UCLA coach Cori Close spent time learning from UConn
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) UCLA coach Cori Close came to UConn in the spring a few years ago to learn from Geno Auriemma and his staff.
She had such a great experience that she returned three more times, including once with her staff.
''They are interested in growing the game, not just growing UConn,'' Close said. ''I'm a big believer that you have to learn from the best, and I've gone back four times. We spent three days watching practice. They were so gracious to let us pick their brains. It was a great experience.''
Close will try to put her time at UConn to good use when the Bruins face the Huskies on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament. At stake in the fourth-ever meeting between the programs is a spot in the Bridgeport Regional final.
While there might not be much history between the programs, the schools are linked by the UConn women topping the UCLA men's record 88-game winning streak in 2010. The powerhouse Huskies bring a 109-game win streak into this weekend's matchup with the Bruins, shattering the school's previous record of 90 straight victories.
''Nan Wooden called me, calling to congratulate us on the (win) Monday night,'' Close said of UCLA coach John Wooden's daughter. ''She reminded us who broke that record and other people have reminded us too.''
Close said they aren't focused on the past, but just the next 40 minutes.
This is the second straight season that the Bruins have played in Bridgeport. They were knocked out in last year's Sweet 16 by Texas.
While the Bruins don't have much experience reaching this point in the tournament, UConn is playing in its 24th consecutive Sweet 16. The Huskies have won a record 26 consecutive NCAA Tournament games.
''We talked about this weekend is a tough weekend, and everybody talks about the Final Four and how great it is to get to the Final Four and play in the Final Four and play for a national championship,'' Auriemma said. ''But this weekend is a tough weekend because it took a long time, took 12 months to get back to this spot, and could be over tomorrow at 4.''
Maryland will play Oregon in the first game of the regional.
Here are a few other tidbits from the Bridgeport Regional:
GO EAST: It's been a rough travel week for Oregon. The Ducks beat Duke in North Carolina on Monday night, and then flew back home so a few of the players could take exams the next morning.
The team arrived in Connecticut on Thursday to prepare for its regional semifinal game against Maryland.
''They've handled it a lot better than their coach,'' Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. ''I've got a cold. We've had a lot of travel, but they are 18 to 21-year olds. ... They might be tired, but not going to use that as an excuse by any means.''
UCLA also made the cross-country flight to play in Bridgeport, but the Bruins hosted the first two rounds so they only had to make the trip once.
DOUBLE-DIGIT MAGIC: Graves has had incredible success when a team he coaches is seeded 10th or 11th. Graves won six games at Gonzaga when his team was an 11-seed and now has won two as a No. 10 with the Ducks.
QUOTABLE: ''Definitely the thought of not going through a blizzard was appealing, but when it came down to it, here was where I wanted to be.'' - UConn guard Katie Lou Samuelson on choosing UConn over UCLA. Samuelson grew up in Southern California.
ROOKIE RESPECT: Maryland guard Destiny Slocum and Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu have a healthy respect for each other. The freshmen played against each other in AAU contests and together in the McDonalds All-America game.
''I'm pretty familiar with her, both from the West Coast. ... I mean, we're friends, so I know her in that way,'' Slocum said.
Ionescu likes the way that Slocum plays, but feels she's well-prepared for the matchup.
''She's a great point guard. But I don't think it'll cause us too much trouble,'' Ionescu said. ''We play against great guards in the Pac-12, and I think we're going to be ready tomorrow.''
CATCHING PAT: A victory on Saturday would give Auriemma 112 NCAA Tournament wins, tying him with Pat Summitt for the most all-time.
AP Sports Writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this story.