With today’s win, UConn clinches at least a share of the 2006-07 BIG EAST Regular Season Championship – the 15th BIG EAST regular season title in the program’s history.
UConn improves to 24-2 and remains perfect at 13-0 in the BIG EAST. Pittsburgh drops to 20-6 and 8-5 in the conference.
UConn extends its current winning streak to 10 and has won 12 out of its last 13 games. UConn leads the all-time series with Pittsburgh 34-9.
Houston’s double-double marked her third of the season. Sophomore Renee Montgomery (St. Albans, W.Va.) dropped 17 points shooting 4-of-5 from 3-point range while freshman Tina Charles (Jamaica, N.Y.) scored 16 points with nine rebounds. Junior Mel Thomas (Cincinnati, Ohio) had 10 points on the day.
Pittsburgh scored the first two baskets of the game to take a 4-0 lead, but UConn went on an 11-0 run to go up 11-4. The run was sparked by two 3-pointers from Montgomery and Thomas with an old fashioned three-point play from Charles.
A block by Charles transitioned into two points in the post for Houston with 15:05 on the clock. Sophomore Kalana Greene (Saint Stephen, S.C.) drove baseline and used a pull-up jumper to take a 20-6 advantage. Thomas picked off a Panther pass that converted into a layup by junior Ketia Swanier (Columbus, Ga.) with 12:11 remaining in the first half.
Montgomery drained her second 3-pointer of the game after a quick steal by Swanier with UConn holding a 32-15 lead. Greene scored a bucket in the lane off a quick in-bound pass with 4:33 to go. Freshman Kaili McLaren (Washington, D.C.) grabbed her own rebound for the put-back with a 43-23 lead. Montgomery drove past two defenders for a layup as time expired to close out the first half with a 45-25 lead.
Houston led the Huskies in the first 20 minutes of play with 14 points while Montgomery added nine.
Charles scored two in the post which Greene followed with a layup on the ensuing possession with 16:01 on the clock. Charles knocked down two free throws to lift the Huskies to a 55-34 advantage.
Houston scored in the lane on back-to-back drives to give UConn a 59-45 lead. Montgomery hit again from 3-point range with 11:07 to go before Thomas connected from just inside the 3-point line to surge ahead 62-45.
Charles used a turnaround jumper to score two more with 4:01 remaining in the game. Thomas got two points off the glass with less than a minute to go to allow UConn to take the game 82-68.
Greene recorded eight points and eight rebounds while McLaren had six points. Charles’ four blocks moved her past Swin Cash for 10th place on the UConn freshman block list with her current total of 54.
UConn returns to the road for a BIG EAST clash at USF on Tuesday, Feb. 20 in a 7:00 p.m. (ET) tip at the Sun Dome in a game that will be televised by CPTV.
SCOREBOARD 1st 2nd Final Pittsburgh 25 43 68 UConn 45 37 82
ü With its win today, UConn clinches at least a share of the 2006-07 BIG EAST Regular Season Championship-the 15th BIG EAST regular season title in the program’s history.
ü UConn extends its current winning streak to 10 games.
ü UConn extends its current win streak at home vs. non-ranked opponents to 197 consecutive games.
ü UConn has won 12 of its last 13 games following today’s win.
ü UConn improves to 13-0 in the BIG EAST for the first time since 2002-03 and the sixth time in the program’s history.
ü UConn leads the all-time series with Pittsburgh 34-9.
ü UConn has won its last 21 meetings vs. Pittsburgh and 22 of the last 27 overall.
ü UConn improves to 71-10 all-time at the Hartford Civic Center and 5-1 this season.
ü Today marked UConn’s first game at the Hartford Civic Center since January 6 - a span of six weeks.
ü UConn has won 130 of its last 132 Big East home game since February 27, 1993.
ü UConn improves to 23-0 when leading at halftime.
ü UConn improves to 97-7 in BIG EAST games since January 18, 2001.
ü UConn improves to 193-3 since Jan. 31, 1999 vs. non-ranked opponents.
ü Tina Charles’ 4 blocks moved her past Swin Cash for 10th place on the UConn freshman block list her current total of 58.
ü Charde Houston’s 23 points represent her tenth consecutive game with double-figure points and her 16th this season.
ü UConn went on an 18-0 run in the first half over a span of 5:31-its third longest run of the season.
ü Renee Montgomery’s 17 points marked her sixth straight game with double-figure points and her 20th this season.
ü Tina Charles’ 16 points marked her 17th game with double-figure points this season.
ü Charde Houston’s 23 points and 12 rebounds marked her third double-double this season and the sixth of her career.
ü Charde Houston’s 23 points marked the fourth 20-point plus game this season.
Post Game Quotes
University of Connecticut
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Do you think the first half of the game was Final Four caliber?
“Well, the way we played in the second half I don’t know if we’re even one of the four best teams in the league. This team is obviously capable of putting together stretches where we look good. These last two games especially we’ve had stretches for five to ten minutes where we look like we could beat anybody in the country. How long we can sustain that I going to be the key. If we can get thirty minutes of basketball like that then we have a change of beating anybody we play. Like it always happens, some things show themselves in the second half but we also saw that if we don’t do what we need to do then we’re going to be in trouble. There may be a game where we’re not able to out score the other guys. Offensively we’ve been really good and we were good again today. The second half though, I don’t think we did anything really good on defense.”
On Charde Houston:
“I tell Jamelle Elliot all the time that whenever I want to try something new it turns over a new leaf. She always tells me that there’s more leaves that I’ve turned over than there are leaves in my back yard. I feel the same way about Charde. Right now Charde has played three really good games in a row. But it’s like an alcoholic that’s gone three days without drinking; it doesn’t mean that you jump up and down and say they’re cured. Talk to me April 10th and then we’ll see how Charde does. She’s on the right track; we’ll put it that way.”
Why do you seem skeptical about Charde?
“I’ve been coaching long enough to know not to believe anything that I hear, I just believe what I see. Sometimes I don’t believe that; I saw some things today that I’m not sure if I believe. It’s not skepticism, it’s reality. I don’t think anyone’s talking about Charde being All-American or BIG EAST player of the year. She’s got a lot of work to do and I’m happy that she’s on the right track. That’s all I’m going to say.”
On the rebound battles:
“Defensively, Kaili (McLaren) and I need to step up tremendously, I feel good but I also feel bad. I am happy that we won the game but I feel bad because my post defense was terrible and I need to step that up.”
You guys had 21 offensive rebounds but does it bother you that the other girl had 11 offense rebounds?
“It is not the fact that she had 11 offensive rebounds, it is the fact that we could not stop them.”
On the runs in the beginning of the game:
“We came out aggressive, we had the intensity and hunger in us and we didn’t want to play we score, you score with them.”
On game play:
“I feel emotionally and mentally that we need to get it done, we need to play Connecticut ball and play aggressive all the time.”
How does this win feel:
“It feels good; we are trying to be undefeated at the end of the regular season and are taking it one game at a time.”
On clinching a tie for the BIG EAST title:
“It reminds me of last year when we played Rutgers at Rutgers. It’s like having one hand on the title and having to win the next game to clinch the whole title. That’s what I think about. We basically understand that against South Florida, we have to go down there and play hard. We’re playing for something and we have to act like it.”
On the two big runs in the first half:
“It was extreme aggressiveness. We really turned it up on defense and forced them out of their comfort zone.”
Will it mean a lot to you if you win on Tuesday to clinch the BIG EAST title?
“It would definitely mean a lot being that I never won one, but at the same time that’s not something I really think about until that game is over. Right now we have to prepare to go down there and play them at their place, which isn’t going to be easy.”
On defending the post players on Pittsburgh:
“Marcedes Walker was a big presence in the post and then they brought in another girl, Selena Nwude. It was tough because Nwude is another big girl, so if she was shooting the ball, we couldn’t really help out the person defending her because then Marcedes would get the offense rebounds. It was a tough match-up.”
On Charde Houston:
“She has turned the corner. Whenever she’s in a slump, she really tries to work hard and get herself out of it instead of getting down on herself. I think her hard work is really paying off right now.”
On the two big runs in the first half:
“I think it was just shots falling. A lot of times we really did get the looks that we wanted to get and it was just a matter of our shots going in. I think when we go on our runs it’s just a case of our shots going in and then getting some stops on the defense end.”
This is the second BIG EAST team in a row that the team’s played going to the NCAA Tournament. You girls really took it to them. How does it feel?
“It would have been better if we could have won by a larger margin just because we were on such a role in the first half. It’s definitely good that we can go out there and play our game no matter who we’re playing against.”
Was there an energy dip in the second half?
“I think it was a lot of the fouls and the game getting choppy. It seemed like we had a foul every other play. Our game is to get it and go, run the floor, and press, and when there is a lot of fouls getting called it makes the game choppy. It’s tough and I think it did slow down our momentum.”
University of Pittsburgh
Head Coach Agnus Berenato
On the game:
“This was a great atmosphere to play in. We enjoy coming to Connecticut at this time of the year. Connecticut is a program that we want to model our program after. Our kids were very resilient, it looked like an early blowout, but we kept coming back. That is a sign of the future. I was very pleased with Jania Sims running our team, never being in an environment like this and as a freshman. I did not see any fear, and that’s all a coach asks for. She really tried to fight it out and she made some good passes, but then she made some bad passes. I give her credit because she tried, and the only way you can be successful is to attempt it. Selena Nwude was very good today, she had a great game. She’s really getting better as the season goes on. She and Marcedes Walker were a tough duo to guard. UConn did a nice job guarding Shavonte Zellous, but she didn’t stop attacking. We could have done a better job on the free throw line. If we were to compete, we had to make free throws and layups. We did a good job in the paint battling with their bigs, going head-to-head. We were only 12 for 23 from the free throw line, and that really hurts your momentum. Second chance points also made a difference in the game. The first shot will hurt you, but the second shot will kill you and the third will bury you. I felt we got buried today by Connecticut’s second and third chance offensive rebounds. They had 21 offensive rebounds and 26 points on second chance baskets. We didn’t do a good job boxing out. We’re very excited to come back up her in a couple of weeks for the Big East Tournament and I’m glad we had the opportunity to play.”
On Charde Houston:
“She played really well. Charde Houston is a big time player. She had a double-double, but I think we did do a good job on her when we dug. But big time players play big time games, and Charde Houston was a big time player coming out of high school. She really crashed the offensive boards. Last year when Connecticut came to Pittsburgh, we had 31 offensive rebounds to Connecticut’s 32 total rebounds. I guarantee that all UConn did yesterday was practice offensive rebounds and crashing the boards. They're bigger and stronger, and we just have to keep working to compete with that strength. Once we get some depth, we will be able to compete with them. Compliments to Charde, she had a great game today.”
On Shea Ralph:
“She’s very enthusiastic and she has great knowledge of the game. I don’t think she ever really wanted to be a coach, but she knew what players do. When she got to the coaching world, she was shocked by what we do as coaches. She is someone we can always use to talk to players. Sometimes when we tell players to do something they look at us like we have four heads, since we’ve never done it before. But Shea has done it to the best. She won a National Championship, she was the MVP of a Final Four, she was a Kodak All-American, she got her degree, and she had so many problems with her ACL. She’s really been a role model for the student-athletes. She’s been a great protégé to me, and she will be a great coach in the future. Connecticut should be very proud that she represented them, and now we are very happy to have her representing the University of