Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Conlon important role player for UConn


Final Four notebook

By Keith Parsons
The Associated Press

ATLANTA - Connecticut point guard Maria Conlon has some advice for opposing coaches on how to stop teammate Diana Taurasi.

"I'd let her get her 50 points and try to make everybody else beat you," Conlon said Monday.

Taurasi, The Associated Press player of the year, scored 26 points in UConn's 71-69 semifinal victory over Texas on Sunday night. She hit several big shots down the stretch to help the Huskies rally from a nine-point second-half deficit.

Stopping her probably will be out of the question for Tennessee (33-4) when it plays the Huskies (36-1) in the NCAA championship game Tuesday night.

"If we go into that game saying we are going to shut out Taurasi, let's face it, it doesn't happen," Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said. "Then what are you going to say to your team?"

Despite the attention paid to Taurasi, Connecticut has other players who can score. Jessica Moore, Ann Strother and Barbara Turner all average in double figures, and each has led the team in scoring in at least four games.

The only exception is the diminutive Conlon, the only starter who averages less than 10 points. At 5-foot-9, she's also the only one under 6 feet.

"She may be short, but she is slow," Huskies coach Geno Auriemma quipped.

Conlon did have 15 points against Miami in February, and as a freshman she scored a career-high 16 points in a victory over West Virginia. So if called upon, she has enough confidence to take a big shot.

"On any given night, I know I'm capable of doing that," Conlon said. "But I know that I'm not going to average 16 points a game. I have to do other things to make a difference, whether it's making the right pass, calling the right play or calling the right defense."

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LAWSON'S VIEW: Kara Lawson will be doing everything she can to help Tennessee win a national championship Tuesday night. But if it doesn't happen, she knows life will go on.

Lawson's emotional and animated facial expressions, fist-pumping and chest-thumping have become part of her court persona. Her intensity makes it seem as if she lives for basketball, but her life doesn't depend on getting a ring before she leaves Tennessee.

"My whole world won't come crashing down if I don't win one," she said Monday. "There are just more important things than basketball."

For instance, Gwen Jackson needed to be with her family in Alabama last week, instead of practicing in Knoxville, after her grandmother died.

"She wasn't worried about the NCAA tournament," Lawson said.

And there's Lawson's cousin, Kevin Burke, who is in the military in Iraq.

Lawson's attitude about the game has evolved over her career, and the senior has enjoyed it to the end. "But I plan on doing a lot of things (after basketball)," she said.

Until then, Lawson is completely focused on Tuesday's game - her last chance at a title and last time to show her emotional side for Tennessee fans.

"She gets us going - all her energy and presence on the court, screaming when she makes a good play or stopping somebody on the defensive end," guard Loree Moore said. "Her leadership is key and we know she's going to bring it every game."

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DYING BREED: UConn coach Geno Auriemma feels lucky he got his job when he did. He doesn't think men have much of a chance anymore to get high-profile positions in women's basketball.

"It's over for men as head coaches at the big schools," Auriemma said. "Because no president or no athletic director is going to have the guts to hire the best coach. They are going to have to go out and hire a woman, whether she is the best coach or not."

Today the best opportunity for a man in the sport might be as an assistant, he said.

"There are a million men assistants," Auriemma said. "Every woman in American wants a guy to be an assistant. There is still life. It's not a great life, but there is still life."

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THE RATINGS GAME: A scheduling shift might have helped fuel a big increase in viewership for the women's NCAA semifinals.

The two-game overnight cable rating average from Sunday's games on ESPN was 2.4, up 26 percent from 2002, when the Final Four opened on Friday.

Game 1, Tennessee's victory over Duke, had a 2.1 overnight cable rating, up 41 percent from last year's Oklahoma-Duke. Game 2, Connecticut's victory over Texas, drew a 2.8, up 17 percent from last year's UConn-Tennessee.

In Hartford, Conn., the Huskies' game was the No. 1-rated cable program of the year and ranked fourth overall among TV shows, trailing only the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl pregame show, and one episode of the reality show "Joe Millionaire."

The overnight ratings measure the country's 55 biggest markets.




NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP
Syracuse hangs on at the end
Daugherty: Orangemen win title with a smile
'Melo leads 'Cuse to title
The 'other' freshman does the damage early
Williams should take North Carolina job
Jubilant Syracuse fans celebrate first title
There's no position super frosh can't play

WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR
Geno vs. Pat with the national title at stake
Conlon important role player for UConn

OTHER COLLEGE HOOPS
Daugherty: One size doesn't fit all, NCAA
Prosser tops list of Pitt candidates

REDS
Reds to call up Guillen from Triple-A
Road stretch offers a needed respite
Reds notebook: Stopping HRs means throwing sinkers
Reds at Astros series preview

OTHER BASEBALL
Monday's games: Braves go back-to-back-to-back
Scoring, home runs up in first week of season
Strawberry being released from prison
MLB notebook: Pedro's $17.5M option exercised

BENGALS / NFL
Leftwich works out, visits 'Nati
Edwards wins comeback award

PREP SPORTS
Duncan area's top player
Monday's prep results
Prep sports schedules

GOLF
Love enters Masters on a roll
Rain can't wash away Martha & Co.

HOCKEY
Clones will play Toledo

NBA
Parish, Worthy head to Hall
Bulls GM Krause steps down because of health

PLAN YOUR DAY
Tuesday's sports on TV, radio