UConn looking for fourth straight NCAA title
STORRS, Conn. (AP) Breanna Stewart came to UConn to win national championships.
The two-time national player of the year, along with teammates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, have a chance this season to win an unprecedented fourth in a row.
"We don't feel the pressure," Stewart said. "It excites us. We know it's there. We know what we've done and the position that we've put ourselves in to be extremely successful."
The Huskies have dominated women's basketball, going 113-5 over the past three seasons with 85 wins in their last 86 games. They outscored opponents last season by an average of 40 points per game.
UConn returns four starters and six other players that team, which went 38-1. They've also added three of the nation's top recruits.
Should the Huskies win their 11th title in April, coach Geno Auriemma would surpass the legendary John Wooden, who had 10 championships during his career coaching UCLA's men.
Here are some things to watch for as UConn begins its drive for an 11th NCAA title:
UConn comes into the season undefeated in the American Athletic Conference. The closest any conference opponent has come is South Florida, which lost by 14 points in last season's AAC championship game. No other team has come within 20 points of the Huskies. UConn won its regular-season conference games last season by an average of 48.7 points.
UConn will have to replace the scoring punch of 3-point specialist Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. She made an NCAA record 398 3-pointers in her career and shot 49 percent from 3-point range last season. Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson, last year's national high school player of the year, will be asked to help fill that role. Samuelson comes from the same high school (Mater Dei) in California as Mosqueda-Lewis and the two have known each other since they were little girls.
"Every time I was on the court I would cry, that's what she always tells me when she sees me," Samuelson said. "It's been cool to know that I'm in a place where someone I know so well has gone through and had so much success."
Georgetown transfer Natalie Butler is expected to help in the post, where the Huskies lost shot-blocking specialist Kiah Stokes to graduation. But Butler underwent surgery for torn ligaments in her right thumb on Oct. 19 and the 6-foot-5 center is expected to be out until late December. Butler was the 2013-14 Big East Rookie of the Year.
Sophomore Kia Nurse comes into the season with something that Stewart and Jefferson were not able to get over the summer - a gold medal from the Pan Am Games. Nurse scored 33 points to help Canada beat the United States and her Huskies teammates, 81-73, in a championship game in July.
"You want them to do well because they're your teammates and we're really great friends here," she said. "But, I mean, we were happy for us."
While Jefferson and Stewart look to end their careers with four straight titles, Morgan Tuck has a chance to do even better. Tuck says she plans to use the fifth year of eligibility granted when she missed all but eight games during her sophomore year after undergoing knee surgery. If the Huskies win a title this season, she would have a chance to go for five in a row next year.