April 7, 2010
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The shots weren't falling for Tina Charles and Connecticut, so the Huskies did what they do better than any team in NCAA tournament history.
UConn clamped down on the defensive end, swarming Stanford, swatting shots and making that 12-point first half nothing more than a minor setback on the way to a 53-47 victory in the NCAA championship game Tuesday night.
"We knew we weren't going to finish the game the way we started," Connecticut forward Maya Moore said. "Our defense was outstanding in the second half. Tina Charles was blocking shots left and right. We never looked back."
The Huskies scored a dozen points in the first half against Stanford, a record for fewest in a title game, and hit just two of their first 20 shots. But UConn's defense never let the game get out of hand.
UConn held Stanford to five points in the first 11 minutes of the second half. It was one last suffocating performance by the Huskies in a tournament filled with them.
Already the top defense in the country, UConn turned it up in the NCAAs. The Huskies allowed 43 points a game in the tournament, topping the 2007 Tennessee team that gave up 47.3 points in its title run.
The Huskies trailed 20-12 at halftime Tuesday night. The only other time they were down at half this season was in December against Stanford.
This second half went similarly to that one, Cardinal forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike said.
"They amped it up like they did when we played them in December," Ogwumike said.
Charles had six blocks for UConn, none bigger than swatting Ogwumike twice on back-to-back possessions while the Huskies got off on 17-2 run to open the second half.
After blocking Ogwumike the first time, Charles grabbed the ball and fired it upcourt to Moore for an easy layup. When Ogwumike tried a jumper the next time down, Charles got her hand up and knocked the shot down again.
"They kind of pressed us a little more," said Ogwumike, who finished with 11 points. "They were trying to pressure us, and also sag in."
After Ogwumike was blocked for a second time, UConn guard Caroline Doty went down the other end and hit a jumper, pushing the UConn lead to 29-22. By then, the Huskies had scored more points in the first seven minutes of the second half than they did in the entire first.
And when baskets started falling, UConn got back to focusing.
"When you're not scoring and you're constantly running back, you're thinking about, 'We didn't score, oh my God! We didn't score again," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "That weighs on your mind and then you make mistakes defensively."
The Huskies held Stanford to 27 percent shooting in the second half, and most of those baskets came when it was too late. Sixteen of the Cardinal's final points came in the final four minutes.
"We had to keep playing hard and execute what we didn't execute in the first half," Moore said. "Sometimes it's just that simple."