<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Mon, 30 Mar 2015 06:38:53 -0400 Mon, 30 Mar 2015 06:38:53 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Autistic Boy Forced to Remove His Letter Jacket]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:40:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/LetterJacket.jpg A mother is outraged after her son's school forces him to remove a varsity letter jacket because special-needs athletes aren't allowed to wear the letters.]]> <![CDATA[Mosqueda-Lewis Redefines Sharpshooter]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:19:12 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kaleena+mosqueda+lewis+uconn.jpg

Senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis needs just six more 3-pointers to break the all-time NCAA mark. Whatever happens, she will leave UConn as one of the best pure shooters ever to take the floor, and in another program, one not littered with All-Americans, you wonder if Mosqueda-Lewis would have set all kinds of records.

“I have often wondered if we built our offense around her and got her a lot of shots, like some teams, she might get 20 (shots) every night,” coach Geno Auriemma said, via SNY.com. “She’s very very efficient. She doesn’t have those 3 for 15 nights.”

Mosqueda-Lewis struggled in the Huskies' tournament opener against St. Francis Brooklyn, scoring just two points. But she bounced back against Rutgers, draining five 3-pointers and finishing with 23 points.

“She has a skill that doesn’t go away,” Auriemma continued. “Some kids are not quite sure what their thing is. (Mosqueda-Lewis) knows that when she gets an open look there’s a good chance it’s going to go in.”

And Mosqueda-Lewis has the mindset of a scorer, a mental toughness that is as important as the physical skills required to shoot the ball.

“Coach talks about great shooters don’t miss twice in a row,” she said. “Great shooters make more than they miss. That’s the key. Take good shots and take shots that are easy to knock in.”

Six more 3s and Mosqueda-Lewis will break a record previously held by Diana Taurasi.

“I think my teammates are finding me in good positions to shoot the ball,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “Just having confidence as a shooter, just knock the next one in.“

<![CDATA[Huskies Fine With In-Season Twitter Ban]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:16:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn-AP967109896261.jpg

Social media is a peculiar thing, especially for young student-athletes that have always had Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like as a part of their lives. But sometimes posting every thought for the world to read isn't a great idea, especially when a) you should be focused on something else, and b) you play for a high-profile program like UConn.

Which explains why coach Geno Auriemma prohibits his players from using Twitter during the season. In fact, it's been that way for four years now and the no-Twitter rule hasn't had much of an effect on the court; the Huskies have won two straight national titles and are favored for a third.

“I put it to them this way: I’m saving them from themselves because there are adults and actors and athletes who at an emotional moment tweet something, and you can never get that back,” the associate head coach Chris Dailey said, via the New York Times. “It’s one less distraction they have to worry about.”

Breanna Stewart, arguably the best player in the country, is fine with the ban.

“It’s something we don’t need,” Stewart said. “Twitter is just another form of social media. It’s not going to make or break you. Yeah, I guess it’s fun to tweet, but we can do that after the season’s over, after we’re done focusing on winning a national championship.”

The coaching staff also want players to -- get this -- talk to each other. It promotes communication, obviously a good thing for a basketball team, but it also means that during team meals, for instance, people aren't staring at their phones.

“You’re so used to texting people, you forget to communicate,” Dailey said. “You’re so busy talking to people away from you that you don’t deal with the people in front of you. ...

"The people that really care about you are your family and the people in this room. Other than that, it’s for fun. You can enjoy that as entertainment, but don’t mistake it as reality.”

The Huskies' reality is winning championships, and clearly they don't need Twitter to do it.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Napier Reflects on NBA Rookie Season]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:14:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP878922222427.jpg

A year ago, Shabazz Napier was leading the Huskies to a national title. A few months later, he was an NBA first-round pick, headed for Miami and LeBron. Except LeBron returned to Cleveland and Napier's first year of professional basketball didn't go quite as smoothly as a lot of people expected.

But he knows that basketball, in just about any form, isn't a sprint but a marathon.

"It's a process," Napier said recently, according to the Hartford Courant, "like it was when I was a freshman. It's a process, just trying to continue to learn from my coaches and my teammates. ...

"It's all in due time," he continued. "Like when I was a freshman. It's just a matter of being patient and believing in the process. I still don't get down on myself, not to a point were I'm not focused on the future."

Heat coach Eric Spoelstra thinks Napier, all things considered, is coming along nicely for a rookie.

"The best part about [Napier's rookie season] is that is he has had significant playing time for a young player, which normally doesn't happen on a playoff-type team," Spoelstra said. "So he's gained valuable experience. It's better than playing for a lottery team, and getting more minutes, when you have to earn your minutes and be expected to produce on a team that's trying to make the playoffs. It makes it that much more impactful."

Napier will be fine. He's a grinder, just like in college, and that worked out pretty well for him. Meanwhile, his former teammate, Ryan Boatright, is hoping to have an NBA career, though the knock on him is that he's too small.

"Of course," Napier said when asked if Boatright can compete in the NBA. "Of course. Anybody who puts their mind to it, gives up everything, sacrifices for it, can make it here."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Former UNC Coach, Dean Smith, Leaves $200 to Former Players]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 22:45:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/80261754.jpg

Every letter winner who played for former North Carolina basketball coach, Dean Smith, was granted with a heart-warming suprise a month after his death: $200 dollars from his estate.

A letter sent to 180 players was sent from Smith's trustee, stating: "Each player was important and special to Coach Smith and when he prepared his estate plan, Coach wanted to reach out to each of his letterman. Accordingly, Coach directed that following his passing each letterman be sent a two hundred dollar ($200.00) check with the message 'enjoy a dinner out, compliments of Coach Dean Smith.'

Smith, who died at age 83 last month, went 879-254 in his years at North Carolina, landing him in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983. However, Smith was also known for the compassion he had for his players.

In 1965, Smith helped a black North Carolina graudation student, Howard Lee, purchase a home in an all-white neighborhood during segregations. A year later, Smith intergrated the Tar Heels, recruiting Charlie Scott, who became the first African-American scholarship player in the school's history.

Serge Zwikker, who played for Smith from 1993-1997, told ESPN: "My wife opened the letter and handed it to me. At first  I didn't know what it was, but when it hit me, it put a tear in my eye. Even after he passed, he was still all about this players."

<![CDATA[Top Sports Photos 2015]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:07:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/topSports-USA-DEN-467516564.jpg Click to see dramatic sports photos from the NFL, to basketball, baseball and more.

Photo Credit: FrontzoneSport via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wisconsin Basketball Player Accidentally Admits Crush]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 18:13:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Screen-Shot-2015-03-26-at-5.37.13-PM.jpg

Cattywampus. Onomatopoeia. Antidisestablishmentarianism. For Nigel Hayes, University of Wisconsin  basketball forward, these are the words of a modern love letter.

Hayes answered reporters covering the NCAA March Madness tournament with these arbitrary words in a press conference a couple days ago, stumping everyone in the room.  Hayes originally joked that he wanted to break up the monotony of the stenographer’s job with some unique words.

A reporter kicked off the latest news conference asking Hayes if he wanted to say anything to the stenographer, Debra Bollman, before they began, in which he responded: “syzygy”.

A hot mic then picked up Hayes whispering to his teammate, “God, she’s beautiful.” His eyes lit up when he heard laughter in the room. He asked Bollman, “Did you hear that?” She responded “yes” before Hayes covered his face with his hands in embarrassment.

While it's not yet known whether Hayes’ “soliloquy” will help him get a date with Bollman, he can at least say he's made her day more interesting.

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<![CDATA[Mom Says Hamilton Staying at UConn]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:39:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/daniel-hamilton-uconn.jpg

Daniel Hamilton averaged 10.9 points per game as a freshman and earned AAC All-Rookie Team honors. He was arguably the Huskies second-best player after Ryan Boatright, and certainly one of the most consistent.

The strong season was enough for some people to speculate if Hamilton might be one and done, leaving college for the NBA after just one year. But the versatile 6-7 forward is staying at UConn, according to his mother.

"He'll be going back to school," Karen Hamilton told the New Haven Register.

"He's definitely happy," she continued. "He wants the opportunity to continue to get better. He wants to concentrate on his studies. Those are the types of things that we care about."

Hamilton recently lost his grandmother, which was complicated by the fact that his family is across the country in Los Angeles. But neither the NBA or another program closer to home are considerations for Hamilton.

"We've been on the phone every night," Karen said. "I keep telling him, (take) one day at a time."

Meanwhile, staying in Storrs is an opportunity for Hamilton to grow on and off the court.

"It's the mental toughness and things you have to deal with," Karen said. "It's not just basketball, it's maturing. When you're in a college setting ... we're talking about the difference between going to school and being in the pros. You can do what you need to do and get better either way, but you can't get your college experience back."

<![CDATA[Diaco Talks About Newest QB Anderson]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:36:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+sideline_1200.jpg

Add another name to the mix. Garrett Anderson, a junior college transfer, will join the list of quarterbacks trying to win the job. He arrives this summer.

"He is smart with the football, throws a very good ball. He is very mature, kind of taking the next step," coach Bob Diaco said this week, via the New Haven Register. "My understanding is in the next few months he will be married, family is important. He is a grown man ready to take the next step in his life, finish up his degree work and play some football. There aren't a whole lot of other things that distract him in his life which is nice and he has the tools."

Anderson, who arrives from Laney College in Oakland, Calif., joins a competition that includes junior Tim Boyle, NC State transfer Bryant Shirreffs and true freshman Tyler Davis.

"That group is going to be able to grow and the group is going to get bigger over the summer," Diaco continued. "There will be a couple of guys added to that group of three and Will (Rishell) but the competition happening between those three has been good."

Meanwhile, Diaco also weighed in on another addition: linebacker EJ Levenberry, a Florida State transfer.

"He is a national recruit at his position," said Diaco, who recruited Levenberry when he was at Notre Dame. "He was probably ranked in the top 3-5 in the country. We wanted him bad, I think it came down at the end of the day to Oklahoma and Florida State. He is big, he is the quintessential inside linebacker in our defense.

"He has good to great speed. He is fast for a big guy. He has an intangible nose for the ball, he is a great young man. He loves to train, he loves to win, he is all about winning so he is going to add to the culture. He has a championship ring."

There's a chance Levenberry could play immediately because he enrolled at a junior college after leaving Florida State.

"That is a process for his family and the institution he is at," Diaco said. "What waivers, obviously we will do everything we can do to help facilitate the process for sure. If that happens, to me that is icing on the cake, it is gravy, it is not an entree. We are just glad to have him on the team and be able to participate."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Casey Cochran Eyes Future in Media]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:33:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/casey+cochran+uconn+coach.jpg

A year ago at this time, Casey Cochran was in the mix for UConn's starting quarterback job. He'd win it a few months later, but after suffering a concussion in the first game of the season, Cochran promptly retired from football.

The former Connecticut Gatorade State Player of the Year remained with the team, and could often been seen on the sidelines during games helping Chandler Whitmer or Tim Boyle. And while coaching is an option down the road, it's not something Cochran is looking to do right now.

"I can't really be around it as a coach right now because it's too fresh," Cochran said, via the Hartford Courant. "Everything just feels a little too much ... it makes you miss it too much to be a coach. That's how it was last fall."

But Cochran is still around the game ... as a member of the media. He's currently an intern at NBC Connecticut (sound familiar?) and it only makes sense that he would cover the Huskies.

"I've been around football my whole life, basically since I was born," Cochran said. "It's nice to be around sports a different way ... see this side of it. I covered all the AAC [basketball] games for the men and it was a great time. I love what sports do to people. Like [Ryan] Boatright hits a buzzer-beater and 10,000 people are going out of their minds, you know? Seeing that, being around, and to be able to talk about that part of sports ... my favorite part of the business is being able to talk about what sports can do to people."

Cochran says he'd love to work for ESPN some day.

"I don't know where his career will take him, but as far as interns go, you couldn't have a better one because he's got all the personal qualities you want. He's a leader," NBC Connecticut sports director Kevin Nathan told the Courant. "I've been saying to my colleagues that he carries himself like a 35-year-old man. ... He listens and wants to learn."

Cochran isn't exactly sure about what he wants to do in media but for now he's enjoying the learning process.

"I love it all," he said. "At the end of the day, I'd like to be at ESPN. A few years down the road, I'd like to see myself there. I love editing video, interacting with players and being close to the field. I enjoy a lot of different parts of the business, not just one.

"It's like I can transfer some things I've learned as a player. I've always been interviewed. Now I'm interviewing people, which is different, but at the same time it's not. I understand maybe a little better because I know the other side of it. I understand how young athletes are interviewed, like how they feel, what they want to hear, what they don't want to hear."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Bengals' Devon Still: My Daughter Kicked Cancer's Butt ]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:00:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Devon+and+Leah+New.jpg

After months of treatment, constant updates on social media and nationwide support, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still shared the news he hoped to hear for over a year. His daughter, Leah's cancer is officially in remission.

"Today we received news from Leah's oncologist that her cancer, stage four neuroblastoma, is officially in REMISSION! After 296 days of day dreaming about what it would feel like to hear the doctors say my daughter is in remission, I finally know the feeling," Still said in an announcement Wednesday on his Instagram page.

Still and his daughter have captured the hearts of millions of people nationwide since she began to receive treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in June. Leah, who had a tumor removed from her abdomen back in September, completed her latest course of chemotherapy last month.

"It was not easy but every day, and every treatment Leah fought like hell and kicked cancers butt!" he said in his post.

Devon Still, a Delaware native and former Penn State Nittany Lion, was cut from the Cincinnati Bengals in August of last year. But the Bengals re-signed Still to their practice squad in order to help him pay for his daughter’s medical treatment after she was diagnosed with cancer.

The Bengals have said Still is considering a one-year deal to play next year. 

Still’s No. 75 jersey quickly became the team’s top seller after the Bengals decided to donate proceeds from his jersey sales to the Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati and pediatric cancer care and research. More than $1 million have been raised from sales of the $100 jersey, according to the AP. 

Still has kept his followers updated on his daughter’s progress through social media.



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<![CDATA[Red Sox Criticize Teammates' Tweets]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:39:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/RedSoxTweet.jpg

Have you ever tweeted something you regretted? Are you always wondering whether your friends are laughing at your social media posts behind your back?

You're not alone. The Red Sox released a video of players reading some of their teammates' more questionable tweets.

"This is a tweet from Blake Swihart: 'Wakeing up everyday like your on a mission,'" said reliever Craig Breslow, a Yale graduate. "'Wakeing' spelled 'W-A-K-E-I-N-G,' which is not a word, as far as I know. 'Like your on a mission,' 'Y-O-U-R,' not 'Y-O-U-apostrophe-R-E.'"

Swihart, widely considered the top catching prospect in baseball, got in on the fun, reading a tweet by one of the team's veteran leaders.

"This is from Dustin Pedroia: 'T minus 7 minutes for town hall meetings, howls, squatchy areas and bobo acting like a complete psycho. Tonight is the night we see him!'" said Swihart.

Righty Brandon Workman was one of several players to analyze a tweet by starter Joe Kelly.

"Not sure where you were going with that, Joe," said Workman.

"It's from a song," explained D'Angelo Ortiz, the 10-year-old son of David Ortiz, explained. "So that doesn't really make any sense."

One of the Sox' new acquistions, starting pitcher Wade Miley, read a tweet by first baseman Mike Napoli.

"I don't really get it," said Miley.

Pedroia took a look at one of his own tweets.

"Self-explanatory!" he defended it.

Starter Clay Buchholz disagreed.

"Don't even know what he's talking about," he said. "But that's why I don't have Twitter."

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<![CDATA[New York Yankees Pay Homage to "The Sandlot" in New Ad]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 08:10:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Brett-Gardner-Yankees-Rangers-0729.jpg

The New York Yankees are paying homage to classic baseball movie “The Sandlot” with a recreation of its famous Babe Ruth scene.

The ad, which stars Brett Gardner as the innocent Smalls who unknowingly plays with a ball signed by the legendary Ruth, was posted to MLB.com Tuesday.

C.C. Sabathia, Dellin Betances, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Didi Gregorius also make appearances in the spot.

Watch the video below:

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[UConn Pulls Out Win With Stewie on Bench]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 18:11:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn-AP967109896261.jpg Joe D'Ambrosio reports on the UConn women's win over Rutgers despite losing Breanna Sewart for most of the first half.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Freshman Williams Comes Off Bench, Shines ]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 10:08:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP263777918388.jpg

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis did Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis things in UConn's NCAA matchup with Rutgers, and by the time it was over, the senior sharpshooter scored 23 points, including five three-pointers and the Huskies won going away, 91-55.

A year from now, Mosqueda-Lewis will be in the WNBA and players like freshman Gabby Williams will be leading UConn back to the tournament. On Monday, Williams came off the bench, played 19 minutes and scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. She did for the Huskies what Mosqueda-Lewis has done so often: provide a spark.

"I definitely feel like if they need me to be that spark, then I've got to be that spark," Williams said, via the Hartford Courant. "It's postseason now. It's no time for just getting minutes. I've got to make it count every time I'm on the court."'

With Breanna Stewart in foul trouble early -- and playing just four minutes in the first half -- coach Geno Auriemma turned to Williams. She didn't disappoint.

"We have pretty good depth," Stokes said. "Gabby can come in, finish around the basket and get some rebounds. We all know our part. So even if Stewie gets in foul trouble, we're going to step and fill that role."

Williams, who added 15 points in 14 minutes during UConn's first-round win over St. Francis Brooklyn, added: "I feel like I've found the things that I'm really good at. And I feel like with the talent on this team, there are only certain things that I only need to do and I feel like I've been doing them well."

On the season, Williams averages 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Mosqueda-Lewis Closes in on 3-Point Record]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 10:03:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kaleena+mosqueda+lewis+uconn.jpg

Before the start of the NCAA Tournament, senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis needed just a dozen 3-pointers to set the all-time NCAA record. She only scored two points in the win over St. Francis Brooklyn, but as we've seen countless times before, she found her shooting touch on Monday against Rutgers, drained five 3-pointers and scored 23 points.

''I definitely didn't want to have the same game that I had on Saturday,'' she said afterwards. ''I wanted to make sure I had more of an impact, whether it was defensively or offensively.''

Coach Geno Auriemma had a simple, blunt explanation for Mosqueda-Lewis' output: 'It's called basketball. You've got to put the damn ball in the basket and she does that pretty well.''

And while the ultimate goal is winning back-to-back-to-back national titles during her college career, Mosqueda-Lewis also wants the all-time 3-point record, which is 392.

"It's very important to me, and it's something I hope I can accomplish," Mosqueda-Lewis said before the tournament, via the Hartford Courant. "I would love to leave my mark not only at UConn, but in college basketball."

Perhaps most amazing is that she's this close despite missing 12 games during her junior season. If nothing else, it's a testament to her consistency and accuracy from one game to the next.

"I am definitely surprised to be within reach," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I get mad every time I think about how many games I missed in my career and what I could have done in that time. But I'm happy that I was still able to [challenge] the [career] record and to have broken the record at UConn [318 by Diana Taurasi]."

More records could be broken. Mosqueda-Lewis also needs 11 points to pass Rebecca Lobo (2,133) for seventh place among UConn's all-time scorers.

<![CDATA[Diaco on QBs: 'We're Pleased With the Battle']]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 10:04:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tim-boyle-ucf.jpg

The Huskies have resumed spring practice and just like the previous four seasons, questions remain at quarterback. This time around the competition is between junior Tim Boyle, sophomore Bryant Shirreffs and freshman Tyler Davis.

"We're pleased with the position. We're pleased with the battle," second-year coach Bob Diaco said, via the Hartford Courant. "That position is going to be able to grow and get bigger here in the summer. ... The competition between those three has been good, and there has been some separation."

A year ago, sophomore Casey Cochran was the frontrunner, and he eventually won the job. But he retired from football after suffering a concussion in the Huskies' first game of the season.

For now, Diaco says he plans to name a starter this spring, even with junior college transfer Garrett Anderson arriving in Storrs this summer.

"Everybody is competing all the time," Diaco said. "So there's nothing that's always or forever. You may have a guy who started for three years and in his senior year, if he lets go of the rope and another guy performs better, then that guy will play. We'll name a starter at that point after spring, and if he gets beat out in [summer] camp, then he gets beat out."

The Huskies are coming off a two-win season, and like those losing records under Paul Pasqualoni, the issues start at quarterback -- or specifically, not having one. Maybe this is the year that finally changes.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Capital Prep's Dominant Program]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:06:06 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*120/capprep032315.jpg The Capital Prep girls basketball team won their third straight state title. How does a small school in Hartford produce such a dominant program? A star player and a tough coach sure do help.]]> <![CDATA[Huskies Have 25 Years of Sustained Success]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 11:12:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn-AP967109896261.jpg

The Huskies, as they've done all season, made quick work of their opponent on Saturday. This time, it was St. Francis Brooklyn and it was the NCAA Tournament, but the results were familiar: UConn won going away, 89-33.

Next up: Rutgers comes to Gampel on Monday night, who will almost certainly be a footnote in the latest title run for the Huskies, which would number ten in the last quarter-century should they win the whole thing again early next month.

"You could see what they've done for the last 25 years," said John Thurston, the St. Francis Brooklyn coach now in his 42nd season, via the Hartford Courant. "They are a spectacular team. And it's not only because they get talent; they get talent that plays as hard and smart as they do. You can really see the difference."

Meanwhile, Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer knows her team faces long odds against a Huskies group that has dominated opponents all season long.

"We've been telling the team there is no sense in trying to understand their offense," Stringer said. "It's precise. You are dealing with concepts, and their kids have great basketball IQs. And that is the first thing that needs to happen if you are a team. Lots of players can score, but they can't pass it to their teammates. He has great players who can score, who can pass, who understand spacing and concepts."

Rutgers senior Betnijah Laney echoed her coach.

"They are a great passing team," she said. "So it's a little harder to scout. They have their plays, and they know what to do. ... You have to use defensive keys to stop them. We definitely respect them and what they have done. But are we intimidated? No, not at all. We come in ready to play."

The ability to share the ball isn't lost on Geno Auriemma during the recruiting process. In fact, it's one of the most important attributes he looks for.

"You can tell before you even recruit them whether they have any interest in sharing the ball," he said. "We can tell which kids want to be good passers. Some kids just can't pass and never will have the ability to because they don't have the God-given ability to see things. But there are just as many that don't want to pass the ball. Their favorite shot is an uncontested 18-footer and their second favorite is a contested 18-footer."

You don't see a lot of those at UConn for a reason. Meanwhile, the Huskies haven't lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament since 1992.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright Eyes NBA Next]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 11:08:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP803544363154.jpg

Four years ago, then-junior Kemba Walker left UConn for the NBA. The Huskies had just made an improbable run through the Big East and NCAA Tournaments and there really was nothing left for him to accomplish.

Last year, senior Shabazz Napier followed a similar script.

Both were first-round picks.

Now it's senior Ryan Boatright's turn. But unlike Walker and Napier, there is no NCAA title to celebrate, and it's unclear if he's a first-round talent in the eyes of NBA evaluators.

"He's just so tiny," a veteran NBA scout told the Hartford Courant late in the season. "He's a special college player, but guys like that usually don't make it."

After watching Boatright score 31 points against Houston, an NBA scout said, "He can get a shot anytime he wants it. He almost shot them out of that game, and then he shot them back in it."

But Kevin Ollie, who went undrafted out of UConn but played 16 NBA seasons, knows that Boatright's willingness to work will serve him well at the next level.

"When you step into an NBA locker room, you have 30-year-olds, 32-year-olds," Ollie told the Courant, "and you have to gain their respect. You gain their respect, not by talking, but by working. I think he's going to do that from day one. Hopefully he gets in a position when he can do that on a day-to-day basis, because I know that kid wants it."

But the reality is that Boatright is at a physical disadvantage to 99 percent of the players he'll face in the NBA (although, frankly, you could have said that about the college competition).

"I think he really established himself as a better shooter this year, "Ollie said. "If you're going to be that small at 5-9 — he claims he's 6 feet, so we'll say 6 feet — he has to be able to shoot. He really worked on that this year, really shooting the ball at a high pace. He had three people on him sometimes and he really shot the ball at a high rate from the three-point line."

Still, Ollie remains optimistic.

"I know there are going to be some great things for him in the future," the coach said. "I think he grew up as a man, as a basketball player. He has a lot of pride in getting better. God is preparing him for something great. That kid has grown a lot as a man, he has a bright future, whether it's in the NBA - he'll be playing somewhere and I'll be in back of him rooting all the way. Boat wants it; he's going to do whatever it takes to get it."

<![CDATA[Low Attendance Plagues UConn During Tourney]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 11:01:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

UConn might be as dominant as ever on the court but that wasn't reflected in the attendance for their first round NCAA game against St. Francis Brooklyn. The announced crowd of 3,666 was the second-worst ever for an NCAA Tournament game at Gampel Pavilion.

The worst? Against Clemson in 1990, which was the very first NCAA game at Gampel.

The St. Francis Brooklyn game marked the 14th non-sellout, which is in stark contrast to 20 years ago when the team was in the midst of selling out 20 straight tournament games. The empty seats hasn't been lost on Geno Auriemma.

“Thirty-six hundred is not indicative of who our program is and where we are and what we’ve done all of these years to get to this point,” Auriemma said Sunday, via SNY.comn's Carl Adamec. “It’s kind of embarrassing. We took great pride in who we are and what we’ve done and how we’ve done it all these years and for that to happen … I’m not pointing fingers at anyone, I just think it’s embarrassing.

“It’s indicative of all sports. Things are new and fresh and alive and it’s, ‘Hey, let’s go check it out.’ After awhile, “Eh, I’ll watch it on TV.’ I don’t think it’s any different in baseball, in football, any sport. There comes a point where they go, ‘What’s the point? They’re going to win.’ And they’ll look for excuses why — the tickets are expensive, it’s what time the game is, it’s the parking, it’s where I’m sitting, it’s everything you can imagine to justify it. Who’s to say they’re wrong?”

It probably doesn't help that the UConn-St. Francis Brooklyn was at 9 p.m., the same time UConn and Rutgers will start on Monday night.

“It makes no sense. It makes no sense to me and to our fans," Auriemma said. "If somebody said to me before the tournament, ‘What’s your ideal situation?’ I would have said Saturday at 4 and Monday at 7. Or Friday at 7 and Sunday at 2. You look for windows, knowing what our fan base is, to get eight, nine, 10,000 fans. But I don’t make those decisions.”

<![CDATA[NCAA 2015: Best Moments of the Women's Basketball Tournament]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 08:06:02 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/AP384406691239_3_NCAA.jpg See the highlights, upsets, and dramatic finishes of the 2015 NCAA Women's Basketball tournament here.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Tops Brooklyn 89-33 in NCAA Tournament]]> Sun, 22 Mar 2015 14:54:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP263777918388.jpg

St. Francis, Brooklyn coach John Thurston knew just what to say to his players after his 16th-seeded Terriers got their expected whipping at the hands of No. 1 UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I told the girls if we played anybody else in the tournament we'd have killed them, but it's going to take the eventual national champion to beat us," Thurston joked

The Terriers (15-19) soaked in the atmosphere and didn't do much scoreboard watching during their 89-33 loss to the Huskies.

Sarah Benedetti, who grew up about 40 miles away in Canton, Connecticut, had 13 points for St. Francis (15-19), which was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Benedetti, who brought a large contingent of fans to the game, said it was a dream come true for her to play on the same floor where she cheered her childhood heroes — Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore.

"I knew UConn's fans would be lively and it was nice to have the support of my family and friends back home from Canton who came to the game. Regardless of the outcome, I had such a great time and it was such an enjoyable experience that I will remember forever."

UConn forward Morgan Tuck, who missed last season's NCAA Tournament with a knee injury, had 26 points and eight assists, both career highs to lead the Huskies, who are pursuing a 10th national title and third in a row.

Tuck, who outscored the Terriers 20-14 in the first half, was 12 for 13 from the floor for the Huskies (33-1), who won their 32nd straight game.

Connecticut star Breanna Stewart finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

The Huskies shot 70 percent from the floor and held the Terriers to just 22 percent and 13 baskets. UConn improved to 23-2 in the opening round, where it has not lost since 1993.

St. Francis stayed with the Huskies for the first few minutes, trailing just 16-11 after a Benedetti 3-pointer. But UConn scored the next 18 points.

The Huskies outscored St. Francis 68-6 in the paint and outrebounded the Terriers 44-21.

"We knew they were undersized," Stewart said. "And Morgan was being a monster in the paint. I was trying to look for her as often as I could, because she had such a mismatch inside."

Freshman Gabby Williams, who capped UConn's first big run with a pair of layups, finished with 15 points and six rebounds. She made each of her seven shots from the floor.

UConn led 47-14 at the half. Williams' layup with 12:26 left gave the Huskies their first 40-point lead at 64-24 and it was 76-26 about four minutes later.

Kia Nurse had 12 points, and Kiah Stokes had six of the Huskies' nine blocked shots. UConn improved to 98-17 in NCAA Tournament play.

St. Francis had won eight of its previous nine games, including three consecutive road games to win their first NEC Tournament championship.

"I'm much more of a fan of sustained excellence than I am of the underdog," Thurston said. "And it's just a tremendous tribute to the UConn program that they're able to sustain it and they sustain it throughout the whole game, too."


UConn: Point guard Moriah Jefferson had just five points. She needs just 17 more to become the 40th UConn player to score 1,000 in her career. ... Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis came into the game needing just 11 3-pointers to tie the NCAA career record of 392. She had just one basket, a layup with 18 minutes left in the game.

St. Francis: Jaymee Vaney had five points, and finished just six shy of becoming the seventh player in St. Francis history to score 500 points in a season. ... Benedetti finishes as St. Francis' career leader in made 3-pointers (280) and 3-pointers attempted (797).


St. Francis' season is over.

UConn will play Rutgers in the second round on Monday night. The Scarlet Knights beat Seton Hall 79-66 earlier Saturday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Utah to Sweet 16 After Georgetown Defeat]]> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 23:35:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP867223623593.jpg

Utah is headed back to the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade.

Brandon Taylor scored 14 points and Delon Wright added 12 and the fifth-seeded Utes beat No. 4 Georgetown 75-64 on Saturday night.

The Utes (26-8) will travel to Houston to play the winner of Sunday's game in Charlotte, North Carolina, between top-seeded Duke (30-4) and No. 8 San Diego State (27-8).

Utah hasn't advanced to the Sweet 16 since 2005, when the Utes fell as the No. 6 seed to No. 2 Kentucky. The Utes are making their first tournament appearance since 2009.

<![CDATA[NFL Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik Dies at 89]]> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 21:07:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP050204012830.jpg

Philadelphia Eagles great Chuck Bednarik, a grisly pro football hall of famer and the namesake for one of college football's most prestigious awards, died early Saturday morning at a Pennsylvania assisted living facility at the age of 89, the Eagles announced.

Bednarik died around 4:30 a.m. Saturday following a brief illness, according to a release sent out by the team.

“With the passing of Chuck Bednarik, the Eagles and our fans have lost a legend. Philadelphia fans grow up expecting toughness, all-out effort and a workmanlike attitude from this team and so much of that image has its roots in the way Chuck played the game. He was a Hall of Famer, a champion and an all-time Eagle. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this time," said Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie.

Bednarik was born in Bethlehem and played football for the University of Pennsylvania as well as the Eagles when he was chosen first overall in the 1949 NFL draft.

Bednarik, known as "Concrete Charlie," was one of the NFL's most fearsome tacklers and was one of of the NFL's last great two-way players. He played center and linebacker who's best known for two monumental hits during the 1960 season.

In one, in the 1960 title game, he threw a Green Bay Packers running back to the ground and refused to let him get back up as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

He's also known for his takedown of fellow hall of famer Frank Gifford earlier in the season. Gifford, a New York Giants running back, was hit so hard that he suffered a concussion and didn't play again for nearly two years. Enduring images of the tackle show Bednirak towering over Gifford and pumping his fist.

“So many of the timeless moments in Eagles history are associated with Chuck Bednarik. He played his entire career in Philadelphia, college and pro, and he lived his entire life here and in the Lehigh Valley. He was a proud competitor and a dedicated and devout family man who loved Eagles fans as much as they loved him. He left his mark on this team and will forever be a legend within this organization." said Eagles president Don Smolenski.

College football fans also remember Bednarik for the award that bears his name. The Maxwell Football Club have presented the Bednarik Award each year to the most outstanding defensive player at the collegiate level.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker leaves behind his wife of 67 years, five daughters, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Photo Credit: AP
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