UConn rallies to beat Georgetown
Monday, March 28, 2011
Georgetown knows all about Maya Moore and Connecticut’s rich postseason history, and the Hoyas were determined to rock the bracket with one of the NCAA tournament’s biggest upsets ever.
Backed into a corner, Moore got some help from fellow senior Lorin Dixon and the Huskies responded.
Moore had 23 points and 14 rebounds, leading Connecticut to a 68-63 victory after the Hoyas led by seven in the second half of their regional semifinal Sunday.
“Me and Maya decided we didn’t want our careers to end here today,” Dixon said. “That’s just a great feeling. I think everyone wanted to continue the tournament.”
While Moore put up the numbers, Dixon was the catalyst for the gamechanging run.
Connecticut trailed 53-46 with 9:36 left, but responded with a 16-2 run sparked by the 5-foot-4 guard.
“Today was a great reflection of what she’s been doing for the last month for every single day,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of Dixon, who finished with four points, four assists and four steals.
Bria Hartley got the spurt started with a 3-pointer and Dixon followed with a layup off a steal. She then had another steal and fed Hartley for an easy lay-in that tied it at 53 with 7:12 left.
Moore then scored four straight and, after Alexa Roche’s basket, Hartley capped the run with a 3-pointer that made it 62-55 with 4:03 left.
Monica McNutt’s 3-pointer got Georgetown within four with 1:41 remaining, but Moore answered with a long jumper from the corner to seal the win.
“My players aren’t in these situations very often and it’s good to be tested,” Auriemma said. “It’s easy to be a winner when you’re winning. You find out a lot about yourself when you have to go and win. We found out a lot about us today.”
Hartley added 17 points for UConn (35-1), which is now three victories away from a third straight national championship that would match the school’s own run from 2002-04 and Tennessee’s from 1996-98.
UConn will have to beat Duke in the championship game Tuesday night to advance to the Final Four for the fourth straight year. The Huskies routed the Blue Devils 87-51 on Jan. 31.
This was the third meeting between the two Big East teams in the past 30 days. UConn won the first two games by double digits, but Georgetown was able to remain close in those games by forcing the Huskies into a combined 47 turnovers with its relentless pressure.
The Hoyas (24-11) showed no fear from the start Sunday, giving the topseeded Huskies all they could handle. McNutt led the way with 17 points.
“Our program is on the rise,” McNutt said. “We’re past moral victories we should be in the Elite Eight.”
It was Auriemma’s 80th victory in the NCAA tournament, moving him into sec- ond on the career wins list for men or women. Tennessee coach Pat Summitt is tops with 109, and Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski is third with 79 victories.
Auriemma has had a lot of success in Philadelphia, making his first Final Four in 1991 after playing at the regional at the Palestra. In 2000, Auriemma’s team won its second national championship here.
While UConn is a regular in the round of 16, Georgetown is a relative newcomer. The Hoyas have been this far only once before, in 1992-93. That team lost to Virginia in the regional semifinals.
Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who was an assistant on that 1993 team, doesn’t think it will be another 18-year wait for the Hoyas to return to this level.
“I think we’re only a few notches away,” she said. “Really one more player.”
Sensing the buzz around the women’s program, the school sent up two bus loads of boisterous students to the game and the Hoyas gave their fans plenty to cheer about.
Sugar Rodgers had said Saturday the coaching staff put together a highlight film showing the team the two good halves they had played against UConn in the previous two meetings. They added one more Sunday, but couldn’t close it out after leading 35-32 at halftime.
The Hoyas continued to press UConn in the second half, building their lead with the 3-pointer. McNutt and Rodgers hit back-to-back 3s to make it 47-42 with 15:41 left.
Tia Magee then added four straight points to give the Hoyas a seven-point lead before UConn took over.
“We didn’t hit shots,” Williams-Flournoy said. “Sugar missed a layup, we turned the ball over twice. Against a team like Connecticut you can’t make those kinds of mistakes. That’s the only way you’re going to give yourself any kind of cushion to beat Connecticut. They have Maya Moore, she hit those big shots.”
The Huskies haven’t lost in the round of 16 since Stanford beat them in 2005. It has been 12 years since they lost as a one seed in the regional semifinals, falling to Iowa State in 1999.
Even Auriemma kidded in the press conference Saturday his family and friends weren’t going to show up until the championship game.
They would have missed a great game.
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