Old Dominion Eliminated In Elite Eight
By ODU Athletics
March 25, 2002
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Sue Bird and the unbeaten Connecticut Huskies bounced the party crashers right out of the NCAA tournament.
Bird scored a career-high 26 points and dished out 11 assists as UConn advanced to its third Final Four in the last eight years by beating Old Dominion 85-64 on Monday night.
The Lady Monarchs (28-6), miffed at their No. 7 seeding, had used the perceived slight to fuel upsets of second-seeded Purdue and third-seeded Kansas State.
But they could only watch helplessly as the top-ranked and top-seeded Huskies (37-0) made their first 13 shots and sank their first five free throws in racing to a 34-14 lead less than 10 minutes into the Mideast Regional final.
Over the weekend, Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry, whose team lost to the Huskies by 14 in December and had won 21 in row, said: "We're in a position now to ruin parties."
To which UConn coach Geno Auriemma jokingly retorted: "Party crashers usually get beat up or arrested, don't they? At least they did where I come from."
They were turned away at the door Monday night.
With a dominating display of crisp passing and accurate shooting, the Huskies jumped out to a 20-4 lead in less than five minutes and sank 19 of their first 21 shots from the field before "settling" for a 75 percent mark (21-of-28) at halftime, when they were up 55-33.
Their lead never dipped below 14 in the second half.
They'll play the Vanderbilt-Tennessee winner in San Antonio next weekend in search of their third national title and second unbeaten season under Auriemma, who won championships in 1995 and 2000.
It's the third Final Four appearance for seniors Bird, Asjha Jones, Swin Cash and Tamika Williams - considered the top recruiting class in the game's history.
Old Dominion was seeking its first Final Four trip since losing to Tennessee in the 1997 championship.
But Lucienne Berthieu, the Monarchs' leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, got into early foul trouble and finished with just six points and four rebounds in 17 minutes. She had no points and one rebound after halftime.
She didn't check into the game in the second half until 11:33 remained with the Monarchs trailing 68-50.
Old Dominion got within 14 points at 72-58 with 6:12 left when Okeisha Howard, who led the Monarchs with 20 points, made two free throws.
UConn responded with four free throws, two by sophomore Diana Taurasi, who scored 22, and two by Bird, and the Monarchs were done.
Bird broke her previous career high of 25 points with an eight-foot jumper from the left baseline with 1:09 remaining.
The Huskies finished with 25 assists, the first of which broke their own NCAA record of 786 in a season.
UConn has been the top-ranked team all season, beating opponents by an average of nearly 37 points - a pace that would break its own NCAA record of 33.2 set in 1994-95. The Huskies also are on pace to challenge the mark for lowest average points allowed, 51.1 set by Utah last season.
UConn improved to 39-11 in NCAA play, all under Auriemma. The last time Connecticut had an unbeaten regular season, 1996-97, the Huskies lost to Tennessee in the regional final.