Old Dominion Versus Connecticut AP Preview
March 24, 2002
GAME: No. 7 Old Dominion (28-5) vs. No. 1 Connecticut (36-0).
REGIONAL: Mideast, final.
TIME: Monday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
SITE: U.S. Cellular Arena, Milwaukee.
Last time Connecticut brought an undefeated team to the NCAA tournament, it couldn't get past the regional final.
The top-seeded Huskies look to keep this perfect season alive and reach their third straight Final Four when they face Old Dominion on Monday night.
Two years after going undefeated and winning its first national title, Connecticut hadn't lost entering the 1997 NCAA tournament. But that season ended with a defeat by Tennessee in the Midwest Regional final.
Old Dominion reached the national championship game that season, and now tries for an upset that would return the Lady Monarchs to the Final Four for the first time since.
The Lady Monarchs gave the Huskies one of their closest games of this season as UConn won 84-70 on Dec. 29 behind 29 points and 12 rebounds from Swin Cash.
The Huskies come off another win that was closer than they are used to. Saturday's victory over Penn State was by 18 points, about half of their season average for margin of victory.
"I'm not sure they're going to let us play Monday night. We only won by 18," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said wryly.
Auriemma's team will play for a third straight Final Four. The Huskies won the 2000 national title and lost to eventual champion Notre Dame in last year's national semifinals.
Old Dominion was somewhat overlooked entering the tournament after receiving a No. 7 seed. But after beating traditional powers Georgia and Purdue in the first two rounds, the Lady Monarchs certainly look like a threat to the Huskies, especially after their superb play in Saturday's 88-62 rout of third-seeded Kansas State.
Lucienne Berthieu scored 30 points as the Lady Monarchs shot 66 percent from the field. Berthieu, the three-time Colonial Athletic Association player of the year, missed all of last season with a knee injury, and the Lady Monarchs were still getting used to playing with her again in the first meeting with the Huskies.
Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry thinks her 6-foot-2 forward could make a difference Monday for her team, which has won 21 straight games.
"I would like to think Lucienne was not as healthy as she is now. We hadn't decided on a lineup because of injuries," Larry said. "We were in a state of disarray at that point in time.
"We now know who our go-to guys are and who to go to off the bench. To have an opportunity to fight for a spot to the Final Four, we will be able to put our best game together on the floor."
UConn has won four of the five meetings, all of which have come in the last five seasons. The teams have never faced each other in the NCAA tournament.
Connecticut - F Tamika Williams (10.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg), F Cash (15.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg), C Asjha Jones (13.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg), G Sue Bird (14.0 ppg, 5.9 apg), G Diana Taurasi (14.2 ppg, 5.3 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Old Dominion - Automatic bid, Colonial Athletic Association tournament champion. Beat No. 10 Georgia 68-54 in first round, beat No. 2 Purdue 74-70 (OT) in second round, beat No. 3 Kansas State 88-62, regional semifinals.
Connecticut - Automatic bid, Big East tournament champion. Beat No. 16 St. Francis 86-37, first round, beat No. 9 Iowa 86-48, second round, beat No. 4 Penn State 82-64, regional semifinals.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD:
Old Dominion - 32-17, 19 years.
Connecticut - 38-11, 14 years.