HARTFORD – Ah, the preseason in women's college basketball, a time when powerhouses prepare and opponents arrive wide-eyed and leave stunned but well-compensated financially.
It happened again Tuesday at the XL Center. The friendship between Geno Auriemma and Philadelphia University coach Tom Shirley, which dates to high school, finally resulted in an invitation for the Division II Rams to butt heads with an icon.
"He [Shirley] is a lifelong basketball guy, just like a lot of those guys are in Philly," Auriemma said. "I'd always get nice notes from him about our success. We try to see each other at the Final Four. But when he found out the quality of teams we've been playing in the preseason over the years, he kind of got annoyed. He wanted to know why we called everyone else and not him."
Well, the call came and the teams met, although nowhere near middle ground.
Final score: UConn 93, Philadelphia 28 before a crowd of 6,108.
The Huskies were led in scoring by sophomore Morgan Tuck, who had 16 points (7 of 9) in 17 minutes.
"Morgan played very well," said Breanna Stewart. "From start to finish she made a ton of plays. She got into transition and knocked down her shots."
Stewart, named to the Associated Press preseason All-America team, ended with 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and six blocks in 20 minutes.
Four others scored in double-figures — Saniya Chong (13), Bria Hartley and Kiah Stokes (12) and Kalana Mosqueda-Lewis (10). Mosqueda-Lewis also had eight of UConn's 26 assists.
"Kaleena's just trying to be a better basketball player," Auriemma said. "She is seeing more things. And the more you do that, the more you enjoy the game."
The Huskies scored 48 of the final 58 points in the first half and glided to the finish line.
The next time UConn plays it will be for real. The regular-season begins Saturday against Hartford at the XL Center and then Monday against Stanford at Gampel Pavilion.
UConn played without sophomore Moriah Jefferson, who was resting the right ankle she twisted in the final five minutes of Friday's preseason rout of Gannon. The Huskies did not miss her, just another indication of their depth.
Things were going so well that Auriemma even turned to walk-on Tierney Lawlor to play the final two minutes of the first half. Lawlor ended up playing 15 minutes and scored a pair of free throws. UConn's other walk-on, Briana Pulido, was scoreless despite taking five shots in the final minute.
Philadelphia, which lost to Seton Hall in overtime on Saturday, played with just two players as tall at 6-feet, confirming Auriemma's contention that all Division II teams are made the same.
But this game was more about making memories then grabbing rebounds and for Philly the Kodak moment came with just 46 seconds gone in the first half.
Mary Newell dropped a three — her only basket — to give the visitor's a 3-2 lead. Snap and laminate.
Of course, UConn did not take well to this. By the time Philly's Monica Schacker (16 points) made the first of her four threes with 8:20 to play in the half, UConn's lead was 30-6.
And by then, Auriemma was walking the front of his bench with his hands in his pockets, looking as casual at a patron at Pat's Steaks, a Philly institution, waiting for his order.
In the first half, the Rams were 5 of 28 from the field, three of the field goals coming from behind the arc. They had 19 turnovers and two steals and watched the Huskies make 10 blocks.
Goreki Gets Offer
Junior Haley Goreki, a 6-foot junior guard from Palatine, Ill., was offered a scholarship last weekend during her unofficial visit. "The weekend was awesome, I can't even describe it," she tweeted. Gorecki was not at the UConn preseason game against Gannon. Sophomore Kelly Jekot was. But Jekot, a 6-foot guard, went home without an offer. UConn usually does not offer players younger than juniors.
Gorecki averaged 18 points and 7.8 rebounds as a sophomore at William Fremd High. She is a two-time Mid-Suburban League all-conference selection. Gorecki also has offers from Stanford, Arizona State, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, DePaul, Marquette and Northwestern.
Werner Ladder, the Official Ladder of the 2013 NCAA Basketball Championships, will present Auriemma and UConn with a pair of ladders in honor of their national championship. The ceremony will be made before Monday's game against Stanford at Gampel. Auriemma will autograph both ladders used to cut down the nets in the 2013 championship. Both ladders, as well as other memorabilia including the scissors used to cut down the nets, will be auctioned off on UConnHuskies.com beginning at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun