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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.