January 30, 2005

(6) Notre Dame 65, (9) Connecticut 59

STORRS, Conn. -- Notre Dame took it right at Connecticut.

The sixth-ranked Fighting Irish snapped Connecticut's Big East home winning streak at 112 games Sunday, beating the ninth-ranked Huskies 65-59.

``We were more aggressive and more physical. We were not going to be intimidated,'' Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw said. ``To come in here and play where we've never won and play like we did tonight was a real step forward.''

Courtney LaVere led Notre Dame (18-3, 6-2 Big East) with 14 points and anchored a dominating inside game as the Irish won for the first time in eight tries in Connecticut. Notre Dame made good on its quest to avenge a loss to the Huskies just 18 days ago in South Bend.

UConn (13-5, 6-1) hadn't lost a home conference game since a 64-62 defeat to Georgetown on Feb. 27, 1993. The Irish also ended the Huskies' 55-game streak at Gampel Pavilion. UConn's last defeat at Gampel was a 72-71 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 1, 2001.

The Irish led by 10 at the half and countered every UConn move down the stretch with backdoor cuts to LaVere or 3-pointers from Megan Duffy and Charel Allen. Each bucket brought a collective groan from the 10,167 fans.

``The Big East is such a tough conference, and to win on the road against a great team like UConn means a lot,'' LaVere said.

Ann Strother almost single-handedly kept the Huskies in the game with her perimeter shooting. She had a season-high 25 points on 7-of-9 3-point shooting. Her final 3 with 12.6 seconds left cut the Irish's lead to 61-59. But Notre Dame iced it by hitting four straight free throws.

``I'm not really concerned with how many points I scored,'' Strother said. ``Our best player is our team. When everyone's thinking on the same page, all together, there's no team in the country that can beat us. If there's one person who's not concentrating, not focused, we all look horrible.''

The Huskies had several lapses, especially in the first half when they turned the ball over 16 times.

``Our guards are not good and today we were exposed,'' UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ``Notre Dame put a lot of pressure on them to find guys and we couldn't do it. The first thing we would do when we got the ball was to look to pass to someone who wasn't open.''

Duffy finished with 12 points, and Teresa Borton matched her career high with 11 rebounds for the Irish. Charde Houston had 10 points and 12 boards for the Huskies.

Notre Dame outscored UConn 36-16 in the paint and had 19 points off 20 UConn turnovers. Led by LaVere, a reserve forward, Notre Dame's backup outscored the UConn subs 29-12.

The Irish established their inside dominance early, outscoring UConn 22-6 in the paint in the first half. LaVere, who had 10 points in the period on 4-of-5 shooting, was nearly unstoppable with her hook shot.

UConn clung to a two-point lead with 7:49 remaining when the Irish went on a 10-0 run to take a 28-20 lead. The Huskies spent most of the period without center Jessica Moore, who picked up her third foul just 8 minutes in.

The Irish also scored 17 points on 16 UConn turnovers in the first half and led 34-24 at the half.

The win gave Notre Dame basketball a clean sweep of both UConn men and women's teams. Earlier in the day, the Notre Dame men beat the 19th-ranked Huskies 78-74 in South Bend.

``I think we are both just trying to position ourselves for the NCAA Tournament,'' McGraw said. ``It was a great win for our guys today and I'm sure they feel the same about us.''

The UConn teams hadn't lost on the same day since Jan. 15, 2001, and hadn't lost to the same opponent since Boston College beat both the men and women on Jan. 26, 1985, in the pre-Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma era.

(22) Penn St. 81, (10) Minnesota 68

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- With fellow Wooden Award candidate Janel McCarville struggling in the first half, Tanisha Wright made her case for college basketball's top honor.

Wright tied a career high with 32 points to help Penn State upset another top-10 team, beating McCarville and No. 10 Minnesota 81-68 on Sunday. Penn State has also defeated North Carolina, Ohio State and Michigan State -- all in the top 10 at the time.

``Tanisha had an All-American night,'' Penn State coach Rene Portland said. ``She really did on both ends of the court, on the offensive end and the defensive end. She's defending the title that she has on the defensive end and she's making them think a whole lot on the MVP of the league.''

Wright was 12-of-23 from the field and scored five points during the Lady Lions' 13-2 second-half run that stretched a two-point lead to a 50-37 advantage with 11:42 left. At the end of the first half, she scored 10 straight points for the Lady Lions and had 12 of the team's final 14 points.

``I thought that Tanisha Wright basically did anything she wanted to tonight,'' Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. ``In the first half, she really kept her team in the game.''

McCarville scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds -- her eighth double-double of the season -- to lead the Golden Gophers (16-4, 6-2 Big Ten), but was just 2-of-8 from the floor in the first half and missed seven straight shots at one point. She also turned the ball over six times, contributing to the Gophers' 17 turnovers.

Jamie Broback scored 14 points and Shannon Schonrock added 12 for Minnesota, which shot just 1-of-11 from 3-point range.

``It has to start from the outside in,'' Portland said of the Lady Lions' defensive effort. ``We were very concerned about their 3-point shooting and I think we did a super job on that tonight.''

Jess Strom finished with 19 points, including a school-record 15-of-15 effort from the free throw line for the Lady Lions (13-7, 8-1). The previous high was 14 free throws in a game, last accomplished by Lisa Shepherd against Purdue on Feb. 22, 2001.

Following Wright's free throw with 15:53 left, Jenny Brenden hit a 3-pointer, made two foul shots, then lobbed a pass to Wright in the low post for a layup for a 45-35 Lions lead.

The Lady Lions hit a season-high 32 free throws in 35 attempts, and outrebounded the Gophers -- the Big Ten's best rebounding team -- 32-26.

Notre Dame 78, (19) Connecticut 74

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It was supposed to be a mismatch up front when Connecticut faced Notre Dame. It was -- only it was the Irish who dominated.

Torin Francis had 19 points and seven rebounds and Dennis Latimore added 12 points as the Irish outscored No. 19 Connecticut 38-20 inside en route to a 78-74 victory on Sunday.

``Latimore and Torin Francis were a little too much to handle,'' UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. ``They completely dominated our frontcourt.''

Connecticut's game plan was to try to take away Notre Dame's outside game and make the Irish beat them inside. The Irish did.

``Everyone always talks about us as a shooting team and they question our frontcourt. After today, I don't think there's anything left to question,'' Francis said. ``I think we have the best frontcourt. We haven't done much to show that yet, but this is a big step.''

The game wasn't decided, though, until the closing seconds. After shooting 50 percent for most of the game, UConn missed its final five shots, including a breakaway layup by Marcus Williams that would have tied the game at 76 with 15 seconds left. Instead, Williams' shot came up short and he fouled Chris Thomas on the rebound. Thomas made two free throws to give the Irish the four-point lead.

``No excuses. I think I was going too fast,'' Williams said. ``I thought he was going to foul me to make the free throws, but there's still no excuse.''

UConn (12-5, 4-3 Big East) missed its final two 3-point attempts as time ran out, giving Notre Dame its first win over a ranked team since beating the ninth-ranked Huskies a year ago.

Thomas had 11 of his 15 points in the second half for the Irish (13-5, 5-3), who had lost two straight.

The student section swarmed the floor to celebrate the victory.

``This is a huge win for us coming off of two losses,'' said Chris Quinn, who added 12 points for the Irish.

The Huskies led by an many as seven points early in the second half, but the Irish used a 9-3 run to tie the score at 61 when Thomas drove the lane for a layup midway through the second half. The game was close the rest of the way.

Thomas hit a 3-pointer with 4:36 left to give the Irish a 70-69 lead. Then Latimore scored inside to give the Irish a 72-71 lead.

Left unguarded, Williams hit a 3-pointer with 3:10 left to give the Huskies a 74-72 lead. But UConn didn't score again. Francis dunked over Charlie Villanueva to tie the score at 74.

Irish coach Mike Brey said he knew then the Irish would win.

``That's one that says to his teammates, `We're going to get this one,''' he said.

Latimore added a basket inside to give the Irish the lead, and Thomas put the game away with his free throws.

Denham Brown led the Huskies with 20 points, while Rudy Gay had 16. Williams had 10 points and tied the school record with 16 assists.

Josh Boone, UConn's leading scorer at 14.8 points a game, had six points on 3-of-6 shooting, and Villanueva, who averages 12.6 points, had six points on 2-of-8 shooting.

``We let it get away,'' Brown said. ``We came out knowing this could happen and it did. This was a game that obviously got away from us.''

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