To summarize: 20 minutes after slipping an NCAA championship ring onto her finger and one day after single-handedly destroying Stanford with a 31-point performance, Wolters was verbally scourging herself for her inadequacies.
Typical Wolters. In Minneapolis the first thing out of her mouth upon seeing VanDerveer, her coach on the U.S. team in last summer's world championships, was an apology. "Sorry I didn't write," she said.
One of the things that made Wolters attractive to Connecticut was this willingness to recognize her flaws and to address them. Between her junior year at Holliston (Mass.) High and her freshman year in Storrs, she dropped 60 pounds. "A lot of tall kids play because they're tall," says UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey. "Kara plays because she loves playing and wants to be good."
Kara's father, Bill, recalls his daughter as a young girl pestering him to come out and shoot hoops with her in the driveway. "She was always fighting the fact that she was tall," he says. "Basketball gave her a sense of worth. It gave her a way of saying, 'You made fun of me, but I'll show you I have this talent.' "
Bill, then known as Willie, was himself a center, under Bob Cousy at Boston College in the mid-'60s, and had a cup of coffee with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1968. Though roughly 100 colleges expressed interest in Kara, her old man's alma mater—the school she wanted to attend—wasn't interested. The Eagles have had several chances to rue this decision, most recently on Feb. 19, when Wolters blocked eight shots and grabbed 10 boards in 25 minutes as the Huskies squeaked past BC 86-34.
The fact that she is a self-starter and her own best critic has failed to insulate Wolters from frequent blasts of Auriemma invective. The Huskies trailed Tennessee 50-46 with 11:53 to play when Wolters committed her fourth foul. During an ensuing TV timeout, the coach put his right palm on the back of Wolters's neck and spoke into her ear: "Yesterday you helped us get into the championship game. Today, you're helping us lose it. We're not going to win unless you start playing better."
Wolters would respond by becoming a defensive presence down the stretch, but at the time Auriemma's anxiety was understandable. He had no way of knowing that the Rebecca Lobo Show was about to begin.
Before the Stanford game Auriemma had taken it upon himself to have a chat with Lobo, who had spent the week collecting various Player of the Year plaques. Do not, he advised her, attempt to justify the week's haul of hardware. "Don't try to prove you're the Player of the Year. Let the game come to you." And Lobo did just that, scoring a quiet 17 points.
Now the situation was different. Lobo had scored but six points and was down to the last 12 minutes of her college career. This was not the time to sit back and let the game come to her. It was the time to show 18,000 people at the Target Center why she was the consensus Player of the Year. Like the voracious houseplant in the musical Little Shop of Horrors, Lobo commanded, Feed me!
Her teammates did, and she took over the game. In rapid succession Lobo scored a layup off a post-up move; posted up again, drove the lane and hit a reverse layup; pulled up and drained an 18-footer from the left wing; then nailed a 17-footer. On Tennessee's next possession, Rizzotti made a steal and sailed in for a layup. After being ahead by nine earlier in the half, the Lady Vols now led 58-57. Shaken, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt called timeout with 7:06 left.