NEVER SO READY
There’s still one thing we don’t know about the UConn women’s basketball team as they make their move into Tennessee’s spotlight in the NCAA record books. We don’t know if they can win the close game down the stretch. So far they haven’t had to. In five games in the NCAA tournament they’ve blown out opponents by an average of 33 points, dominating to the point of even making it look easy against the team they couldn’t beat, second ranked Notre Dame, with an 83-64 waltz in the national semi finals last night in New Orleans. After losing to Notre Dame three times this season, by one point, by two points and in triple overtime, UConn never let this one get close down the stretch, leading by ten at the half, by 13 or more after letting the Irish get within six points early in the second half. There were no limbs climbed out on in picking UConn to win this one. The signs were there throughout their run through the Bridgeport region. They were in the eyes of every player on the roster. Senior guard Kelly Faris was one of the most underrated players in the nation going into the season. Coming out she’s one of the most respected and feared as she opens the eyes of WNBA general managers and shows her teammates what the eyes of a champion look like. Junior center Stefanie Dolson battles the best post players in the country night after night and has added a profile in courage to her resume in the post season, ignoring the pain of two bad feet while she goes from critical basket to critical rebound to critical block. Sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis has established herself as the deadliest three point shooter in the nation, saving her biggest daggers for the biggest moments. Whether she makes them or not, her presence outside the arc alone is enough to alter defenses and open the middle for rebounding teammates. Bria Hartley, who’s confidence suffered as she rehabbed from an ankle injury, has reestablished herself as a fearless coast to coast driver with the ability to change the play in an instant with a pinpoint pass out of a double team. When kentucky refused to go away, swapping leads with the Huskies in the first half of the regional final, Caroline Doty coolly fired away from the left corner, snapped the game’s final tie and triggered a 26-3 run that vaulted UConn to the final four. Kiah Stokes and Heather Buck ate up valuable minutes to spell Dolson enough to keep her on top of her game. There have been more talented teams at UConn, Diana, Sue, Swin, Asjha and Tamika come to mind, but none was ever more ready for a final four. This time the freshmen completed the preparaton. Morgan Tuck, a presence inside, scoring from the lane, big rebounds at big times. Moriah Jefferson showed she can change the offense and the tempo in a flash. But the transformation that transformed the team came from freshman forward Breanna Stewart. A deer in the headlights against Notre Dame at Gampel Pavilion in January, she blamed no one but herself. She credited her coaches for not giving up on her and for the extra effort they put into tutoring her. But it was her own determination that, from the start of the season to the post season, was most responsible for the most dramatic turn around in the nation this year, and now she’s just one game away from being named the Most Outstanding Player of the final four. The Huskies are one win away from standing at the highest pinnacle of women’s college basketball, second to none in the record books. Never has a team been so ready. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.