Houston scored the first points of the night with a layup just 17 seconds into the contest to give UConn a 2-0 lead. Rita Williams would fire back for Team Concept to score their first points of the evening on the following possession to even the score. Tamara Moore put two on the board to increase the lead to show 9-4. The Huskies would regain the lead at 19-17 after a three-pointer from junior Mel Thomas (Cincinnati, Ohio) and would never look back. After a high-scoring first half, UConn held a 60-47 lead going into the break.
Houston was 9-12 in the first half, totaling 20 points and eight rebounds to lead the Huskies. The UConn bench combined for 18 points, with junior Ketia Swainer (Columbus, Ga.) having 10 of them. Taurasi and Moore tallied 11 points each in the first half for Team Concept.
The Huskies came out in the second half to go on a 9-0 run including a layup by freshman Tina Charles (Jamaica, N.Y.) and a three-pointer from freshman Meghan Gardler (Springfield, Pa.). Thomas put two more points on the board to give UConn their largest lead of the game at 4:47, but Team Concept clawed their way back to get within 10 after a three-pointer from Taurasi with 2:53 left to play. But the Huskies were able to hang on to take the game 101-87.
In addition to Houston’s big game, Charles made her UConn debut with 16 points and 13 rebounds while Thomas finished with 12 and freshman Kaili McLaren (Washington, D.C.) had 11.
Taurasi had a game-high 31 points for Team Concept while Williams came up with 20.
The Huskies improve to 17-1 in exhibition games since 1997.
UConn returns to action for another exhibition game against the Houston Jaguars on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m in Gampel Pavilion.
Post Game Quotes
University of Connecticut
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On Charde Houston:
“First you take into consideration the level of competition. I don’t know that there’s a better player on the floor tonight. Charde has a pretty unique combination of size and quickness and speed and strength. Unfortunately there’s a side of Charde that we’ve tried really hard to chip away at. That’s the Charde that’s not sure and indecisive. I didn’t see very much of that tonight if any. That’s what I was looking for tonight was for Charde to be decisive.”
Do you think Charde is the team’s personality this year?
”The last tow years I don’t know that we’ve had one. This year there seems to be one that’s establishing and a large credit for that goes to Charde. She’s taken the younger guys and directed traffic out there. I made a comment a week ago; Charde is the glue that’s holding the team together.”
On coaching versus defending Diana Taurasi:
”Well, you can’t defend her, that’s the first thing. Charde said, “No body in their right mind would shoot from out there”. The worst thing you can do to Diana is guard her. If you guard her and you get her juices going you’re going to have a tough game ahead of you. “
How would you rate your first performance in a UConn uniform?
“It was alright. I mean I kind of messed up, but it was the first game and I was kind of anxious. I kind of let that get the best of me and forgot to make a couple plays, but it wasn’t too bad.”
11 points and 11 rebounds your first time out. Would you say that’s a pretty good start?
“Yeah, well I haven’t really looked at the stat sheet yet. That’s good and all but there was a couple more plays I could have made and a couple of passes I shouldn’t have thrown. Obviously I need to calm down a little bit on offense.”
Do you notice a change in Charde? She played like she was mad at someone and had an attitude.
“I think she realized what happened last year. She let a whole year go by and didn’t fulfill her potential. This year she came out and practiced, and wanted to prove she was on a mission. She wanted to do well and she’s doing that right now. I’m proud of her.”
You set her up the first play of the game. Could you in her eyes that she wanted the ball?
“I knew before the game even started. I could just tell by the way she was practicing and by how she came into warm-ups. Even though she’s not a captain, she wants to come out and her and be a leader. You always want to go to someone that’s focused and ready.”
Did Coach treat this game any differently? Was there anything different in him, other than jawing at Diana all game?
“It was kind of different. He was real laid back about it. It was our first game and he told us before it started that we were going to make 959 mistakes. He said the only mistakes he’s not going to accept is if we’re not aggressive or enthusiastic. I think he was real laid back because we have a lot to learn and haven’t covered a lot, but it’s not going to be like that for long.”
Was tonight the new and improved Charde Houston?
“Yeah. I definitely want to continue to use that game as motivation and build off that. Not so much about thinking too far ahead into the season but working on the things I need to improve on in practice and then later on applying them in the game.”
Was your confidence improved today? It was a lot better then a zero point, two rebound game.
“No points and two rebounds for me is absolutely unacceptable. It’s not so much I always need the ball and score 20 or 30, but I have to be on offensive, defense, or both. I just wanted to make myself a factor in the game tonight.”
Is a double-double in your first game out a good spring board for you?
“Yes, I’m just doing what I have to do; doing what coach told me to do. I’m just going out playing hard, play the game; you’re going to make mistakes, but just learn from them.
Is it a big moment for you to get this game over with?
“I think every game I play as a freshman is going to be a big game for me because I’m just learning every game. I’m just going to take it one game at a time.
Did you have expectations for tonight’s game and did you reach them?
“I didn’t all my expectations but I am just going to go out there and keep working on it, keep trying to looking up to Charde. I just love the way she plays. She’s aggressive and plays hard. She’s going to be a leader along with Renee. I just have fun playing with them.”
Can you talk about the front line play; is that what we will see from you all season?
“It was really good. Hopefully we will have Brittany Hunter next game. I am having such a wonderful time right now, I’m ecstatic.”
On Charde Houston :
"I think Charde has definitely turned the corner. I think that sophomore to junior year is probably the toughest year because when you are a sophomore you always have older people to look up to and around you to pick up the slack but when you’re a junior or senior, if you don’t do it, who is going to? I think she’s a little embarrassed about how last season ended last year for herself personally and for her team and Whenever you get embarrassment in any way I think your true character comes out and for her it is definitely coming out. "
What sort of things do you tell the freshman?
“I tell them something as simple as, get better everyday. I think that’s what these guys have done, even the sophomores and juniors. There is not that much of a focus on the end; they are working everyday to get better. That is why you saw them play the way they did today. It kind of strange, this team is not as talented as past teams, but there’s a really good feeling on this team that if they work together they can get really far. After being with them for a week, I can tell that they are really tough kids, they stay together. Like today there were different runs and coach put different players in, but they were tough and kept the lead up. It’s going to be a special year with this group.”
Who do you see as being the leader of the team?
“I think you look at Renee and she’s our vocal leader. You look to the point guard to be the leader and I think this year she really is. When practice isn’t going well she gets them into huddles and she calls the plays out. She is that calming influence on the team that we had in the past with Sue and Maria. Renee is that kind of throw back point guard that relaxes everyone and keeps them calm.
On this year's UConn team :
"They’re very big. That’s what first comes to mind. I thought there was better chemistry between the players and the team than last year and the year before. You can tell that they really like each other when they’re out there they enjoy playing with each other. That and they’re big."
On UConn's team unity this year compared to years past:
"I think they have some impact players who like Ashja, Swin, and Tamika, three players that can do some great things on any given night that are very different but complementary and I think you’ll see that from Charde, Tina, Kaili and that’s a junior and two freshmen so that’s pretty good. And to be honest, off the court I see a lot of similarities. You should go into the locker room and see them dancing and having a good time. It brings me back to when I was in school and it’s really nice to see."
Where do you plan on going overseas?
“If I do go, it will not be until December and I haven’t decided the location. It’s a great way to get in shape for the WNBA season.”
How did the team look to you?
“I think they look great. We’ve been practicing with them for the last couple days. I’ve seen them out there practicing like they played and I think they have the potential to be very good this year. I’m sure because of their youth, there’s going to be some bumps in the road. If Charde can play the way she did tonight, aggressive and vocal, and if she and Renee can lead the team, they will have a great year."
Was the team at their best tonight?
“Well, there’s a lot to exhibition games. It’s the freshmen’s first time out there, I’m sure there are some jitters, they’re playing against a team of bums, and there’s just some different circumstances. Like I said, I think there will be some bumps, there will be some rough games, but I think they’re going to be great.”
What do you see from Renee out there?
“Renee is definitely beyond her years. She shows maturity and she’s the player in practice, when things aren’t going well, she’ll pull the team into a huddle. She has to do that, but still as a sophomore to recognize the situation and to be able to be mature enough to get the team in the right place at the right time and make good plays is phenomenal.”