Samuelson and her Stanford sister keep in touch through their games
Bridgeport — Katie Lou Samuelson, the UConn sophomore, said older sister Karlie, a senior on the Stanford University women's basketball team, would make a great coach.
“She'll tell me exactly what she thinks I need to do better,” Katie Lou said Friday afternoon from Webster Bank Arena, where top-seeded UConn will take on No. 4 UCLA beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Bridgeport Regional semifinal.
Stanford, the No. 2 seed in the Lexington (Kent.) Regional, was scheduled to play No. 3 Texas beginning at 9 p.m. Friday in the Sweet 16.
Karlie Samuelson, a 6-foot guard, entered that game averaging 12.6 points and 2.6 assists per game for the Cardinal (30-5), who were, like UConn, two wins away from a Final Fourth berth in Dallas.
Karlie has made 87 3-point field goals this season; Katie Lou, UConn's leading scorer with 20.9 points per game, has 114 3-pointers. Both sisters were named to their respective Women's Basketball Coaches' Association All-Region Teams earlier this week, placing them among the nation's 52 finalists for All-American.
“We just try to watch as much as we possibly can,” Katie Lou said of how the sisters have coped with rooting for each other so often from opposite coasts. “We'll watch it the next day if we have to.”
As for Jon Samuelson, Karlie and Katie Lou's dad, he was set to make the trek from the family home in Huntington Beach, Calif., first to Lexington for Friday night's game, then to Bridgeport for Saturday's UConn-UCLA matchup.
How hard was it for Katie Lou to make the decision to leave the West Coast in the first place and not follow sisters Bonnie and Karlie to Stanford?
“It was difficult trying to figure that out,” Samuelson said. “Wherever I went, it was either going to be too cold or too hot, so I had to take weather out of it and decide what the best fit for me was.”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma opened his warmup jacket at Friday's press conference to reveal a Quinnipiac University T-shirt, showing a little love for Connecticut's “other team” remaining in the Sweet 16.
Quinnipiac, the No. 12 seed in the Stockton (Calif.) Regional is set to play No. 1 South Carolina at 4 p.m. Saturday, having upset a pair of higher-ranked opponents so far for the program's first two NCAA tournament victories.
“I'll tell you what. I wouldn't want to be in their bracket,” Auriemma said. “They remind me of our '91 team (first UConn team to reach the Final Four). I watched them play the other day. There was about 10 minutes left, eight minutes left in the game, and I remember saying, 'I think they're going to win.'
“I couldn't believe it. Everybody in the place was going nuts. I thought, 'Oh, my God. It's like 1991 replaying itself.'”
With UConn fans anticipating the placement of the Huskies in the Bridgeport Regional, the venue was completely sold out before the brackets were announced. That, according to a story in the Washington Post, left Maryland fans a bit miffed at being unable to purchase tickets to the weekend's events.
Maryland, Bridgeport's No. 3 seed, meets No. 10 Oregon in the regional's first game beginning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Each school's fan base was allotted 100 tickets of the arena's 7,881, according to The Post.
“You're talking about holding a block, right, for fans, whether that's 500, 200. I mean, the ability, then, if you don't use that block, I'm sure the UConn fans would go back and purchase them,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said Friday.
“But when teams work so hard all season to only have 100 tickets available, it's disappointing. It's disappointing for our fans that can drive it. When you talk about a region that you're supposed to be geographically placed for your fans to be able to get there that are now priced out or the tickets are sold out.
“I hope the article brings some awareness to the NCAA in terms of allowing some sort of fairness and equity across the board.”
At Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport
(All games on ESPN)
Maryland (32-2) vs. Oregon (22-13), 11:30 a.m.
UConn (34-0) vs. UCLA (25-8), 2 p.m
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.