(Copyright 2001. The Tattoo. All rights reserved.)

Making a permanent impression since 1994

December 10, 2001

-- Sports Column --

With Bird on guard, Huskies will soar

By T.J. O'Connor

The UConn womenís basketball team in the last decade has been as dominant as when Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls.

The University of Connecticut is known across the country as having one of the best womenís basketball programs. The Huskies have won most of their games with ease and have had a lot of success due to six factors:

1) The leader: Every good athletic team has one -- someone who has experience and someone who takes charge of the team when it goes to battle.

The Huskies definitely have a leader on and off the court in senior point guard Sue Bird.

Bird, who has started all three of her years at UConn, always seems to lead her team to victory. Whether it is scoring, motivating her teammates or shutting down her opponent on defense, Bird always seems to get thejob done.

In her three years at UConn the Husky point guard has guided her team to two Final Fours including a National Championship and three Big East Tournament Championships. Bird looks to take her team to another Final Four this year.

2) The scorer: Some say this player should start on the UConn menís team. I agree.

Even though this Californian is just a sophomore, she may be the best female basketball player in the country.

Diana Taurasi is a prolific scorer and her specialty is draining shots from downtown consistently with ease.

When she shoots it doesnít even look like she jumps.

Not only can she hit the trifecta but she can zoom pass her defender on the drive and finish with a reverse lay-up. Taurasi is also known for her "razzle dazzle" plays that ignite the Husky faithful.

By the time Taurasi is done wearing the blue and white Husky jersey she may be the best player ever to play in that uniform. She is second on the team in scoring this year (only because she got into foul trouble against North Carolina).

3) The do-it-all player: Swin Cash can do it all: score, pass, rebound, handle the ball, cheer on her  teammates, and play solid "D."

Cash may be the most versatile player in womeníscollege hoops.

One advantage that she has over most of her opponents is her leaping ability, which she uses to get rebounds, block shots and get above her defender to score.

Cash is also extremely quick without the ball. When she doesnít have the ball she runs away from her defender to get open. Cash leads the team in scoring so far this year.

4) The space eater: Tamika Williams is a great example of a "space eater.

" She controls the middle and plays a huge role in UConnís success. Williams uses her strength and her effective mobility to get rebounds -- and boy does she get a lot of them.

Williams is also known for her high shooting percentage. As the "space eater" she also uses her strength to score down low in the post.

She always is able to overpower her opponent and much of the Huskiesí success this year will depend on Williams staying healthy.

5) The coach: Arguably the best coach in womenís college basketball, Geno Auriema has had many successful seasons in Storrs. He is a great motivator, recruiter and preparer.

Auriema is the heart of the UConn team.

Year after year, he has his team in contention for the National Title.

If you ask his players, they will tell you he is a great teacher of basketball and a great person.

Part of the reason for the Huskiesí excellent play in the 90s and in the year 2000 was Auriemaís unwillingness to settle for anything less than perfection.

Even when his team blows out every team they play he still has them working hard in practice and he still gets on their cases when they make foolish mistakes.

Auriema has taken UConn womenís basketball to a different level.

6) The fans: The Husky fans are by far the loudest and most supportive out of all the womenís college basketball fans.

They never get down on their team and they show great pride for their school. The Husky fans not only cheer on their team but they taunt UConnís opponent and jump on them whenever they make a mistake.

After this year -- when Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Tamika Williams and Asjha Jones (another great forward on the starting lineup) graduate and move on to the WNBA -- there will be many spots to fill.

Many of the teamís success factors will be gone, but Auriema has been finding younger players his whole career who can fulfill these roles and heíll no doubt do it again.

Read more of T.J. O'Connor's On the ball


RETURN TO TATTOO HOME PAGE