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Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Guru Report: UConn Buries Duke With Opening Salvo

By Mel Greenberg

STORRS, Conn. – If one covers sports, no matter which types, and deals with coaches long enough, sooner rather than later they will tell you two things they don’t like to do is put an outcome of a closely fought contest in the hands of officials or place parts of their NCAA destiny in the hands of a committee.

No. 2 Connecticut inherently took care of both matters Monday night, blasting No. 3 Duke 87-51 in a nonconference matchup in the Huskies’ Gampel Pavilion before a near sellout crowd of 10,031 fans.

Coach Geno Auriemma’s group (21-1) quickly destroyed any notion of a close finish in this one by roaring to a 23-2 start over the Blue Devils (20-1), which had been the last unbeaten Division I women’s group.

It got worse from there for the visitors, though a brief Duke rally in the second half brought the Blue Devils within 19 points before the Huskies romped to the finish.

The game was decided so quickly that Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie had the same postgame speak used by trainers of boxing victims of Muhammad Ali.

“How many times can you keep getting punched?” she said. “I’m not so driven by the outcome, because the outcome was never in question here. I am upset about the process and the fight, we had no fight.”

Auriemma also used boxing metaphor in discussing the way the game went, though he was not singling out Duke players specifically.

“A lot of these kids growing up, you know what happens now? They all have personal trainers,” Auriemma explained. “You’ve got kids not worth (anything) and they have a personal trainer. They all have trainers, and none of them know how to play, because they are always working by themselves how to play, how to jab, how to jab step, how to cross over, how to shoot.

“Then you put them in five-on-five and somebody punches them in the face and they stop playing.”

Speaking of domination, the Huskies have now pulverized four of the top of six teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings – Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Conceivably they could see either of the other two – Miami or Maryland – in the NCAA tournament.

Maya Moore, likely to be No. 1 in the WNBA draft in April, going to the Minnesota Lynx, had 29 points for UConn, while grabbing nine rebounds and dealing seven assists.

Kelly Faris greased UConn’s wheels making 4-of-6 three-point attempts and scoring 14 points, while freshman center Stefanie Dolson had eight points and 12 rebounds.

Dolson has continued to improve after struggling early in the season in the one-point win over Baylor nearby at the XL Center in Hartford.

“I really didn’t know what to expect when we went out there,” Dolson said about her pre-game thoughts of Monday night. “The way we played, I’ve never been so excited. In high school you can’t get as excited in games like this. To be part of a team and a program and games like this, it’s such a great feeling.”

Duke All-America candidate Jasmine Thomas scored 13 points, the only Blue Devil in double figures. The Huskies also overwhelmed the boards with a 49-28 rebounding advantage.

“One thing Maya Moore does better than anybody in the country is she relaxes her team,” McCallie said. “I have never seen a more relaxed team and that is the Maya Moore factor. When a young lady averages 29 points and gets seven assists you can pretty much be free to do what you want.

“Everything is on Maya’s shoulders and she carries it well. When you have a player of that magnitude the effect is pure relaxation for others.”

Meanwhile the outcome also had some NCAA implications involving a long-range look at next month’s tournament.
In the current five-team scramble for four No. 1 seeds, the loss for now drops Duke out of the mix.

Connecticut’s win virtually assures the Huskies placement in the Philadelphia regional at Temple’s Liacouras Center most likely as a top seed, though UConn would still like to be the overall No. 1 seed to ensure an easier two-step process to a third straight national title if the Huskies reach the Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

Under the placement of near-geography in terms of seeds and sites, Duke was the only threat to potentially edge out UConn for Philadelphia if the Blue Devils had won.

Even if UConn would slip between now and the end of the season because of unforeseen injuries or the remaining competition in the rugged Big East, the nature of this year’s top 10 -16 teams has no other threat to the Huskies being in Philadelphia.

The only programs of stature on the East coast that could be the chief challengers if they got into the 64-team field and fell on the same line ahead of the Huskies as No. 1s, 2s, 3s, or 4s are Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State and none of them are likely to
be ahead of UConn.

--Mel

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