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Orange deal UC crushing loss

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One year after Shareese Ulis knocked down a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome to send the game to overtime, Ulis hit another long-range shot with the same time remaining, but this time Cincinnati trailed by five.


The Orange defeated UC 55-53 Tuesday at Fifth Third Arena in the Bearcats' most complete contest in conference play.    


Down two with 3:15 remaining, Cincinnati had five-straight possessions with a chance to knot the game but was unsuccessful.


"We lost the game down the stretch," Ulis said. "A couple turnovers and a couple missed layups killed us."

Orange guard Elashier Hall split a pair from the charity stripe giving her team a three-point lead with 30 seconds remaining. 


Ulis had an opportunity to match her late-game heroics from last year, but opted to drive before passing to guard Bjonee Reaves, who dribbled off her foot with 11 seconds left.


"After the missed free throw we wanted to get a quick two," Ulis said. "I attempted to go to the basket but they doubled me so I kicked it out."


The contest was all but over when Ulis hit the final shot of the game.


The Bearcats led by as many as 19 in the first half while heating up with 6 3-pointers on 10 attempts and 47.8 percent shooting from the field.


Ulis scored a game-high 20 points and freshman Kayla Cook dropped 13. The pair combined for 5-5 shooting from long range from the outset.


"I think we were [due for a good shooting streak]," Cook said. "During this losing streak we haven't been shooting the ball very well. I think it just felt really well and kept us going. It brings everybody together. We fed from that and that's how we got our lead in the first half."


The Orange meanwhile started the contest 0-12 from the field.


Syracuse's first basket came at the 8:15 mark when Kayla Alexander put back her missed shot. Alexander led the Orange with 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds.  


The Bearcats had their best offensive half in the Big East with fluid ball movement and crisp passing in the paint leading to layups.


"We were getting every shot that we wanted," UC head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "We were making every three that we took. We were getting easy baskets around the bucket."


The 32 first-half points UC netted was it's most since 36 against South Florida Jan. 5.


UC stretched the Syracuse zone defense with deep 3-pointers.   


The Orange subsequently switched to a man-to-man defense to disrupt the Bearcats' rhythm.


"Syracuse is a team that plays 40 minutes of zone," Elliott said. "They have beaten the likes of Louisville, No. 22 St. Johns playing 40 minutes of zone. The Cincinnati Bearcats made them get out of their zone after 15 minutes of play."


SU Forward Carmen Tyson-Thomas came off the bench to knock down three triples during a 13-2 run to end the half.


The change in defense limited leading scorers Cook and Ulis' touches, as UC was unable to regain its momentum.


"We lost the game when they took our best players out of it," Elliott said. "They didn't allow [Ulis and Cook] to catch the ball."


Alexander scored on four-straight possessions on the low block in the midst of a 31-6 SU streak. Her second bucket at the 16:34 mark gave the Orange their first lead since the score was 2-0. 

Syracuse, No. 1 in the nation with 15.5 rebounding margin, was out rebounded by UC 35-34.


Syracuse's last basket came with 8:16 remaining but went 5-6 on free throws down the stretch.


UC dropped its first contest of the season when leading at halftime, it was previously 8-0.  


Cincinnati travels to South Bend, Ind., Saturday to face No. 8 Notre Dame at 2 p.m. 


Providence prevails against Bearcats

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Trailing by four points with 18:20 remaining in the game, Cincinnati went a costly nine-minute drought without a field goal.


Providence College subsequently cruised to a 57-43 win on Saturday at Fifth Third Arena, handing the Bearcats their 11th consecutive loss.


"At the start of the second half we couldn't score, we got back into our scoring slump," UC head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "The difference in the first half, we were finding ways to score which we haven't been doing the last 10 games."


"We were feeling good about our offense, but we got knocked right back down to reality to start the second half."


The Friars took advantage of poor shooting from UC in a 12-0 run to extend their lead to 16, their first double-digit lead.


The Bearcats were unable to cut the deficient below 13 points the rest of the way.


PC capitalized on a 39-29 advantage on the glass. The catalyst was forward Teya Wright with 18 caroms in addition to leading all scorers with 14.


"Boxing out is effort," Elliott said. "[It's] what we can control. It's hard to win when you're giving up 20 2nd chance points."  


Fresh off a career-night on Tuesday against Villanova, freshman Jeanise Randolph posted her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds.


"Starting the game I felt good," Randolph said. "I just got to stay aggressive and box out. [My team] is looking for me. I just got to finish around the basket and if I'm not able to score, pass it back out."


Another first-year guard Kayla Cook, netted a team-high 13 points along with seven boards. With three games left in their first campaign, Cook and Randolph have garnered enough starts (35 combined) to no longer be labeled rookies.  


"[We] can't say we're freshman anymore because we're not," Cook said. "We just got to do the little things right. That's a big thing we have been focusing on all year."


The first half was a back-and-forth contest. The Cats led by five with 10:41 left and the Friars largest lead was seven. There were four lead changes and the score was tied four times. 


"That was actually refreshing going into the locker room at halftime being in the game for the first time in a long time," Elliott said. 


Providence College ended the opening period on a 17-7 run to regain the lead while Cincinnati shot 8-14 from the charity stripe and missed several contested shots in the lane.


"We got free throws and layups," guard Bjonee Reaves said. "Those are easy money which is what we call [them]."


"We were excited about getting to the free-throw line, but [it] doesn't mean anything if we don't capitalize. I think if we make those free throws we're up three at the half."


Cincinnati hosts Syracuse Tuesday at Fifth Third Arena at 7 p.m.




Villanova superior in battle of Cats

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For the second-straight contest Cincinnati was dealt a defeat from a winless Big East team.

The Bearcats (8-16, 1-11 Big East) lost their 10th-consectuive game 64-44 to Villanova on Tuesday at the Pavilion.


Wildcat guard Lindsay Kimmel nailed three-consecutive 3-pointers in a crucial three-minute stretch at the beginning of the second half to extend the 12-point lead at the break to 19.


Following the barrage from Kimmel, UC couldn't trim the lead below 18.


Kimmel notched a career-best 23 points and went 7-14 from distance. Freshman Devon Kane also netted a career-high 13.


Cincinnati freshman Jeanise Randolph scored a career-best 20 points on near perfect shooting 10-11 while leading all rebounders with seven. Randolph became the first rookie to drop 20 since Jan. 17, 2009.


Guard Shareese Ulis contributed 11 points with 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc.


The five-minute mark of the first half was the last time Cincinnati would be behind by single digits, 24-15.


The Wildcats (9-16, 1-11) turned 14 UC miscues into 14 points. Villanova forward Laura Sweeney was the catalyst with a game-high five steals. 


UC had a short bench once again with seven-healthy bodies. Villanova outscored UC's reserves by a 21-0 margin.


With the exception of Kimmel's hot shooting the rest of team went 3-18 from behind the arc. Taking away clean looks for Villanova was a main focus for UC head coach Jamelle Elliot prior to the game. 


"Disrupt Villanova's offense as much as possible," Elliott said. "Crowd them and make them put the ball on the floor, something that they don't want to do a whole lot of."


Villanova No. 7 in the Big East in 3-point field goal percentage defense limited UC to 33 percent shooting.


Cincinnati tips off with Providence College Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fifth Third Arena. 

Pirates Punish Cats

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Cincinnati stormed back from a 24-point deficient to pull within three, before falling to Seton Hall.


The Pirates defeated UC 51-44 Saturday at Fifth Third Arena in the Bearcats' ninth-consecutive loss.  


With 18:14 remaining the Pirates stretched their largest lead of the game to 33-9. The Bearcats answered with a 30-9 run to make it a one-possession game after a 3-pointer from freshman Kayla Cook at the 2:20 mark.


"If you have enough heart, you never think the game is over in spite of the score," guard Shareese Ulis said. "Every team goes on a run, so we knew we were capable of going on a run."


Senior Shelly Bellman had a chance to knot the game but came up short on her shot from distance.   


A Bjonee Reaves' 3-ball with under 30 seconds remaining, bounced on the back and front of the rim before rolling off with UC trailing by five.


"When it left my hands, I really thought it was going in," Reaves said. "I had a really good look but it just didn't go down for me. It was pretty heartbreaking."


Seton Hall guard Jasmine Crew netted a game-best 17 points including 3-5 shooting from behind the arc. Guard Brittany Morris chipped in 11.


Reaves paced the Bearcats with 11 points in her third-straight start.


"[Being in the starting five] is definitely giving me more confidence to put up some points," Reaves said.


Cincinnati limited its miscues to six in the closing half and shot 40.6 percent from the field, the best by either squad.


"I wish we would have came out and played that type of basketball at the beginning of the game," head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "We had four of our best practices leading into this game."


UC shot a miserable 20 percent in the opening half and committed 12 turnovers. Both factored into the Bearcats' first half season-low nine points.


"The first half was kind of the nail in the coffin for this game," Elliott said.


With the loss Cincinnati is now 0-14 when trailing at halftime.


The Bearcats shot 29 3-pointers and attempted 23 2-point field goals. Elliott attributes this to her team's lack of penetrating guards and limited touches in the post. 


"I think [Reaves is] the only player on our team that has the ability to infiltrate defenses with the basketball on the dribble," Elliott said. "[Forward] Jeanise Randolph had a great week of practice. Our game plan coming in was to get her the ball."


While UC dug too deep of a hole to climb out of in the first half, free throws ultimately plagued the team.


Seton Hall knocked down 13-15 and Cincinnati went 4-13.


Seton Hall came strong out of the gate with a 14-0 lead six minutes into the contest.


A Shelly Bellman 3-pointer from the top of the key made it 42-34 with 3:26 to go, pulling UC within single digits for the first time since the score was 8-0.


Cincinnati faces Villanova Tuesday at Pavilion at 7 p.m.



 ---Junior guard Chanel Chisholm made her first appearance for the Bearcats since Jan. 18 when she injured her ankle against St. John's. She contributed four points and four rebounds in 15 minutes. She was the eighth player to dress for Elliott, who needs all the healthy bodies she can get. "She was another sub coming off the bench," Elliott said. "I was just wanting her to come in and give some of those guys a blow."


---UC dropped to 7-3 when holding opponents to 60 points or less. The Bearcats are 4-0 when limiting teams to less than 50 points. The team is 8-0 on the season when leading at halftime.

Bearcats Set Sail With Pirates

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On Saturday the Cincinnati women's basketball team has a chance to earn its first Big East win since Jan. 5.


The Bearcats (8-14, 1-9 Big East) host Seton Hall at Fifth Third Arena at 2 p.m.


Both squads enter the game on significant losing streaks, the Cats have dropped eight in a row while the Pirates have dropped their last nine.


Cincinnati failed to put up 50 points in its last eight contests.


"We've had a real struggle scoring points and so has [Seton Hall]," said assistant coach Mark Ehlen. "If we hit shots like we have been the past couple of days [we'll be in great shape]. We're shooting with confidence [in practice]."


Seton Hall is last in the league in defense allowing 66.6 points.


The pair of teams have found the Big East to be unforgiving with Seton Hall still searching for its first league win at 0-10. The conference currently has six teams ranked in the AP Top-25 and three in the top 10.  


"It's hard to be on a long losing streak," Ehlen said. "This is a conference that is just unrelenting. You go from one great team to another. I think both teams are going to fight to stay out of the cellar. That's our motivation right now, we don't want to be last."


The toughest match up for UC will be junior forward Kandice Green who leads the team with 11.5 points per game and is third in the league in rebounding with 8.1. Green has six double-doubles this season.


Green played only four minutes on Tuesday against Notre Dame after hurting her ankle, her status for this game is unknown. If she does suit up, she will be a handful for the Bearcats in the frontcourt.    


"They have a strong inside presence in Kandice Green," Ehlen said. "She is somebody that is going to be a challenge for our young post players to contain, because she is so aggressive, offensively and defensive rebounds, you can't let her get second and third shot attempts."


"The other things she does very well is draw fouls. She's not just going to turn and shoot over you. She wants to go through you."


The Pirates are fifth in the Big East on the offensive glass with 15.8.


The catalyst in scoring behind Green for the Seton Hall is guard Jasmine Crew, who is averaging nearly 11 points a game. 


"Perimeter player Jasmine Crew is an outside threat, Ehlen said. "They have a strong inside and outside presence."


The Bearcats have been playing with seven healthy players following Jan. 18 when Chanel Chisholm went down with ankle injury. The junior transfer from Vanderbilt may see limited action.


"We're so short on numbers it's hard," Ehlen said. "Teams keep sending in players to wear us down, I think that's what happened against Georgetown [on Saturday]. Hopefully we'll get Chanel Chisholm back for a little time. She practiced today for the first time."


The Bearcats are last in the league in turnover margin at negative 3.59 a game, meanwhile the Pirates have nearly three more steals than UC per contest. This game could come down to execution on offense. 


"They're an athletic team," Ehlen said. "They will force turnovers, that isn't something we do a great job of. We're going to have to a do a great job of taking care of the basketball to keep this game close."

Hoyas Outlast Bearcats

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For 33 minutes Cincinnati looked like it might pull off its biggest upset of the season.


The Bearcats trailed No. 17 Georgetown by three with 7:05 to play, before slumping to four turnovers and 1-7 shooting down the stretch as the Hoyas went on a 17-3 run.


Georgetown (19-5, 7-3 Big East) defeated UC 55-38 Saturday at McDonough Arena in a contest that was much tighter than the final score indicated.


"Absolutely it was a lot closer," head coach Jamelle Elliott said. 


Cincinnati trailed the Hoyas by 11 with less than three minutes to play in the first half when it closed the period on a 6-0 streak.


"That's our best half of basketball in a long time," assistant coach Mark Ehlen said.


Senior Shelly Bellman drilled a 3-pointer to open the second half to trim the deficient to 27-25.


The Bearcats then had four subsequent possessions to either knot the score or take their first lead of the contest, but were unable to convert while giving the ball away three times.


"The reason why they are a top-20 team is their defense," Elliott said. "They live and die by their defense. They want to get turnovers. They accomplished their job defensively."  


Georgetown forced 20 miscues and its defense down the stretch put Cincinnati away. The Hoyas came into the game No. 5 in the Big East in scoring defense at 55 points per game.


Freshman substitute Tiffany Turner led the Bearcats with a career-high 12 points. 


"Tiffany Turner came and gave us a lot of really, really good minutes in the post," Elliott said. "We just weren't able to put up enough points to hang with this really good Georgetown team." 


Georgetown guard Rubylee Wright netted a game-high 14 points and on 4-8 shooting from behind the arc while tallying eight assists.


The Bearcats were held under 40 points for the second time this season. Senior leading scoring Shareese Ulis and guard Bjonee Reaves, fresh off a 22-point effort, combined for 4-18 shooting.  


"That's kind of been the story of our season," Elliott said. "We got wide-open looks today. We're doing something right offensively. Sometimes you can't control whether or not your shots are falling."


Cincinnati refused to go away mounting one final 7-0 run to get within three before the Hoyas stretched their lead.


Both teams shot a shade above 33 percent, but the Hoyas had 25 more field goal attempts while gaining an 18-8 advantage on the offensive glass.


"It came down to offensive rebounds," Elliott said. "We gave up way too many."


The Hoyas earned their third-straight win in the season series between the two squads.


The Bearcats will look to earn their second league win Saturday at 2 p.m. in Fifth Third Arena against Seton Hall. 


"We got a week off now we need to fine tune some things in practice over the next week," Elliott said. 






Women's Hoops Nuggets

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---The Bearcats travel to the nation's capital tomorrow to face No. 17/19 Georgetown at 3 p.m. The Hoyas will be the fourth ranked opponent Cincinnati has faced in the past six games. The Cats lead the all-time series 5-2.

---Senior guard Shareese Ulis is making the most of her final year in the Queen City. Her 14.6 games per contest ranks in the top ten of the Big East. Ulis has drilled at least one 3-pointer in 23 consecutive games dating back to last March. She also dishes out a team-high 3 assists a game and is averaging a league-high 34.9 minutes.

---Freshman Kayla Cook has been reliable in her rookie year. The ESPN Top 100 recruit has started every contest and is second on the team in minutes. She is scoring a steady eight points a game. Cook had arguably her best half of the season when she scored 10 in the opening period against UConn last Saturday, showing no fear against the No. 2 team in the nation.

---When senior guard Shelly Bellman was granted her sixth year of eligibility after two severe knee injuries, it made for a compelling story. The News Record wrote a feature on her. CBS Sports has a clip on her. What is even more remarkable about her comeback; she has started the last 17 games, pulled down her 500th rebound against Dayton Dec. 3, 2010 and is on pace to hit 1,000-career points, needing 68 more.

---Head coach Jamelle Elliott has to be feeling a lot of nostalgia lately. She faced her former coach and Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma last Saturday and tomorrow will be her first homecoming as a head coach in Washington, D.C. The East Coast native graduated from H.D. Woodson High School. I included the rest Elliott's quotes from my feature from last week instead of letting them go to waste.
Elliott's comments on being in the visitor's locker room for the first time at UConn. 

"Last year was the biggest emotional moment -- the first time I had to compete against them at UConn," Elliott said. "Now, they're going to come in here and try to kick our butt."


Elliott on the opportunity that arose after earning her degree.

"Back when I graduated there wasn't a WNBA there was an ABL. That was a league we weren't sure if it was going to last. "I took advantage of my opportunity to go to grad school. Right after grad school he asked me to be a part of his staff."


Elliot's humility about suiting up for every UConn game and practice.

"I was blessed, I was fortunate. God willing I didn't have any knee surgeries or types of injuries that would keep me out. How that happened, I just think that was God. I was fortunate enough to go to practice every day healthy. You always had aches and pains. You always felt tired but it never stopped me from going to practice or playing in games."


Elliot on what it was like playing for a Hall of Fame coach.

"I took my lumps my freshman year. I had to learn how to work, learn how to get into to shape and achieve a certain level all the time. He didn't take anything less than that. Once I became a junior I knew what he wanted and expected from me. I was able to communicate that to the freshman and sophomores. That's kind of how it works [at UConn]. He sets a standard everybody tries to meet that standard. Some people get it sooner than others. I was fortunate as a junior and senior to relay it to the younger guys."


Elliott shares the words of wisdom from her former coach upon getting the Cincinnati job.

"[Auriemma] knows the type of person I am. I want to be great all the time. I want to be great today. I have very little patience. [His advice of doing one thing right every day] really put things into perspective for me, as far as what I'm inheriting and the rebuilding process."


Elliott on her apprenticeship working under Auriemma.

"I was there for 12 years as an assistant. Probably the first seven or eight years I was still learning. I started to get the buzz after year eight or nine trying to test the waters. Every year he gave me more and more responsibilities, which was great."

---Check back tomorrow night for a recap of the Bearcats' contest against the Hoyas. 

---You can reach me at


Bearcats Fall in Pitt

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Bjonee Reaves matched her career-high 22 points in first start as a Bearcat but it was all for not in Tuesday's loss. 


Pittsburgh handed the Bearcats (8-13, 1-8 Big East) their seventh-straight defeat 79-48 at Petersen Events Center in the Steel City. 


The junior college transfer went the distance logging 40 minutes while shooting 6-16 and 7-8 from the free throw line. None of her teammates were able to hit double digits in points.


"I'm glad [Reaves] stepped up like that," head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "It's obvious Shareese Ulis has really been struggling physically. Her knees have been hurting her all season. I knew she wasn't going to be able to give us the type of game she had been giving us the last four or five games." 


It was just the fourth time this season that leading scorer Ulis has not dropped at least 10 points. 


The Bearcats hit a mediocre 28 percent of their shots. Elliott said she liked the looks her squad was getting but they needed more focus.


The Panthers (10-11, 2-6) had three scorers in double figures. Guard Jania Sims led all scorers with 24 as she hit the 1,000-point plateau - the 17th player in program history.


Forward Chelsea Cole had the contest's lone double-double with 19 points and 14 boards.


Pitt raced to a 16-5 lead just past the halfway point in the first half after UC hit one shot over that period.


The Panthers full-court press flustered the Bearcats from the tip off to the final horn as UC committed 16 turnovers. It didn't help that UC had a sparse bench due to injuries.


"They pressed us for 34, 35 minutes," Elliott said. "With seven players and your starting point guard hurting more and more every day [it's difficult to win]."


With 2:54 left in the opening half the Panthers stretched their lead to 23. The closest Cincinnati got the rest of the way was 16 on Jeanise Randolph free throw with 18:33 remaining. 


Pitt connected on 44 percent of their shots and converted 19-21 free throws. 


The Panthers ended a four-game losing streak and are 8-0 against UC since the Bearcats joined the Big East.


Cincinnati will square off with No. 17/19 Georgetown on Saturday at 3 p.m. in McDonough Arena.   


"Georgetown is going to press us just as much as [Connecticut and Pitt] did," Elliott said. "So we got to be ready for the 1-2-2 pressure."

Huskies Hustle Cincinnati

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Cincinnati kept the contest manageable against No. 2 Connecticut for 20 minutes before digging too deep of a hole Saturday.


UConn (20-1, 8-0 Big East) defeated the Bearcats 80-46 at Fifth Third Arena in front of 3,422 fans. 


The Huskies went on a 13-0 run out of the halftime break to put away UC nearly doubling their 16-point lead.


"I thought in the first half we put forward a tremendous effort, head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "We played hard. We dove on loose balls. Every 50-50 ball we basically came up with. The second half we came out a little sluggish."


Cincinnati didn't score their first points of the second half until the 12:11 mark. Freshman Lashay Banks hit two free throws in UC's first trip to the charity stripe. 


UConn senior forward Maya Moore came into the game second in the nation in scoring with just more than 24 a game, netted 23 including 19 opening-half points. 


"[Moore] is what everybody says what she says she is," junior guard Bjonee Reaves said.


Freshman guard Kayla Cook led the team with 13 points--10 in the first half on 4-6 shooting. Senior Shareese Ulis added 12 points and knocked down a 3-pointer for the 22nd straight game.


"[Cooks' scoring] was obviously encouraging it took a little bit of pressure off Ulis," Elliott said. "I always worry when [Ulis] isn't having a good game. It's good to know you can have some others step up. In the past I didn't know who that would be."


For Reaves the opponent didn't faze her, she came off the bench and scored UC's first seven points. 


"We looked at it as going against another team," Reaves said. "We try to not to look at the name of team on the front of the jersey. It's like going against another team in the Big East. I was just trying to give us a spark. Come in and help us out."


The Bearcats started three first-year players for the third game in a row as they gain valuable minutes in the nation's least forgiving conference. 


"I think it's huge for them to get experience as freshman, Elliott said. "Hopefully we can win some more games this season, but it's going to give those guys an idea of what they are going to have to compete against next year. They had a real awakening of what the Big East is all about."


UC dropped their sixth-consecutive contest with four of those coming against ranked opponents.


The Huskies dominated the paint with a 42-10 scoring margin. UC settled for 29 shots from behind the arc as they found it difficult to penetrate UConn's zone.


"Just like [Auriemma] told me, 'We've got to drive to the basket more,' Elliott said." 


Elliott, who spent 16 years with UConn, tries to use the benchmark that they set with their blue-collar approach and apply it to her current squad according to leading scorer Ulis.


"[Elliott's] main focus is [UConn's] effort," Ulis said. "They compete and play hard for 40 minutes. That's what she tries to instill in us. Everyday she tries to put us in situations where we're uncomfortable to make us better in situations we may encounter in the game." 


UConn's full-court press disreputed Cincinnati's flow in the first five minutes as Connecticut built a 13-3 lead while burying their first three 3-pointers.


The Huskies are 6-0 all-time against the Cats and captured their 59-straight win in Big East action including postseason play.


UConn head coach Geno Auriemma still has a sense of nostalgia when facing her former assistant and player.


"It'll always be different, Auriemma said. "It's very difficult to [play her]. I hope one day I'm still coaching when the tables are turned. When we come in here and they have expectations to win."


Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh Tuesday for a 7 p.m. tip.



Elliott builds on wisdom gained at UConn

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CINCINNATI --From winning six women's college basketball championships to a 35-0 season to finishing as the No. 2 rebounder in school history, Jamelle Elliott's 16-year stint as a coach and player at Connecticut was unprecedented.


However, Elliott says there's another feat the she is most proud of.


In her four-year playing career at UConn, Elliott appeared in 135-straight games and had perfect attendance at practice.


"I don't know if it's something that people really talk about," Elliott notes. "Even scoring 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, [never missing a game or practice] is what I'm most proud of."


On Saturday Elliott, the second-year UC women's basketball coach will host her former team, No. 2 UConn (19-1, 7-0 Big East) for the first time.


This will be round two for Elliott, who lost at UConn last year in her inaugural return to her alma mater.


Despite being a season removed from the Huskie program, Elliott still regards her time in Hartford, Conn., as surreal.       


"I'm going to be honest with you, being part of the Connecticut team is like a fairytale," Elliott says. "Everything goes right, you got 10,000 people cheering for you, a national championship is expected, you're not expected to lose a game and I was a part of that for a long time."


As a player, Elliott was 117-18, earned four NCAA berths, two Final Fours and a national championship. The UConn alumna sparked the program's dynasty by capturing their first national title in 1995.


"[Those were] probably the best years of my life up until this point," Elliott reminisces. "Learning from [Geno Auriemma] one of the best, if not the best college coach in the country."


As a part of the Hall of Famer's staff, Elliott helped UConn claim five national crowns and make nine Final Four appearances. This year Connecticut stretched their active winning streak to 90 games - the most ever by a men's or women's college basketball team - before losing to Stanford. 


Elliott speaks humbly about transforming UConn into a perennial power.


"I was fortunate to be apart of the rebuilding process," Elliott says.     


Elliott's former boss has the highest winning percentage (.859) among active coaches and seven national championships. While the two remain tightly knit friends off the court, the switch flips when their respective teams step onto the hardwood. 


"Once the game starts, obviously [Auriemma] is going to want to kick our butt," Elliott points out. "I wouldn't expect anything other than that from him."


Elliott was anxious to gain all the knowledge she could from her former coach when she was hired as an assistant in 1998. She absorbed everything her mentor told her like a sponge.


By her eighth year as an assistant, Elliott says she felt capable of taking on an even bigger responsibility. Her number wasn't called until 2009 on the heels of her 12th campaign at Connecticut.


When Elliott parted ways with UConn on May 5, 2009 after being named the head coach at Cincinnati, the Hall of Fame coach gave her pertinent advice.


"He told me, 'Your going to want to do things right everyday,' " Elliott recalls. 'You're not going to be able to get everything right [everyday]. Even though you're not going to be able to do everything right, just do one thing right everyday.' "

Elliott was indebted with the rigors of turning around a Cincinnati program in arguably the nation's most competitive and demanding conference. One factor that Auriemma says could potentially trip up Elliott is an immense amount of pressure on her shoulders.   

"The only thing that I think would make her struggle is if it becomes too much of a burden to handle because she just takes it so seriously," Auriemma says. "There are a lot of people who went out on a limb to hire her and she feels incredibly responsible and indebted to those people. She's not used to anything other than winning so it's difficult."

National player of the year candidate Maya Moore says she sees the same fire in the current players coached by Elliott that her teammates had her first two years under Elliott. 


"The mindset, I think more than anything, is what she instills in the players," Moore says. "You can see it in her players. They play hard, they're aggressive, and they don't hang their heads."


While Elliott has a long road ahead in making UC nationally relevant, one thing she has in her arsenal is her proven track record of winning.  


"They will," Auriemma says. "There's no doubt in my mind they will. Just right now she's got a very difficult task. Maybe there will be a time when we come in here and they have the expectation of winning. I think until that time, it'll be very, very difficult."