UConn to play in stacked 2016 Maui Invitational

Mike Corasaniti, Associate Sports Editor

Just one day removed from it’s 10th consecutive November tournament appearance, it was announced Monday that the UConn men’s basketball team will be participating in the 2016 Maui Invitational Field.

UConn will be making its fourth appearance in the 8-team Hawaii tournament, which will feature North Carolina, Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and the hosting Chaminade University Silverswords in 2016.

The Huskies are two-time champions at the Maui tournament in their three previous appearances, last taking home the title in their 2010-11 national championship season. 2016’s field would appear to be the most stacked of UConn’s appearances in the tournament though, with the field combining for 14 national championships and 35 Final Four appearances.

UConn’s participation in the 2016 Maui Invitational will begin on Nov. 21, 2016 at the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii.

Sara, Durgin compete in cross country NCAA Championships

By Molly Burkhardt, Staff Writer 

Cross-country captains Lauren Sara and Emily Durgin competed in the NCAA Championships on Saturday morning. Sara and Durgin were the fifth and sixth Huskies in history to earn individual spots for the championship meet.

Sara took 35th place at the NCAA Championships to finish her collegiate cross-country career.

“Today was an exciting way to end my last cross country season at UConn,” Sara said. “It’s been a really bumpy ride back from injuries over the past two years but this moment makes it all worth it.”

Sara, who spent the majority of the 2013 season injured, proved her strength and dedication this year. She was consistently leading the team at every meet, finishing in the front of the pack.

The redshirt senior captain finished the 6k course with a time of 20:38.5, and was honored as an All-American runner.

“It was a great day for Lauren Sara,” coach J.J. Clark said. “Congrats to her as she worked hard to become an All-American. I’m very proud of her efforts.”

Durgin showed respect for Sara after the race, too.

“I am very proud of Lauren (Sara) for an All-American finish in her last cross country season. I am looking forward to the upcoming track season with my teammates,” Durgin said.

Durgin crossed the line at 21:17.6, earning 115th overall in her first appearance at the NCAA Championships. The junior captain was an important asset of the Huskies team this year, leading her team alongside Sara for many races.

“It was great to run at my first NCAA Championship,” Durgin said.

Kate Avery from Iona College finished in first place with a time of 19:31.6. For a complete list of individual results, visit http://www.directathletics.com/results/xc/7652.html#67324

Back on track: UConn women defeat Creighton 96-60

By Matt Zampini, Sports Editor

STORRS, Conn. — The UConn women’s basketball team returned to its normal ways Sunday afternoon with a convincing 96-60 blowout victory over the Creighton Bluejays at Gampel Pavilion.

11/23/2014 Women's Basketball vs Creighton by Jon Kulakfosky
Breanna Stewart drives to the basket against a Creighton defender on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014 at Gampel Pavilion. (Photo by Jon Kulakofsky)

Junior Breanna Stewart was terrific for the Huskies, showing why she was dubbed a Preseason All-American and the Preseason American Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Stewart was perfect from the field, shooting 10 of 10 and scored a game-high 25 points to go along with 10 rebounds.

“My teammates were doing a really good job to help me get open and get good shots,” Stewart said. “The ball was going in, it felt good when I shot it and I was just trying to be aggressive like I usually am.”

Freshman Kia Nurse was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in place of Saniya Chong for defensive purposes, but it was her offensive game that was put on display for the first time this season.

Nurse is known more for her ability to drive to the basket, but the freshman shot the ball exceptionally well Sunday, going 6 of 7 from the field, making all four 3-pointers she took, and scored a career-high 22 points with four rebounds and two assists.

“Today I thought about shooting the ball a little bit more and I had more confidence in my shot and I think that made all the difference,” Nurse said.

Along with having a break out game offensively, the freshman from Canada got the assignment of guarding Marissa Janning from Creighton, the reigning Big East Player of the Year. Janning was held in check throughout the game and Nurse made it difficult for her to score. Janning had just five points at halftime and finished the game with 15 points.

“I knew I was on the floor to be a bit of a defensive presence so I took it as a challenge and I tried to do the best job that I could,” Nurse said.

After fouling out in the last game against Stanford, Nurse seemed to play with a bit of an edge today in her first start of her career.

“She (Nurse) did what great competitors do,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “They come back and put it behind them and use it as a motivator and play better than you would expect. I’m not surprised that she did that. She is one tough kid. She’s better than people think.”

After a lackluster ending to the game against Stanford, in which UConn blew a 10-point lead with 6:34 to play, Auriemma decided to play a full-court press defense to start the game. The Bluejays had a difficult time handling the press and committed 11 turnovers in the first half, in which UConn scored 17 points off.

Creighton finished the game with 16 turnovers and UConn scored 26 points off of those turnovers.

Along with the stifling defensive pressure and hot shooting, the Huskies opened the game on a 9-0 run; causing Creighton head coach Jim Flanery to call a timeout.

At the first media timeout, Creighton shot just 1 of 6 from the field. Creighton would go on to make some shots, however. Back-to-back 3-pointers brought the Bluejays within 10 points at 27-17 with 9:59 left in the first half and caused Auriemma to take a timeout.

From there it was clockwork for UConn. Creighton tried to stay in the game, putting up 30 shots from the 3-point line but they only converted on 43.3 percent of them. The Bluejays made 13 3-pointers, tying the most ever given up by UConn.

The Huskies were without senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis Sunday afternoon due to flu-like symptoms, but other players picked up the offensive production in her absence.

Morgan Tuck was inserted into the starting lineup in Mosqueda-Lewis’ place. Tuck provided an instant spark to the offense, scoring 14 points in the first half. Tuck finished the game with 15 points and seven rebounds.

With Tuck in the lineup, her versatility allows for her teammates to get a lot of different looks around the floor. She makes the offense run smoothly. Auriemma talked highly of her after the game, saying that she stretches the defense, passes the ball, makes shots and gets people out of the lane.

“She’s (Tuck) not great at anything. She just really understands how to be pretty good at all the facets of the game,” Auriemma said. “And watching her play today, I think she’s exceptional when she can see the basket when she shoots the ball.”

Tuck is just happy to be healthy and helping the team, but knows there is plenty of work to do going forward.

“As a team, we kind of built on the things that we’ve been practicing, definitely need to still work on a lot of things but I think we’re stepping in the right direction,” Tuck said.

BEFORE THE GAME

The Huskies received their 2014 national championship rings before Sunday’s game. Players from last year’s team were called up individually to receive their rings. Player met Auriemma at half court and posed for a picture.

UConn won its ninth championship in program history when they defeated Notre Dame in the finals 79-58 last season.

NEXT UP

The Huskies will compete in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida next week. UConn will take on the College of Charleston Nov. 28.

Field Hockey Captures Fourth National Championship Defeating Syracuse 1-0

Senior midfielder Chrissy Davidson taking the ball in UConn Women's Field Hockey's Oct. 19 homegame.
Senior midfielder Chrissy Davidson taking the ball in UConn Women’s Field Hockey’s Oct. 19 homegame. Photo by Santiago Pelaez, Senior Staff Photographer/The Daily Campus

By Hayley Tafuro, Staff Writer

For the second year in a row, the UConn women’s field hockey team has captured a national championship, this time defeating Syracuse by a score of 1-0.

This title marks UConn’s fourth-ever national championship in program history, with these last two coming under Head Coach Nancy Stevens’ reign. It also culminates an outstanding season for this year’s squad, and a sweet sendoff for the senior class.

All of this stemmed from Friday night’s victory over Albany, where Chloe Hunnable along with the unbelievable Husky defense lifted UConn to a 1-0 victory. They held the Great Danes to just one shot and did not allow any penalty corner attempts. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Nina Klein made five key saves that led to yet another shutout.

In the championship matchup with the Orange, Mckenzie Townsend got things started for UConn at the 9:27 mark after tipping in a shot by Anna Middendorf on the first penalty corner attempt of the game. The Husky defense went on to thwart any Syracuse attempt for the rest of the half, despite a few close shots that the Orange strung together as the clock wound down.

Again, the defense came up huge for UConn in the second half. Syracuse had a solid chance on a penalty corner, but the Huskies spoiled the attempt, maintaining their 1-0 lead. Klein mustered some crucial saves including diving to knock the ball out of bounds way outside of the cage en route to her ninth shutout of the season.

The Orange would not let up and tried everything they could to get back into the game. In the final 30 seconds of the game, Syracuse earned a penalty corner, putting the pressure on the seemingly unstoppable defense. With the chance to tie it up, they got off a shot with about 20 seconds left that just could not get past the blockade of white jerseys. With that, the Huskies sealed the repeat.

UConn ended the season with a 20-2 record overall, behind veteran leadership from the seniors and stellar contributions from each team member in blue and white. After adding another piece of history to the books, the Huskies hit the road back to Storrs as back-to-back champions.

Pregame notes: No. 1 UConn vs. Creighton

By Matt Zampini, Sports Editor

The No. 1 UConn Huskies will take on the Creighton Bluejays at 1 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion. Here are a few notes prior to the game.

First meeting ever

Sunday’s meeting is the first time ever that UConn and Creighton have played against each other. It is also the first time in program history that Creighton have faced the No. 1 team in the country. With UConn’s 88-86 overtime loss to Stanford last Tuesday, the Huskies will lose its top ranking next week.

The Bluejays are 4-20 against ranked opponents under head coach Jim Flanery.

Home openers

UConn sports a 35-5 record in home openers. The Huskies are 28-1 in home openers under head coach Geno Auriemma. UConn’s only loss in a home opener came Nov. 29, 1990 when the Huskies lost to Iowa, 58-41.

Different starting lineup for UConn

Senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will not play in today’s game because of flu-like symptoms. Freshman Kia Nurse will start her first collegiate game today.

Mosqueda-Lewis took part in the team’s shoot around this morning but decided that she couldn’t go today vs. Creighton.

Nurse was supposed to replace Saniya Chong in the starting lineup, but with Mosqueda-Lewis’ absence, Chong still may be in the starting lineup.

Containing Janning

Marissa Janning is the reigning Big East Player of the Year. Last season, she averaged 18.3 points per game and 3.8 assists. Janning is right along her average of last season, scoring 18 points per game in three games this season.

She has opened the season shooting 11 of 16 from three-point range.

Football: Cincinnati thrives on offense, UConn Struggles but Boyle Era Begins

By Matt Zampini, Sports Editor

Bearcats’ offense cruises

On the first defensive possession of the game, Andrew Adams intercepted Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel in the end zone and returned it to the UConn 32-yard line. It was just the fourth time all season that Cincinnati hadn’t scored on its opening possession.

Kiel and the Bearcats put that turnover behind them quickly, and the offense ran fluently for the rest of the game. Cincinnati outgained UConn on offense 425-129.

On the Bearcats’ second drive, Kiel led the team on a 14 play, 82-yard drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown pass to Nate Cole.

Kiel also had touchdown passes of two and 18 yards.

Kiel was pulled from the game with over nine minutes to play in the third quarter with the Bearcats ahead 34-0. He finished the game with three touchdown passes and 161 yards on 17-of-30 passing.

Cincinnati running back Rod Moore eclipsed 100 yards rushing on the day, running for 108 yards and a touchdown. Bobby Brown added 67 yards on the ground.

Offense struggles, but Tim Boyle era begins

Coming off a bye week, UConn had an extra week to prepare for a Cincinnati defense that allowed an average of 486 yards per game coming into Saturday night. However, the Huskies didn’t create any offense. The Huskies had just nine yards at halftime and finished the game with 129 yards and no points.

It was the first time UConn was held scoreless at home since Sept. 23, 1978 against Navy. It was the first time they were shutout overall since 2010 against Louisville.

“That is the best we have played on defense, tackled well, didn’t give up any big plays,” Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville said. “You get a shutout in college football this day and time you’ve done something.”

For the first time this season, sophomore Tim Boyle started at quarterback for the Huskies. Boyle has seen limited playing time this season serving as Chandler Whitmer’s backup.

On the night, Boyle threw for a season-high 70 yards on 13-of-21 passing.

In the second quarter, Boyle was sacked on a play where he should have thrown the ball away. Jeff Luc made the sack for the Bearcats, forcing Boyle to fumble the ball. Cincinnati made a 32-yard field goal off the turnover.

“It was tough offensively this week,” Boyle said. “We had a good game plan but it was just the execution aspect of it that we failed to do. I think it’s a good learning experience for us to go through this.”

At the start of the season, head coach Bob Diaco’s plan was to have Boyle redshirt, but once Casey Cochran discontinued his football career due to concussions, Boyle was used as Chandler Whitmer’s backup. Whitmer started the previous eight games for UConn.

Diaco believes that this season will serve as a learning experience for the young players on the team. Although not many have, he has remained positive during this 3-7 season and knows that his team will grow.

“Intangibly, we are going to get to work and grow out brotherhood from this adversity,” Diaco said. “Things are happening as they should. I believe that. This adversity is going to create an unbreakable foundation for championships in the future. There is no doubt.”

Football: Huskies shut out at home for first time since ’78 in loss to Cincinnati

By Tim Fontenault, Associate Sports Editor

EAST HARTFORD – The seven-year anniversary of West Virginia’s 66-21 win over UConn to decide the Big East championship, a game that coined the “West Virginia just scored again” phrase, is coming up Monday.

At Rentschler Field Saturday, there was a re-enactment of that fateful day. Gunner Kiel played Pat White, his skill position players all looked like Steve Slaton, and Cincinnati scored again, and again and again.

Coming off a bye week, the Huskies were unable to create anything inspiring on offense and got run over on defense, managing only 129 total yards compared to Cincinnati’s 425 in a 41-0 loss to the Bearcats.

That was UConn’s first shutout loss since Oct. 23, 2010, a 26-0 loss at Louisville. The Huskies’ last shutout loss at home was at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 23, 1978, when they were blanked by the U.S. Naval Academy.

Tim Boyle made his first start of the year at quarterback, completing 13 of 21 passes for 70 yards. Boyle found out Tuesday that he would be getting more reps, he said.

“Timmy got better as the game wore on,” Head coach Bob Diaco said. “He had a few nice drives. He threw some beautiful passes today.”

Boyle started four games in 2013, but Chandler Whitmer had gotten the nod in the first nine games for UConn. But Diaco wants to see more of Boyle, the former Xavier High School standout, saying that he will likely get more looks in the last two games of the season.

“We wanted to see Timmy and what he can do, starting the game,” Diaco said. “We hadn’t seen it yet. Nothing against Chandler, but we wanted to see what Timmy would give us. He’s going to get better and better, and he needs to get better and better. The only way to get better is to play.”

Boyle, always critical of his own performance, was not pleased with the offensive game Saturday, but there are benefits to be seen, he said.

“It was tough offensively this week,” Boyle said. “We had a good game plan but it was just the execution aspect of it that we failed to do. I think it’s a good learning experience for us to go through this.”

An interception on the goal line by Andrew Adams midway through the first quarter gave the Huskies hope that they would be able to contain Kiel and Cincinnati’s ninth-ranked passing game. But the sophomore quarterback zoned in after that, and it was game over.

Kiel found Nate Cole on a pass to the corner of the end zone with 1:29 to play in the first quarter for his 25th touchdown pass of the season. That would be all the offense the Bearcats needed, but they kept attacking the UConn defense, just in case.

Kiel only played until early in the third quarter, coming out after throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Holton to make it 34-0 with 12:56 to go. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns before giving way to Munchie Legaux.

Cincinnati added a touchdown with 7:56 to go in the quarter on a 28-yard run by Rod Moore, and at that point it became a run-out-the-clock offensive strategy.

UConn has two games remaining – next Saturday at Memphis and Dec. 7 at home against SMU – before Diaco’s debut season as head coach comes to a conclusion. It has not been an easy year for the Huskies, and it has only gotten harder as the season wears on.

Jefferson Ashiru and Kamal Abrams left the team after the loss to Army on Nov. 8, leaving UConn with only 60 scholarship players (Football Bowl Subdivision programs can have 85 scholarship players). Diaco pointed out after the game that after looking at the freshman classes of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, 35 of those players are no longer with the program.

As the Huskies look to form positives late in the season, Diaco continues to stress love for the players he has in the locker room, vowing to work with them through the adversity.

“We are going to love these guys and develop them,” Diaco said. “We are going to teach the young men how to be men and how to play football. As their eligibility expires, they are going to have one of the greatest degrees in the country in their hands as they walk out. That’s how you have a great football team.”