3:00 PM ET, February 12, 2006
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- One rally-killing 3-pointer, followed by another.Two shots by Ann Strother and Mel Thomas in the final 2 minutes Sunday snuffed out a furious Texas rally and sent No. 4 Connecticut to a 71-58 victory that was much tougher than the Huskies probably expected.The Longhorns had cut an 18-point second-half deficit to 61-55 when Strother got open in the right corner and swished her third 3-pointer of the game.After a Texas turnover, Thomas stepped to nearly the same spot and hit another."Those were the back breakers," UConn forward Barbara Turner said.Strother finished with 15 points and Thomas and Turner each scored 14 for the Huskies (22-3), who built several big leads but struggled to survive 22 turnovers and a career-high 24 points from Texas point guard Nina Norman.When the schedule makers penciled in these teams, they likely expected a blockbuster late-season Top 10 matchup. Instead they got a UConn squad still among the best in the country and a Texas team struggling with inexperience and injuries."They could have easily gotten blown out today, by a lot, but they didn't," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "That says a lot about their team and about their kids."The Longhorns (12-10) played their second game without injured center Tiffany Jackson and UConn exploited every weakness it could find early on, hitting eight of its first 11 shots, including three 3s from Strother and Thomas.When 5-foot-7 point guard Renee Montgomery outjumped three flat-footed Longhorns for a rebound and putback, the Huskies led 22-8.Texas missed 19 of its first 23 shots and UConn pushed the lead as high as 32-13 before Texas rallied with a 12-3 run. Norman's long 3 at the halftime buzzer cut it to 35-25.Norman's speed with the ball and strong shooting hand created all kinds of problems for the Huskies. She was the only Longhorn with more than one basket in the first half."My shots kept falling. (Coach Jody Conradt) also told me to take over the game," Norman said.UConn kept rebuilding the lead in the second but couldn't find the run to put the game out of reach.The Huskies led 46-30 when Ketia Swanier stole the ball from Norman and used a burst of speed to beat her to the other end for a layup. A minute later, Auriemma was whistled for a technical foul that charged up the crowd of 7,390.But instead of a big momentum swing, Norman missed both attempts from the line and UConn quickly seized control with a layup by Kalana Greene and a 3-pointer from the right corner by Strother that made it 51-35.Texas' last best chance for an upset came when Norman scored eight straight points and Erika Arriaran hit a 3-pointer to get within 61-53, the first time since the opening minutes UConn's lead was cut under 10.Free throws got Texas within six before Auriemma drew up a play for Strother, who nailed the shot."I think that was a crucial point in the game," Strother said. "Either they were going to come back or we were going to put the spread out even further."When Thomas followed with hers, the Longhorns were finally done."I don't know if Mel would've made that 3 if Ann hadn't made that one before it," Auriemma said. "That kind of took some of the pressure off."For Texas, it was the seventh loss against a ranked opponent in a schedule rated the fourth-toughest in the country. Injuries have wreaked havoc on the Texas lineup, especially among the seven freshman who were rated the best incoming class in the country.And with leading scorer Jackson out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, the Longhorns must scrap for wins down the stretch if they hope to make the NCAA tournament."I made a crucial error with overscheduling this team," Conradt said. "But this is not the team I thought I'd have."
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||25-56 (.446)||22-63 (.349)|
|3P Made-Attempted||7-16 (.438)||4-9 (.444)|
|FT Made-Attempted||14-18 (.778)||10-18 (.556)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||16 (0/0)||17 (0/0)|