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One last test for Huskies

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published April 01. 2013 4:00AM   Updated April 02. 2013 12:41PM
Seventh straight Final Four berth is just a victory away

Bridgeport - Geno Auriemma was addressing an out-of-state reporter earlier in the weekend, attempting to properly frame the season to date. The coach, with a wry grin, alluded to the four losses and called it "a colossal failure" in comparison to most UConn women's basketball seasons.

And now tonight, this colossal failure can earn a berth in the Final Four.

Make that the program's sixth straight Final Four and 14th overall.

UConn, the top seed, plays No. 2 Kentucky in the Bridgeport Regional final (7:30, ESPN). It is a rematch of last season's regional final in Kingston, R.I.

"When we were here last year, you go back and watch those games," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I think we're more talented. We'll have to be as tough as we were last year and make more shots."

Kentucky has talented guards in redshirt sophomore Jennifer O'Neill, senior A'dia Mathies and former Norwich Free Academy great Kastine Evans. This game also offers UConn transfer Samarie Walker another chance to beat her old team.

"It wasn't emotional last year and it won't be this year," Walker said.

UConn, meanwhile, enters playing some of its best basketball of the season. In spite of center Stefanie Dolson's nagging right leg injury, the Huskies pounded Maryland in the regional semifinals, thanks to a combined 35 points from freshmen Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck.

"There's no reason to think they can't be (Monday) exactly where they were (Saturday)," Auriemma said. "They've played a lot of basketball in the young careers. They've played a lot of 'if you lose you're out.'

"Can we expect (Saturday's output) every night? If we're fortunate enough to play two more nights after Monday? I don't know," he said. "Stefanie's not 100 percent, Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) gets banged up a little bit. But at this point of the season, somebody's got to step up and do it."

UConn has been to the Elite Eight in eight straight seasons.

"I don't think there's any teams left playing (tonight) or Tuesday that are going to be easy outs," Auriemma said. "I don't think any teams come in and say we have all the answers for everything they do. Our defense has been really good all year long and it needs to be really good (tonight).

Kentucky is the kind of team that plays similar to us," he said. "They like to string together some runs and their pressure is something we have to deal with. We played them last year and we've seen enough of them. We have a pretty good idea of what we have to do."

m.dimauro@theday.com

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