March 09, 2004

No. 23 Boston College 73, No. 3 Connecticut 70

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Boston College picked the right time to snap the Connecticut jinx.

The No. 23 Eagles shot a season-high 63 percent to stun the No. 3 Huskies, 73-70, in the semifinals of the Big East tournament on Monday before a roaring UConn partisan crowd of more than 10,000 at the Hartford Civic Center.

UConn had won 27 of the last 28 against the Eagles, including both regular-season matchups this year. But on this night everything fell BC's way.

``I'm overjoyed,'' BC coach Cathy Inglese said. ``To beat them in this circumstance was probably the best. I'm so happy for this team. They were not going to let it slip from their hands. They refused to lose.''

Boston College will play Rutgers, which beat West Virginia 61-51 in the other semifinal Monday.

Jessalyn Deveny scored 20 points and Kathrin Ress added 18, including a go-ahead free throw with 26.2 seconds left to lead the Eagles (24-6).

The fifth-seeded Eagles' 63 percent shooting was a single-game best in the tournament. BC was able to counter everything the top-seeded Huskies threw at them.

Ress, a freshman forward, dominated inside and was 8-of-11 from the floor. But it was her final free throw that sent the Eagles into their third conference final. BC has never won the tournament title.

``We've played them three times now, we knew what we had to do,'' Ress said. ``The third time we just put everything together. We just kept our composure until the end.''

UConn (25-4) fell short of the title for the second straight year after winning a league-best nine in a row. The Huskies lost in the final last year to Villanova, which also snapped UConn's NCAA-best 70-game win streak. Diana Taurasi led the Huskies with 17 points, six assists and two blocks.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma didn't expect a cakewalk into the final this year.

``I said before the tournament started that there were no easy games in this tournament any more,'' Auriemma said. ``We played a team tonight that was truly inspired and they executed their stuff and ran their stuff as well as anybody has against us in a long, long time.''

The Huskies rallied from 11 points down using pressure defense in the second half. Maria Conlon hit a 3-pointer with 6:39 remaining to give UConn a 62-60 lead, its first since 5-4 in the opening minutes. BC came right back with a 10-3 run, getting six points from Ress. UConn tied it for the final time at 70-all on a three-point play by Taurasi with 1:14 left.

``When Maria hit that shot there was a sense of we were going to go on a little bit of a run or at least take control of the game,'' Taurasi said. ``But they just made shot after shot. They made every big shot they had to.''

Deveny, who shot 8-of-13, made a key stop with 5 seconds left, wrapping up a loose ball beneath UConn's basket and quickly called a time out. She was fouled on the next possession and coolly hit both free throws to cap the scoring.

The Huskies had one final chance to tie it, but UConn's Ann Strother lost the dribble near midcourt and time ran out as the players scrambled for ball. The BC players mobbed each other midcourt in celebration.

``I'm kind of speechless,'' Deveny said after the game. ``We came out knowing exactly what we needed to do. We just came together and we accomplished one of our goals this season.''

The Eagles scored 22 points off 18 UConn turnovers, while UConn got 24 points off BC miscues.

The Eagles came out firing from the opening tip and didn't cool off. Ress and Deveny scored nine points each in the period.

The Huskies kept pace for a while but committed 11 turnovers in the first half that Boston College converted to 17 points. BC broke away on a 5-0 run that included a leaner by Deveny and a quick inbounds steal and layup from Aja Parham.

The Eagles largest lead was at 37-26 on Maureen Leahy's layup with 2:46 to play. The Huskies closed out the half on a 6-2 run that featured a four-point play from Ashley Battle to cut BC's lead to 39-32 at the break.

BC played UConn tough at the Civic Center in their first regular-season game in January and lost by seven points. The Huskies dominated the Eagles in a 21-point win in the second game.

``We knew (a loss) was possible because of the way we played against them,'' Battle said. ``But never in our wildest dreams did we think it would really happen. But we all knew it was possible.''

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