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Road to the Final FourRosterThebenchAbout the schoolUSF coach Jose Fernandez says?

Meet the UConn women's basketball team

Date Opponent Result

Nov. 11 Stony BrookW 98-35

Nov. 14 Holy CrossW 91-36

Nov. 22 No. 4 StanfordW 66-54

Nov. 23 at Old DominionW 86-43

Nov. 25 No. 8 DukeW 74-48

Nov. 29 Brigham YoungW 80-34

Dec. 5 VirginiaW 75-45

Dec. 17 South CarolinaW 97-39

Dec. 21 at San Diego StateW 85-53

Dec. 29 HartfordW 70-24

Dec. 31 ArmyW 82-33

Jan. 3 at VillanovaW 88-38

Jan. 6 at PurdueW 100-50

Jan. 9 No. 16 West VirginiaW 84-48

Jan. 12 at LouisvilleW 92-71

Jan. 15 at SyracuseW 65-59

Jan. 19 CincinnatiW 86-49

Jan. 21 No. 4 North CarolinaW 82-71

Jan. 27 at No. 16 Notre DameW 81-64

Jan. 30 South FloridaW 71-48

Feb. 2 ProvidenceW 80-54

Feb. 5 at No. 7 RutgersL 73-71

Feb. 9 at Seton HallW 82-36

Feb. 12 GeorgetownW 80-48

Feb. 17 at No. 18 PittsburghW 90-64

Feb. 20 MarquetteW 95-63

Feb. 23 St. John'sW 98-41

Feb. 25 at No. 6 LSUW 74-69

March 1 at DePaulW 77-76

March 3 No. 5 RutgersW 66-46

March 9 DePaulW 86-67

March 10 PittsburghW 74-47

March 11 No. 22 LouisvilleW 65-59

NCAA Tournament

March 23 CornellW 89-47

March 25 TexasW 89-55

March 30 No. 14 Old DominionW 78-63

April 1 No. 7 RutgersW 66-56

Location: StorrsEnrollment: 28,481

Famous alumni: Former astronaut Franklin Ramon Chang-Diaz, St. Petersburg native and former Coast Guard commandant Paul A. Yost Jr.

Chatter about Connecticut's Final Four dry spell can cease. Coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies are back in the hunt for the first time since 2004. ¶ It's not as if UConn ever went away. All told, it has been a part of the NCAA Tournament field 20 straight years. Only Tennessee (27) and Stanford (21) have longer streaks going.

Why they will win: UConn boasts one of the premier players in the Big East and one of the top talents in the nation in freshman Maya Moore. The Huskies are big and deep across the frontline. And this group wants to make the most of its chance to uphold the program's legacy.

Why they won't: The Huskies' depth ends at their injury-depleted backcourt. Three perimeter players played 40 minutes in the region win over Rutgers. And while UConn put away the Scarlet Knights by making 14 straight free throws, that hasn't been the norm. As a team, UConn shoots just less than 68 percent from the line.

Renee Montgomery

Guard, junior

Montgomery doesn't boast big offensive numbers, but in many ways, she is the glue that holds the Huskies together. Because of injuries she was needed at both backcourt positions, and she responded. She was a huge factor as UConn won the region final.

After struggling early in the win over Rutgers, Montgomery settled down and sparked the Huskies with big-hustle plays. She leads the team in steals and ranks second in assists in addition to scoring in double figures. She is the only player to start all 37 of UConn's games.

Ketia Swanier

Guard, senior

Swanier was voted the Big East's sixth man of the year, but she has started 11 of the past 12 games at the point.

She leads the Huskies in assists and had the biggest assists of the game in the region final — including the pass to Moore for the go-ahead 3-pointer.

The 5-foot-7 Swanier can score. She had 15 points in Tuesday night's win over Rutgers. And she found a way to grab a career-high nine rebounds in UConn's win at No. 6 LSU on Feb. 25.

Tina Charles

Center, sophomore

The 6-foot-4 Charles gives the Huskies size in the middle, and she has made use of it by leading the team in rebounding and blocked shots while scoring 14.4 per game.

The Jamaica, N.Y., native has started 33 games, though coach Geno Auriemma has been disappointed with her consistency in some recent outings. She has 25 double doubles, including 14 this season. Her 12 rebounds against Rutgers helped the Huskies during the region final. She is one of eight McDonald's high school All-Americans on UConn's roster.

Kaili McLaren

Forward, sophomore

The 6-foot-2 McLaren has started the past nine games, including all four NCAA Tournament contests. Her strength lies in defense and rebounding, but she is capable of double-digit scoring and is an excellent passer.

Another team in the Final Four, LSU, will be quite familiar with McLaren, whose 11 points and 12 rebounds helped the Huskies to a 74-69 win at the Tigers.

McLaren scored 10 in the region final against Rutgers and gave UConn its first lead with just less than seven minutes to play.

Maya Moore

Forward, freshman

The 6-foot swing player became just the second freshman named first-team All-American by the Associated Press, and with good reason. In addition to leading UConn in scoring (17.6 ppg), she grabs 7.6 rebounds, is an inside/outside scoring threat and a steady defender. And she's a clutch performer, as she proved with her big 3-point shot in the closing minutes of last week's region win over Rutgers.

"We've only seen the tip of the iceberg," Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry said of the Lawrenceville, Ga., native's potential.

Geno Auriemma often uses the terms "wise guy" and "smart aleck." More often than not, he applies them to himself.

But there is no doubting the sincerity of the Connecticut coach when he says he considers this season's team unique and special.

That comes from a Hall of Fame coach who brings his ninth Final Four team to the St. Pete Times Forum, one who has hung five national championship banners and owns 657 wins over 23 seasons.

"This one, for some reason, feels different," Auriemma said after Tuesday night's

66-56 win over Rutgers in the championship game of the Greensboro Region.

"This one feels pretty incredible."

It's not solely that Connecticut owns a 36-1 record, brings a 15-game winning streak into Tampa and is the program's first team to reach the Final Four since 2004. It's the way the Huskies have accomplished those things through injuries and adversity.

Asked last week what he would remember most about this season, Auriemma didn't mention a particular win or standout scoring performance. He spoke of the growth and improvement several one-time role players have made over the course of the season. He spoke of senior center Brittany Hunter, who transferred from Duke after a devastating knee injury as a freshman and practices and plays through nagging pain.

And he reflected on the night of Jan. 15, when senior guard Mel Thomas sat teary-eyed at the end of the bench, knowing a torn ACL had ended her college career.

"Regardless of what happens (the rest of the way), short of lifting up the national championship trophy, I don't think anything for me will be as powerful as those things," Auriemma said.

Seven of the players who are healthy now have started at least seven games. Look for 6-foot-3 senior Brittany Hunter, who has battled through a serious knee injury, to play significant minutes, as well as 6-1 senior Charde Houston. Season-ending injuries to guards Mel Thomas and Kalana Greene have forced Renee Montgomery and Ketia Swanier to log most of the meaningful time in the backcourt, though freshman Lorin Dixon might give them an occasional breather.

"What makes UConn so special is the amount of talent they have and the way Geno demands perfection from their best player to their last player. You look at their bench and see how much they enjoy playing for him. … Offensively, they're very precise in what they do. They don't take a lot of bad shots, and they pressure you on both ends of the court. They have incredible internal competition on the team."

Meet the UConn women's basketball team 04/05/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:24am]
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