UConn back in women's Final Four
PITTSBURGH Lose a star, plug in another. Win a championship, go after another. The years and players may change, yet it almost wouldn't be a women's Final Four without Connecticut.
Diana Taurasi, a freshman who didn't even start until UConn lost its two returning All-Americans, dominated with her scoring and court savvy as the Huskies rolled into the women's semifinals again with a 67-48 victory over Louisiana Tech last night.
This will be UConn's fifth trip to the Final Four under coach Geno Auriemma since 1991. The Huskies (32-2), who won national titles in 1995 and last season, play Notre Dame (32-2) for the third time this season in the NCAA semifinals Friday night in St. Louis.
The Irish, 72-64 winners over Vanderbilt in the Midwest final, knocked UConn out of the top spot in the national rankings, 92-76, on Jan. 15. The Huskies won the rematch, 78-76, in the Big East championship game March 6.
"Those were tough games and this will be a tough game," said Sue Bird, who hit the game-winning shot in the Big East final.
Taurasi, who combines the discipline that Auriemma demands with a sleek game polished on the Los Angeles playgrounds, had 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists yesterday as the second game of the season between the longtime women's powers turned into a romp.
"I don't know, I've never gotten nervous," said Taurasi, the nation's top high school player a year ago. "I'm just out there playing with four other girls, playing carefree.
"When I was growing up, I never played with girls they used to whine all the time so I'd just go to the playground and play with the guys."
Taurasi, who has started only a third of UConn's games, took over late in the first half, keying a half-ending 8-0 run that made it 37-24 with two driving layups and an assist on Tamika Williams' layup.
Then, after the Lady Techsters (31-5) made their last push by cutting the lead to nine, Taurasi hit consecutive long 3-pointers to help increase the lead to 53-36.