Huskies top Irish to clinch No. 2 seed in Big East tourney

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- When Ann Strother started playing calm,
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma calmed down as well.

That's because he knew the game was in hand.

"When she's calm, she knows where she's going and we get her in
the right spot," Auriemma said. "I don't think there's anyone in
the country that I would trust to make a big shot more than her."

Strother lived up to her coach's expectations Sunday night,
scoring 11 of her 19 points during a decisive run midway through
the second half to lead Connecticut (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 8 AP) to a 79-64 victory over
Notre Dame.

UConn led 52-48 when Strother made a pair of free throws and a
pair of 3-pointers to give the Huskies a 60-51 lead. Strother added
another 3 during the run to give the Huskies a 15-point lead. UConn
stretched the lead to 18 points twice before finally winning by 15.

"That was the point in the game where something had to happen.
It was going to be them or it was going to be us," Strother said.
"Being a senior, you want to make sure it's your team that's doing
the stomping."

Auriemma compared Strother to Diana Taurasi, a fearless guard
who led the Huskies to titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

"Ann since her freshman year has wanted to be in that position
and she's made an unbelievable amount of shots in her four years,"
he said. "Everybody remembers Diana because Diana had a flair for
the game. But Ann, if you look back at her career, has made an
awful lot of big shots."

The Huskies (24-3, 12-1 Big East) clinched the No. 2 seed in the
Big East tournament. The Irish (14-10, 5-8), who have lost three
straight, are 11th in the Big East and in danger of missing the
12-team league tournament.

Strother was 5-for-8 from 3-point range. Renee Montgomery had 15
points, Charde Houston 14 and Barbara Turner, who had nine
rebounds, scored 11 of her 13 in the second half.

The difference in the second half was the Huskies attacked the
Irish zone instead of settling for jump shots.

"In the second half, we really got inside them and really
attacked and created a lot of those fouls," Auriemma said.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the Irish, who battled back
from nine points down in the first half to take the lead in the
second half, played well for 32 minutes -- which isn't enough
against a team like UConn.

"We just didn't have the offensive firepower to get back into
the game at the point," she said.

Charel Allen, Lindsay Schrader and Breona Gray each had 12
points for the Irish, and Megan Duffy added 11.

Duffy said the Irish, who have three games left, know they can't
afford any more losses.

"We need to win every single one of them," she said.

Auriemma, meanwhile, had his thoughts on Strother and postseason

"I've never sat here and campaigned for anybody to be an
All-American, but I find myself doing that for her because I don't
know that if you're not paying attention you appreciate all the
things that she does for us," he said.