UConn women take on St. John's in the semis
Hartford - Step One of whether March Madness can correct the previously maddening begins tonight at the XL Center for the UConn women, for whom a little revenge would coincide with a championship.
The third-seeded Huskies can avenge one of their two home losses in February in the Big East Tournament semifinals against No. 2 St. John's. UConn advanced with an unimpressive 49-34 win over No. 6 Rutgers, while St. John's made the tournament semifinals for the first time since 1988 with a 68-61 win over No. 7 Louisville in overtime.
UConn and St. John's play tonight at approximately 8:30 p.m. or 20 minutes after the completion of the semifinal between top-seeded Notre Dame and West Virginia.
UConn achieved its season low for points in a game. It scored 56 at Louisville last month.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who led UConn with 17, scored 15 of them in the first half when she made five of the six three-pointers she attempted. Stefanie Dolson added 10 for the Huskies and Bria Hartley scored eight.
UConn shot 33 percent from the field, which was scorching compared to Rutgers' 11-for-45 (24 percent).
UConn led 30-18 at the half, but scored four points in the first 9:30 of the second half. The Huskies (27-4) were never left to squirm much, thanks mostly to Rutgers' scoring disorder. Rutgers never got closer than eight.
Still, UConn coach Geno Auriemma wore a look of exasperation for much of the second half, frequently running his right hand through his hair, pondering answers.
"We talked all day about how difficult Rutgers games are," Auriemma said. "They all have the same pattern. It's difficult to get shots, to get things flowing in a sustainable way. Combine that with the number of missed shots and our defense had to win it for us."
St. John's (22-8) has won nine straight, highlighted by the noteworthy win over UConn at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 18 and Sunday night's win over Louisville.
After Sunday's game, moderator Lisa Cascio alerted the media that this was St. John's first appearance in the semifinals since 1988. St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico playfully interrupted Cascio with a holler of affirmation.
"I was in high school in 1988," she cracked, ''and these kids weren't even born."
She was alluding to Shennika Smith, Nadirah McKenith and Da'Shena Stevens, on the podium with her.
Smith, who hit the game-winning three pointer at Gampel in the final seconds, had 24 points and eight rebounds against Louisville.
Barnes Arico, recently named Big East Coach of the Year, can become the first coach to beat UConn in Hartford and at Gampel in the same year. She was asked how her program has changed since the fateful night in Storrs.
"You media people are actually talking to me," she said.
"People know who we are now," she said. "Even though we had been doing well, once we beat Connecticut, the rest of the country knew who we were. Our confidence is at an all-time high."