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UCLA women next in line for streaking UConn

By
Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange
UConn Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
UConn Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

It barely took three minutes after the buzzer sounded to end UCLA's win over Texas A&M on Monday in a second-round game in the NCAA Division I Women's Tournament for the first question about what looms on the horizon to be asked of Bruins guard Kari Korver.

The question: how do you feel about playing UConn, the undefeated, four-time defending champion in the Sweet 16 next weekend?

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Korver's answer could have been on loop, repeated by just about every team that has run up against the Huskies before and during their 109-game winning streak.

"We're excited about the chance," said Korver, who scored 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from beyond the 3-point line in the win over Texas A&M. "Why not us? That's kind of the thing we've been talking about.

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"Why not be the team that goes and beats the best team in the country. Obviously, we have a lot of respect for UConn, but on any given night either team can win."

Fourth-seeded UCLA (25-8) and top-seeded UConn square off on Saturday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., which is about 80 miles southwest of the University of Connecticut.

The winner will advance to play the winner of the regional's other game between No. 3 Maryland and 10th-seeded Oregon.

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UConn (34-0) is bidding for its 12th NCAA championship and fifth in a row, and showed its muscle and balance with two easy wins in the first and second rounds of this year's tournament, the latter a 94-64 thumping of Syracuse on Monday in Storrs, Conn.

Huskies guard Kia Nurse scored 29 points on an NCAA Women's Tournament-tying nine 3-pointers against Syracuse, 26 of those coming in the first half, when UConn was running away to a 28-point halftime lead.

"We did a good job of moving the ball in the first quarter and finding the open shot," Nurse said after the win over Syracuse. "If you look at the open shots we had, you'll see two or three great screens to allow us to get open for those shots."

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Nurse's hot shooting on Monday came on the heels of another sizzling performance in the NCAA first-round game, when she had 24 points and was 6 for 7 on three-pointers in a win over Albany.

"People think when you shoot the ball well, you play well," UConn coach Gino Auriemma said. "And Kia shot the ball better than well. She shot it amazingly well. But she played really well, and that's even more important."

This will be UConn's 24th consecutive trip to the Sweet 16, while UCLA advanced to the penultimate weekend of women's college basketball for the fifth time and only the second time since 1999.

UCLA coach Cori Close is taking a pragmatic approach to the matchup on Saturday.

"They (UConn) are a great team; they obviously have our respect, but my team has my respect, too, and I need to lead them the same way that we've done it all year long," Close said.

"And that focus is on how do we need to grow, how do we play to our best given the opponent we have next, and the fact that we're going to play in a Sweet 16, not just that we're going to play UConn."

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