March 8, 2010
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)–Tina Charles, Maya Moore and the latest Connecticut Huskies dynasty now has its own place in the record books.
Charles scored 16 points and Moore added 11 to help top-ranked Connecticut win an NCAA record 71st straight game–a 59-44 victory over No. 6 Notre Dame on Monday night in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship.
UConn surpassed its own mark set from Nov. 9, 2001, to March 11, 2003. Unlike that amazing run, which ended in a loss in the Big East conference tournament semifinals to Villanova, this Huskies team has thoroughly dominated its opponents in every game, winning all of them by double digits.
Connecticut (32-0) will face either West Virginia or Rutgers on Tuesday night with a chance to win its 16th BIG EAST Conference tournament championship.
Even top teams haven’t posed much of a challenge for the Huskies during their remarkable run.
With Monday’s win over Notre Dame (27-5), UConn improved to 13-0 against top-10 opponents, winning by an average of 26.2 points. Even second-ranked Stanford lost by 12 when the teams met in late December.
UConn has rarely even trailed during its streak. The Huskies have been behind for a total 86 minutes in the 71 games. It’s been even more uncommon for UConn to be down in the second half — only facing a deficit three times after intermission. None of those scares lasted long. There hasn’t been a need for any late-game rallies or last-second shots by the Huskies.
Notre Dame kept it close for a half.
UConn only led 25-22 at the break–its lowest scoring output in nearly three years. The Huskies then asserted themselves, led be Kalana Greene.
The senior hit just one of eight shots in the first 20 minutes, but scored the first four points of a decisive 13-4 run that gave UConn a 49-35 lead with 9:00 left. Moore’s deep 3-pointer capped the spurt. Greene finished the game with 15 points.
Notre Dame, which was led by Skylar Diggins’ 10 points, was only able to close to 10.
Even with the incredible numbers that this team has put up, coach Geno Auriemma is still partial to the 2002 team that started its previous record streak. That team, which was led by Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, featured four of the first six picks in the WNBA draft.
“I think that group would beat this group,” Auriemma said. “But that’s not important because they’ll never have to play each other.”
Bird and Ashja Jones, who also played on the 2002 team, were in the XL Center for the quarterfinals on Sunday.
Monday’s celebration was tempered when Huskies guard Caroline Doty caught an elbow from Ashley Barlow in the head with a minute left. She was on the ground with the training staff huddled around her for a few minutes before she woozily got up.
Connecticut had already beaten Notre Dame twice during the regular season — including a 25-point win in South Bend seven days ago. But the Irish have a history of ending notable winning streaks.
Notre Dame stopped Oklahoma’s 47-game winning streak in football in the 1950s, UCLA’s 88-game winning streak in men’s basketball in the 1970s and North Carolina’s 92-game winning streak in women’s soccer in the 1990s.
For 20 minutes it looked as if Notre Dame might have some of that luck. It was a sloppy first half as neither team could put together a sustained run. The Huskies took their biggest lead of the half on Doty’s 3-pointer with 8:37 left that made it 19-14. Notre Dame answered scoring six of the next eight points to close within one.
They had plenty of chances to take the lead, but couldn’t get over the hump.
Charles scored consecutive layups to extend the lead back to five and UConn went into the half only up three. In the first two meetings UConn led Notre Dame by 23 and 13.
It was Connecticut’s lowest-scoring first half since getting 22 against LSU in the 2007 regional final. The Huskies ended up losing that one by 23.
Three of the Irish’s five losses this season have come to UConn.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: All five of Notre Dame’s losses this season have come to ranked oppponents (Connecticut three times, plus at St. John’s and Georgetown), four away from home, with the Fighting Irish now 6-5 this season against Top 25 teams … Notre Dame holds Connecticut to its lowest single-game and first-half point totals in nearly three years, dating back to March 26, 2007, when the Huskies scored only 22 points in the first half of a 73-50 loss to LSU in the NCAA Fresno Regional final in Fresno, Calif. … Notre Dame also logs the third-closest game against Connecticut this season, with only Stanford (12 points) and St. John’s (14 points) managing to come closer to defeating the Huskies in 2009-10 … during Connecticut’s present winning streak, Notre Dame twice has come within 15 points of defeating the Huskies (it lost by 10 points during the 2008-09 regular season in Hartford), joining St. John’s as the only schools that can make that claim (the Red Storm lost to visiting Connecticut by 13 points last season) … the Fighting Irish also were held to their lowest point total since Jan. 24, 2006, when they dropped a 69-43 decision at #10/9 Rutgers … The 44 points were the fewest scored by Notre Dame in a BIG EAST Championship game since March 9, 2003, when the Fighting Irish fell in the tournament quarterfinals to #20/18 Villanova, 50-39, in Piscataway, N.J. … Notre Dame limited Connecticut to its second-lowest point total in the 29-game series between the schools, and lowest since a 65-59 Fighting Irish win on Jan. 30, 2005, in Storrs, Conn. (Notre Dame’s most recent victory prior to the current nine-game Huskies’ win streak in the series) … the Fighting Irish showed significant improvement in key areas during the course of their three games vs. Connecticut this season, most notably halftime margins (23 to 13 to three), points allowed (70 to 76 to 59) and turnovers committed (19 to 13 to 11) … Notre Dame’s two free throws made and attempted were the fewest for the Fighting Irish in a single game since at least March 21, 1991, when they went 2-for-3 from the stripe in an 81-65 loss to Santa Clara in the first round of the old National Women’s Invitation Tournament (NWIT) in Amarillo, Texas … Connecticut’s .300 free throw percentage was the lowest by a Notre Dame opponent this season, surpassing the .333 mark by Charlotte on Dec. 20 at Purcell Pavilion … the Fighting Irish fall to 5-3 this season (and 9-4 in the past two years) when playing with one day’s rest (or less) … Notre Dame now will await the announcement of the 64-team field for the NCAA Championship, with the bracket to be unveiled Monday, March 15, at 7 p.m. (ET) live on ESPN — the Fighting Irish are seeking their 15th consecutive NCAA Championship berth and 17th overall, with Purcell Pavilion slated to play host to first- and second-round games March 21 & 23 (times TBD once the pairings are announced).