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Strother sparks UConn rally in 2nd half to rout Orange

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Senior star Ann Strother gave Connecticut
the spark it needed, and freshman guard Renee Montgomery did the
rest.

Montgomery scored 19 points -- 10 during a decisive second-half
run -- and the Huskies (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) rallied past Syracuse 65-36 on
Wednesday night after scoring a season-low 20 points in the first
half.

"There was a lot said at halftime," said Montgomery, who had
16 points after the break. "Everybody was like, 'This is
unacceptable.' There was nothing positive going on in the first
half. We weren't playing as a team."

Connecticut (25-3, 13-1 Big East), which reached 25 wins for the
13th straight season, has won four straight since losing to
Rutgers. Syracuse (9-16, 2-12) has lost five straight and is 0-7 at
home in conference play.

Syracuse was poised for another monumental upset of the Huskies
similar to its stunning 62-59 win at Manley Field House a decade
ago. And a Carrier Dome crowd of 3,779, the largest home crowd in
history to see a Syracuse women's game, thought the Orange just
might snap their 13-game losing streak in the series after limiting
the Huskies to eight baskets in the opening half and leading 23-20
at the break.

It certainly helped that Strother, UConn's leading scorer, was
nursing a sprained left ankle she hurt in practice on Tuesday.

Strother, averaging 14.5 points, played only 4 minutes in the
first half and didn't attempt a shot. At the outset, it didn't seem
to matter. Charde Houston scored on a driving layup to give
Connecticut a 12-4 lead at 14:26 and the Huskies seemed ready to
put the game away quickly.

"I thought we could get away with not playing Ann,"
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "I thought we were in pretty
good shape at 12-4. I didn't know that was the highlight of the
first half -- getting to 12."

The Huskies didn't score again until Mel Thomas made a jumper
from left wing at 4:21. In that scoreless span of 10:05, they
missed nine shots, committed four turnovers, were called for three
fouls, and missed two free throws.

"I thought we were physical in the first half, fought for
balls," Syracuse coach Keith Cieplicki said.

The Huskies' lowest total for a half since scoring 19 against
Arizona State in December 2004 convinced Auriemma of one thing --
Strother would start the second half.

"She wasn't that thrilled to play," Auriemma said. "When I
took her out, I had no intention of putting her back in. But all
that went out the window in the second half."

Strother, who logged 14 minutes after the break, hit a jumper in
the lane and then made a 3-pointer from the top of the key to get
the Huskies going in the first 2 minutes. Montgomery took it from
there.

After Tracy Harbut tied the game at 30-all with two free throws
at 14:44, Montgomery hit a driving scoop to start the Huskies on a
16-2 run. She followed with two free throws, Willnett Crockett
scored off the glass, and Strother fed Houston underneath for a
short jumper to give Connecticut a 38-32 lead with 11:24 to go.

Montgomery then hit a wide-open 3 from the right wing and
converted a three-point play to boost the lead to 46-32 with 8:47
left.

"The second half, when she (Strother) came in, she spread us
out," said Harbut, who had eight points. "We had to watch where
she was at, and they penetrated the zone and got more offensive
rebounds."

"It was a good adjustment to put Strother in there," Cieplicki
said. "They stepped it up and put the pressure on.The question was
to weather it. They made it real difficult for us. We played them
close for a while."

Thomas had 11 points for UConn before leaving the game with an
ankle injury with 12:40 left, and Barbara Turner had 10.

Vaida Sipaviciute led the Orange with 14 points, all but two in
the first half.

Harbut's long jumper with 5:36 left was Syracuse's last basket.