Cardinal Women Ready for UConn
March 26, 2005
GAME: No. 3 Connecticut (25-7) vs. No. 2 Stanford (31-2).
REGIONAL: Kansas City, semifinals.
TIME: Sunday, 10 p.m. EST.
SITE: Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, Mo.
Not receiving a No. 1 seed despite finishing the season as the top-rankedteam in the country hasn't been a factor in Stanford's run through the NCAAtournament - until now.
After breezing past their first two opponents, the second-seeded Cardinalare now confronted with the daunting task of ending the reign of three-timedefending national champion Connecticut in the regional semifinals.
Though Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer shrugged off the selection committee'ssnub both before and after easy victories over Santa Clara and Utah in theopening rounds, she did let on that her team could have waited another fewdays, or even a week, to face the Huskies.
'I think there's probably some people surprised that it's a regionalsemifinal game and not a regional final or a Final Four game,' she said. 'I'msure UConn feels the same way.
'I think it will be hard because one team is not going to move on. I'm sureboth feel they're deserving of being an Elite Eight team or a Final Four team,but the bracket was not designed that way.'
The Stanford-UConn game is a rarity for the NCAAs - the nation's No.1-ranked team against the defending champion. The only other such game occurredin 1997, when Tennessee beat top-ranked Connecticut in a regional final on theway to the second of its three straight NCAA championships.
The third-seeded Huskies have cruised to easy wins over Dartmouth andFlorida State to reach their 12th consecutive regional semifinal. Connecticuthas won 20 straight tournament games - one shy of Tennessee's all-time record -dating to a loss to Notre Dame in the 2001 Final Four.
Though his team has had its way thus far, UConn coach Geno Auriemma expectsa much stiffer challenge from the Cardinal.
'Hopefully we can come out with the same energy level on Sunday becauseit's going to be a whole different ball of wax,' he said.
The Huskies used superior depth and defense to dominate Florida State onTuesday. Ann Strother scored 19 points, and Jessica Moore had 11 points, 12rebounds and three steals as UConn won its sixth in a row overall.
'Defensively we covered everything we wanted to cover. Offensively, we werereally in sync with each other,' Auriemma said. 'When we put in a whole newgroup, I think it took its toll on Florida State because I think they werealready a little bit winded.'
The Cardinal have reeled off 22 wins in a row, including Tuesday's 88-62rout of Utah. Brooke Smith scored 20 points to lead five players in doublefigures as Stanford got by without a big effort from top scorer CandiceWiggins, who finished with eight points in 25 minutes.
'We're really excited about what's to come,' Smith said. 'What's reallygreat about us right now is we're not expecting to win, but we're excited towin.'
Stanford leads the all-time series 3-2, but has lost its last two meetingswith UConn, including an 87-60 defeat at the 1995 Final Four. The Huskies wenton to win their first national title that year.
The winner will face either top-seeded Michigan State or No. 5 seedVanderbilt on Tuesday for a trip to Indianapolis.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Connecticut - F Barbara Turner (10.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg), CMoore (8.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg), G Nicole Wolff (4.2 ppg, 2.2 apg), G Strother (13.0ppg, 3.2 apg), G Ashley Valley (2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg). Stanford - F Wiggins (17.6ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.8 apg), F Kristen Newlin (8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg), C Smith (13.2 ppg,5.4 rpg), G Kelley Suminski (11.2 ppg, 2.7 apg), G Susan Borchardt (8.3 ppg,1.7 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Connecticut - Automatic bid, Big East tournamentchampion; beat No. 14 Dartmouth 95-47, first round; beat No. 6 Florida 70-52,second round. Stanford - Automatic bid, Pac-10 champion; beat No. 15 SantaClara 94-57, first round; beat No. 10 Utah 88-62, second round.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Connecticut - 55-11, 17 years. Stanford - 42-16,19 years.