games Stanford will play at home that they’ll storm the court at the end of the game. This might be the only one. Some of our guys are just not in tune with that yet.”

Stanford has some experience with beating UConn, often when the Huskies are at the top of their game. Four years ago, the Cardinal snapped UConn's 90-game winning streak. Still, Stewart admitted to being shocked when the final buzzer sounded and Stanford had prevailed.

“We have a lot of new guys and they’ve never been in this situation before,” Stewart said. “Even with Saniya (Chong) and her class, they’ve never lost. I was frustrated because there are things you wish you could have done better. My free throws were awful, that kind of thing. After the coaches came in we talked about it and pointed out that things need to change. This is not going to be one of those Connecticut teams that you look back at as super-successful if we don’t change what we’re doing.”

The Huskies will get their first chance at redemption on Sunday when they host Creighton at Gampel Pavilion for a 1 p.m. tip-off.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[2014-15 Huskies Release Intro Video]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 11:29:34 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

Defending national champions UConn released its 2014-15 Intro Video on Monday and it begins with a silhouetted Ryan Boatright driving to the basket in a darkened gym. The rest of this season's roster is highlighted similarly, and that's interspersed with images of everyone from Emeka Okafor to Richard Hamilton to Kemba Walker to Shabazz Napier -- all players integral to the team's title runs.

If this doesn't get you pumped up for the season you should see a doctor immediately.

<![CDATA[Huskies Receive Letters of Intent From 2 Players]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 10:28:57 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

In the never-ending recruiting game, UConn landed two more big-time players on Monday. The school has received letters of intent from 6-2 guard Jalen Adams (Roxbury, Mass.) and forward Steve Enoch (Norwalk, Conn.).

“We’re very excited to have both these young men coming into our program,” Ollie said. “Not only are they quality basketball players, but quality people and outstanding student-athletes. I know they will be great additions to our UConn family.”

Adams, who attends Brewster Academy (N.H), is ranked 25th in ESPN's Top 100 recruits. He announced last week on Twitter that he had every intention of coming to Storrs. Enoch, who attends St. Thomas More School, is 98th.

Meanwhile, UConn senior point guard Ryan Boatright is among the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 players, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced Monday.

More details via the press release:

Many of last year’s NCAA Tournament stars were chosen to the Top 50, including Boatright, an All-Final Four team selection in 2014 when he helped lead his team to the NCAA title; three players from a Kentucky squad that fell to the Huskies in the title game, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison; Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, the MVP of the 2014 West Regional; and Florida’s Michael Frazier II. Other returners of note include Tyler Haws of BYU, the nation’s No. 2 returning scorer (23.2 ppg), and Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet, the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year.

Seven freshmen were named to the team: Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, Jr. of Kansas; Stanley Johnson of Arizona, a high school Wooden Award honoree in 2014; Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor of Duke; Karl-Anthony Towns of Kansas; and Myles Turner of Texas.

The list will be pared down to 25 players in January and 15 players will be put on a ballot during the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament and a Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced during the week of the Elite Eight.

<![CDATA[Stanford Next Up for No. 1 UConn]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:45:21 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/215*120/AP933660798639.jpg

UConn's second game of the season will be nothing like their opener. On Friday, Geno Auriemma's team cruised 102-43 win over UC Davis, UConn's 47th straight victory. On Monday, the top-ranked Huskies will face the sixth-ranked Stanford Cardinal. who have a 27-game home winning streak to protect.

The Huskies ended the Cardinal season last April on their way to their second straight national title. In fact, the last time Stanford has beaten UConn came in 2010. Despite recent history, Auriemma knows this will be a difficult game for his team.

"When you have someone as dominant as Chiney (Ogwuimike) was the last three years sometimes it becomes so overwhelming what she does it masks what some of the other players can do," he said Sunday, according to the Contra Costa Times. "Offensively there are a lot more spots on the floor they want to attack you from. It is more difficult to defend a team that can score from various places on the floor than where they are going 70 percent of the time."

Still, Auriemma is looking forward to facing Stanford's new up-tempo style.

"When you're at home and you've got the tradition and the number of All-Americans they have, I don't know there is another they could play," he said. "It seems like a school like Stanford with the players they can recruit year in and year that's exactly how you are going to play. You're not going to change that just because you are playing us."

One thing Auriemma has never shied away from is a tough schedule. He has a good reason for it too.

"In women's basketball we're always complaining that we don't get the respect some other sports get or we don't get the recognition the game deserves," he said. "But when you ask some of these big-time coaches why they aren't playing the kind of schedule that you should be playing they don't have a legitimate answer for that."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright Needs to Work on Body Language]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:55:27 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP540027247210.jpg

Ryan Boatright wasted little time making a name for himself in the post-Shabazz Napier era. The senior point guard scored 24 points in the Huskies' regular-season opener against Bryant in a surprisingly tight game UConn eventually won, 66-53.

The Huskies' overall performance wasn't pretty, but that's why you schedule teams you should beat early in the season. It also gives Boatright an opportunity to show that he can be the leader this young team can look to when times get tough. With that in mind, coach Kevin Ollie would like to see Boatright tidy up one part of his game.

“We still want to work on his body language," the coach said, via the New Haven Register's David Borges. "But he’s being what a leader’s supposed to be. He’s seen what Shabazz did. He’s learned. He’s gonna have some up-and-down games, like everybody, but we need him to stay connected, being a leader.”

Boatright was asked what exactly Ollie was referring to.

“He knows that I put a lot of pressure on myself and I want to be excellent," the point guard said. "When I make bone-head mistakes, I just get down on myself, shake my head, stuff like that. Nothing extremely negative, but he just tells me I can’t get down on myself, I’ve just got to keep playing and know everything is gonna be OK.”

Boatright's next chance to work on being a complete player will come Thursday when the Huskies face the College of Charleston in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie Looks to Samuel as Defensive Stopper]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:07:56 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn41.jpg

Ryan Boatright is the unquestioned leader of the 2014-15 Huskies, but it's an otherwise young group. And while they're short on experience, that doesn't mean they can't play.

Take sophomore guard Terrence Samuel, for example, coach Kevin Ollie's go-to guy when he's looking to clamp down on an opponent's best player. And that's exactly what UConn needed in its opener Friday, when it needed all 40 minutes to beat Bryant University, 66-53.

"Our defense took over the game in the second half," Ollie said via the Hartford Courant, "and it started with (Samuel) on (Bryant's Dyami) Starks, making him be uncomfortable."

Bryant was up six at the break and the Huskies didn't get their first lead of the second half until a Boatright layup made it 45-43.

"He just wanted me to pressure him," Samuel said of Ollie's instructions, "he wanted to play around, pull up or take a three-point shot. He wanted me to make him a driver, pressure him, draw him into Amida (Brimah) because Amida is going to block the shot."

The strategy worked, Bryant started missing shots, and UConn got their first win of the season.

"In the first two two exhibition games, I was a little too, too active on defense," Samuel said, "a little jumpy. Tonight I stayed composed and kept guys in front of me."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright: Purvis Lucky to Only Miss 1 Game]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 11:44:59 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rodney+purvis_uconn.jpg

Rodney Purvis will miss the Huskies' season opener Friday against Bryant University because he played in more than one summer league, an NCAA violation.

The good news is that he'll be available for the rest of the season, which is welcome news to a young UConn team eager to get Purvis in the backcourt rotation with Ryan Boatright, Terrence Samuel, Omar Calhoun and Sam Cassell Jr. And Boatright, more than anyone else on the roster, is quite familiar with what it means to have to sit out for NCAA violations.

The senior point guard missed nine games as a freshman because of eligibility issues.

“I tell him, ‘You’re lucky it’s only one game. I sat out, like, 13.’ So, he’ll be alright," Boatright said, via the New Haven Register's David Borges.

It was nine games, not 13, but we take Boatright's point.

Coach Kevin Ollie added: "He's just got to wait 40 more minutes, and he’ll be alright."

Ollie was asked about the NCAA rule that prohibits playing in multiple summer leagues.

“I have no idea," he said. "Your guess is better than mine. I guess to keep guys out from playing three or four of them, but I have no idea.”

Meanwhile, the Huskies still have a game to play, Boatright's first without backcourt mate Shabazz Napier.

“I’m probably gonna have a few more shot attempts than I normally do," he said. “We’ve been waiting on this day for a long time, to be able to beat up on somebody else rather than on each other. I’m excited, and I think the team is excited.

"Winning a national championship, you’re gonna get everybody’s best shot," Boatright continued. "But just going to UConn, you’re gonna get everybody’s best shot. I think whatever school you go to, when you see UConn on the schedule, you’re like, ‘That’s UConn.’ You’re gonna get everybody’s best shot.”

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut/UConn]]>
<![CDATA[Auriemma: Freshmen Will Take Time]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 11:38:48 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

Geno Auriemma and the Huskies will begin their back-to-back national title defense Sunday at 10 p.m. ET when they face UC Davis. Three days later, they'll face Stanford before returning to Storrs for the home opener on Nov. 23.

And while Auriemma, now in his 30th season, knows the routine, everything is completely new for the four freshmen: Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams.

"Other than Kia Nurse, they are very quiet, very introverted on the court," Auriemma said, via the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. "They all have their moments when they are pretty good, but they also are getting adjusted to the realities of what it's like to practice against who they have to practice against. It's already hard to go to college and play. Then you throw in having to practice against our [veteran] players … it's been a real eye-opener for them, for sure."

One of the benefits to playing for Auriemma is that freshmen aren't rushed onto the court. There's too much depth and too much to learn. But watching and learning usually pays dividends down the road; even Breanna Stewart, college basketball's best player, had to find her way as a freshman.

"I try to remind them that Breanna Stewart was a lot better than any one of them coming out of high school and even she had a nightmare in January and February of her freshman year," Auriemma said. "No one is immune. But the cool thing is that they are no less competitive."

And sometimes, the biggest adjustments can be off the court.

"It's all what I expected," Ekmark, who is from Arizona, said. "Being a freshman, living in a city that's 2,000 miles from home can be a little scary. But I am adjusting well, focusing on helping the team win. And the basketball is exactly what you would expect when you move up a level from high school. It's more intense, physical and faster. It's what I expected, it's what it is."

<![CDATA[Rodney Purvis to Miss UConn Opener]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 14:54:41 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rodney+purvis_uconn.jpg

Redshirt sophomore and NC State transfer Rodney Purvis won't play in UConn's season opener Friday against Bryant University, the school announced Thursday.

The one-game suspension stems from Purvis playing in more than one league this summer, which is prohibited under NCAA rules.

"Working with the NCAA, the university determined that the single game in which he played in the second league necessitated the one-game penalty," UConn said in a statement.

Purvis will be eligible to play following the game against Bryant.

After sitting out last season, the NC State transfer admitted last week that he was nervous in his exhibition debut.

"I felt really amped up," he said, via the Connecticut Post. "I kind of wasn't relaxed like I normally am, but I haven't played a game in a year. I'm not making excuses or anything. I'll get better. ... I just need to get back used to it. I practice a lot but there's nothing like the game. I just have to get back into the gym like I'll do tonight or tomorrow night."

Coach Kevin Ollie seemed unconcerned about Purvis' offensive output and was more focused on what he brings to the floor defensively.

"We want Rodney to play at a Level Five defensively," Ollie said. "And bring energy and his shots will come. That's what we are coaching. We aren't worried about anybody's shots right now. The one thing we are worried about is bringing energy."

And Purvis will get that chance when the Huskies competed in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament, which begins Nov. 20.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut/UConn]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie Excited About Starting Season]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 12:24:53 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

UConn's season kicks off Friday when they host Bryant University. Then it's on to Puerto Rico for the Tip-Off Tournament.

Coach Kevin Ollie is obviously excited to get things rolling, but he does have concerns for his relatively young team following two exhibition matches.

“We shot free throws very, very well last year, and the past two games I think we missed nine each exhibition game," he said, via the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore. "… So we definitely want to correct that because we did a lot of great things on the free‑throw line. And when someone makes a mistake, when they foul on us, we want to convert, especially when you're pretty much up there by yourself and not being guarded. We want to do that better.

“We want to push the pace more. I think our last game we had 17 fast break points, which I want to get even more than that, and just also continue to rebound. We have to do a better job.”

We've written previously about freshman Daniel Hamilton, who could be an impact player early.

“He’s kind of like a stat stuffer," Ollie explained. "And he’s been doing an excellent job for us.”

And while transfer Rodney Purvis is still finding his form, Ollie seems unconcerned.

“He’s a terror when we get out on the fast break and have him pushing the ball and running the lanes,” the coach said.

Meanwhile, junior Omar Calhoun, who hopes to bounce back this season after a disappointing and injury-filled 2013-14, will likely miss the the season opener because of a knee injury.

“We’ll just check it day by day,” Ollie said. “If he can’t practice Thursday, most likely he’ll be out on Friday.”

<![CDATA[Guard Jalen Adams Signs Letter of Intent]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 12:22:12 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483300299.jpg

While coach Kevin Ollie awaits the decisions of three recruiting targets for the class of 2015, he can take solace in knowing that guard Jalen Adams is officially coming to Storrs. The Brewster Academy standout announced on Twitter Wednesday that he had signed his national letter of intent.

The Huskies, who have previously received a verbal commitment from Steve Enoch, could have his letter of intent by the end of the week, his AAU coach told the Connecticut News' Will Paxton.

Paxton also spoke to ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who remains high on the Huskies this season. “I think they are going to be very good,” he said. “They are a top 20 team.”

Meanwhile, the New Haven Register's David Borges writes that you can catch Adams up close and personal when Brewster Academy comes to Albertus Magnus College in New Haven for the 2014 National Prep Showcase on Nov. 21-23. His teammates include Donovan Mitchell, who's headed for Louisville; Justin Simon, who's headed for Arizona; and David Crisp, who will play for Washington.

"That's probably the best backcourt in high school basketball," ESPN recruiting analyst Adam Finkelstein said. "I think that's fair to say."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[3 UConn Recruits to Announce Thursday]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 12:17:44 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2013season.jpg

Three of UConn's primary targets for the 2015 recruiting class will announce their college plans Thursday. Isaiah Briscoe seems destined for Kentucky, or possibly St. John's, while the Huskies could very much be in the mix to land Derrick Jones (who is also considering UNLV) and Tevin Mack (VCU is on his short list, too).

ZagsBlog.com's Adam Zagoria writes: "UConn, despite being the reigning NCAA champion, appears to be third in the mix and at this point it would be a complete stunner if Briscoe picked the Huskies."

But as the New Haven Register's David Borges writes, even if UConn goes 0-for-3 on Briscoe, Jones and Mack, there's still big man Diamond Stone.

More from Borges:

Stone, one of the top-rated big men in the Class of 2015, is expected to make his commitment next week, right after the early signing period expires on Nov. 19. Stone, a Milwaukee native, is down to UConn and hometown Wisconsin. From everyone I've talked to, it's really 50-50, but it appears Stone might be UConn's best shot of the above-mentioned recruits.

Landing Stone would mean the Huskies would be in prime position to also get Malik Newman, the No. 3 in his class. Newman has said previously that he and Stone would be a package deal, even if the players have since backed off such talk.

Maryland, Wisconsin and Oklahoma St. are also pursuing Stone. There were reports that he could make his announcement on Nov. 21, but his father says no announcement date has been set, according to several recruiting sites.

<![CDATA[Diaco: 'We're a Bad Football Team']]> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 18:47:36 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob-diaco-boise-state-sept.jpg

Bob Diaco has been unwaveringly upbeat this season. A seemingly impossible task for a man responsible for revitalizing a program that has struggled in recent years. On Tuesday, following UConn's heartbreaking loss to Army, Diaco spoke frankly about the state of the team with just three games left on the schedule.

"We get better every day," he said on an AAC coaches conference call Tuesday. "We're a bad football team. We're just way less bad than we were when I got here in December, so, it was a giant mess, colossal. And now it's still a mess, but it's less of a mess, a lot smaller mess."

Still, Diaco maintains that this is a process. The Huskies are young and inexperienced and winning won't come overnight, or even over the course of one season.

"I think it's more of a speed bump," UConn linebacker Graham Stewart said of the latest loss, via the Hartford Courant. "We still have momentum and we still are a good team, and we're taking these losses and just trying to learn from them, become better and develop this program into a championship-style program."

The Huskies three remaining games include matchups against Cincinnati, Memphis and SMU.

<![CDATA[Hamilton Could Have Big Season]]> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 18:45:47 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconnj.jpg

There will be no replacing Shabazz Napier. Just like there was no replacing Kemba Walker before him. But coach Kevin Ollie knows how to recruit and how to coach, and he'll always get the most out of his players.

Which brings us to freshman Daniel Hamilton, the 6-8 forward who can light up a scoreboard.

“He has a point guard mindset," Ollie said, via SNY.com's John Silver. "He can make passes. He just has vision and he’s a great rebounder. He’s a great player once he starts settling down and is more consistent on the defensive end.”

Senior point guard Ryan Boatright added: “He’s a natural born scorer. As long as he continues to play hard and play the right way, he’s going to be a great player.”

Hamilton has three older brothers -- Gary, who plays professionally overseas, Jordan was just cut by the Utah Jazz, and Isaac is at UCLA -- all of whom helped mold him into the player he is now.

“I think I learned from all my brothers and took each and every part and put it all together,” Hamilton said. “I am able to do everything on the court and that’s what I want to emphasis – no weaknesses.”

Hamilton is the biggest-named recruit but junior college transfer Sam Cassell Jr. and NC State transfer Rodney Purvis will also be critical for UConn's success in a post-Shabazz world.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Not Bowl Eligible (Again)]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:39:14 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob-diaco-boise-state-sept.jpg

For the fourth straight year, a span that includes two head coaches and another interim coach, UConn's football team won't qualify for a bowl game. It's the second straight year that they've reached this milestone before the basketball teams begin their season.

"It is most down I have been after a loss and every loss hurts but this one really stings," senior wide receiver Deshon Foxx said, via the New Haven Register.

"It sucks, there is not much I could say about that. I wish I could have changed but at least the young guys have more opportunities. We are getting the young guys on board and hopefully they can make it to a couple of bowl games. I know they are going to be a part of a championship team and I am glad to be a part of the beginning."

After Saturday's tough loss to Army, the Huskies head into their final three games on the schedule with a 2-7 mark. In 2011 and 2012, the first two seasons under Paul Pasqualoni, UConn finished 5-7. Last season, after Pasqualoni was fired a month into the season, and the team finished 3-9. They'll need to win out against Cincinnati, Memphis and SMU to reach five wins in Bob Diaco's first season.

"We have fighters on our team," UConn junior safety Andrew Adams told the Register. "If we are not bowl eligible, that doesn’t mean anything. We are still going to take it one game at a time and try to win each game."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Whitmer on Pick: 'I Made a Stupid Decision']]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:36:24 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/chandler+whitmer+uconn+close.jpg

Chandler Whitmer will remember this game for a long, long time. The redshirt senior was leading the Huskies on a late fourth-quarter drive that would have tied the score against Army. They made it as far as Army's six-yard line before disaster struck in the form of a Whitmer pick-six that all but sealed UConn's fate.

"I made a stupid decision, one I'd like back, but as a redshirt senior you can't do that," Whitmer said after the game describing a play that serves as a microcosm of the Huskies' season. "It really hurt my team. ... You can't make those mistakes."

Whitmer finished 19 of 31 for 171 yards with two touchdown passes and another on the ground, but it was the 99-yard interception that is all anybody will remember about the 35-21 Army victory at Yankee Stadium.

"We were fighting hard," Whitmer reiterated, via the Hartford Courant. "We got the onside kick, we went down and scored before that to even set that up, drove right down the field and … Just a stupid play."

The Huskies were rushing on that final drive and that may have contributed to the game-deciding mistake.

"You've got to score," coach Bob Diaco said. "Protect the ball. We had time. It wasn't like it was ticking away. And we had a timeout. We could have operated very comfortably and punched it in."

Unfortunately, instead of using a timeout, Whitmer ran the fateful play.

"We had to rush the play to get the play in," he said. "It wasn't right, we had one timeout left and I should have stepped up and taken the timeout. I put that on myself. But I made a bad play worse just trying to make a play in that situation, where we didn't necessarily have the correct personnel or play. It wasn't right. We should have taken the timeout."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Beats Assumption, 68-59]]> Sun, 09 Nov 2014 18:32:23 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/215*120/481616597.jpg

Ryan Boatright and Sam Cassell Jr. continue to shine during UConn's exhibition games, and helped the 17th-ranked Huskies defeat Assumption, 68-59 on Sunday afternoon. The backcourt duo combined for 35 points while freshman Daniel Hamilton added 12 points and 12 rebounds (all on the defensive end).

"He was a bright spot," coach Kevin Ollie said of Hamilton after the game. "He has a point guard mindset. He can make passes. He just has vision and he's a great rebounder. He's a great player once he starts settling down and is more consistent on the defensive end. But I can't find fault in his game in the last two games, because his energy has been great. He's going to keep getting better and better because he's obsessive for approval. He's in the gym every day. And that's what we want from our basketball players."

The Huskies led 33-25 at the half. Assumption got it to within five points before eventually losing by nine. UConn outrebounded Assumption, 35-34, and committed 14 turnovers.

"Rodney (Purvis) had five in 16 minutes (and) a couple of charges," Ollie said. "We've got to have him take care of the ball a little better if he's going to be out there. I think he was just trying to go through too many people, but that's something we can correct. Daniel did a great job with six assists and no turnovers. Boatright was four assists and no turnovers. I'll take that any day."

The next time the Huskies take the floor it will be for the regular-season opener when they host Bryant University on Friday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mosqueda-Lewis Expands Game]]> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 13:02:41 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP116320717091%281%29.jpg

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was the best high school player in the country four years ago because of her ability to light up opponents from well behind the arc. Now a senior at UConn, she's looking to add an inside presence to her game.

"I have kind of tried to embrace being a post player," Mosqueda-Lewis told the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. "It (the post coaches) are the only people I have gone down and worked with this summer since practice has started. I am often reminded that I am not a post player and I am not over 6 foot so I have been trying to work on post defense, making post moves on people who are taller than me.

"I have been trying to tell (coach Chris Dailey) and the other coaches that there is a middle player and it is called a forward so we need forwards, nobody else really seems to agree with me so I am working with the post (coaches) and I don't go to the guard side unless we are together. I used to (work with the guards) but I got cut off," she told the Register.

It's not like Mosqueda-Lewis will be tasked with replacing center Stefanie Dolson, who now plays in the NBA, but adding post moves to her repertoire makes her tougher to guard and the Huskies somehow more formidable.

"I definitely look at it as an opportunity to get better," she said. "I also am hoping that I don't forget my guard position."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Noel Thomas Emerging as Young Playmaker]]> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 13:00:27 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+temple.jpg

Wide receiver Deshon Foxx has emerged as something of a dual-threat playmaker in recent weeks but Noel Thomas represents the future first-year coach Bob Diaco has been preaching about for months.

The sophomore had a breakout performance Saturday against UCF and he hopes to keep it going at Yankee Stadium this week when the Huskies meet Army. With senior leader and wideout Geremy Davis sidelined with a leg injury, Thomas had four catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns against the Knights, and the young pass catcher credits Davis for helping to elevate his game.

"Every time I came off the sideline he was right there asking me what I saw," Thomas told the Hartford Courant. "He told me what he saw. We're basically working together -- he took me under his wing."

Davis' status remains unknown for the Army game but his presence around the younger wide receivers can't be understated

"With the absence of Geremy, Noel's been asked to step up and I think he's done exactly that," tight end Sean McQuillan told the Courant. "He's a guy that we're counting on to make big plays. I think now people are starting to see we have multiple options and multiple places to be explosive. You saw it with Noel. You saw it with Deshon. When we spread the ball around, let the playmakers make plays, I think you can see what the offense can do," he told the Courant.

Thomas credits his recent success to simply working harder, both in the weight room and the classroom.

"Since he first got here he's matured a lot on the field and off the field and it's totally helped his transition on the field," quarterback Chandler Whitmer said. "His maturity level has increased a lot. He's very competitive and wants the football, which is nice to see, and he goes and gets it. That's been positive, having another weapon out there. I've said it all along — we've got a lot of receivers and weapons we can get the ball to and Noel is one of them."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Purvis Starts Slow After Year Off]]> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 12:52:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483300299.jpg

After Ryan Boatright's 19-point performance, it was Sam Cassell Jr. who stole the show with his performance in the Huskies' exhibition opener against Southern Connecticut. The juco transfer finished with 17 points and looked comfortable in UConn's backcourt.

Meanwhile, Rodney Purvis, the former McDonald's All-American who transferred from NC State following the 2012-13 season, managed just 7 points on 2 for 12 shooting. But that had more to do with nerves in his debut than anything else.

"I felt really amped up," he said, via the Connecticut Post. "I kind of wasn't relaxed like I normally am, but I haven't played a game in a year. I'm not making excuses or anything. I'll get better. ... I just need to get back used to it. I practice a lot but there's nothing like the game. I just have to get back into the gym like I'll do tonight or tomorrow night."

Coach Kevin Ollie seemed unconcerned about Purvis' offensive output and was more focused on what he brings to the floor defensively.

"We want Rodney to play at a Level Five defensively," Ollie said. "And bring energy and his shots will come. That's what we are coaching. We aren't worried about anybody's shots right now. The one thing we are worried about is bringing energy."

The Huskies' next exhibition is Sunday at noon when they host Assumption at the XL Center.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Veterans Helping to Lead Huskies]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:07:38 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+diaco+uconn+pumped.jpg

We've heard Bob Diaco talk plenty about the emerging young talent on the Huskies team, but there are veterans who are doing their part to help turn the program around. And those contributions haven't been lost on the first-year coach, who put out a call for the old guard to step up.

And it's happening. Defensive back Andrew Adams had three picks in the win over UCF, tight end Sean McQuillan had a season-high four catches and linebacker Graham Stewart had a career high 12 tackles.

"It is time for that group of fourth-year players who are getting ready in a few weeks to formally own the team to get moving," Diaco said, via the New Haven Register. "Let's go, it is time for some leadership, it is time for some real leadership from Andrew Adams, from Graham Stewart, from (Marquise) Vann, from Julian (Campenni), from Sean (McQuillan), from (Tyler) Samra, it is time, let's go, it is time for some real leadership.

"They have done a really nice job of answering the bell. I want to see some more personalities from our younger guys, don't sit and wait for it to be your turn, let's see who you are, freshmen and sophomores, let's go. If you have something to say, say it. You can weigh in, you can get passionate and have some energy, you can show a little bit of personality. We have been working on that for a few weeks. It came at the right time to have some energy without some of our captains."

Adams' play is welcome news after the team lost cornerback Byron Jones to a season-ending injury. But it's not like he wasn't already playing at a high level.

"Leadership is a big thing in our program, the juniors stepping up is really a great thing, they are really the backbone of the team because we will be returning next year," Adams said. "Guys are stepping up ... we try to bring a spark to the team, energy to practice day in and day out and if we keep doing that, I am pretty sure we will be OK."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Stewart, Mosqueda-Lewis Named to All-American Team]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:02:27 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP559143819838.jpg

The least surprising development of the week: For the second consecutive year, Breanna Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis have been named to the Associated Press Preseason All-American Team.

Details via the University press release:

Earlier this week, the pair of teammates were named to the American Athletic Conference Preseason First Team, as the Huskies were picked as the favorite to win the league. UConn was tabbed as the nation’s preseason No. 1 team by the AP before cruising to an 89-point victory over West Chester in its 2014-15 exhibition opener on Nov. 2.

Stewart enters her junior campaign after leading the team with 19.4 points and 2.8 blocks per game in UConn’s 2013-14 national championship season. She recorded double-digit points in 38 of UConn’s 40 games on her way to being selected as the2013-14 National Player of the Year by the Associated Press, the Atlanta Tip-Off Club (Naismith Trophy), the United States Basketball Writers Association and the Honda Sports Award.

Mosqueda-Lewis made 26 starts and notched 19 double-figure scoring games in an injury-shortened junior campaign. She posted the program’s third-ever triple-double in the Huskies’ NCAA Second Round victory over Saint Joseph’s on March 25. The three-point sharpshooter saved her best for the postseason, earning a spot on the American Athletic Conference All-Tournament Team after posting 14.7 points and shooting 47.4 from beyond the arc. In addition, Mosqueda-Lewis was tabbed as the Lincoln Regional Most Outstanding Player after averaging 17.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 51.0 percent in the Huskies first four NCAA Tournament victories

It marks the first time the same pair of teammates from one team have been selected to the five-member team in multiple seasons. The rest of the team is rounded out by Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd, Duke’s Elizabeth Williams and South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell.

The Huskies finish up preseason play on Sunday, Nov. 9 when they host Post University at the XL Center in Hartford. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut News' Rich Elliott writes that Stewart, who is college basketball's best player, wants to get better at setting up her teammates to score.

“I think that assists is something you can always get better at,’’ she said. “And I’m just trying to better at as many things as I can.’’

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cassell Sparks Huskies Off Bench]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 12:59:31 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sam+cassell+uconn.jpg

The Huskies looked a little rough around the edges in the exhibition debut over Southern Connecticut Tuesday night, but that was to be expected. Somewhat more surprising was the play of junior college transfer Sam Cassell Jr., who scored 17 points off the bench and gives coach Kevin Ollie another weapon in the backcourt.

"It comes from me watching my father all the time," Cassell said, via the Hartford Courant. "I know how to pick different spots on the floor and my teammates get me open. I came off screens, and the big [guys] set good screens and got me open. ... I always have confidence, I always believe I am going to make the shot."

When it was over, Cassell, whose father starred at Florida St. and later the NBA, was 6 of 10 from the field and 3 of 7 behind the arc.

""I'm going to stay with the guy that's hot," Ollie said. "It's the only way I know how to coach. He's making shots, you keep him in there. ... Sam can play, he's going to be a spark for us. He can stretch the defense out. I'd have liked to see him penetrate on a couple of his threes, but he can play. Very crafty. He can shoot it with the best of them," he told the Courant.

Senior point guard Ryan Boatright added: "That's my man. I know what he's capable of. He's not exactly young, so he fits right in."

Cassell, Rodney Purvis and Terrence Samuel join Boatright in a backcourt that tries to overcome the loss of Shabazz Napier, who is now in the NBA.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Headed to Yankee Stadium ]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 15:12:38 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/diaco+with+uconn+team_1200.jpg

The Huskies face Army this week in Yankee Stadium. Both teams are 2-6 but UConn is coming off a huge win against UCF and first-year coach Bob Diaco tries to keep the momentum going against a tough Army squad.

"It's ... great to get started again after a victory, the energy is high and the relationships are growing and the receptors are even more wide open, so that's very very positive," Diaco said Tuesday. "The incredible challenge with the Academy, any time you play the service academies you're in for a contest and to be able to have that game in arguably one of the most prestigious venues in sports and the world, that's exciting for everyone too."

Diaco was asked what it means to face a service academy in New York.

"It's great," he said. "There's a whole bunch of people that see the national appeal of the service academies and identify with them. (With) all three you know you're in a heavyweight fight. Even as of last weekend, they were incredible battles with those academies. Particularly in this area, there's a great affinity for Army and Navy and in this case we're talking about Army. They are heavily followed by this whole region and for that there's great exposure.

"People in Connecticut already have a template for going to New York and watching the Huskies. So I know the basketball teams go down there, have great relationships with New York and have a great following and a lot of success in the city. So we're looking forward to continuing that."

The coach even has his own memories of Yankee Stadium, which was a decidedly different place when he was growing up.

"I spent some time there and growing up, there's so many names that you love," Diaco said. "It's hard not to get excited about Derek Jeter and follow his career. So if you're talking about a favorite Yankee it's hard not just identify with him and all he stood for and everything he did for so long. But one of my favorite memories was going there and playing a football game.

"That's what is so cool about this organization and I'm not sure how many are doing it or who was first, maybe Wrigley Field or Soldier Field holding some hockey, but the Yankees have always tapped into college football, they had New York high school playoffs there. So it's really cool what they do and kind of a service to those boroughs there. It's really neat what they're doing with the community outreach there to open the venue to all kinds of sporting events."

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco Remains Impressed by Young Talent]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 15:10:25 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+temple.jpg

First-year UConn coach Bob Diaco has to be one of the most upbeat people in Storrs. After a 1-6 start -- including a five-game losing streak, he remained positive, remained confident that his plan would work. The only question was when it might all come together because rebuilding isn't an overnight process.

We saw glimpses of that plan last Saturday when the Huskies' offense exploded for 37 points in a win vs. UCF, and the as after a solid showing the week before against 18th-ranked ECU when quarterback Chandler Whitmer threw for more than 300 yards and the Huskies scored 21 points in a loss. And it's been the mix of young and experienced players coming together that have led to this new-found success.

"I never stood up here and said there weren't enough players to have a good team, not one time have I ever made any (statement) or insinuated that," Diaco said Tuesday, via the New Haven Register. "We've got enough players to have a good team but we are just not a good team. We are getting better and better every day and that is all I ever said. We have to work on eliminating losing, work on the things that cause winning. There are enough players to have a good team."

And that includes freshmen running backs Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson, who appear to be keys to UConn's future.

"They are going to be a problem (for opponents) -- Arkeel, Ron, (wide receiver) Noel (Thomas), Thomas Lucas, Dhameer Bradley, Brian Lemelle, Tommy Myers and Alec (Bloom), you are talking about first and second year players, they are impacting the games right now and imagine in two and a half years what it is going to look like," Diaco said.

It's hard not to take the coach seriously, even if everything he says is exceedingly upbeat despite the circumstances. The Huskies have another tough test this week when they face Army in Yankee Stadium.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Outlasts SCSU, 70-62]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 14:43:49 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Uconn+team+new+season.jpg

The Huskies held off Southern Connecticut, 70-62, in the preseason opener with senior point guard Ryan Boatright leading the way with 19 points. Junior college transfer Sam Cassell Jr. added 17 and sophomore center Amida Brimah had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

UConn shot 29 percent from the field in the first half and trailed 32-29. After the break, they shot 45 percent and outscored Southern Connecticut 41-30.

"We forced a lot of shots but that’s why they call it an exhibition," coach Kevin Ollie said after the game. "We’ll get better from it and make sure we come out and play a little harder against Assumption. We got the first one out of the way and we’ll just keep building forward. That’s what life’s all about. That’s what basketball is all about, and we’ll get better from it."

The Huskies out rebounded the Owls, 55-39, and scored 13 points off 12 turnovers. Still, it was a shaky start for the defending national champs.

"I’m always glad to get a win. But it was a grind," Boatright conceded. "It was ugly. It was definitely an ugly win. We’re a young team. Everybody was a little nervous, jitters and stuff like that. I’m just happy we grinded. I see the potential we have. We can be a great team. We just have to clean a lot of stuff up."

NC State transfer Rodney Purvis was just 2 for 12 from the field and finished with 7 points in 23 minutes of action.

Next up: UConn faces Assumption Sunday at noon in its second exhibition game.

<![CDATA[Wide Receivers Shine in Huskies Win]]> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:00:27 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+temple.jpg

First-year coach Bob Diaco has always preached patience. He has a young team, unaccustomed to winning, and rebuilding the program would take time. How long was always the question, but we've seen glimpses of what may be in store. A week after hanging tough with 18th-ranked ECU, UConn not only kept pace with UCF, a rare offensive explosion resulted in a 37-29 win, only the second of the season, and the first AAC win under Diaco.

The Huskies got off to their customary slow start with five straight three-and-outs in a scoreless first quarter. Then Deshon Foxx broke the scoring drought with a 68-yard run out of a wildcat look. UConn had scored 24 additional points by the end of the third quarter, and another six in the fourth to seal the win and break a five-game losing streak.

"It feels great," Diaco said of the win. "I’m happy for the guys, the young men on our team. There has been so much adversity, misery and pain and they have persevered and grinded through. They have listened to the message and had faith when you couldn’t really see it. Now to get a win to reinforce and to give them 24-hours of joy and to eat a dinner that tastes good on a Saturday night and be with their family is awesome and heartwarming for the staff."

Foxx, who usually plays wide receiver, carried the ball 11 times for 102 yards. Why did we see so much of him in the backfield Saturday?

“Mike Cummings, our offensive coordinator representing the offensive coaching staff, has done a fantastic job through an incredible amount of adversity," Diaco said. "He’s tried to tweak this and that and come up with plans to protect players and add to our assets. It’s like a chess game that’s evolving constantly and now our players, the offensive line in particular, are starting to grow together and gel. Those guys have done a great job plotting out the moments in the game where we can use a 1-2 punch that gives us an opportunity to use some different changeups. They have done an outstanding job."

While Foxx was running the ball, freshman Noel Thomas had four receptions for 83 yards, including two touchdowns.

“Noel Thomas is a talented player," Diaco said. "Since the day I met and had the chance to identify, I sat him down and told him ‘you’re a talented player.’ There is no doubt about that. He can run, he’s big, he’s got soft hands, body control and runs crisp routes. He just needs to mature in the game and now that he’s doing that, he is working on how to become a professional and how to be a student-athlete at the highest level. So as he continues to grow that, he’s going to make plays. As all that rounds out, he will add to his skill set and the sky is the limit for Noel."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[AP Preseason Poll: Huskies Ranked 17th]]> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 11:56:42 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

The Associated Press has released its preseason poll and the defending national champion Huskies are ranked 17th. The American Athletic Conference is also represented by SMU at No. 22. Memphis and Cincinnati also received votes.

Here's a look at the top 25:

1. Kentucky
2. Arizona
3. Wisconsin
4. Duke
5. Kansas
6. North Carolina
7. Florida
8. Louisville
9. Virginia
10. Texas
11. Wichita St.
12. Villanova
13. Gonzaga
14. Iowa St.
15. Virginia Commonwealth
16. San Diego St.
17. UConn
18. Michigan St.
19. Oklahoma
20. Ohio St.
21. Nebraska
22. SMU
23. Syracuse
24. Michigan
25. Harvard
25. Utah

The Huskies were 15th in the USAToday/coaches poll, and No. 1 in the AAC coaches poll.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Manuel Still Hasn't Spoken to Michigan]]> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 11:54:16 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/warde+manuel_722_406.jpg

It seems like every time there's any job opening at the University of Michigan, UConn athletic director Warde Manuel's name surfaces as a possible candidate. He's an alum, once played for Bo Schembechler, and has had success running the Huskies' athletics department.

So now that Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has resigned, we're again hearing rumors that the university is interested in Manuel. And while they may be, they have yet to contact Manuel.

"I'm in a great job," Manuel said, via the Hartford Courant. "Obviously, my alma mater means a lot to me, but I love it here. So what I want as an alum is in the best interest of Michigan and obviously for the football program to improve — like all my former teammates and friends."

Other names mentioned to replace Brandon, according to the Courant: Michigan graduate and current Boston College AD Brad Bates, former Michigan administrator and current Arkansas AD Jeff Long, Texas Tech deputy AD Joe Parker, Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione and Oregon AD Rob Mullens.

ESPN reported Saturday that Michigan was focusing on Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn to Dedicate Jasper Howard Memorial at Homecoming Game]]> Sat, 01 Nov 2014 17:34:50 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/032511+jasper+howard.jpg

Thousands of fans at the UConn Homecoming game Saturday paid tribute to a player whose life was tragically cut short. The university dedicated a new memorial to Jasper Howard during the big game.

Jasper Howard was a hero to many and the news of his death five years ago rocked campus and Connecticut. Howard was stabbed to death on campus hours after helping the Huskies secure a victory over Louisville for Homecoming and recording career high tackles.

The new memorial of him was dedicated at halftime. Grassroots organizations have been raising money to build the memorial since his death and his former coach, Husky student athletes and fans nationwide have donated. Money will continue to be raised for a scholarship fund in his honor.

The game against UCF kicked off at noon at Rentschler Field.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brimah Looks to Improve on Freshman Season]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:02:49 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483303993.jpg

Sophomore center Amida Brimah was named to the American Athletic Conference preseason 2nd team earlier this week. At the AAC media day in New York City, senior point guard Ryan Boatright talked about what to expect from the big man this season.

"His game has evolved so much on the offensive end," Boatright said, via the New Haven Register. "Everybody already knows he’s a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end, but I’ve seem him put a lot of work in this summer on his offensive game. He has a knock-down, 15-footer now. He has a tremendous right-hand hook. I’m proud of the work he put in.”

Little was expected of Brimah as a freshman but his high motor and uncanny knack for getting rebounds and altering shots made him a value member of the Huskies' front court.

“I don’t think (off-season surgery) held me back this summer," Brimah said. "When my shoulder was hurt, I would do stuff with my right hand to work on my form and shooting and stuff. As soon as I couldn’t do the upper-body lifts, I was doing a lot of leg workouts and stuff like that. I made up for it. I think I have a pretty good jumper. My post moves have gotten way better.”

Earlier this month coach Kevin Ollie was asked about his expectations for Brimah.

"I expect him to be a consistent player for us," he told CBSSports.com. "People really didn't see his offense, but he's gotten so much better in that area of his game. He's got jump hooks now that he can go to over his right or left shoulder. He's doing that a lot more effectively and now we just want him to rebound. That's what I'm pushing him towards -- I want him to be a monster. He's still going to be able to block shots, but I want him to be the total package as a player and he's certainly capable of doing that."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Calhoun Has High Expectations for Junior Season]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 15:55:26 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/omar-calhoun-napier.jpg

If there's one word to describe the 2014-15 Huskies two weeks before the start of the season it's "expectations." Some of the biggest expectations fall on the shoulders of junior guard Omar Calhoun, who struggled with injuries and inconsistency last season, and saw his playing time dwindle as the Huskies geared up for their title run.

A knee injury earlier this week will sideline Calhoun for several weeks, but when he returns, he plans to let his play make everyone forget about his sophomore season.

"The people closest to me know the kind of person I am, that I'm always a hard worker and I'm determined to be successful," Calhoun told TheDay.com recently. "I'm not a quitter. I'm going to keep fighting.

"People closest to me knew I was going to come back even stronger this year. Obviously, people that weren't so close to me thought about me leaving or going somewhere else. At the end of the day, my mind was focused on coming back this year and making a big impact."

Calhoun's teammates have noticed the change.

"A whole different player," senior Ryan Boatright said. "He's back being Omar. He's talking stuff, hitting shots and dunking. He's just got his confidence. He's got his whole little swagger back. I'm glad that he got it back. And he put a lot of work in this summer -- I witnessed it -- to get back to where he is now."

Coach Kevin Ollie, who has supported Calhoun all offseason, was asked at Wednesday's AAC media day about the sharpshooting guard.

“Omar’s doing great," Ollie said. "We had the MRI come back, everything was structurally sound. He does have a little sprain in his MCL, but I think he’s gonna be back, hopefully in time for the season’s start. If not, we’re gonna go with the guys that we have. But it was great results we got back from the doctor, saying there was no structural damage and he’s just gonna have to rehab.

“You saw Omar handle adversity well last year," Ollie continued. "That’s the beautiful thing about Omar.”

<![CDATA[Stewart in Walking Boot, Everything's Fine]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 15:51:16 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

In perhaps the least surprising news of the preseason, UConn tops the American Athletic Conference coaches poll. Makes sense after a 40-0 mark last season and back-to-back national titles. Also not surprising: junior Breanna Stewart was the unanimous preseason AAC Player of the Year a season after she brought home the 2014 AAC Player of the Year award, was a consensus first-team All-American, the Naismith Award winner, and Associated Press and United States Basketball Writers Player of the Year.

Things are going so well for the Huskies that coach Geno Auriemma said Thursday at media day that there's no reason to be alarmed by Stewart's walking boot.

“It’s probably been like a week, week and a half,” Stewart said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “I’m not sure if it was practice or something just happened or just over time.

“It’s not anything serious. I’m in a boot so it takes the pressure off of walking on that part of the ball of my foot. But I’m still practicing, going about everything. It’s discomforting. I’ll be fine.”

Not only has Stewart practiced, she's expected to play in this weekend's preseason game.

"I’m in the boot because they think it’s smart,” she said. “It’s a precaution thing. And then my left shoe really doesn’t get dirty, I guess.

“It’s hard because the season’s starting so there not much you can do. I can play on it so I’m going to play. And it’s just a thing where you rehab it. You’re off it. You’re not trying to put as much pressure on it. But at the same time you’re going to go out and play in a game.”

<![CDATA[Ollie Talks Expectations for 2014-15]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:27:32 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

With the season two weeks away, coach Kevin Ollie spent much of Wednesday's media day talking about the expectations for his team, a mix of young players and veterans, that will try to defend its national title without Shabazz Napier.

“A lot of people had a lot of doubts about our program two years ago," he said, via the New Haven Register. So, those questions are answered. But there’s gonna be other questions -- about autonomy, the (power) five conferences, about me leaving to the NBA after I sign a five-year contract. At the end of the day, I love UConn, these players love UConn, they play they great for the university. To see the men’s and women’s teams do it together, that means everybody’s on board."

The Huskies were the preseason favorites to win the AAC. Ollie was asked if that was a burden.

“It’s not a burden. It really doesn’t matter to me now, so how can it be a burden if it doesn’t matter to me? What matters to me is, hopefully we’re No. 1 in team chemistry. That’s gonna allow us to be where we need to be at in March and April. It can’t be a burden if I don’t care.

“I care about Ryan (Boatright) getting voted, because I didn’t vote for that," Ollie continued. "I think that’s a great, humbling award for him, and how much the coaches think of him. But we’re not putting extra pressure on ourselves as a team.”

Even Tulsa's coach Frank Haith had laudatory things to say about the Huskies, Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis in particular.

“Rodney Purvis we recruited a little bit at Missouri,” Haith said, via the Connecticut News. “He’s very, very talented. He’s fast. He’s explosive. He’s a scorer. ...

“I coached (Daniel's) brother Gary, the oldest brother,” he continued. “I remember those kids when they were real little running around when I was at the University of Miami. Mr. Hamilton told me they were going to be better than Gary.

“I'm very familiar with both those guys (Hamilton and Purvis). Both those guys are talented and they’re not going to miss a beat (at UConn),” Haith added. “Obviously getting them to play well together and that chemistry wise is going to affect them, but the talent of those guys is off the charts.”

The Huskies' season kicks off Nov. 14 against Bryant University.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>