STORRS - Among the things that the UConn womenâs basketball team has been good at the past three decades is never looking past an opponent.
But donât blame coach Geno Auriemma for being excited about the top-ranked Huskiesâ journey west that follows Wednesday nightâs game at Oklahoma. UConn wraps up its trip on Saturday against No. 14 California in Berkeley.
On Friday night, Auriemma will join Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr on the Cal campus for âA Chat With Championsâ that will be moderated by Golden Bearsâ coach Lindsay Gottlieb. The fundraiser for the womenâs basketball program is advertised to explore the ever-changing world of basketball, provide insights on Kerrâs and Auriemmaâs success, and discuss big-picture issues affecting both sport and the world beyond the court.
âItâs going to be really cool. Iâm really looking forward to it,â Auriemma said Monday. âItâs going to be a lot of fun and I hope they get a great turnout. I hope they actually ask me some questions.â
Kerr had a 16-year career in the NBA and was part of five championship teams - three with the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs. After retiring, he worked in television and in the front office of the Phoenix Suns. He is in his fifth season with the Warriors with three championships, including the last two, and four NBA Finals appearances.
Tickets for the event are $250 per person, but Auriemma has plenty of questions for Kerr, too.
âI want to ask him, âWhen did you know what you were putting together, or did you know what you were putting together, was going to turn out the way itâs turned out,â â Auriemma said. âAnd, âAre you more surprised that when you started with Steph Curry that heâs become what he has become? Donât tell me you had this in mind.â
âAnd, âHow has coaching someone like that and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, how has that made you think about the game differently than when you were general manager of the Suns?ââ
Sophomore Megan Walker admitted Monday that she picked a bad time to get strep throat. Not only did she miss two games after playing so well in UConnâs win at Notre Dame on Dec. 2, it was the week before the start of fall semester final exams.
âIt seems like I always get sick around this time,â Walker said. âI had to push through and prepare for finals.â
Walker returned to practice Dec. 10 and got through exams. She is expected to be back in the starting lineup when the Huskies face Oklahoma Wednesday.
âIt was hard,â Walker said. âYou feel like youâve been out forever. Just pushing through and trying to get your conditioning back âŠ Thatâs the thing is conditioning. Youâve been sitting around for seven days.â
Walker had 12 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes in South Bend. But she started feeling under the weather the next day after the Huskies traveled to St. Louis. She was tested for strep and mononucleosis and missed the game against the Billikens on Dec. 4. Still suffering from flu-like symptoms, she took another strep test when the team returned home and it was positive, forcing her to miss the game against Seton Hall in Hartford Dec. 8.
She watched the games on television.
âOf course, I wanted to be there with my teammates,â Walker said. âBut I didnât want to get anyone else sick. I just wanted to get better and now Iâm back with my teammates.â
In seven games, Walker is averaging 11.6 points on 54.0 percent shooting from the floor and 5.9 rebounds in 29.7 minutes.
âI feel like Iâm attacking the basket more and being more aggressive and rebounding more,â Walker said. âWith the team we have I have to do the job on the glass offensively and defensively.â
While some are calling Saturdayâs game at Cal a âhomecomingâ for senior Katie Lou Samuelson, remember this: Samuelsonâs Huntington Beach home is a seven-hour drive from Berkeley.
Meanwhile UConnâs Christyn Williams will have family and friends making a five-hour drive from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Norman for Wednesdayâs game at Oklahoma.
âItâs always exciting for my family to see me but it will be exciting for people from my school to see me for the first time,â Williams said. âIâm looking forward to seeing them.â
Williams will also get to see her best friend and former AAU teammate, Oklahoma freshman Madi Williams.
âShe rebounds the ball well and is athletic,â Christyn Williams said. âAnd sheâs goofy like me. Her personality, sheâs like me. Thatâs how our friendship started.â
Like Christyn, Madi Williams is off to a strong start in her college career as she is averaging a double-double (13.9 points, 10.0 rebounds) for the Sooners. She is also second on the team in blocked shots (7).
That doesnât mean the Huskiesâ freshman wonât challenge her. âOnce we get on the court weâll be enemies,â Christyn Williams said. âOnce weâre back off of it weâre best friends. Iâm going to do what I normally do.â
UConn (9-0) remained the unanimous No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for the third straight week after having last week off. Notre Dame (9-1), Louisville (11-0), Mississippi State (10-0) and Maryland (10-0) rounded out the top five. Texas A&M re-entered the poll at No. 23 while Missouri dropped out âŠ The Huskiesâ run of three straight AAC Player of the Week winners ended Monday since they didnât play a week ago. Cincinnati sophomore forward IImarâi Thomas was the POW while Wichita State forward Shyia Smith was the Freshman of the Week.