March 11, 2008
Box Score |
AP Action Photos
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Charde Houston had 13 points and 11 rebounds and top-ranked Connecticut held off No. 23 Louisville 65-59 to win the Big East tournament championship Tuesday night.
It was Connecticut's 14th Big East tournament title, including three of the last four. The Huskies have won the regular season and tournament championships 12 times in the same season--last in 2001-02.
"It's a good feeling to know these particular players were able to do something that hasn't been done in a long time," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "Winning six games in the NCAA tournament is part talent, part experience, and getting a couple of breaks. We've put ourselves in a position to do that."
Renee Montgomery led UConn (32-1) with 20 points, including going 11-for-11 from the foul line down the stretch.
"Seeing how I was 4-for-19 from the floor at least I made some free throws," Montgomery said.
Maya Moore added 13 points for UConn, which most certainly will be a top seed when the NCAA field of 64 is announced Monday.
It was seventh-seeded Louisville's first trip to the championship game. The Cardinals (24-9), who joined the Big East three seasons ago, were knocked out in the semifinals last year by the Huskies. Louisville was trying to become only the second team in conference history to win four games in four days. Boston College did it in 2004 as a five seed.
Louisville had won 10 of its last 11 games, including Sunday's 57-56 upset of No. 7 Rutgers and Monday's 67-60 win over No. 16 West Virginia, solidifying its NCAA tournament hopes. It marked the first time in school history the Cardinals have beaten ranked opponents in back-to-back games. They beat St. John's in the opening round.
Angel McCoughtry led Louisville with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Brandie Radde added 12 points and Candyce Bingham had 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Cardinals outrebounded the Huskies 50-42.
"It definitely helped get our offense going," McCoughtry said of the rebounding advantage.
Houston was named the tournament's most outstanding performer and was mobbed on the court by her joyous teammates after the game when it was announced.
"I'm overjoyed but if it wasn't for my teammates I wouldn't have gotten this far," Houston said.
Leading by 15 at the half, UConn had its chances early in the second half to put the game away, but the Huskies couldn't convert on the offensive end missing easy shots.
Trailing 42-26 early in the second half, Louisville went on a 21-6 run over the next nine minutes to come within 48-47 on Patrika Barlow's 3-pointer from the corner. Raddie hit two 3-pointers during the spurt.
"Everyone on this team hit big shots for us," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "We have a group of players who will fight. It was like a heavyweight fight that came down to the last four minutes."
UConn responded scoring the next five points on Houston's layup and Montgomery's three free throws to restore the lead to 53-47 with 3:54 left. Louisville wasn't done as Bingham scored the next four points to cut the deficit to two with 2:22 left.
The Cardinals would get no closer as UConn hit 13 of 15 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
"Coach puts us in those situations in practice," Houston said. "When the score was close we weren't rattled."
Walz seemed calm before the game hanging out with the media and joking around. That quickly changed for the rookie coach.
UConn went on an early 18-5 run to go up by 13 in the first half. Swanier scored seven points during the spurt, including a nifty floater in the lane. The Cardinals cut it to 10 on Bingham's 3-pointer with 2:48 left, but UConn scored the last five points of the half to take a 34-19.
McCoughtry was the only offense for Louisville in the first half. She scored all the Cardinals' points during UConn's run and had nine points and six rebounds at the intermission.
UConn, which beat DePaul and Pittsburgh to advance to the championship game, has won five of the six meetings with Louisville. The Huskies beat the Cardinals 92-71 on Jan. 12 in front of 19,123--the largest crowd to watch a Big East game.