8:00 PM ET, March 7, 2005
Barbara Turner has won two national championships with Connecticut, and now has a chance to win the one title that has eluded her.The Huskies are back in the finals of the Big East tournament after their string of nine straight tournament titles was snapped two years ago. The Huskies (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today; No. 13 AP) play No. 9 Rutgers on Tuesday night for the championship, and Turner was a big reason why they'll be there. She had 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists to lead Connecticut to a 67-54 win over No. 10 Notre Dame in the semifinals Monday night. "We're one more step toward where we want to be," Turner said. "It's all in the approach. You can feel, you can feel the energy in warmups. We approached this game like it was a live or die situation." The title game between the Huskies (22-7) and regular-season champion Rutgers is a matchup of the two best defensive teams in the league. The Scarlet Knights ended UConn's reign of 11 straight regular-season titles. UConn dominated the Fighting Irish (26-5) in the paint, finishing with a 45-33 rebounding edge and had 27 second-chance points. That helped on the outside for wing Ann Strother, who finished with 17 points and made 3-of-6 3-pointers. "Anytime you can establish yourself on the inside, that opens up things a lot for your perimeter players," Turner said. "It's kind of hard for teams to balance guarding both of us." The third-seeded Huskies built on an eight-point halftime lead with a 24-2 run. Strother had 12, including two 3-pointers. Freshman Charde Houston was a spark off the bench for UConn, finishing with 12 points and three steals as the Huskies reserves outscored Notre Dame's backups 27-6. "They outworked us," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "We're a post-oriented team and we couldn't get anything going today." Megan Duffy had 21 points for second-seeded Notre Dame, getting 13 after UConn built a 24-point lead with under 5 minutes to play. The Huskies held the Irish to 33-percent shooting and all but shut down Big East player of the year Jacqueline Batteast. She had just two points in the first half and finished with 10 on 4-of-18 shooting. UConn coach Geno Auriemma said the Huskies played with the kind of determination he hoped they _ especially Turner _ would. In her first two years, she played behind All-American Diana Taurasi, who led the Huskies with a brash, bold style. Now it's time for Turner to take that role, Auriemma said, and he saw signs of it Monday. "Today was what I wanted to see from her, just to play with the kind of emotion I thought Barbara would bring to us when we recruited her," Auriemma said. "I think she's starting to sense that it's got to come from [her]. If you want to be a great player, you've got to be great. No two ways about it."
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||25-59 (.424)||18-56 (.321)|
|3P Made-Attempted||5-14 (.357)||6-11 (.545)|
|FT Made-Attempted||12-18 (.667)||12-18 (.667)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||21 (0/0)|