No. 2 Connecticut 59, No. 4 Tennessee 53
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said the Huskies ended Tennessee’s NCAA record 69-game home winning streak more with determination than skill.
``Today was a win not because it looked pretty or was executed beautifully, but because of the character and the tremendous willpower that this group has,″ he said Saturday after the Huskies held the Lady Vols to one basket in the last 6:41 to win 59-53.
``This is a big win for us,″ Auriemma said. ``I think other than the national championship win last year this is probably the most satisfying victory our program has ever been associated with, because of who they are and what they stand for.″
Tennessee had not lost a home game since Jan. 29, 1991, but could not come up with the big play Saturday when necessary to keep the streak alive.
``You shoot 28 percent the second half, get one shot and let people penetrate to the basket, you’re going to lose when you’re playing a team like Connecticut,″ said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, whose Lady Vols have now lost three in a row to the Huskies, including last spring’s national title game.
``We have to step up and make big plays,″ Summitt said. ``You can’t hide in the last minutes of the game.″
Jennifer Rizzotti had 18 points and five assists to lead the Huskies (12-2). Kara Wolters added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Tennessee (11-2) was led by Chamique Holdsclaw with 15 points, Tiffany Johnson with 12 and Michelle Marciniak with 10.
The Huskies won with defense and rebounding down the stretch.
Tennessee led 51-47 with 6:41 left on Latina Davis’ pullup 10-footer, but those were the last meaningful points Tennessee would score. In the meantime UConn ran off 10 straight to pull away.
After Davis’ basket, neither team scored on its next five possessions covering 3 1/2 minutes. After a timeout, Connecticut’s Amy Duran finally broke the ice with a 3-pointer from the left corner, her only basket of the game, to make it 51-50 with 3:05 remaining.
``We set up a 3-point shot,″ Auriemma said. ``The wrong guy took it. I wasn’t comfortable setting up something for a freshman on the road in this environment, so I set it up for Jennifer. It just didn’t work out that way.″
After a Tennessee miss, Rizzotti drove the lane and sent a backhand feed to Jamelle Elliott, wide open under the basket. Elliott scored, was fouled, and converted the three-point play for a 53-51 UConn lead with 2:18 to go.
Duran’s two free throws with 48.7 seconds left made it 55-51. Two more by Elliott with 36 seconds left made it 57-51, completing the 10-point run and finishing the Lady Vols.
Johnson finally scored for Tennessee with 22 seconds remaining.
During its 6-minute, 19-second scoring drought, Tennessee had nine possessions. The Lady Vols did not turn it over on any of them, but got just one shot each trip down as Connecticut did a tremendous job on the defensive board.
Connecticut scored the first seven points of the second half to erase Tennessee’s 31-27 halftime lead. Tennessee scored the next eight and held the lead until Elliott’s three-point play put the Huskies up to stay.