LINCOLN, Neb. -- The UConn women's basketball team does not feel any inherent pressure at this point in the season. This is the time they are filled with excitement rather than stress.
After all, it is not as if the top-ranked Huskies are still looking to secure their first trip to the Final Four. There have been 14 teams in program history that have already played on the sport's grandest stage. With this type of tradition in place, it is the expectation of each player that they should be one of the final four teams still vying for a coveted national championship.
Nothing has changed with this particular group. No pressure. Only a focus on the task at hand. UConn will meet third-seeded Texas A&M in the Lincoln Regional final tonight (9:30; ESPN) with another trip to the Final Four at stake.
"I think it just kind of helps that we've been there so many times before,'' UConn senior Bria Hartley said. "I think some teams will kind of have that expectation, but they haven't done it as consistently as UConn does. And when you've done it this consistently, you really expect it. If you don't reach it, it would be a failure of a season.''
The Huskies (37-0) have reached the Elite Eight in 15 of the last 16 seasons and have made 20 appearances overall (14-5). They are seeking to advance to the Final Four for an NCAA-record seventh straight season.
UConn has not lost in this situation since falling to LSU and All-American Sylvia Fowles in Fresno, Calif., in 2007.
``For us, obviously, we can't look past (tonight's) game because it's going to be extremely tough for us'' UConn senior Stefanie Dolson said. "They're a great team. We can't look forward to the Final Four yet, but we're all excited.''
The Aggies (27-8) are appearing in the regional final for the third time in team history (2008, 2011). They are looking to reach the Final Four for the second time (2011).
Texas A&M will be the underdogs tonight, much as it was in 2011 when it won the national championship. These players are not fazed by the tradition and the talent of UConn heading into the game.
"If we follow our game plan and just play hard and not worry about the fact that it just says `UConn' on their jersey because as so many teams get caught up in the hype of it being UConn and it's just that mental aspect about it,'' Aggies sophomore Jordan Jones said. "And if we just go into it mentally focused like we were (Saturday vs. DePaul) and we just come in and play hard and follow the game plan, the results will come.''
The Huskies are coming off their worst offensive performance of the tournament, shooting 39.4 percent from field (3-of-19 3-pointers) in a 70-51 win over 12th-seeded BYU Saturday.
UConn junior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis does not expect there to be any residual effect. Instead, she called it a wake-up call.
"I feel like everyone thinks it's supposed to be easy and sometimes we make it look easy in games,'' Mosqueda-Lewis said. "And it's not the way it's going to be all the time. Sometimes you're going to have shooting slumps. Sometimes teams are going to be playing great against us, and we've just got to be able to push through that.''Read Full Article
Together, they have pushed themselves to the threshold of reaching the Final Four. Together, they look to take the next step tonight.
"I don't think there's any anxiety about it,'' Stewart said. "I think that we know the goals that we want to accomplish and we've worked so hard and done so much that we want to get to the Final Four and have an opportunity to win a national championship.''
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