BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Geno Auriemma and Connecticut are raring to go after being off for 10 days.
The Huskies, the top seed in the Kingston (R.I.) Region, open their NCAA Tournament today against No. 16 Prairie View A&M. (Tournament schedule, 4C)
After struggling through the latter part of the regular season, including losing their final two home games, UConn won the Big East tournament in dominating fashion. In the final, it beat Notre Dame, earning coach Geno Auriemma his 800th victory. The Hall of Famer became the fastest to reach the milestone.
"Ideally, it would have been great if we could have played a week ago on Saturday," Auriemma said. "That would have been better for us. I think any time you have a little momentum going and feel good about your team and they feel good about themselves, they like to capitalize on it.
"To wait 10 days, it's hard to sustain that."
The time off allowed senior guard Tiffany Hayes to rest a stress injury in her right foot. She didn't practice the first few days but returned Thursday.
"Practice went well," Hayes said. "My status for (today) is that I will be playing."
For the first time in Hayes' career at Connecticut, the Huskies (29-4) aren't favored to win the national championship. Baylor, led by 6-foot-8 star Britteny Griner, enters 34-0 and the top seed in the Des Moines (Iowa) Region.
That's fine with Hayes.
"I think this will be the best (championship) to me," Hayes said, "because nobody expects us to win because nobody thinks we can do it."
Prairie View A&M is making its fourth tournament appearance over the past six seasons. The Panthers still seek their first win. Last year, they were crushed 66-30 by Baylor, setting an NCAA Tournament record by scoring just eight points in the first half.
"We don't have anything to lose," Panthers coach Toyelle Wilson said. "You've got to cherish these moments. You'll have them for the rest of your life."
In the first game of the doubleheader, No. 8 seed Kansas State faces No. 9 Princeton.
It's the second straight season Kansas State has made the tournament. The Wildcats also were sent to Connecticut last year, and as a No. 8 seed, they lost to Purdue in the first round. They also played in Bridgeport in 2008.
"When you think about Connecticut, you think about collegiate women's basketball," coach Deb Patterson said. "We have a familiarity because we have been twice here and last year in Storrs. We feel almost like this is our destination spot. Some people go to St. Thomas, the Bahamas, we come to Connecticut."
Hurricanes leave star guard at home
SPOKANE, Wash. — Senior guard Riquna Williams, an All-ACC first-team selection, did not accompany Miami to Spokane, Wash., where it faces Idaho State today.
Coach Katie Meier cited conduct detrimental to the team but declined to disclose details.
"I am disappointed," she said.
Williams was unavailable for comment.
Meier declined to say if Williams, who averages 16.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists, will return if Miami (25-5), the No. 3 seed in the Kingston Region, wins. Krystal Saunders, who averages 3.3 points, will start for Williams.
"We have already moved forward," Meier said. "I am extremely confident in the Hurricane team that will take the floor in Spokane. My team has this toughness about them. We are going to play our tails off."
USF: The Bulls (18-15) host Florida International (23-19) in the second round of the Women's NIT at 7 tonight at the USF Recreation Center. The winner advances to the Round of 16. USF beat Florida Atlantic 76-20 on Thursday while the Panthers beat Stetson 75-47.