Coppin State 54

(22-9, 19-0 MEAC)

Connecticut 77

(30-4, 15-2 Big East)

    9:30 PM ET, March 19, 2006

    Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pennsylvania

    1 2 T
    COPP 27 2754
    CONN 36 4177

    Top Performers

    Coppin State: R. Suber 16 Pts, 3 Reb

    Connecticut: B. Turner 23 Pts, 4 Reb

    UConn falters in first half, comes back to drub Coppin St 

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- On the road for the first time ever for a first-round NCAA Tournament game, Connecticut survived an early scare from Coppin State.

    After falling behind by four points late in the first half, the Huskies pulled away for a 77-54 victory Sunday night.

    Barbara Turner had 23 points and Ann Strother added 11 for second-seeded Connecticut (30-4), which advanced to face seventh-seeded Virginia Tech on Tuesday night in the Bridgeport Regional.

    "All in all, I'm not surprised by anything that happens in tournament," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's not going to be easy. It's not supposed to be easy."

    It did get easier in the second half thanks to Turner's fine performance. She sliced through Coppin State's defense and got fast-break baskets to help UConn open a 20-point lead by midway through the second half. Mel Thomas added a couple 3-pointers in a game-breaking run.

    It wasn't as easy for the Huskies though in the first half.

    Coppin State's Sherrie Tucker played smothering defense on UConn scoring leader Strother.

    "We had to make her put the ball on the floor and made sure that she didn't get her shot off," Tucker said. "We come out here in the first half and played good defense."

    Rashida Suber hit a couple 3-pointers and fed Talia Sutton for a transition layup before Tucker hit a 16-foot jumper to give the Eagles (22-9) a 25-21 lead.

    A crowd filled with vocal Coppin State fans cheered wildly, hoping of an upset. One fan waived around a sign that read "David and Goliath. Nothing to lose."

    UConn got going after Strother started finding shots. She didn't get her first field-goal attempt until about 17 minutes into the game, but it was a key one -- a 3-pointer from the wing that gave UConn a 28-25 lead.

    "I think it was just getting the rust out," Strother said. "At halftime we came in and we were like, 'Wow we haven't played in a while,' and it was good to kind of get it going and get our legs back in the second half.

    With the victory, the Huskies snapped Coppin State's 21-game winning streak, which had been the second longest in the nation.

    Eagles coach Derek Brown knew he would be a big underdog coming into the game, yet he harbored hopes his team might pull off an upset. He knew firsthand what that was like, too -- Brown was an assistant on Coppin State's men's team in 1997 when the then-15th-seeded Eagles beat second-seeded South Carolina in the NCAAs.

    "I thought we hung in there for awhile and played well in stretches," Brown said. "On our level mainly it's not as quick, not as fast up and down the floor."

    A No. 15 seed has never beaten a No. 2 seed in the women's tournament, though a 16th seed has defeated a No. 1 seed. That happened in 1998 when Harvard shocked top-seeded Stanford.

    Even the band added a charming element to the Coppin State's underdog story -- the university brought the band from Crossland High School in Temple Hills, Md. to play fight songs.

    The Coppin State contingent was far louder than the Connecticut fans who sat quietly for the most part behind the Huskies' bench.

    That might be because UConn was playing a first-round game outside its home state for the first time ever. Coach Geno Auriemma said he didn't mind the travel and that it might eliminate some distractions.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 54 77
    FG Made-Attempted 19-53 (.358) 25-50 (.500)
    3P Made-Attempted 3-10 (.300) 3-11 (.273)
    FT Made-Attempted 13-16 (.813) 24-28 (.857)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 19 (0/0) 16 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 4 24

    Game Leaders

    PointsR. Suber 16B. Turner 23
    ReboundsS. Tucker 4C. Houston 7


    » Mar 19, 2006 @CONN 77, COPP 54Recap | Box Score