Feb 23, 2003
By DONNA TOMMELLEO
AP Sports Writer
STORRS, Conn. – Beaten badly on the boards in the first half, No. 1 Connecticut made the right moves in the second half to keep its NCAA-record winning streak alive.
The Huskies (26-0, 13-0 Big East) got 13 points from Diana Taurasi and a career-high 12 rebounds from reserve forward Barbara Turner to win their 65th straight game Sunday, 77-59 over Notre Dame – the last team to beat UConn.
“For the first half, we got caught in the wrong spot. We made the wrong decision every time,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We couldn’t have played any worse.”
The Huskies are now 23 victories shy of tying the men’s NCAA record of 88 straight, set by UCLA from 1971-74. UConn has not lost since falling 90-75 to eventual champion Notre Dame in the 2001 Final Four.
The Fighting Irish (15-9, 7-6) finished with a 43-40 rebounding advantage, joining two other teams to outrebound the Huskies this season. Tennessee and Virginia Tech were the others.
In the first six minutes, Notre Dame had a 12-4 edge on the boards despite trailing 10-3 on 1-for-13 shooting. Jackie Batteast finished with a career-high 18 rebounds for the Irish, but she was held to five points, 10 below her average.
Teresa Borton scored a career-high 21 for the Irish, turning in a strong post game with 17 first-half points. The Huskies neutralized Borton with double teams in the second period, and the 6-foot-3 center was held scoreless until the final six minutes.
“I think we took their post players a little too lightly, which we shouldn’t have done,” UConn center Jessica Moore said. “They just did a really good job of taking it to us and using their bodies. We were really mad and very embarrassed.”
UConn also began crashing the boards harder in the second half, led by Turner, Moore and reserve forward Willnett Crockett. The Huskies matched the Irish on the boards in the half, with each team grabbing 17.
“We did a much better job defending the high post,” Auriemma said. “They got 14 offensive rebounds in the first, and then they got only four in the second.”
Sunday’s matchup, the second of the season between the teams, featured the winners of the last three NCAA titles. Connecticut won 72-53 in South Bend on Jan. 20.
Crockett scored 12 points to lead the UConn reserves, which outscored Notre Dame’s 32-13. Maria Conlon finished with 11, including two 3-pointers in a key 16-5 run at the start of the second half. Ann Strother had six of UConn’s 23 assists on 30 baskets.
“They’re more comfortable in their rotation, and they’re playing one or two more people, so they’re adjusting,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.
Borton hit a string of four straight inside buckets to pull the Irish even for the first time at 28-all with 1:30 left in the first half.
UConn closed out the half on a 5-0 run for a 33-28 lead on a three-point play by Crockett and a layup by Moore. The Huskies blew the game open with the 16-5 second-half run that included a couple key steals from Morgan Valley. UConn led by as many as 22 down the stretch.
“We didn’t finish the half strong. We took quick, bad shots and they went down and got easy ones,” McGraw said. “And the beginning of the second half was the same thing, and all of a sudden we’re down 15.”