Jan 20, 2003
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Connecticut never gave Notre Dame a chance to add to its collection of streak-ending upsets.
Barbara Turner scored a season-high 25 points in her first start, leading UConn to its 56th straight win Monday, a 72-53 victory over Notre Dame – the last team to beat the Huskies.
“I thought if Notre Dame was able to play their best game, we’d have trouble winning,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
The Irish were nowhere near their best, though, and the Huskies had no trouble. Turner shot 9-of-11 from the field, and Ann Strother added 15 points.
Diana Taurasi, whose 19.2-point average leads the team, got into foul trouble early and finished with just four points, but the Huskies put the game away with her watching from the sideline.
“The game was decided with her on the bench and we were still able to run our stuff and get the shots we wanted,” Auriemma said.
UConn (17-0, 5-0 Big East) broke the women’s college basketball record of 54 straight victories – set by Louisiana Tech in 1980-82 – by beating Georgetown on Saturday.
The Huskies’ last loss was 90-75 to the Irish on March 30, 2001, in the NCAA tournament semifinals. Notre Dame went on to win the title that year.
Notre Dame has built a reputation for ruining long victory runs.
The Irish stopped Oklahoma’s 47-game winning streak in football in the 1950s, UCLA’s 88-game winning streak in men’s college basketball in the 1970s, and North Carolina’s 92-game winning streak in women’s soccer in the 1990s.
Notre Dame led 13-12 with 12? minutes left in the first half Monday when Taurasi sat down. But the Huskies went on a 30-10 run, breaking open the game as Notre Dame (10-6, 2-3) lost its fourth straight home game for the first time ever.
“Connecticut really responded when Taurasi got in foul trouble,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They played with poise and did great things with their star player on the bench.”
Auriemma said he decided to start Turner because of her defense, not her offense.
“I didn’t realize Barbara would have 25 today,” he said. “I didn’t say, ‘I’m gong to start her because she’s going to have a big game.’ Maybe I should say that I saw it coming. That’s how legends are made. Isn’t this the place where legends are born?”
Turner’s previous best was 17 points against St. Joseph’s last month, but she had 15 by halftime Monday.
The Irish appeared afraid to shoot at times, going just 2-of-7 from the floor in the final 9:45 of the first half.
Alicia Ratay, who entered the season as one of the top 10 3-point shooters in NCAA history at 48 percent, didn’t attempt a shot from beyond the arc until well after the outcome was decided. She took just three shots all game and finished with nine points.
“I’ve seen this happen a lot to kids when they become seniors,” Auriemma said. “Right now it looks to me like she’s not playing with a lot of confidence. She doesn’t think when she shoots the ball that it is going in.”
The Huskies went 7-of-12 on 3-pointers in the first half. Maria Conlon had three in the span of 1? minutes during a 10-0 run by the Huskies.
Despite her limited playing time, Taurasi led UConn with eight rebounds. The Huskies had a 40-28 advantage in rebounds.
Jacqueline Batteast had 16 points and four steals for the Irish, and Courtney LaVere had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.