8:00 PM ET, March 6, 2005
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut's past caught up with it Sunday night.And it was all good.Members of UConn's 1995 first national championship team were honored during the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament as the first conference team to win the NCAA title. Ten years later they are mothers, mothers-to-be, coaches, businesswomen and broadcasters."It went by very quickly," former player Rebecca Lobo said. "It's a lot of fun to see everybody and just catch up and see where they are in their lives, but at the same time realizing that in the biggest ways that nobody has changed."That group helped usher in UConn's dominance on the women's game. Coach Geno Auriemma's teams would go on to win four more national titles, including the last three. Notre Dame captured the crown in 2001. Those two programs meet Monday in the tournament semifinals.The 14th-ranked Huskies (21-7) advanced with an easy 82-56 win over Syracuse (13-16) in the quarterfinal. The second-seeded Fighting Irish defeated Notre Dame 70-59 in their game Sunday.Jessica Moore had 14 points and 10 rebounds in only 20 minutes for UConn. Barbara Turner led the Huskies with 16 points and freshman Mel Thomas finished with a career-high 14, hitting 4-of-7 3-pointers. Thomas paced the UConn reserves, who outscored the Orange backups 34-9."I think we wanted to establish ourselves right away," Turner said. "I've had a lot of conversations with coach from the start about me coming out and being ready to play in this whole tournament. That's been my focus."The Huskies entered the tournament without at least a share of the regular-season conference crown for the first time in 12 years.UConn finished the regular season in a second-place tie with 10th-ranked Notre Dame but had to settle for the No. 3 seed after losing the tiebreaker to the Irish. Amanda Adamson and Tracy Harbut each scored 13 points for Syracuse, and Chineze Nwagbo added 11 points and seven rebounds."In the first half UConn's pressure and athleticism really took us out of some things we were trying to do," Syracuse coach Keith Cieplicki said. "It's difficult when you get behind a team that's as good as this."The Huskies led 45-27 at the break and opened the second half with a 15-2 run. Turner had six points in the spurt and Huskies had the crowd of 8,581 solidly behind them all night.The Hartford Civic Center, the site of the tournament through 2009, is the Huskies' second home court. Since 1980, the Huskies are 51-8 at the Civic Center and 7-2 in Hartford this season.UConn has won 11 Big East tournament titles, including nine in a row from 1994 to 2002."We got the game going like we had wanted to," Auriemma said. "We had a chance to use a lot of people that were able to contribute. More importantly, we came out of it feeling like we started something that, hopefully, will carry into tomorrow night."In fact, the Huskies started something even bigger 10 years ago. With Lobo and her former teammates gathered midcourt for a ceremony, it was all right there in front of them.