March 29, 2009
Tiffany Hayes (Lakeland, Fla.) shot 9-of-10 from the floor and had a career-high 28 points as the No. 1 seed University of Connecticut women's basketball team defeated No. 4 seed California 77-53 in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon at the Sovereign Bank Arena. Today's victory gives the Huskies its fourth consecutive opportunity to compete for the Regional Championship title on Tuesday night.
Hayes' 28 points marked the most by any UConn freshman in an NCAA Tournament game as she netted a team-high 16 points in the first half on 6-of-7 shooting from the field before the Huskies took a two-point lead heading into intermission.
The Huskies used a 23-5 run in a span of 10:30 in the second half to stretch their lead as they held the Golden Bears to just two field goals during that spurt.
The Huskies improve to a perfect 36-0 on the year with the win, while California's season ends with a 27-7 showing on the season after making its first ever trip to the Sweet 16. UConn also ups its all-time record in NCAA Tournament action to 68-15.
California jumped to an early 7-2 lead two minutes into the game before Hayes knocked down two consecutive three-pointers as UConn battled from behind to take back the lead at 13-9 with 13:28 remaining in the first half.
The Huskies struggled early on the offensive end of the floor, shooting .359 (14-of-39) in the first frame, their lowest percentage in postseason play this season. The Golden Bears gave the Huskies trouble, shooting .407 (11-of-27) and recording 22 rebounds opposed to UConn's 19 to extend their lead to as much as eight points in the half. The eight point deficit was the largest for UConn this season.The Huskies again, found themselves battling back using a 13-2 run in the final 6:16 of the first half to take control of the lead and head into the break with a 35-33 advantage. Hayes led the Huskies in the first 20 minutes of play as she hit 3-of-4 from behind the arc and picked up 16 points for her 16th game with double-figure points this season and her first since the Huskies' Feb. 28 game against Seton Hall.
The battle continued into the second half as the Huskies used a 23-5 run in a span of 10:30 to take a convincing 64-43 lead. UConn held the Golden Bears to a .207 (6-of-29) showing from the floor in the second frame as the Huskies shot .583 (14-of-24), including 4-of-6 from three-point land, marking a key factor in today's success.
Renee Montgomery (St. Albans, W. Va.) put her team on her back in the second frame and finished the game with 13 points, while adding three assists. The Huskies finished the contest shooting .444 (28-of-63) to earn their 50th all-time victory when playing as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Hayes added seven assists and five rebounds to her stellar outing for UConn in today's game.
Sophomore Maya Moore (Lawrenceville, Ga.) scored 22 points and pulled down five rebounds marking her eighth consecutive game with double-figure points and her 35th this season. Kalana Greene (Saint Stephen, S.C.) had seven points and five boards as the Huskies took their largest lead of the afternoon with their last field goal of the game to push their advantage to 24 points on a Moore jump shot.
Junior Tina Charles (Jamaica, N.Y.) saw just six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble but recorded five points and eight rebounds, while adding three blocked shots for the Huskies.
After today's win, UConn moves to 15-2 in regional semifinal appearances and improves to 36-0 on the season for the first time since the Huskies' 39-0 expedition in 2001-02.
The Huskies will return to action on Tuesday night as they will face either No. 2 seed Texas A&M or No. 6 seed Arizona State for the right to advance to the Final Four in St. Louis, Mo. on April 5-7. Tip time for the NCAA Regional Championship is set for 7:00 p.m. (EST).
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