Auburn 53

(22-9, 9-5 SEC)

Connecticut 79

(27-4, 14-2 Big East)

    9:00 PM ET, March 23, 2004

    Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, Connecticut

    1 2 T
    AUB 36 1753
    CONN 42 3779

    Top Performers

    Auburn: L. Willingham 14 Pts, 2 Reb

    Connecticut: D. Taurasi 17 Pts, 3 Reb

    Huskies will play UC Santa Barbara

    BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut gave Geno Auriemma a defensive gem.

    The second-seeded Huskies helped their coach celebrate his 50th birthday Tuesday night with a 79-53 win over Auburn in the second round of the East Regional.

    UConn clamped down hard on the Tigers and went on a 30-4 run in the second half to win going away. All of Auburn's points during that stretch came from the foul line.

    "In so far the biggest game of the season, I thought we did the best job we've had all season," Auriemma said. "I'm really proud of them. Tonight was one of those nights where everything we planned came to fruition and the players made it happen."

    Senior All-American Diana Taurasi made five 3-pointers to lead UConn (27-4) with 17 points. The Huskies made a season-high 14 3-pointers, the most Auburn has given up all year.

    UConn was just as potent defensively. When Auburn's open looks disappeared, so did its offense. The seventh-seeded Tigers (22-9) missed their first 17 shots in the second half. Le'Coe Willingham scored Auburn's first basket with 3:49 left.

    "They just went into another level of defense. They got into our shots," Willingham said. "They rattled us and we didn't recover."

    The two-time defending champions advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament for the 11th straight year and will play UC Santa Barbara on Saturday. The Gauchos advanced Monday with a 56-52 win over Houston.

    UConn had the benefit of the crowd all night long. Most of the 9,900 that packed the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport were Huskies fans. The game was played about an hour from Hartford, UConn's second home court and the site of this weekend's East Regional semifinals and final. During the first timeout, several stood up with cards spelling out "Happy 50th Birthday Geno."

    Taurasi, who won her second straight Naismith Award as the country's top player Tuesday, shot 5-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with seven assists. She's already the school's career 3-point leader and is two assists from breaking the assist mark of 637, held by Jennifer Rizzotti.

    Taurasi said she and her teammates communicated a lot better in the second half on their coverages.

    "In the first half, we really were not talking that much and a couple of times we got confused on what defense we were in," Taurasi said. "The key was keeping (Willingham) off the block."

    Willingham led Auburn with 16 points, and Louise Emeagi added 12.

    Ann Strother finished with 16 points for UConn. She and Maria Conlon, who had 12 points, made four 3-pointers each.

    The Huskies shot 64 percent in the first half, including eight 3-pointers, and led by as many as 12. Ashley Battle's breakaway layup with 9:06 left gave UConn a 29-17 lead.

    But the Huskies stumbled for the next three minutes, turning the ball over four straight times. Auburn capitalized with a 7-0 run that featured a 3-pointer from Mandisa Stevenson. The teams traded baskets down the stretch and UConn held a 42-36 lead at the break.

    Auburn was making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2000, but coach Joe Ciampi's squad did have postseason experience. All nine players were members of last season's WNIT championship team.

    It wasn't enough against UConn, which is trying to become the first team to reach the Final Four five straight years.

    "We played a great team tonight, a team that showed why it was the defending champion," Ciampi said. "If they play like this throughout the tournament, great things will happen for them."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 53 79
    FG Made-Attempted 18-49 (.367) 30-56 (.536)
    3P Made-Attempted 7-19 (.368) 14-27 (.519)
    FT Made-Attempted 10-15 (.667) 5-7 (.714)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 10 (0/0) 11 (0/0)

    Game Leaders

    PointsL. Willingham 14D. Taurasi 17
    ReboundsM. Stevenson 7B. Turner 6


    Connecticut leads 15-2
    » Mar 23, 2004 @CONN 79, AUB 53Recap | Box Score