Big East women's Championship: Connecticut routs West Virginia

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HARTFORD, Conn, -- It was a different night, a different opponent and different set of circumstances for top-ranked Connecticut but, in the end, it was the same old story.

Scrappy West Virginia battled valiantly against the Huskies Tuesday in the Big East women's basketball tournament championship, pushing them and making them sweat for about 25 minutes.

But, like so many other teams that preceded them in the quest to unseat the defending NCAA champions, the Mountaineers just did not have enough to finish the job and lost, 60-32, before a crowd of 10,040 at the XL Center.

It was Connecticut's NCAA-record 72nd win in a row and it was the Huskies 22nd consecutive win against West Virginia. The Huskies held the Mountaineers to only one field goal in the final 12 minutes -- and that came with 49 seconds to play and the issue long since decided.

The Mountaineers, who set a record for the fewest points in a Big East championship game, have not beaten the Huskies since 1982 and showed again they have a lot of work to do on the offensive side of the ball if they want to close that gap.

West Virginia coach Mike Carey said the Mountaineers' long scoring drought to end the game was a combination of two things -- Connecticut's defense and poor officiating.

"Well, you know, all eight of them did a pretty good job on defense," Carey said, obviously referring to the Huskies' five players and the three officials who worked the game. "Sarah [Miles] got into the paint at will but missed some easy shots, and we were stagnant some and didn't get the calls. [Connecticut] plays great, great defense and, really, they exposed every weakness we have had.

"But, after a loss like this, you get the attention of the team, and I promise you we'll get some really good practices in after watching this film."

Connecticut (33-0) won the Big East tournament title for the third consecutive season.

It was the Huskies' fifth title in the past six seasons and 16th overall.

"Usually, the best team wins this tournament," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "And the last few years, we've been the best team. But it isn't just that -- our players expect to win this tournament, and that's likely why we've had so much success."

But the Huskies' dominance is not limited to the Big East -- they are 98-2 in their past 100 games, improved to 14-0 (during this 72-game win streak) against teams ranked in the Top 10 and 24-0 against teams ranked in the Top 25.

The Huskies raced to a 27-10 lead and seemed poised to push the lead to about 30 before the half, but West Virginia made a 10-3 run to pull to within 30-20 at the half, then started the second half on an 8-3 run to get to within 33-28 with 15:12 left.

But at that point, the Huskies found another gear and went on a 27-2 tear to blow the game open.

West Virginia's Liz Repella and Miles, along with Connecticut's Tina Charles and Maya Moore and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins were named to the All-Tournament team.

The Huskies' Kalana Greene, who scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against the Mountaineers, was named the most outstanding performer.

The big streaks

Longest winning streaks in NCAA Division I history:

Team, years No.

UCLA men, 1971-74 88

Connecticut women, 2008- 72

Connecticut women, 2001-03 70

San Francisco men, 1955-57 60

La. Tech women, 1980-82 54


Paul Zeise can be reached at pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720


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