BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- Surrounded by young, untested
teammates, Diana Taurasi had to be great last March.
The 2003 player of the year helped carry Connecticut to its
second straight national title and fourth overall. This time
around, she making sure she gets everyone involved.
In the final NCAA Tournament of her stellar career, Taurasi had
18 points and nine assists Sunday night to lead the second-seeded
Huskies to an easy 91-55 victory over Pennsylvania in the first
round of the East Regional.
Her favorite targets were Jessica Moore and Barbara Turner,
usually wide open in the post. Turner had 17 points, all in the
first half, and Moore finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"That was our plan coming in," Taurasi said. "Get to Jess and
Barbara. Every game we go into, we want to get the ball inside."
The Huskies (26-4) will take on Auburn in the second round
Tuesday night. The seventh-seeded Tigers advanced with a 79-59 win
over North Carolina State.
The game was UConn's first since losing in the semifinals of the
Big East tournament nearly two weeks ago to eventual champ Boston
College. The layoff only helped to fire up the Huskies more, Moore
"I think that after sitting out for so long and just waiting
for the tournament to start, there was no possible way that we
weren't going to come out with some kind of emotion, no matter who
we were playing," Moore said.
The 15th-seeded Quakers (17-11) were making only their second
appearance in the tournament. Jewel Clark led the Ivy League champs
with 16 points, and Mikaelyn Austen had 14.
The Huskies dominated the smaller Quakers inside and their
stingy defense led to easy transition baskets, putting the game out
of reach quickly. Taurasi regularly found a cutting Moore or Turner
for back-door baskets.
"We pretty much played it the way we wanted to play it," coach
Geno Auriemma said. "Penn's kids shot the ball like they expected
every shot to go in. They didn't don't have enough good players
like we do. But I'm glad we won because we played well, not just
because we're a better team."
UConn shot 59 percent in the first half and used a 20-5 run to
take a 66-49 lead at the break. Taurasi opened the second half
hitting her first of three 3-pointers and the blowout continued.
The Huskies, in their 16th straight NCAA tournament, also had
the backing of nearly 10,000 fans at HarborYard in Bridgeport, the
home court of host school Fairfield. The arena is about an hour
away from the Hartford Civic Center, UConn's second home court and
proved to be just as friendly. Nearly every layup, 3-pointer and
bullet pass by Taurasi brought a roar.
With the East Regional semifinals and final in Hartford next
weekend, the Huskies, winners of four NCAA titles, have a chance to
make an unprecedented fifth straight Final Four without ever
leaving their home state. UConn is 24-3 in NCAA games played in
Connecticut and has won its last 23 home tournament games.
The game marked the first time in seven NCAA games that Taurasi
fell short of the 20-point mark. The 2003 national player of the
year, Taurasi averaged 26.2 points in last year's tournament and
scored 54 points in the Final Four. Taurasi was the lone returning
starter from the championship team that went 39-0 the year before
and graduated four All-Americans.
Last year's title was considered a long-shot by many and
expectations this year have put the Huskies in a unique situation,
"This tournament is different than any other," he said.
"Maybe because we did the impossible last year and we're trying to
do it again. We've never had a situation where people have had to
repeat the impossible."