No. 2/2 Stanford Falls in Battle with No. 1/1 Connecticut
April 5, 2009
ST. LOUIS - Renee Montgomery scored 26 points, Maya Moore added 24, and unbeaten UConn cruised to its first title game in five years with an 83-64 victory against Stanford on Sunday night.
UConn will face Louisville for the title Tuesday night, setting up the first all-Big East final in NCAA women's basketball history. The Cardinals missed their first 13 shots before rallying to beat Oklahoma 61-59.
UConn (38-0) already has routed Louisville twice this year, including dismantling the Cardinals 75-36 in the Big East tournament championship game in early March.
'They're not the same team,' Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. 'Once you get into the NCAA tournament, your team changes.'Advertisement
With an imposing lineup that featured five starters over 6 feet, Stanford (33-5) was would be a challenge Connecticut. The Cardinal were the last team to beat Connecticut, knocking them out of the Final Four last season.
That challenge didn't last long.
After Jayne Appel got off to a quick start, the Huskies swarmed the Stanford star on defense, sometimes sending four players at her. The Cardinal couldn't stop Renee Montgomery on the other end.
UConn had perfect seasons in 1995 and 2002. The Huskies also entered the NCAA tournament unbeaten in 1997, but fell to Tennessee in the regional final.
Besides Connecticut, only the Lady Vols and Texas have run through a season unbeaten.
This was the second successive season that Stanford and Connecticut met in the Final Four. The Cardinal walked away with a 82-73 victory last season before falling to Tennessee in the title game.
On Sunday, they tried to run with the Huskies early and led 14-13 in the first half. Appel was unstoppable, scoring 10 of the team's first 14 points on an array of post moves.
But then the Huskies clamped down, going on one of their vaunted runs that have carried them all season long.
Connecticut scored 18 of the next 22 points to take a 31-18 lead. As she has been for most of the season, Montgomery was the catalyst.
The senior guard, who was the first UConn player to have her jersey retired while still playing, started the spurt with a 3-pointer. She had seven points during the burst that ended with Kaili McLaren's putback with 5:39 left in the half.
The teams traded baskets for the rest of the first half as UConn went into the break up 37-24. It was the 32nd time this season that they held a double-digit lead at the half.
UConn put together a 13-0 run after intermission, holding Stanford without a point for the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second half. Moore, the Associated Press player of the year, had seven during the surge.
Appel finally ended the drought with a layup, but it was too late as Stanford trailed by 24 points at that point. The Cardinal could only get within 19 the rest of the way.
Stanford had won 20 straight coming into the Final Four, including capturing its sixth consecutive Pac-10 tournament title. But the Cardinal couldn't get going offensively besides Appel, who grabbed seven rebounds to break the single-season school record set by Nicole Powell in 2003-04.
The victory over Stanford set up only the fourth meeting in the championship between teams from the same conference.