Geno Auriemma has had many of his great Women's Teams play NCAA Games on his birthday, eleven to be exact. But the very first one might be his favorite. Because on March 23, 1991, his team played Clemson in the East Regional Final. The previous year, the Tigers beat UConn by two in Storrs to advance...This time it was a neutral site game at the Palestra in Philadelphia. In a sense, Geno Auriemma's backyard as after his migration from Italy with his family, Norristown, PA a suburb of Philly..
UConn was the East's Three seed..Two days earlier, the Huskies beat another ACC Team in N.C. State, the two seend 82-71 as UConn made 9 three's, four each by Wendy Davis and Orly Grossman. All American Kerry Bascom had 23, and Laura Lishness added 22. Now the 5th seeded Tigers awaited the Huskies. Clemson scored the games first hoop, the only lead they'd have all night. Their 6-4 center, Jackie Farmer, who had 13 rebounds and 3 blocks in Storrs the year before, was held in check by Junior Forward Meghan Pattyson, who finished with a stellar 10p-9r performance.
UConn led 29-24 at the half..and the leaders stepped up. As Bascom led the Huskies with 22. Davis, UConn's best three point shooter, made a pair of three's and finished with 12...But the Tigers made things interesting late, making two of their four three's. Meaning the Huskies needed to make some free throws. And they did, making seven of eight over the last 1:09 to secure the win and gain their first of what is now twenty Final Four Appearances.
Bascom was named the Regional MVP, with Pattyson, Davis and Lishness on the All Tournament Team. The Huskies would lose a hard fought 60-55 game to Virginia in the Final Four, but the Huskies defense held the Cavaliers 30 points below it's season average. Bascom was the first Husky to be named first team WCBA All American, the rest ? Well Davis is now the Head Coach at The University of St. Joseph's in West Hartford, Bascom is back in New Hampshire and Meg Pattyson is now the long time TV Analyst of UConn Women's Hoops on CPTV and now SNY. What about the point guard ? Her name was Debbie Baer. You might know her now as Debbie Fiske, the AD at Kingswood-Oxford and my current broadcast partner.
As for Geno, it was a very special win, not just because it was the team's first or it came on it's birthday, but that it was won at one of the mecca's of college basketball, the Palestra in Philadelphia. Full of history and yes, Geno loves history.
Happy Birthday Coach !! The 1991 Birthday was VERY SPECIAL !!