March 1, 2010
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Tina Charles had 18 points and eight rebounds to become top-ranked Connecticut’s career leader in both categories in a 76-51 win over No. 6 Notre Dame on Monday night, leaving the Huskies one shy of tying their NCAA women’s record for consecutive victories.
Charles wasn’t always sure she wanted to be the type player Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma knew she could be.
Auriemma would tell the center that every time she stepped on the court she needed to have the mindset that she was going to dominate. She wasn’t sure that’s what she wanted.
“My first two years here I would take possessions off, where I’d let somebody else do it,” she said.
She finally learned to play the way Auriemma wanted.
“Tina earned every one of her 18 points,” Auriemma said.
Charles passed Nykesha Sales (1995-98) as the school’s all-time leading scorer 2,184 points and Rebecca Lobo (1992-95) as its leading rebounder with 1,272.
“Tina Charles is an amazing player,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “She’s had a fantastic season.”
Auriemma said it was strange to see Charles break both marks in the same game, especially for a program that has produced so many great players.
“That’s just a weird coincidence, it really is,” he said.
But Auriemma said he doesn’t pay much attention to such records.
“It’s not the kind of stuff we talk about,” he said.
He was more impressed with the Huskies going undefeated in the regular season for a second straight year, telling the players afterward that it was the first time it ever happened. He was corrected by reporters, who reminded him his team did it in 2002 and 2003.
“Oh yeah. Well, I lied to them,” Auriemma joked.
Auriemma said he doesn’t think this year’s team felt the pressure the 2003 team did.
“That second regular season was really, really hard,” he said. “Probably because we had too many young guys and not enough experienced offensive players so every game was a grind.”
Connecticut (30-0, 16-0 BIG EAST), which reached 30 wins for the fifth straight season, can match the record of 70 consecutive wins set by the Huskies from 2001-2003 in the BIG EAST tournament quarterfinals on Sunday. It is the eighth time the Huskies have gone unbeaten in a Big East regular season.
Every win in the streak has been by double figures.
The loss dropped the Fighting Irish (25-4, 12-4) into a fourth-place tie with No. 16 St. John’s, but the Irish will be the fifth seed in the tournament because of a loss to the Red Storm. Notre Dame will play a second-round tournament game Saturday at noon (ET) against the winner of the Pittsburgh-Louisville first-round contest. The Notre Dame second-round game will be broadcast live as part of the BIG EAST TV package (clearances TBA), as well as on the official BIG EAST multimedia web site, www.bigeast.tv.
Maya Moore had 17 points and nine rebounds as all five Connecticut starters finished in double figures. Tiffany Hayes added 13 points, Kalana Greene 12 and Caroline Doty 11. The Huskies got just five points from their bench.
New Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly spoke at halftime to the sellout crowd of 9,149, the sixth this season for the Irish and 12th in the 33-year history of the program. He praised the fans for their support of the women’s basketball team.
“We’re the Fighting Irish. We’re going to keep fighting. This game isn’t over yet,” he said to loud applause.
While Kelly’s word inspired the crowd, he couldn’t help the Irish. The Huskies ended the first half on a 5-0 run, then opened the second half with an 8-2 burst.
Notre Dame simply couldn’t live up to its reputation as streak busters. The women’s basketball team ended a 30-game winning streak by UConn in 2001. The Irish also stopped Oklahoma’s 47-game winning streak in football in 1957, and UCLA’s 88-game winning streak in men’s basketball in 1974.
Auriemma said he wasn’t worried about the history.
“I mentioned it to our players this afternoon at shootaround, that these guys in their mind, there’s a reputation of luck of the Irish, that the Irish do great things on their home court against great teams,” he recalled. “But I said, `It’s going to take a little more than the luck of the Irish to beat us tonight.”‘
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame sees its 14-game home court winning streak snapped, losing for the first time since a 79-71 defeat to Minnesota in the first round of last year’s NCAA Championship (March 22, 2009) … the Fighting Irish were playing a top-ranked team for the second time this season, only the third time that’s happened in the program’s 33-year history (also in 1996-97 and 2000-01) … Notre Dame is 2-15 (.118) all-time against No. 1-ranked teams, with both wins coming over Connecticut in 2000-01 … UConn was the ninth ranked opponent for Notre Dame, which is now 5-4 against Top 25 teams this season … the Huskies now lead the series with the Fighting Irish, 24-4 (and have won eight in a row), including an 8-2 mark at Purcell Pavilion (where they have won four in a row) … Notre Dame was playing its second game in three days, the sixth time this season (and third in the past month) it has faced such a tight turnaround (4-2 record; 8-3 in past two seasons in this scenario) … the Fighting Irish swiped double-digit steals for the 21st time this season … Notre Dame’s bench had a +26 (31-5) scoring edge on Monday, its largest scoring margin since Dec. 20, when the Fighting Irish reserves outscored their Charlotte counterparts, 52-6 … Connecticut’s .556 field goal percentage not only was an opponent season high, but also marked the first time in 75 games that a Notre Dame opponent had shot better than 50 percent from the field — DePaul was the last to do so, hitting 60 percent of its shots (30-of-50) in an 81-80 win at Purcell Pavilion on Jan. 22, 2008 … junior forward Devereaux Peters logged her third double-digit scoring games of the season and tied her career high with 15 points, a mark she first set against Villanova on Jan. 16, 2008, at Purcell Pavilion … Peters shared team-high scoring honors with classmate Becca Bruszewski, with Peters being the sixth different leading scorer for Notre Dame in its last seven games … Peters is averaging 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in three career outings against Connecticut (and two of her three double-digit scoring games this year have come against the Huskies) … Bruszewski scored in double figures for the 12th time this season and first since she potted a career-high 25 points vs. DePaul on Feb. 14 at Purcell Pavilion … fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader made her 118th career start, tying Mollie Peirick (1994-98) for fourth on Notre Dame’s all-time list … rookie guard Skylar Diggins nabbed two more steals, giving her 65 thefts for the season and putting her just two away from tying Coquese Washington’s school record for steals by a freshman (67 in 1989-90) … single-session tickets for the 2010 BIG EAST Championship will go on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m. (ET), with admission for Friday and Saturday’s first/second-round sessions (two games each) at $20 apiece, while Sunday’s quarterfinal sessions (two games each) cost $25 apiece, and Monday’s semifinal session and Tuesday’s championship game tickets are priced at $30 each; all-session passes (15 games) are also still available for $99 … for more information, contact the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office during normal business hours (weekdays 9-5) at (574) 631-7356.