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Weekly WBB Roundup: Huskies advocating for change; looking back on 2016-’17

The Huskies’ first year without Breanna Stewart never lacked excitement.

ESPN

The WBB Roundup is a look back at the latest news from UConn women’s hoops and other fun or interesting stuff from around the web.

Roster set as-is

The current 10 players on UConn’s roster is everyone the Huskies will have next year. Geno Auriemma told Carl Adamec of the Manchester JI that they aren’t planning to add anyone else for next season and he’s “comfortable” with the group they have.

The only player UConn seemed connected to was Stanford grad transfer DiJonai Carrington. She ultimately committed to Baylor.

News from the past two weeks

Report: Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament moving to Mohegan Sun

The UConn Pod: We’re on to the Big East

UConn athletics calls for action amid nationwide protestsWomen’s basketball players released a statement backed by Auriemma

Paige Bueckers: Class of 2020 can overcome what we lost, write a better script (Minnesota Star Tribune)

Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd’s All-Decade women’s basketball team (The Players’ Tribune)

The future is now for Aaliyah Edwards and Team Canada (Basketball.ca)

Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe and Russell Wilson to host virtual ESPYs (ESPN)

Looking back on 2016-2017

The final seasons of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck marked the end of an era for the program, as the trio closed up their careers with four national titles in four years. It’s easy to forget how much uncertainty surrounded the Huskies’ prospects going into the next season.

Looking at the names now, you see Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson — the highest scoring classmates in program history — along with Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams — both WBCA Defensive Players of the Year — and Saniya Chong and Crystal Dangerfield — two really good point guards. It’s a loaded roster.

But back then, Collier and Samuelson were unproven sophomores. Nurse was a starter on good teams, but the team wasn’t counting on her to win, at the time, and Williams was the team’s sixth player. Chong hadn’t made much of an impact to that point in her career and Dangerfield was just a freshman.

Stewie and co. set a high bar for future generations, the 2016-17 team was always going to be compared to the previous year’s team, especially because the latter inherited the former’s winning streak. Taking a step back after graduating three generational players would’ve been understandable. Instead, the Huskies continued to chug along like a machine.

Here are some of the best moments from that season:

72-61 win over Baylor — Nov. 17, 2016

An unconvincing 78-76 win at Florida State to open the season didn’t do anything to squash the notion that the 2016-17 season could be a dreaded rebuilding year for UConn. And the Huskies’ home opener against No. 2 Baylor didn’t exactly help them escape the past as they raised the 2016 national championship banner prior to the game.

But UConn contained Baylor bigs Beatrice Mompremier and Kalani Brown down low thanks to a combination of foul trouble and one of Natalie Butler’s best performance as a Husky while Crystal Dangerfield scored a team-high 19 points off the bench in just her second collegiate game.

With the game was tied at 54 in the fourth quarter, UConn went on a 10-2 run to pull ahead for good and earn the 11-point victory. It was a statement win for the Huskies and proved that there would be no rebuilding in Storrs.

Recap

87-81 win at Maryland — Dec. 29, 2016

The Katie Lou Samuelson Flu Game. Geno Auriemma didn’t even know if the sophomore could play due to a stomach bug and even when she got the green light, Samuelson had to come off in the first quarter to throw up on the sidelines. Despite it all, she finished with a game-high 23 points — 12 in the third quarter — to help the Huskies earn their toughest win to that point in the season.

Recap

88-48 win at SMU — Jan. 14, 2016

An entirely unmemorable conference game — aside from the fact that it secured UConn’s 91st consecutive victory, breaking its own Division I record for the longest win streak ever.

“I have a lot of words but usually when it comes to this stuff, I don’t,” Auriemma told SNY postgame. “It’s like a fairy tale.”

Recap

66-55 win over South Carolina — Feb. 13, 2017

Though SMU officially gave UConn the record for consecutive wins, it’s hard to argue many other regular season games have come with as much fanfare and excitement as the Huskies’ quest for 100 wins in a row against South Carolina at Gampel Pavilion.

The atmosphere that night was far more memorable than the game ever could’ve been. ESPN requested over 100 credentials prior to the game. Every seat in the media hallway below Gampel was already filled three hours prior to tip-off (it’s rare that every seat is taken for any game). The official attendance of 10,167 isn’t accurate — student tickets were oversold and the upper student section became overcrowded to the point where people were sitting on the stairs.

With Gampel literally packed, the fans were ready to go from the opening tip and every single play that went in UConn’s favor got as loud a cheer as you’ll ever hear inside the arena.

When the final buzzer sounded, fake $100 bills with Geno’s face on it fell from the rafters. Former players swarmed the court as the team celebrated like it just won the national championship. It was a euphoric atmosphere of total mayhem.

For a regular season game, it was a spectacle — from start to finish.

Recap

63-60 win at Tulane — Feb. 18, 2017

It’s hard to believe after the 100-win celebration, it almost all came tumbling down the following game. UConn traveled to New Orleans and took in the NBA’s All Star Weekend alongside a matchup against Tulane.

Though the Huskies beat the Green Wave by 44 earlier in the season, UConn seemed to have a victory hangover from the South Carolina game and being without Nurse, who was out with an ankle injury, didn’t help either. But they should have been able to handle this team without a problem.

Tulane scrapped all game long to stay close with UConn but despite getting within one possession multiple times in the fourth quarter, the Green Wave couldn’t grab the lead. They had a chance to tie the game with five seconds left trailing by three but threw a long inbounds pass, which was intercepted by Dangerfield. Tulane wouldn’t get another shot and the Huskies skated by for the victory.

Recap

100-44 win over USF — Mar. 6, 2017

In one of the greatest individual performances in the history of the sport (and the best performance I’ve ever seen in person), Samuelson hit all 10 three-pointers she attempted against USF to secure the AAC Tournament title for the Huskies.

The sophomore hit her first triple with 7:46 left in the first quarter and never looked back. After one made three, she turned and did the Jordan shrug as she ran up the court.

ESPN

She could’ve done even more damage but with the lead well in-hand, Auriemma sat her on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.

Recap

66-64 loss to Mississippi State — March 31, 2017

Unfortunately, the story of the 2016-17 season can’t be told without mentioning the way it ended. The team was bound to slip up at some point and it just happened to be in the Final Four. The weight of the win streak seemed to weigh on the players more and more as the season progressed and it’s fair to wonder if things would’ve gone differently had the Huskies lost to Tulane.

UConn had more than its share of chances to win the game but simply shot itself in the foot at every possible opportunity. A win would’ve all but guaranteed banner No. 12 since the Huskies would’ve faced South Carolina in the final.

Recap


Past and present UConn players speak out

With protests this week around the country, both current and former UConn players are using their platforms to speak out. The team’s current players released a unified statement — which Auriemma backed. Along with that, the team has also been active taking action as well.

Christyn Williams took to Tik Tok to show the problems with saying “All lives matter” over “Black Lives Matter” and also went out to protest on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Auriemma attended the protest in Manchester, Connecticut and Olivia Nelson-Ododa was out in Atlanta on Saturday.

Elsewhere, the Renee Montgomery Foundation is collecting donations to help supply protestors with water and food, Diana Taurasi joined a protest in Phoenix and Breanna Stewart spoke at a race and social justice rally outside Seattle.

Batouly Camara, who established herself as an advocate for the black community while still at UConn, was one of 11 athletes on the “Burn It All Down” podcast with a goal of “holding space for their voices, emotions, stories, and experiences as they all navigate this moment.” While the entire podcast is worth listening to, Camara speaks at the 50:40 mark.

Maya Moore, who stepped away from the WNBA to focus on criminal justice reform, has also become an outspoken leader. In 2016, she wore a t-shirt pregame with three of her teammates that read “Change starts with us” and “Justice and accountability” following the murder of Philando Castile during a traffic stop.

This past week, Moore went on ESPN’s Outside the Lines where she discussed her current thoughts on the situation, spoke about the history behind the current issues and responded to Drew Brees’ controversial comments and apology.

Moore is also a finalist for the 2020 Muhammed Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, with the winner announced at this year’s ESPYs.

Stewie vs. Geno, part II

Breanna Stewart is only 25 years old and yet her hardware already rivals that of some of the greatest players in the history of the sport. While in quarantine, Stewart decided to show off her championship ring collection on Instagram:

So naturally, her former head coach just had to one-up her. In his office in Storrs, Auriemma broke out his lockbox and stacked his fingers with 16 rings — 11 national championships, three Olympic championships and two World Championships.

Auriemma’s final message to Stewart? “Hey Stewie, get to work.”

Previous roundups

The best UConn women’s basketball teams that didn’t win the national championship

UConn women’s basketball needs a uniform overhaul

‘This is your defining moment’: Geno Auriemma delivers commencement speech of UConn’s class of 2020

UConn women’s basketball’s recent transfer history

Looking back on the UConn-Notre Dame rivalry

Napheesa Collier lobbying Minnesota Lynx to draft Crystal Dangerfield

UConn women’s basketball doesn’t have a greatest player ever