The Cardinal Down Huskies, Punch Ticket To Elite Eight

March 27, 2005

Box Score

AP Sports Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Women's basketball will have a new champion thisyear - finally. Connecticut's remarkable run is over.

Stanford made all the right plays down the stretch and got 21 points fromfreshman sensation Candice Wiggins to beat Connecticut 76-59 on Sunday night inthe semifinals of the Kansas City Regional.

After winning the last three national championships and four of the lastfive, Connecticut (25-8) won't even make it back to the Final Four, its 20-gamewinning streak in NCAA tournament play is history.

It was the Huskies' earliest exit from the NCAAs since they lost to IowaState in the regional finals in 1999. Since then they had gone 30-1 in thetournament until running into a Stanford team that showed the same grit thathas carried UConn to so many victories through the years.

Tara VanDerveer motions to her players in a game against Connecticut during the NCAA Kansas City Regional.

Stanford (32-2), ranked No. 1 but only the No. 2 seed in the regional, moveson with a 23-game winning streak and is just a victory from its first FinalFour trip since 1997. The Cardinal will play top-seeded Michigan State, a 76-64winner over Vanderbilt, in the regional final Tuesday night.

They got there with a strong second half against the game's most dominantprogram. It wasn't always pretty, what with all the jostling and shovingunderneath the basket and, in the first half especially, some near woefulshooting.

But the Cardinal will take it. They erased a six-point halftime deficit bystarting the second half with a 6-0 run, then went ahead to stay with a 16-5burst midway through the half.

Wiggins, Susan King Borchardt and Sebnem Kimyacioglu each made a 3-pointerduring that critical stretch, Wiggins added a 15-foot jumper and T'Nae Thielconverted a three-point play, making it 54-46 with 7:18 to play.

There was still enough time for Connecticut to make one more run, but itnever happened. The Huskies got it down to 58-53 on Ashley Battle's 3 with 4:42remaining, only to have Stanford deliver the fatal blows.

First it was a 3-pointer by Borchardt, then a 3 by Wiggins, who came onstrong after a terrible first half. That made it 64-53 with 3{ minutes to playand the end was near for the Huskies. They couldn't come up with any miracleplays on the floor and coach Geno Auriemma couldn't conjure up any moresideline magic.

With 1:38 to play, the lead had grown to 15 and the Huskies knew it wasover.

As the final seconds ticked away, the Connecticut players sat glumly on thebench and Auriemma stood with his hands on his hips, a look of resignation onhis face. He started toward the Stanford bench to shake hands with coach TaraVanDerveer even before the final buzzer sounded.

Wiggins, a second-team All-American and the Pac-10 player of the year,hardly looked the part while scoring only six points and committing fiveturnovers in the first half. But she shook it off and proved her mettle overthe final 20 minutes, hitting a couple of 3-pointers and finishing 11-for-12 atthe free throw line.

Borchardt went 4-for-5 from 3-point range - and 6-for-7 overall - to finishwith 16 points. Kelly Suminski added 12 for the Cardinal, who shot 57.7 percentin the second half.

Connecticut sputtered on offense from the beginning and really never gotinto any kind of flow at that end of the floor. The Huskies were just 9-for-33in the second half, shot 32.4 percent for the game and committed 16 turnovers.

Barbara Turner, with 17 points, was the only Connecticut player in doublefigures. Battle and Jessica Moore each scored eight for the Huskies and theusually reliable Ann Strother had only four on 2-for-8 shooting.

Even with all of that going against them, the Huskies led 41-38 when MelThomas hit a 3-pointer with 13:59 left. Then it started to unravel for thedefending champs.

Angela Perryman's layup drew Stanford to within a point and Borchardt's 3from the deep right corner put the Cardinal up 43-41. Turner tied it with abucket inside, but UConn's elation was short lived.

Kimyacioglu nailed a 3-pointer, her only basket of the night, and Wigginsfollowed with a jumper. It was 48-43 and Stanford led the rest of the way.

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