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8 CONNECTICUT HUSKIES MUST OVERCOME DEPARTURES AND DISEASE TO RETURN TO THE FINAL FOUR

Nov. 17, 1997
Nov. 17, 1997

Table of Contents
Nov. 17, 1997

Faces In The Crowd
Soccer
College Basketball 97-98

8 CONNECTICUT HUSKIES MUST OVERCOME DEPARTURES AND DISEASE TO RETURN TO THE FINAL FOUR

At first glance the UConn women's basketball juggernaut would
appear to be in dire straits. Not only did the Huskies lose both
the national player of the year, center Kara Wolters (to
graduation), and the national freshman of the year,
guard-forward Shea Ralph (to a knee injury), but they also began
practice without their best player, All-America guard-forward
Nykesha Sales, who is out indefinitely with mononucleosis
(though she is back at practice). Adding to coach Geno
Auriemma's travails is the fact that the Huskies will start the
year without a dominant seasoned post player for the first time
since Rebecca Lobo's sophomore season, 1992-93. "I feel a
different kind of anxiousness," he says. "This is the first time
in a while I'm not sure what type of team we have. I wonder,
What are we going to do when all hell breaks loose and we can't
just throw the ball down in the post?"

This is an article from the Nov. 17, 1997 issue Original Layout

Auriemma has gotten spoiled, what with the potent presence of
the 6'4" Lobo and the 6'7" Wolters over the last five years. The
Huskies now are forced to turn to 6'5" sophomore Paige Sauer,
who had 6.1 points and 4.2 rebounds a game last season as
Wolters's understudy. "Last year we just fed it inside," Sauer
says. "Now we're more of a finesse team. I just want to play my
role and be consistent. Nothing special."

She'll only have that luxury if Sales fully recovers from mono
and can better her numbers of a year ago, when she averaged 16.4
points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 3.3 assists. If she does,
the 6-foot Sales could become the fourth straight Husky to be
named national player of the year, following Lobo, Jennifer
Rizzotti and Wolters. "Her game has evolved each year," Auriemma
says of Sales, who played on the U.S. team that won the gold
medal at the World University Games in Sicily this summer. "It's
been incredible to watch her. She can do so many things and
score in so many different ways."

Sales's talents helped UConn run off 33 consecutive wins last
season as the Huskies advanced to the Elite Eight before falling
to eventual champ Tennessee. Auriemma likes this year's team,
but UConn's shot at winning its second title in three years
might have snapped at the same time the anterior cruciate
ligament in Ralph's right knee did, during a pickup game in
August. It was a heartbreaking blow for Ralph, who had torn the
same ACL in Connecticut's first-round NCAA tournament win over
Lehigh last March but had worked her way back in time for
preseason practice.

With Ralph redshirting, the Huskies will look to other players
for help, among them senior point guard Rita Williams (7.2
points, 3.3 assists a game last season), 5'11" junior
guard-forward Amy Duran (7.4 points) and freshman forward
Svetlana Abrosimova, who's from St. Petersburg, Russia, and was
MVP of the 1996 European Championships. "We've got to come up
with different ways to score," says Auriemma. "We're going to be
very versatile this year. We'll have to be." --PAUL GUTIERREZ

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS SALES (42) MUST OVERCOME THE AFTEREFFECTS OF MONO IF THE HUSKIES ARE GOING TO CONTEND [Nykesha Sales in game]

Returning Starters [Three]
Points per Game '96-97 83.8
PPG by All Returning Players 49.5