Yes, UConn: Team makes it 5 in a row

The Huskies have made five straight Final Fours.

by Adam Fink

Be careful when throwing the word “dynasty” around Connecticut’s women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

While the Huskies have won the last two NCAA Championships, UConn’s 19-year coach is cautious to put his team’s recent success in perspective.

“I like to think that over the last 10 years, we are certainly unbelievably proud of what we have done,” Auriemma said in a teleconference Wednesday. “We have been in four championship games and we have won all four of them.”

The journey the Huskies – who play Minnesota at approximately 8 p.m. Sunday in the Final Four – have taken, in hopes of giving Auriemma a complete hand of championship rings, is vastly different than the previous two seasons.

After enjoying back-to-back undefeated seasons, the Huskies – enter gasp here – lost four, yes, four times this season.

While UConn is used to entering postseason play unscathed in the win-loss column, this year’s team didn’t grasp that concept until the Big East Conference Tournament.

The Huskies lost to Boston College – which the Gophers beat 76-63 in the Sweet 16 – on March 8 by three points.

“After that game we rediscovered the ingredients you need and the players understood how easily all this can end,” Auriemma said. “Since that day we have been a much better team with a much different approach mentally and physically.”

The Huskies are led by Diana Taurasi, a first team All-American and back-to-back Naismith player of the year. The senior averages 16.2 points and five assists per game and has a similar effect on her team that Lindsay Whalen has on Minnesota.

But for the first time in three years, the Huskies have shown they are beatable – and can’t look past any opponent.

“It was a hard season,” Taurasi recently told the Hartford Courant. “Every time we thought we had it, someone would come up and blindside us and knock us down. But we kept getting up, kept refocusing.”

For UConn’s season to continue past Sunday, Auriemma knows the Huskies will have to shut down Whalen and Gophers center Janel McCarville – a feat that has yet to be accomplished in the NCAA Tournament.

Much of that responsibility will come down to Taurasi, athletic guard/forward Barbara Turner and 6-foot-3-inch center Jessica Moore.

Auriemma sang the praises of both parts of Minnesota’s inside-outside duo and said the Huskies want to contain McCarville’s ability to pass out of the post and slow down Whalen in the open court.

The winning difference for the Huskies might come down to experience. UConn has been in this position countless times while Minnesota is making its first trip past the Sweet 16.

“It could be where (the Gophers) are so proud of themselves for what they have overcome and they feel so much stronger because of their experience, it may propel them to play better than they would otherwise,” Auriemma said. “I think if you go to the Final Four you better not be looking by anybody.”

If Connecticut prevails and winds up winning a third-straight NCAA title, Auriemma might have no choice but to adjust to the “D” word.