UConn-Notre Dame ri­valry spills over to Twit­ter

Stamford Advocate - - Sports - By Doug Bon­jour dbon­jour @ct­post.com

STORRS — Crys­tal Danger­field saw it. So, too, did Katie Lou Sa­muel­son.

“I thought it was funny. It was pretty funny,” Sa­muel­son said fol­low­ing Fri­day’s prac­tice at the Werth Cen­ter. “That’s all I’m go­ing to say on that, though.”

Short and sweet. That pretty much summed up Sa­muel­son’s thoughts on the lat­est in­ter­ac­tion — or re­ally, lack thereof — be­tween the top two teams in women’s col­lege bas­ket­ball.

The UConn-Notre Dame ri­valry took an un­likely turn of events this week — both on the bas­ket­ball court, and, of all places, Twit­ter. The Huskies won the ac­tual game on Sun­day, 89-71, dur­ing which the Fight­ing Ir­ish crum­bled emo­tion­ally. Arike Ogun­bowale, the hero of last sea­son’s Fi­nal Four, lost her poise, jaw­ing at UConn coach Geno Auriemma and twice tak­ing shots at Danger­field in the open court. Ogun­bowale was hit with a tech­ni­cal and an un­sports­man­like foul for the sep­a­rate in­ci­dents.

Two days later, Notre Dame coach Muf­fet McGraw de­liv­ered a pub­lic apol­ogy for her team’s melt­down.

“I apol­o­gize to all the Ir­ish fans and alums for my team’s lack of poise on Sun­day,” McGraw tweeted. “We set a high bar for what we ex­pect from these young women and we did not meet those ex­pec­ta­tions. As an ed­u­ca­tor, it is my job to use this as a teach­able mo­ment and help them see that it’s not al­ways about whether you win or lose but it IS AL­WAYS about how you play the game. We will con­tinue to strive to be a team that you can be proud of.”

It’s what McGraw didn’t tweet, though, that drew just as much, if not more, at­ten­tion. Bre­anna Ste­wart, who won four na­tional ti­tles at UConn, in­clud­ing two against Notre Dame, posted a screen­shot Wed­nes­day show­ing that McGraw had blocked her on the so­cial me­dia site. As of 8 p.m. Fri­day, the post had over 600 retweets and 4,600 likes.

“I thought it was funny,” Danger­field said. “I just think it’s go­ing to be on­go­ing be­cause it’s our fans against their fans.”

When asked Fri­day about Ste­wart’s post, Auriemma played coy.

“I’m off of that,” Auriemma said. “I don’t know any of that stuff. I’m not on Twit­ter, I’m not on Face­book, In­sta­gram, Snapchat. I don’t know any of that stuff.

“A bunch of our for­mer play­ers weigh in be­fore the game, al­ways, es­pe­cially games like that that are go­ing to be big games,” he con­tin­ued. “They all want to check out to see how ev­ery­one’s do­ing and re­mind us of cer­tain things.”

Ste­wart’s page made no men­tion of Notre Dame, at least not re­cently. Prior to tipoff, the UConn icon tweeted about Sun­day be­ing a “UCONN type of day” with the hash­tag #BleedBlue. Then came a tweet about UConn’s new black jer­seys with a fire emoji.

“I don’t know any­thing about that,” Auriemma said. “I don’t live in that world. So, some­one would have to ex­plain to me what it is. But, I’m glad ev­ery­body’s get­ting a kick out of it.”

Silly, petty, what­ever it might be, it cer­tainly drew at­ten­tion to the sport on a Wed­nes­day in De­cem­ber.

“Yeah, but I don’t know if it’s the right at­ten­tion be­cause it’s petty,” Danger­field said. “We’re just out here play­ing bas­ket­ball at the end of the day.”

Added Auriemma: “Let’s fo­cus on bas­ket­ball, just leave it at that. Fo­cus on bas­ket­ball. It’s a long sea­son.”

Ca­mara pro­gress­ing: Auriemma said that junior for­ward Ba­touly Ca­mara is “start­ing to do more,” but re­mains out with a sprained right MCL. Ca­mara, who has missed the last three games, is av­erag- ing 2.4 points and 1.3 re­bounds off the bench this sea­son.

“Lit­tle by lit­tle ev­ery day, she’s do­ing more,” he said. “I can’t give you an ex­act timetable.”

Robert Franklin / As­so­ci­ated Press

UConn’s Katie Lou Sa­muel­son (33) talks to team­mate Napheesa Col­lier (24) af­ter tak­ing a hit to the face dur­ing Sun­day’s 89-71 win at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

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