Walker happy at Kentucky after leaving UConn

PAT EATON-ROBB Associated Press Published:

KINGSTON, R.I. (AP) -- Samarie Walker has found happiness at Kentucky and her former teammates and coaches at Connecticut say they are happy for her.

The sophomore forward, whose Wildcats play the Huskies on Tuesday night for a spot in the Final Four, spent the first half of her freshman year at Connecticut, but transferred last January after being benched during a game against Louisville.

"I did tell them that it felt like I lost my passion, but I didn't know if that's really what it was," said Walker, whose home in Ohio is about 90 minutes from the Kentucky campus. "I was homesick, and I realized that once I came here and once I got to go home a few times on weekends."

UConn center Stefanie Dolson, said it will be a bit awkward facing her former roommate on the court, but the team doesn't hold the decision to transfer against her.

"I don't think there's any hard feelings," Dolson said. "We all wish her the best and if Connecticut wasn't for her, then she had to make that decision for herself and I can't imagine that there are any hard feelings for her toward us."

Geno Auriemma said Walker never had her heart and soul 100 percent committed to UConn, and didn't seem to believe she was going to be great there.

"The success she's having at Kentucky is that she has all those things in place right now. That's what you would hope for any kid."

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NO PANIC: Maryland always seems to keep its cool, even when facing deep deficits during the postseason tournaments.

The Terrapins trailed Texas A&M by 18 points in the Raleigh Regional semifinals, but didn't get flustered -- and, according to forward Tianna Hawkins, didn't even really change its approach to the game.

Maryland stuck to its pound-the-boards mentality, built a 42-30 rebounding advantage and rallied to beat the Aggies 81-74.

"When we do get down, we do have to focus more and stick together tighter," Hawkins said. "But for the most part, I think we approach the game the same way."

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BLUEGRASS SUCCESS: Kentucky is trying to become the eighth school to send both its men's and women's basketball teams to a Final Four in the same season.

Georgia (1983), Duke (1999), Oklahoma (2002), Texas (2003), Connecticut (2004, 2009, 2011), Michigan State (2005), and LSU (2006) are the others.

Kentucky women's coach Matthew Mitchell said the first voicemail he heard after beating Gonzaga on Sunday was from men's coach John Calipari.

"Kentucky's a very special place to coach basketball because the men have over a course of a century built a tradition that's quite unlike anywhere else," he said. "It's a brand name in college basketball that signifies excellence."

Junior guard A'Dia Mathies said it would mean the world to her team to not only to join the men in the Final Four, but to make their own mark on college basketball.

"We've never been there in the history of the program, so just to be the team that does it is going to be very important," she said. "We worked so hard for it, so we know we deserve it."

To earn that distinction, Kentucky must beat UConn, which in 2004 won both the men's and women's championships.

"We are the only ones with men's and women's championships in the same year and that's something we take pride in," said UConn guard Tiffany Hayes.

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AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.