UT's Ariel Atkins gauds Missouri's Sophie Cunningham at the Frank Erwin Center Monday March 21, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Women's Basketball

Texas aims to topple mighty UConn from its perch

Winner advances to Final Four next weekend

Posted March 27th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • During UConn's current 72-game winning streak, no team has come within single digits of the Huskies.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — At a 30-minute press conference Sunday at Webster Bank Arena, UConn coach Geno Auriemma and five players were asked a total of 24 questions.

Only one pertained to the University of Texas basketball team, the Huskies’ opponent in the Bridgeport (Conn.) Regionalfinal Monday night at Webster Bank Arena.

It seemed like a forgone conclusion — at least in the national media’s eyes — that UConn is simply cruising towards its fourth NCAA women’s basketball championship and 11th overall. A 60-point blowout against Mississippi State on Saturday is just more reason to believe that no one can touch the Huskies.

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What did rankled Auriemma was a question regarding a tweet from Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy on Sunday that suggested UConn is ruining the sport – “Hate to punish them for being great, but they are killing the women’s game. Watch? No thanks.”

The 62-year-old Auriemma didn’t dismiss the tweet without firing back.

“My response is, don’t watch. No one’s putting a gun to your head to watch. So don’t watch. And don’t write about it. Spend some time on things you think are important. If you don’t think this is important, don’t pay attention to it. The fact that you have to comment on it says something about you, doesn’t it?…. We do what we do,” Auriemma said.

Auriemma then compared his team to Tiger Woods’ domination in the early portion of his golf career. No one said Tiger was bad for golf, the coach said.

“So, there’s a lot better writers than Dan Shaughnessy, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad for the game.”

During UConn’s current 72-game winning streak, no team has come within single digits of the Huskies. If they get past Texas Monday, and win two games in the Final Four next week in Indianapolis, Auriemma will pass iconic UCLA coach John Wooden for most championships in college basketball history.

UConn’s top player, Breanna Stewart, was asked her thoughts on the subject.

“You definitely can’t win this argument,” the 6-4 senior All-America said. “Teams need to get better, players need to get better, and that starts from before we even get to college.”

During UT’s 30-minute presser following UConn’s, the Longhorns were asked 22 questions, roughly half regarding their opponent. Yet the topic of the day — UConn’s domination of women’s basketball — came up again.

Texas coach Karen Aston paid the Huskies a compliment, saying, “I think we all need to get more competitive. We all know that in women’s basketball. We know that parity is a great thing.”

Aston said the women’s game saw a glimpse of parity when No. 1 seeds Notre Dame and South Carolina were beaten Friday in the Sweet 16 round.

“What happened on Friday is a great thing for our game,” she said. “We all need to get better and continue to try to grow the game, period.”

This will be UT’s first look at UConn (35-0) since losing to the Huskies 105-54 in the Sweet 16 last year in Albany, N.Y.

While Texas (31-4) makes no excuses for last year’s meltdown, this is a team that has made great strides in Aston’s four years as head coach. Armed with a talented senior class of Imani Boyette, Empress Davenport, Celina Rodrigo and Brady Sanders, this has arguably been UT’s best team since Jody Conradt’s team reached the Final Four in 2003.

The second-seeded Longhorns earned their spot in the regional finals by knocking off No. 3 seed UCLA 72-66 Saturday behind Boyette’s 18-point, 10-rebound performance.

“We know we deserve to be here and all of our hard has put us in this position,” Rodrigo said. “We’re confident in ourselves and in each other when we’re on the court. It helps knowing that we’re all playing for each other.”

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