DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CBS Connecticut and AP) — Count Geno Auriemma as a big supporter of Connecticut’s other Sweet 16 team, surprising Quinnipiac and coach Tricia Fabbri.
Auriemma pulled open his UConn warmup jacket to reveal a Quinnipiac shirt during a press conference Friday.
“I wouldn’t want to be in their bracket. They remind me of our ’91 team,” Auriemma said. “I watched them play … and with 8 minutes left in the game I said I think they’re going to win. Everyone in the place was going nuts. I thought ‘Oh my god, this is 1991 replaying itself.'”
Auriemma guided UConn to the Final Four for the first time in 1991. The Hall of Fame coach was proud that two teams from Connecticut — located about 56 miles apart — reached the Sweet 16. It’s the first time the Huskies have company from the state in the regional semifinals.
The news of Auriemma’s thoughtful choice in attire quickly reached the Bobcats across the country in Northern California, where they play top-seeded South Carolina on Saturday in the Stockton Regional.
“It’s awesome, just the support we’ve had in general, and then especially from him and his team,” Quinnipiac guard Adily Martucci said. “He’s a great coach and the spotlight is always on him. A lot of people saw that.”
Fabbri became a bit emotional when asked about Auriemma’s support.
“Well, first of all, Geno has been such a mentor for me going way back,” she said. “He helped me in this process, get the job at Quinnipiac a long, long time ago, 22 years ago. But really just a gold standard, a great guy, and then he was so excited. He reached out as soon as we won, and so complimentary of what we were able to accomplish over the weekend.
“The fact that he is wearing our shirt in support of our team in this tournament, at this time, just so thankful. And very grateful for his support and UConn women’s basketball’s support of Quinnipiac women’s basketball and the two teams in Connecticut representing women’s basketball in the Sweet 16.”
South Carolina’s players acknowledged they hadn’t heard of Quinnipiac — pronounced KWIHN’-ih-pee-ak — until a couple of days ago.
“I don’t want to pronounce it. I don’t want to mess it up,” A’ja Wilson said. “I just know that they are the Bobcats from Connecticut.”
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