BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (March 23, 2008) – Four Huskies scored in double-figures, led by freshman Maya Moore (Lawrenceville, Ga.) with 17, as the No. 1 seeded University of Connecticut women's basketball team downed 16th-seeded Cornell 89-47 in the first round of the 2008 Division I NCAA Tournament on Sunday night at the Arena at Harbor Yard.
Moore added eight rebounds and three assists for the 33-1 Huskies as she recorded double-figure points for the 33rd time in 34 games played this season. Senior Charde Houston's (San Diego, Calif.) 14 points marked the 69th time in her career and seventh of the season that she recorded double-figure points for the Huskies as well.
With the win, UConn improves to 62-15 all-time in NCAA Tournament play while the Huskies mark their 33rd victory this season, their highest single-season win total since the 2002-03 campaign when they also posted 33 victories. Cornell falls to 20-9 on the year.
En route to facing Cornell for the first time in program history, the Huskies earned their automatic berth into the 2008 NCAA Tournament after winning the BIG EAST Championship for the third time in the past four years. Cornell finished the regular season with a share of the Ivy League title with Dartmouth and Harvard and earned its first ever berth into post season play in the history of the program.
The Huskies began the night with a 7-0 run, sparked by Kaili McLaren (Washington, D.C.) who recorded the first five points for the Huskies with two lay-ups and free throw. Cornell finally recorded their first bucket of the game at the 16:34 mark with a three pointer by Gretchen Gregg to cut the lead to four. McLaren recorded nine points and eight rebounds in the first round battle.
UConn posted a 16-0 run over a 4:27 span in the first half to take a double-figure lead for the first time. The Huskies were able to pull away right before the end of the half as they recorded their largest lead of the half on a Meghan Gardler (Springfield, Pa.) lay-up to extend their lead to 30.
Cornell was held without a field goal for 10:57 minutes in the first as Cornell shot just 21.7-percent on 5-for-23 shooting from the field. The Big Red hit 11-of-13 from the charity stripe for a 84.6-percentage in the half while UConn shot 22-of-41 from the floor, a mark of 53.7-percent.
Ketia Swanier (Columbus, Ga.) recorded her 243rd career steal with 15:19 on the clock in the first half to move into a tie for ninth place with former Husky Sue Bird on the UConn career steals list. She recorded two more steals to tally 245 steals in her career to put her alone at the seventh spot.
Swanier also picked up four assists to improve her career assist mark to 459 to move her past former Husky all-star Shea Ralph to eighth place on the UConn career assist list.
In the second half, UConn extended their lead to 46 points at the 9:55 mark as Moore hit a deep three-pointer off a Swanier pass. The Huskies never lost the lead to the Big Red and kept Cornell shooting at 21.2-percent, 7-for-33, throughout the second half. UConn's fearless defense held Ivy League Player of the Year and Cornell's leading scorer Jeomi Maduka to 0-for-10 shooting from the floor. Maduka finished with seven points as she shot 7-for-8 from the free throw line.
UConn posted a final shooting percentage of 54.3 while Cornell finished the night shooting just 21.4-percent from the floor on 12-for-56 shooting. The Huskies held their opponent to 12 made field goals and a 21.4 shooting percentage, a program low in both categories on the season. Prior to tonight's match-up, the lowest made field goals in a game by Cornell was 16 against Bowling Green on Dec. 21, 2007.
Cornell's Gretchen Gregg finished the night with eight points while Allie Fedorowicz also had eight. Maduka and Kayleen Fitzsimmons added seven a piece for the Big Red.
Junior Renee Montgomery (St. Albans, W. Va.) finished the night with 10 points, three assists and four steals while Brittany Hunter (Columbus, Ohio) recorded her sixth double-figure scoring game of the season and first since Jan. 27's win over Notre Dame.
With the win the Huskies advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament and will face off against No. 8 seeded Texas on Tuesday night. Game time is set for 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
SCOREBOARD 1st 2nd Final Cornell 23 24 47 Connecticut 53 36 89
- UConn improves to 62-15 all-time in NCAA Tournament play (over 20 appearances) following tonight’s opening round win over Cornell.
- UConn extends its current winning streak to 12 consecutive games following today’s NCAA first round win over Cornell.
- UConn has now won its last 22 overall games played in the state of Connecticut.
- Tonight’s NCAA first round game marked the 19th time over the last 20 seasons in which UConn opened NCAA play in the state of Connecticut.
- UConn moves to 16-2 overall in the first round of the NCAA Tournament following tonight’s win over Cornell and has won its last 16 straight.
- UConn has won 27 of its last 29 NCAA Tournament games overall following tonight’s win over Cornell.
- UConn improves to 37-4 in NCAA Tournament games since the 2000 season.
- UConn improves to 46-10 all-time in NCAA Tournament games when it received an automatic berth.
- UConn improves to 44-6 all-time when playing in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed.
- UConn has won 16 of its last 17 NCAA Tournament games when playing as a No. 1 seed. -
UConn improves to 34-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament games played in the state of Connecticut.
- UConn moves to 4-0 all-time against opponents from the Ivy League in NCAA Tournament following tonight’s win over Cornell.
- Tonight’s win marks UConn’s 33rd this season - its highest single-season win total since the 2002-03 campaign - when it also posted 33 victories.
- UConn improves to 221-3 in its last 224 games against non-ranked opponents since Jan. 31, 1999.
- UConn improves to 6-1 all-time when playing on March 23 (Head Coach Geno Auriemma’s Birthday) following today’s win over Cornell.
- UConn has now won its last 86 games overall against non-ranked opponents, following tonight’s NCAA first round win over Cornell.
- UConn recorded a 7-0 run over the initial 3:10 of the game.
- Ketia Swanier passes Sue Bird for seventh placed on UConn's career steal list - she entered the game with 242.
- UConn posted a 16-0 run over a 4:27 span in the first half to take a double-figure lead for the first time.
- Ketia Swanier passed Shea Ralph for eighth place on the UConn career assist list at 459 - she entered the game with 455.
- UConn held Cornell without a field goal for a 10:57 stretch in the first half. UConn out-scored the Big Red 30-9 over that span.
- Eight different UConn players scored points in the first half of the game.
- UConn's 53 points in the first half marked its seventh half with 50 or more points this season.
- Maya Moore's 17 points marks the 33rd time in 34 games that she has recorded double-figure points.
- Brittany Hunter tallied her sixth double-figure point game this season with 11 points.
- Charde Houston's 14 points marked the 69th time in her career and seventh of the season that she recorded double-figure points.
- The Huskies held Cornell to just 12 made field goals, a team low for the Big Red this season.
Head Coach Geno Auriemma
“I said coming into this game that at this time of the year you want to be in the right frame of mind, you want to be mentally, emotionally - however you want to describe it - you want to be locked in to the tasks at hand. You can’t be worried about Tuesday, or where the Regional is, or who you might play down the road. And I think we did a great job of doing that. When you play a team like Cornell that you don’t get a chance to see during the regular season, either on television and they’re certainly not a league team, you’re going in blind a lot of times. And I think because of how hard they played and they competed, it got our energy level up a little bit as well. And I’m really proud of our team and it was a great way to start the NCAA Tournament.”
On the most important thing after the 12-day layoff
“It’s kind of unnatural when you play twice a week - sometimes three times a week - and all of a sudden you’re playing once in 12 days. And you’re not sure how you’re going to react to the actual game. The first shot we took was an airball. The juices are flowing and you’re anxious. I want to see the concentration, gauge the psyche of our team, as opposed to the technical stuff. That will come a little later. I thought we were in a great frame of mind. I wanted to see us come out where our defense was going to dictate what happened in this game. And I thought we did that. And when that second group came in, and we were able to extend our defense, Charde was a big part of that. I just thought it went about exactly as I would hope to, given the layoff.”
On how it helped having Charde and Brittany step up
“When you’re a senior and you’ve been in the NCAA tournament as many times as they have, I don’t think they’re as anxious or hyper. But one of the reasons we started Brittany was that I wanted to get her back in the mix. Today for the first time in about a month she played her limit, 13 minutes tonight. If I don’t start her, I don’t think I’d be able to do that. So we accomplished that goal. Charde has been playing great, ever since the game at DePaul. She looked like the Charde you rarely see, making the right plays at the right time, making good passes, going to the basket, making jump shots. That kind of takes the pressure off some of the younger guys.”
On not starting Tina Charles tonight, was that just a matter of getting her refocused?
“No, I don’t think that was the case as much as Brittany (Hunter) is, again, I wanted to get her into the mix. I like the way Kaili (McLaren) has been playing. One of the reasons we’ve gotten off to such good starts is Kaili’s ability to pass the ball from the high post. And she did it today with Brittany. Tina and Brittany together might not give us the same scenario. That was the main thinking going in. I could change my mind come Tuesday night, I don’t know. It might be Brittany and Charde. Might not. It’s a secret.”
On Charde’s continued focus right now
“I don’t think there is a lot of stuff floating around in Charde’s head at this point. It’s pretty clear. You really can’t say that was the case last year or the year before. She came into the BIG EAST tournament with a lot of self-doubt, a lot of questions about herself and her confidence level. I think these last three weeks or so have been different for her. She’s rid herself of a lot of that nonsense. Practicing great. And that was always Charde’s problem, she was a bad practice player. And she’s been a really, really good practice player, and I think it’s carrying over into the games. And I have every hope it’s going to continue.”
On what he expected from Maya Moore tonight
“Maya never plays like you expect her to play. That’s the one thing you know for sure going in. We’ve kind of come to expect that she play flawless in every area, all the time. And that’s just not possible. Tonight we were all moaning and groaning with her when she would come out of the game, she couldn’t hold on to the ball, couldn’t rebound, wasn’t active, didn’t make herself a big factor on the offensive end. Then you realize, this is her first NCAA tournament. But because she’s Maya you expect more. And second half comes around and she’s involved in everything. The bar has been set so high that it’s going to be impossible for her to play the kind of game that all of us will go ‘yeah, that’s it right there.’ I don’t think that is possible at this point. But for her first NCAA game, I would say she came through with flying colors.”
On starting off the game, going 3-11, and then reeling off 15-2 run
“I wasn’t aware we were 3-for-11, so I didn’t really react to that. If I had known, maybe I would have been more animated on the sideline. I was happy that we were getting good shots and it was just a matter of time before they would drop. Once we changed tempo and got some guys in the game that could do that, it happened quickly I know that. It went from 7-5 to all of a sudden a lot. It happened kind of quickly. And that’s how we operate. We have a tendency to go on runs. Other than the fact that I thought we fouled a lot in the first half, you can’t do that against an Ivy League school, they’re good free throw shooters. You need to be intelligent, solid, and calm to be a good free throw shooter. In the second half when we didn’t foul, it was difficult for them to get into any offensive rhythm.”
Junior guard Renee Montgomery
on the balance Connecticut had offensively
"I think that's the best way to win games - when everyone's involved and everyone's playing at the same level of intensity. That's the way we like to play."
Senior guard Ketia Swanier
on the balance Connecticut had offensively
"I think our defense had a lot to do with it, too. Everybody was getting after it and a couple of people got steals here and there and everybody was running the floor well."