UConn women beat St. John's, will face ND in Big East final
Brianna Banks drives to the hoop during UConn’s 74-43 win over St. John’s last night in Hartford. The Huskies face Notre Dame tonight in the Big East final. ED RYAN/The Daily Campus
HARTFORD – In two consecutive nights, the Huskies could go 2-0 against the pair of Big East Foes that defeated them in the regular season.
After defeating St. John's 74-43 in the semifinals, UConn will face the Fighting Irish tonight for the Big East Championship — in a rematch from last week's loss to Notre Dame on the very same court. Notre Dame won handily in their semifinal match-up against West Virginia with a final – and similar – score of 73-45.
The last time St. John's and UConn met was Senior Night at Gampel Pavilion, a game that ended in a 57-56 win for the Red Storm.
Last night, the game was nothing of the sort. The game started with a 7-0 UConn run and a full court press that allowed the Huskies to pull away. At the half, the Huskies were up by 20, led by sophomore Stefanie Dolson, who went 6-8 from the field and tallied four rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
"We asked and challenged them to set a tone and tempo and they sustained it for the entire game," said coach Geno Auriemma.
The second half started off the same as the first with two consecutive baskets down low for Dolson.
Dolson finished the game with 23 points.
"She [Dolson] has to rely on basic skills and a competitiveness. That competitive spirit had faded this season. But it was here last week and it was here tonight," Auriemma said. "When she's playing like that, we're a whole different team, a whole better team. It takes pressure off our shooters.
The Huskies, who have been struggling to keep their turnover numbers low, finished the game with only 12.
"We took pride in taking care of the ball. We love sharing the ball. Even when they pressured us, we got the passes where they needed to be," said sophomore Bria Hartley.
And in doing so, the Huskies recorded 16 assists.
"I give credit to my teammates who gave me perfect passes," Dolson said. "And we were getting steals, pushing the ball up court, sparking our offense through defense. We were confident with shots and ourselves."
Confidence was something that the team had been striving to see restored, after being despondent in the post-Notre Dame loss.
"It's been awhile since we've played like the team we know we can be," Auriemma said. "This was one of the better and more complete games we've played in a long time."
Auriemma doesn't like being the underdog as the Huskies enter the championship game tonight as the No. 2 seed. "Of course I don't like not being the favorite. I don't like wearing the wrong uniforms, sitting on the wrong bench and being in the wrong locker room."
But, regardless, it's not the Big East title that he's concerned about. "It's more of a loss to lose our identity than to lose the tournament. Gaining back who we are and what makes us good – the stuff we had lost for awhile – is way more important than claiming the conference. It's about getting back to that Connecticut mentality that we had tonight."
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
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