INTERVIEW WITH BRIA HARTLEY AND STEFANIE DOLSON
INTERVIEW WITH GENO AURIEMMA
INTERVIEW WITH TIFFANY HAYES
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)—Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 19 points and Bria Hartley added 18 to help No. 4 Connecticut beat third-ranked Notre Dame 63-54 on Tuesday night and win its fifth straight BIG EAST tournament championship. The tournament was presented by American Eagle Outfitters.
UConn’s Geno Auriemma became the sixth Division I women’s coach to reach 800 career victories, reaching the milestone in fewer games than anybody else.
The Huskies denied Notre Dame its first BIG EAST tournament title. The Irish, who won the outright regular season title for the first time, have made the tournament championship game six times and lost each one to the Huskies (29-4).
UConn also ended a rare three-game losing streak to the Irish. Notre Dame beat them in the national semifinals last season and then swept the two regular season meetings this year.
Skylar Diggins scored 16 points to lead Notre Dame (30-3).
It’s on to the NCAA tournament for the Irish and the Huskies, where they will both likely be No. 1 seeds.
The Irish were trying to join an elite club by becoming the fourth team to beat Connecticut three times in the same season. Miami was the last to do it, 20 years ago. The Hurricanes also were the last team to knock off UConn in four straight meetings. No team has done that since the Huskies won their first national championship in 1995.
It’s the 18th tournament title for the Huskies and 19th straight year that they have won either the BIG EAST regular season or tournament titles.
After the two teams met last Monday night, UConn was left searching for answers with Notre Dame winning 72-59 on the Huskies’ home floor. The Huskies found them in Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis, who was selected the tournament’s most outstanding player.
With UConn trailing 36-33 early in the second half, the pair took over scoring all 10 points during a 10-1 run. Mosqueda-Lewis scored the first four on a floater and a jump shot. Hartley finished it off with the last six points, the final two coming after she stole the ball at midcourt and then made an acrobatic layup.
Notre Dame got back within 46-43 with 8:46 left on Kayla McBride’s 3-pointer, but that’s as close as the Irish could get.
Mosqueda-Lewis and Hartley hit back-to-back baskets and UConn didn’t allow Notre Dame a field goal over the next 5 1/2 minutes after Diggins’ lay-in made it a 50-45 with 7:05 left. Diggins finally ended the drought with 1:35 left that brought them within seven, but UConn hit it’s free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
It was the 10th meeting between the two teams in the past three seasons and second in eight days.
Trailing 10-6 early, UConn got going behind Mosqueda-Lewis. She had five quick points to start a 15-3 run. Hartley’s jumper made it 21-13 with 11:27 left in the half. The Huskies extended their lead to 27-17 on another jumper for Mosqueda-Lewis before Notre Dame closed the half on a 13-4 burst. Kaila Turner’s 3-pointer with a second left capped the spurt and made it 31-30 at the half.
It’s the first time all season that the Irish trailed a BIG EAST opponent at the half.
Notre Dame kept the run going scoring six of the first eight points of the second half to take a 36-33 lead on Devereaux Peters’ layup. Before Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis took over.
It was the second straight game that the third-seeded Huskies wore their road blue uniforms in Hartford. They changed in the visiting locker room and sat on the visiting bench. Still the XL Center had a home feel for UConn, which had most of the crowd of 9,227 cheering on every one of their baskets.