Connecticut And Stanford Advance to 1-2 Showdown For NCAA Title

(Guru's note: Kayla Goldman, a student from Orlando, Fla., riding shotgun with the Guru down here in Dixie has a sidebar feature on Germantown Academy's Caroline Doty of UConn under this post. -- Mel)

By Mel Greenberg

 SAN ANTONIO  -  For people focused on the Donovan McNabb trade and Phillies opening day coverage, a glance at Connecticut’s 70-50 victory over Baylor Sunday night in the second game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament semifinals in the Alamodome will seem like business as usual.
The Huskies (38-0) extended their extended their NCAA record win streak to 77. The differential, as in the 76 prior results, once again reached double figures.
   But there actually was some suspense in the second half before UConn completed the 1-2 matchup that’s now set for Tuesday night against Stanford (36-1).
 The Cardinal had to withstand a late rally by Oklahoma (27-11) before advancing with a 73-66 win built on the powerful performance from Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who had 38 points and 16 rebounds.
    Connecticut, meanwhile, saw a 15-point lead at the outset of the second half get shriveled all the way down to a mere 41-38 advantage by the Bears (27-10) with 14 minutes, 55 seconds left in the game.
 Not to worry even though Germantown Academy’s CarolineDoty and backcourt mate Tiffany Hayes combined for a 1-for-14 shooting effort and each struggled with four personal fouls.
 It’s helpful to have two post presences with national player honors the same year as senior Tina Charles (AP, United States Basketball Writers) and junior Maya Moore (Wade Award selected by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association).
 The duo powered the Huskies on a 29-12 run the rest of the way as Moore finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds, while Charles had 21 points and 13 rebounds.
   “I thought there were several things that were different in the game,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, a former Louisiana Tech star who won an NCAA title as a player and guided the Bears to the 2005 title. “First of all, their two all-Americans scored all but 15 of their points.
“That’s a junior and a senior for Connecticut that we had freshman guarding,” Mulkey said. “(Brittney) Griner was guarding Tina Charles all night and Shanay Washington and Nae-Nae Hayden and Jordan Madden took their shots at Maya Moore.”
 Griner, the shot-blocking freshman sensation, finished with 13 points for Baylor and Morghan Medlock had a team-high 14 points.
 Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown, praised the work of two of his superstars who compensated for the offensive shutdown elsewhere in the lineup.
“The one scenario I didn’t conjure up (going into the game) was our two starting guards going 1-for-14. I didn’t plan on that.
 “And in spite of that, these two players up here were just absolutely amazing because they had to do it all by themselves pretty much. And I can’t say enough about them and especially in the second half what they did when Baylor cut it to whatever they cut it to.”
 Moore spoke of her play as well as that of her teammate from Brooklyn, who on Thursday will be taken No. 1 overall by the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA draft.
 “I felt I had a mismatch most of the game,” Moore said. “I was just trying to be aggressive. And once I listened to my teammates and set up my screens and used them, we got even more opened up.
“And Tina just does a great job of coming in, a confident leader who is going to attack anybody that she’s matched up with. She made some big buckets for us – gave us a lot of momentum and blocked some shots and came through for us on the boards.”
   Charles creditedAuriemma for contributing to UConn’s success by simulating situations such as what occurred Sunday night.
 “Coach puts us in situations like that during practice,” she said. “When we go to practice, even though we have this streak going on and we’re winning games, he still puts us in game situations that could happen.
   “And that happened tonight, and we all just came together and we’re like we’re not going to lose. We want to go on Tuesday.”
 Stanford’s one loss came against Connecticut back in Hartford in December.
The Cardinal were part of a first-ever 1-2 tandem in the weekly Associated Press women’s rankings this season riding shotgun wire-to-wire behind the Huskies, who were an unanimous No. 1 choice weekly by the national media panel.
 Stanford, who handed Connecticut its last loss in the national semifinals in 2008 in Tampa, led Oklahoma all the way Sunday night, building an 18-point advantage with 6:47 left in the game.
But the Sooners rallied and moved within three points at 69-66 with 16 seconds left before Ogwumike hit two foul shots to seal Stanford’s win.
All-American Jayne Appel had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Cardinal, while Kayla Pedersen had 12 points to go with Ogwumike’s effort.
 Danielle Robinson scored 23 points for Oklahoma.
 “We did not have an answer for `Nneka’ all night long,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “And it just took us too long to get going.”
 Ogwumike’s 38 points are now second only to the 47 points by former Texas Tech star Sheryl Swoopes in the 1993 title game in terms of individual scoring in a Final Four game.
 Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer spoke of the second matchup this season with Connecticut in terms of what her team will bring into Tuesday night’s game.
“I think our team will bring confidence, know that we’ve improved a lot, and I think our team will be excited,” she said, recalling the 80-68 setback to the Huskies.
“We know we need to play better and shoot the ball better, but I think tonight against some very athletic players and an aggressive team we took care of the ball well. We got the ball to a hot player on the court.”
Auriemma knows his team will need more than Charles and Moore to finish another season unbeaten.
“If we shoot the way we shot tonight we’ll be in trouble on Tuesday night, because Stanford is a little bit different offensively than Baylor,” he said. “They just have a lot of offense.
 “They may be the hardest team to play against in America. For us, anyway because of all the offensive players they have.”
Told that Stanford only shot 39 percent in their win over the Sooners, Auriemma responded: “Maybe the first team to 50 wins.”
-- Mel