Photo: Robert Franklin / Associated Press
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 averaging 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.”