- Associated Press - Saturday, April 2, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Connecticut has a Final Four game against Notre Dame on Sunday night _ but that won’t stop them from cheering on the men.

The Huskies had an open practice on Saturday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse, and a lot of players were looking forward to watching UConn play Kentucky late Saturday in the men’s Final Four in Houston.

The women’s team planned to have dinner and watch the men’s game as a group.

“I know we’re all really excited,” guard Tiffany Hayes said. “It’s great to have both teams in the Final Four. I think it’s good for our university and just shows how competitive basketball is at UConn.”

Center Stefanie Dolson said it’s extra special when the women’s team gets together to watch the men’s squad. She said the two teams support each other.

“We don’t get a lot of chances to interact and talk with each other because we’re practicing all the time, but we see each other in the training room, we pass each other,” she said. “I know a couple of us are always at the guys games, any one that we can make.”

Guard Kelly Faris, a Plainfield, Ind., native, is interested in both men’s semifinals. Her homestate Butler Bulldogs advanced to the Final Four for a second straight year, this time for a game against Virginia Commonwealth.

“We like to cheer on our guys, and of course, I like to cheer on Butler,” she said.


WILLIE, WHITEY AND THE GENO: Though he’s a Texas Rangers fan now, Texas A&M coach Gary Blair used to pull for Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants.

So he turned to a writer from San Jose, Calif., and asked about getting a baseball signed by Mays. Then he looked at a writer from New York and said he’d like a ball signed by Whitey Ford.

When another writer asked Blair if there was anything he wanted from Connecticut, the A&M coach answered without missing a beat: “Geno’s paycheck.”

Geno, of course, is Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who has won seven national championships and has a salary to match his accomplishments.

“I’m just another pretty face up here,” Blair said. “And Geno’s got it all.”


WADE TROPHY: Connecticut senior Maya Moore is the first three-time winner of Wade Trophy, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association announced Saturday.

The WBCA and the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport presented the award to the outstanding player in NCAA Division I.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Moore said. “It’s absolutely an honor. But to put it in perspective, I don’t know. I’m really just really on the national championship right now. So hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy this one by winning a national championship.”

Moore has led the Huskies to four Final Four appearances and four Big East championships during her career. The Huskies play Notre Dame on Sunday in a national semifinal.

Moore is averaging 23.4 points this season. She became the Huskies’ all-time leading scorer season and is the seventh player in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history to score at least 3,000 career points.

She’s starting to run out of space to put all her trophies.

“They go to my mom’s house or some of them go to the basketball office in Storrs,” she said. “My mom’s starting to yell at me a little bit. I’ve got to figure where to put some of these things. But it’s great. I know it makes her proud and I always have a certain memory attached to some, whether it’s the specific team that year or something that happened that day.”


NO SELLOUT YET: There were still seats available for Sunday’s semifinals at the 18,165-seat Conseco Fieldhouse.

“We probably still have a couple thousand tickets available,” Sue Donohoe, vice president for Division I Women’s Basketball, said Friday.

The fact that Notre Dame’s campus is less than three hours from the arena could help.

“Certainly, I know that the Notre Dame contingency hopes that a lot of people come down from South Bend,” Donohoe said. “With our single-session tickets on sale, I think we’ll see some folks from South Bend come down.”


SHORT TURNAROUND: The Conseco Fieldhouse staff didn’t have much of a break between Friday night’s Indiana Pacers game and Saturday morning’s Final Four practices.

The Pacers game against the Milwaukee Bucks ended at 9:28 p.m. Friday. By 8 a.m. Saturday, the arena had passed the NCAA’s inspection. The Associated Press recorded the entire transformation with time lapse photography.

Rick Fuson, who runs the facility, hadn’t slept in 32 hours as of 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You build a camaraderie, you build friendships that last a lifetime,” he said. “For us to be able to do that through sports and entertainment is a blessing for us. You haven’t had sleep, but OK, how many opportunities to you get to do an NCAA Final Four?”

Fuson credited his colleagues, Tom Rutledge and Courtney Howell, as well as the rest of the staff, for a successful switch.

As for how he stays awake, Fuson prefers adrenaline to caffeine.

“You wash your face, and then you say, ‘Well, what else is going to happen next?’” he said. “You don’t want to sleep, because what are you going to miss?”


AP freelancer Chuck Schoffner contributed to this report.

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