March 21, 2007
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma's halftime message to his trailing team was calm and simple.
"If you want to go to regional, you've got to defend the 3, and you've got to be smart," Auriemma said.
The top-seeded Huskies responded after the break with a 14-2 run to erase a 46-42 second-half deficit and pulled away from there, routing No. 9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 94-70 in the second round of the Fresno Regional.
The win snapped a 26-game winning streak for the Phoenix, the longest in the nation.
Freshman Tina Charles led five UConn players in double figures with 22 points.
"We just came out more aggressive (in the second half)," Charles said. "Coach always wants us to be big in the post and I think we accomplished that."
UConn (31-3) dominated inside, outrebounding Green Bay by 11 and getting 46 points in the paint to just 24 for the Phoenix. The 6-foot-4 Charles hit nine of her 11 shots, most of them layups.
"I don't think there's a freshman in the country that's had a bigger impact on her team than she has had on ours," Auriemma said.
Senior Natalie Berglin led Wisconsin-Green Bay with 28, hitting six 3-pointers. The Phoenix stayed in the game early by shooting 3s. They took 28 shots from behind the arc, hitting 10.
"I just kind of thought to myself, If I get any open looks, I have to take it, 'cause I'm probably not going to see many," Berglin said. "This is it for me, so I just wanted to play my heart out."
She did, but UConn had an answer for her in Mel Thomas, who hit five 3s of her own and finished with 21 points. Charde Houston, Renee Montgomery and Kalana Greene each had 16.
"I think the first half we didn't take advantage of our height advantage," Houston said. "The second half, we talked it over and understood that our inside game was a big factor. We just made a much better effort to not just post up, but to finish everything. Well, almost everything.'
Connecticut will play No. 4 North Carolina State in Fresno. The Wolf Pack beat Baylor 78-72 in overtime Tuesday.
Green Bay (29-4) jumped out to a 10-4 lead on UConn, hitting four of their first five shots.
But UConn turned up the perimeter defense and went on a 19-4 run, holding the Phoenix to 1-for-13 shooting and taking a 23-14 advantage.
Green Bay came right back, hitting four 3-pointers in the final 9 minutes of the first half, and outscoring the Huskies 26-15 to take a 40-38 lead into the break.
"That was the most inspirational half of basketball that I've ever witnessed in my life," said Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth.
Nicole Soulis, who at 6-2, was the Phoenix's only starter over 5-10, finished with 14.
The Phoenix took over the nation's longest winning streak after Marist's upset Middle Tennessee on Monday.
But UConn has a streak of its own. This will be the Huskies 14th straight appearance in the regional semifinals.
This is the second big streak the Huskies have broken this season. Their 72-71 victory over LSU in Baton Rouge Feb. 11 snapped the Tigers' 43-game home winning streak.
The Huskies were just the second ranked team Green Bay played this season. The Phoenix lost to then-No. 21 DePaul 71-70 on a buzzer-beater Nov. 29, and hadn't been beaten since.
UConn has won five national championships and is making its 19th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. But there are no seniors on the team and the Huskies' four juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen have never been to a Final Four. UConn won the last of its five national titles in 2004.
Connecticut averaged 14,215 fans at the seven regular-season home games played at the Civic Center. Just 6,824 showed up for Sunday's 9:30 p.m. start and only 7,257 were on hand Tuesday night. It was the seventh consecutive time the NCAA and its broadcast partner, ESPN, have chosen to start a tournament game involving UConn after 9 p.m. on the East Coast.