Geno Auriemma at Monday's press conference (AP)
March 29, 2010
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma had already spoken at length from the dais about his team's dominating victory over Iowa State in the NCAA regional semifinals.
Later, surrounded by beat writers and women's basketball junkies, he offered a pearl of insight into his remarkable team.
"That's what drives this team: They don't care what the score is," he said after the Huskies' 74-36 win Sunday. "They want to play well. And when you play well, it's a great feeling."
No wonder the Huskies are so upbeat these days. Riding an unprecedented 75-game winning streak, they earned a spot in their fifth straight regional championship game and 10th in 11 years by not only stifling Iowa State's array of 3-point shots but turning that weapon back on the Cyclones.
Maya Moore, whose chief competition for best player in the country might be teammate Tina Charles, made her first four 3-pointers while scoring 25 points to lead the Huskies (36-0), who hit 11 of 26 shots behind the arc. Despite an off shooting day, Charles added 16 points, as did pesky sub Kelly Faris.
It was enough to leave the vanquished coach feeling as if he'd received corporal punishment.
"Connecticut was certainly as good as advertised," said Iowa State (25-8) coach Bill Fennelly. "I don't think I've had a whipping like that since I was a little kid and broke something of my mom's."
It was also enough to give pause to the Huskies' next opponent. Courtney Ward scored Florida State's last six points - all in the last 38 seconds - to push the Seminoles past Mississippi State, 74-71, in the second semifinal.
Good news? The Seminoles have gone deeper than they've ever gone in the NCAA tournament.
Bad news? They get UConn on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the University of Dayton Arena.
No sooner had Florida State coach Sue Semrau sat down to discuss the biggest win in program history than she was overwhelmed with questions about somebody else's team.
So, coach, are the Huskies the best team of all time?
"I haven't been around for all-time, so I can't tell you if they are the greatest team of all-time," she said, an edge to her voice. "They're a great basketball team."
She ought to know. Back on Dec. 28, UConn came to Tallahassee and put a 78-59 beatdown on the Seminoles. It's safe to say that the 'Noles know what they're up against.
"We have to lock in and get focused," center Jacinta Monroe said. "We have to focus on ourselves and what we need to get better at. We made some mistakes (in the earlier meeting), clearly, so we just have to get back after it tomorrow and work on what we have to work on."
UConn is certainly on a roll. The Huskies have won their first three games in the tournament by a combined 148 points - the most ever. UConn easily surpassed the previous mark of 131 it set in 2000 and 2001.
Believe it or not, the Huskies were dissatisfied with their play and have turned it up a notch in the last month.
"We had a little break after the (BIG EAST) tournament to rest and practice and I think that we built since then," said Moore, who outscored Iowa State all by herself until there was under 6 minutes left. "We are extremely happy with where we are right now. It's the perfect spot to be in. The shots are going in, the whole team is getting the ball, everybody's on the same page. We are trying to stay focused and continue this run that we have."
Florida State (29-5), which set a school mark for wins, earned its first spot ever in a regional title game.
After 11 ties and 14 lead changes, the Seminoles finally got the lead for good with 1:40 left when Alysha Harvin was fouled during a loose-ball scrum and broke a tie at 66 by hitting both foul shots. Ward hit two more free throws and a layup in transition for a 72-66 lead before a bizarre five-point play (a made 3-pointer and a foul on the rebound) cut the lead. But Ward then hit two more foul shots for a 74-71 lead. Alexis Rack's long, tying 3-pointer at the buzzer was on line but just long for Mississippi State (21-13).
Semrau was asked about the earlier game against the Huskies and whether it might leave her players intimidated.
"If I put myself in the heads of 18- to 22-year-olds who have watched Connecticut annihilate people, I think there'd be trepidation," she said. "We haven't just watched it; we've been there in a game with UConn. And that will help us in our approach."