SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Connecticut wasn't about to let its
season go without a fight.
Coming off a disappointing loss to Tennessee, its third loss to
a ranked team in three tries, UConn coach Geno Auriemma issued a
challenge to his team before they faced Notre Dame (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 7 AP) on
"There's only eight (active college) kids in America who have
won a national championship, and they all play for me. So I asked
them to start playing like it tonight," he said.
It might not have been quite championship caliber, but it was a
good enough effort for the No. 16 Huskies to beat the Irish 67-50.
"I think for the most part it's the turning point of our
season," said Ashley Battle, who had 15 points, including a pair
of three-point plays late to put the game away.
Charde Houston had 19 points and three blocked shots as the
Huskies (9-4, 3-0 Big East) avoided consecutive losses for the
first time since the final two games of the 1992-93 season.
"For us it was incredibly important at some point we remember
what it's like to win a game like this so we could be reminded of
who we are. We're Connecticut," Auriemma said. "Had we lost
tonight, we would have taken another hit and it would have been
tough to recover."
The Irish (13-3, 2-2) lost back-to-back games for the first time
since early last January. The most disappointing part, though, was
how thoroughly they were dominated in the second half.
"I was pretty surprised," Notre Dame's Teresa Borton said. "I
thought we'd give them more of a competition."
UConn held Notre Dame to 29 percent shooting in the second half
and seemed to have the rebounding advantage even though the
statistics showed Notre Dame outrebounded the Huskies 20-18 in the
"We just seemed like we couldn't get a defensive rebound in the
second half even though the stats don't indicate that," Irish
coach Muffet McGraw said.
Ann Strother added 13 points and Mel Thomas had 10 for the
Huskies, who played their second straight game without leading
scorer Barbara Turner because of a foot injury. Crystal Erwin was
the only Irish player in double figures with 11 points.
Jacqueline Batteast, the second-leading scorer in the Big East
at 19.1 points a game, was held to eight points on 2-of-12
shooting. She injured her left ankle with 5:33 left in the first
half when teammate Teresa Borton fell on her leg as they went for a
rebound. Batteast went to the locker room, but returned for the
start of the second half with the Irish trailing 31-26.
The Irish cut the score to 38-37 when Courtney LaVere scored
inside with 12:45 left. But Notre Dame made just one of 11 shots
over the next 8 minutes, while the Huskies were 9-of-14 from the
field during that stretch.
Battle started the run, driving strong inside through a crowd of
Irish defenders for a basket. She then made a free throw, a 15-foot
jumper and scored on an inbounds pass as the Huskies went ahead
45-39 and continued to pull away.
Battle said it was great to finally play that well.
"We tried to keep our composure as much as possible and not let
our emotions get the best of us," Battle said. "It was the first
time all season we've played like we could play. It was an awesome