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No. 1 Women's Basketball Comes from Behind to Defeat No. 3 North Carolina 82-71

STORRS, Conn. (January 21, 2008)Charde Houston (San Diego, Calif.) had 15 points, all in the second half as the No. 1/1 University of Connecticut women’s basketball team clipped No. 3/3 North Carolina, 82-71, before a thrilled sellout crowd of 10,167 at Gampel Pavilion on Monday night. 

The Huskies overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to win the game. The 11 points ties for the second-biggest halftime gap ever overcome to win a game by UConn under Geno Auriemma, a feat last accomplished by the Huskies at St. John’s in 1992. Today’s win keeps UConn’s perfect record for the year alive and well at 18-0 while the Tar Heels fall to 17-2. 

The Huskies, forced to play without three of their five starters due injuries, held North Carolina, the nation's highest scoring team, to nearly 20 points below its per game average (90.4).

Renee Montgomery (St. Albans, W. Va.) led all scorers with 26 points, a sum which includes six three-pointers. Tina Charles (Jamaica, N.Y.) had 15 points and a career-high tying 19 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the year. Maya Moore (Lawrenceville, Ga.) also chipped in 19 points to the UConn cause, her 18th double figure scoring game in 18 career contests for the blue and white. LaToya Pringle led UNC with 20 points.  

The start was inauspicious for the Huskies. UNC opened the contest on an 8-0 run over the first 2:28 of the game with six of the points coming from Pringle. The Huskies were cold early, falling prey to a tough Tar Heel trap that forced a pair of early turnovers, including a backcourt violation. 

Moore got the Huskies on the board after a wisely called 30-second time out by Auriemma. The teams followed that run up with a succession of 3-pointers. Moore and Montgomery drained long distance baskets for the Huskies but each was countered by Heather Claytor for UNC. The Tar Heels were boosted by a big early edge on the offensive glass, grabbing seven offensive rebounds in the first five minutes of play. 

UNC’s lead stood at 18-10 at 14:37 when a quick 7-2 mini-run saw the Huskies whittle their deficit down to three points at 20-17 at the 14:07 mark with two Montgomery threes fueling the UConn spurt. 

The teams battled fairly evenly for the next six minutes of action. On three separate occasions the Huskies trailed by as few as four points but the Tar Heels tied their big lead of the game at eight points when they took a 32-24 edge on a pair of Cetera DeGraffenreid free throws at 9:00. While the next several minutes were evenly played on the court and scoreboard, a quick burst just before intermission gave the Tar Heels a comfortable edge at the break. Rashanda McCants drained a long three with 1:20 left in the half to put UNC up 10 at 42-32, marking the largest deficit that the Huskies have faced all season. Claytor’s hoop with six seconds remaining put UNC up 44-33 at half time. 

The Huskies evened out their early rebounding deficit but were doomed in the opening stanza by poor shooting as the team hit on just 12 of its 41 shots (29-percent) before the break. Showing its depth, eight different Tar Heels scored in the first half whole Montgomery (12), Moore (nine) and Charles (nine) combined to score all but three of UConn’s 33 points. The first of Montgomery’s four three pointers gave her 1,000 points for her UConn career. She is the 30th Husky to hit this plateau. 

At 11 points, it was UConn’s largest halftime deficit since trailing Tennessee by 12 points, 41-29, on Jan. 6, 2007 at the then-Hartford Civic Center. 

UConn responded well out of the break, starting the second half on a 15-3 run, trimming the deficit to four points at 47-43 at 16:57 when Charles put back a Moore miss, forcing a UNC timeout. Montgomery took over after the time out, getting a third-chance basket at 16:14 to make it a two point game. She then nailed a three from the top of the key at 15:15 to give UConn its first lead of the game at 48-47. Impressively, five different Huskies scored in this run led by Montgomery’s seven points. 

After UNC retook the lead at 49-48 on the next possession, Moore swished a three from the same spot at the top of the key that Montgomery had just hit from to put UConn back on top 51-49.  

With the game tied at 51-51, Houston scored three straight baskets from the same spot under the basket in a 42 second span to give the Huskies a six-point edge at 57-51 with 12:08 to play. 

UNC would knot the score again at 59-59 but Montgomery broke free and hit a runner in the lane at 9:32 to put UConn back on top. That basket started a quick 6-0 mini-run for UConn. Ketia Swanier (Columbus, Ga.) stole the ball on the ensuing UNC possession and rushed the court, leading to a Charles hoop at 9:17. The next possession saw Houston power her way to the hoop for two points and a 65-59 UConn edge at 8:43.  

The next 10 points were all scored by the Tar Heels as they retook the lead and extended it to 69-65.

UConn followed that run with a 9-0 burst of its own, capped by a Charles block which led to a Moore triple at 3:40 that gave the Huskies a five-point advantage at 74-69. The Huskies held a 76-71 lead after Houston banked one in off the glass at 2:36 and neither team would score again for almost two minutes under a barrage of steals. The Huskies made their foul shots from there and held UNC without a bucket to account for the 82-71 final score. In all, the Tar Heels had just one basket in the game’s final 6:56. 

After a cold first half, UConn shot 46-percent in the second half (18-for-39) and forced 15 Tar Heel turnovers after the break. UConn had a season-high 27 offensive rebounds and matched its season high with 15 steals. 

The Huskies will return to action on Sunday night when they travel to Indiana to face Notre Dame. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and tipoff at 7:00 p.m.

SCOREBOARD 1st 2nd Final 3/3 North Carolina  44 27 71 1/1 Connecticut 33 49 82


Postgame Notes

 -    With its 11-point halftime rally tonight, UConn tied for the second-biggest halftime deficit overcome to win a game under Geno Auriemma. It had previously accomplished that 11-point come-back three times. UConn trailed St. John’s 32-21 at halftime on Feb. 9, 1992 at Alumni Hall but rallied to win the game 60-55. The Huskies also trailed Syracuse, 36-25, at halftime at Manley Field House on Jan. 17, 1991 before rallying to win, 65-63. UConn trailed UMass 35-24 at intermission on December 12, 1985 at the Greer Field House but rallied for a 62-59 win.

-         Today’s crowd of 10,167 marks the first women’s basketball sellout at Gampel Pavilion since Jan. 27, 2007 vs. Notre Dame. 

-         The Huskies have now sold out 76 games at Gampel Pavilion since the 1997-98 season. 

-         UConn senior Mel Thomas was honored prior to the game for scoring her 1,000th career point on Dec. 5 vs. Virginia. 

-         UConn improves to 3-5 all-time vs. the Tar Heels and snaps a three-game losing streak in the series. 

-         UConn extends its regular season winning streak to 31 consecutive games. 

-         UConn improves to 10-4 all-time when playing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

-         UConn owns a 29-10 record when playing on ESPN2 dating back to the 2001-02 season. 

-         UConn moves to 3-2 overall when playing as part of ESPN’s “Big Monday” women’s basketball package. 

-         UConn is a perfect 5-0 at Gampel Pavilion this season and has won its last 16 straight games at the facility. 

-         UConn junior Renee Montgomery became the 30th player in UConn history to register 1,000 career points – she currently boasts (997) points through 91 career games. 

-         UConn improves to 177-9 when playing as the nation’s No. 1 ranked team. 

-         UConn moves to 18-0 to start the season for the first time since 2002-03 and the sixth time in the program’s history. 

-         UConn moves to 123-51 all-time against ranked opponents and is a perfect 4-0 in 2007-08 versus ranked foes. 

-         UConn slips to 122-52 all-time against ranked opponents and is 4-1 in 2007-08 versus ranked foes. 

-         North Carolina opened the game with an 8-0 run over the opening 2:28 

-         Renee Montgomery’s 26 points marked the ninth time in the last 10 games she has posted double-figure points, the 12th time this season and the 56th of her career 

-         North Carolina’s 11-point halftime lead marked UConn’s largest deficit this season.

-         Tina Charles 15 points and 19 rebounds marked her team-leading ninth double-double this season. 

-         Maya Moore’s 19 points extended her streak of double-figure scoring games to open a career to 18 straight. 

-         Charde Houston’s 15 points marked her second game with double-figure points this season and the 64th of her career. 

-         Tina Charles 19 rebounds tied a career high. 

-         Renee Montgomery’s 26 points marked her second straight game with 20-plus and the eighth of her career. 

-         Renee Montgomery has made 13 3-point field goals over the last two games.

University of Connecticut

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Head Coach

On the game:

“I thought the way the game started how North Carolina played almost flawless basketball in the beginning by making their shots, getting second shots and getting us on our heels right away.  I told the kids that this was like a heavy-weight fight, we walked in and right after the ref broke us up to get started, we got hit in the face.  It took us a long time to recover from it and every time it got close they would make a play or another shot. When we went in at half time down eleven; I don’t think it was really an eleven point game but it was.  In the locker room we talked about how we were going to spread the floor out on them and not allow them to start their offense.  Lorin and Renee started the second half off great and I think that gave us some confidence and momentum.  It was a lot of ups and downs in this game, I enjoyed watching it.”

On the 17-2 run to finish the game:

“We wanted to check that out; we wanted to make the game somewhat fast paced but only from defense to offense on our part, not up and down continuously. I thought we finally got it going the way we thought we could get it going and I don’t think you can say enough about how our players responded to being up and then giving it back to them. In the second half we probably thought we had the game won and then they took a four point lead back and for us to come back and to run away from them at the end; that is something that will help the team down the road more then anything else.”

On Charde Houston:

“I thought in the second half Charde was in complete control of her emotions and her game at both end of the floor.  I have seen that before over the course of four years and I think so did everyone else.  She has allowed it to get away, whether it is the next game or two games later she has allowed it to disappear.  Now she will be able to capture it and hold on to it for the rest of the season which would be my wish for Charde.”

Did Coach say something to you in the second half in order to get you fired up for grabbing the rebounds?

“It was just basically the look in Renee’s [Montgomery] eyes and her just needing me to step up.  I just know I just always have to have the mentality to get try and get every rebound and that’s what I tried to do.”

What did you do in the second half to overpower North Carolina in the paint?

“Just getting on the boards and just trying to get offensive and defensive rebounds as much as we could do. [We tried] to follow every layup that Renee, or Ketia [Swanier], or Maya [Moore] would have, just little things like that.” 

What sparked you in the second half?

“Well for me in the first half I knew that I didn’t produce at all and just seeing Renee – just as Tina said out there – trying to do everything by herself and on top of that being on the bench and having Mel [Thomas] with her leg up elevated, yelling at me and to tell me to, ‘Go out there and play like you can play.’  That really touches your heart and just knowing we lost three starters, that’s something that I hold very dear to me.  I wanted nothing more than for me to go out and produce in the second half.”

So was Mel tougher on you than Coach was?

“Yeah…I mean Coach is going to be Coach.  He can walk.  Mel can’t, so I wanted to show her that I really care about her, what happened, and the team as a whole.”

On the post play of the team:

“I mean we know that we are going to get ripped every single practice.  We’re highly aware of that.  It’s just a matter of Jammelle [Elliott] staying in our ear and myself, Kaili [McLaren], as well as Tina coming together and understanding that times are tough right now.  [Coach] needs us to step up in every single practice, every single game, so whatever we do wrong he is going to magnify it 100 times so we having to be ready for it and be willing to respond accordingly. ”

What did you need not to do to lose tonight’s game?

e refused to lose, no matter what the score was, we had to play hard and we refused to lose. We had to do everything right. We had to make sure they got one shot and that’s it. Because in the first half they were getting second shots every time down the court. We knew we had to rebound, we knew we had to get easy buckets in transition and we had to execute. I think everyone came with the mindset that we know what we need to do and we have to get it done.”

How important was the run in the second half and when you got the lead for the first time?

“I think that was huge. The whole first half we were trying to catch up and once we evened out with them we were like ‘okay, it’s a whole new ball game now.”

On Charde Houston’s play tonight:

“We know she has the capability to do it so once she got going I was like ‘ut-oh, this is trouble for them’ because once she gets going she is hard to stop.”

Are you enjoying your new role on the team as a primary scorer?

“It’s easy to be the two-guard because I do enjoy scoring but I do miss being the point guard because you had more control of the game and more control of what is going on. It is hard to not control the game especially if we are down.”

You struggled a bit from three-point range throughout the whole game, including the second half, did that allow you to drop down a bit from the perimeter and make more defensive stops on the inside?

“I think so. That was our game plan pretty much the whole game to make them prove that they can shoot. They came out extremely hot and that is going to happen sometimes but it’s not going to happen the whole game. We started to force them to take a contested shot and they weren’t going in and we were taking care of the rebound. Tina did an amazing job just grabbing every rebound. When it’s one shot and it’s over, it’s a whole new ball game for North Carolina, because I think that they rely on a lot of offensive rebounds.”

On playing and winning an elite game against a ranked opponent in the atmosphere of tonight’s game at Gampel:

“I think a lot of us are on the same page as far as feeling that we have been tested more than I think most teams do in a year, just as far as defining who we are. With each starter that we lost we had to prove again to ourselves, I think more than anything, that we are still the best team in the country. This was another game just like that.”

University of North Carolina

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Opening Statement:

“I want to congratulate Connecticut, especially in the second half. They came out with a much different intensity level then in the first half. It became a very physical game and we didn’t match that level. We lost the battle, but we didn’t lose the war, the war is not over. I told the players in the locker room it’s good that we played Tennessee and Connecticut and competed at their level and we hope that it will help us win more eventually.”

When you were up by 11 at the half, what was your strategy for the second half and what did you tell your players?

“I didn’t want us to relax because at the beginning of the game we made some shots that gave us security, but I knew the second half Connecticut would come out very intense. They did that and were very aggressive and very physical and I think we let it bother us a little bit and we don’t usually do that. I thought that made a difference. We also didn’t get the ball into Erlana Larkin as much as we wanted and we took way too many three point shots when we should have been driving.”

How does this game prepare you for Maryland and the conference schedule coming up?

“I hope it prepares us well because Maryland is an excellent team and they are very similar to UConn with Crystal Langhorne inside she is a lot like Tina Charles as far as rebounding goes. Hopefully tonight will prepare us for our game Saturday with Maryland.”


Can you talk about the physical play in the post especially with Tina Charles and Charde Houston?

“It’s nothing that I haven’t experienced before, but I think that it was good for us as a team. They did a great job of coming to double team and we did a great job of standing. I remember there were several times when I got the ball and I couldn’t find anyone open and since I had no dribble I had to turn and throw the ball hoping someone would get it. I think they did a great job of taking me away and forcing other players to do things.”

Can you talk about what you learned in this game and what you and the team need to improve on?

“We need to execute better down the stretch and compete when other teams go on runs. I think a lot of our team put our heads down when they eventually took the lead. We need to learn that basketball is a game of runs and when your opponent makes a run you have to respond.”