DePaul Falls to Connecticut in BIG EAST Semi's
Box Score - Postgame Audio
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut forward Barbara Turner figured DePaul would make one last run. The Huskies were ready for it when it came.
Turner scored 14 points and grabbed a couple clutch rebounds down the stretch that helped Connecticut reach its 16th BIG EAST tournament final. The ninth-ranked Huskies advanced Monday night with a 69-57 semifinal win over DePaul.
"Throughout the game we tried to concentrate on keeping our composure," Turner said. "We knew they had a run in them, they are a great offensive team. It was just a matter of us not making mistakes we made before."
Ann Strother added 13 points for the second-seeded Huskies, winners of 12 conference tournament titles. They will take on 12th-seeded West Virginia in Tuesday's championship.
The Mountaineers, seeking their first title, became the lowest seed to reach the championship game in 23 years with their 56-40 upset over top-seeded Rutgers in the first semifinal. The Scarlet Knights swept Connecticut in the regular season, denying them a share of regular season crown. The Huskies have used that as a rallying cry for the tournament.
"Obviously that's what we set out to do after we lost the regular season," Turner said. "That's what has carried us through this. We just have to have the same thing going into tomorrow."
The Mountaineers win denied Connecticut a chance to avenge its last loss to Rutgers, but the Huskies say they're not about to overlook one of the hottest teams in this tournament on Tuesday. West Virginia lost leading scorer Meg Bulger to a season-ending knee injury in January and lost eight straight games to end the regular season. But they've pulled over three straight upsets to get to the final.
"They are obviously they are playing with a lot of confidence right now," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "They are going to be harder to play against, because before you knew Meg was going to take 20 shots. If you guarded her that takes care of that. Now you don't know where the shots are coming from, they they are coming from everywhere. Everybody is contributing."
The 13th-ranked Blue Demons (25-6), one of five former Conference USA members to join the Big East this season, haven't won a conference tournament since the 1998 Great Midwest Conference title.
Khara Smith led the third-seeded Blue Demons with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Her jumper with 8:43 left tied it 51-all. The Blue Demons (25-6) trailed by as many as 10 but were able to climb back into it when the Huskies hit a six-minute scoring drought early in the period.
Connecticut regained the lead for good on Mel Thomas' three-pointer with 7:57 left. Smith countered with a hook shot to get DePaul to within a point. Turner made sure they would get no closer.
She hit a long jumper on Connecticut's next possession to start a 6-0 run, and grabbed two straight defensive rebounds. Strother hit a backdoor layup to put the Huskies up by seven.
Smith's two free throws with 3:53 would be DePaul's final points as the Huskies closed out the game with a 7-0 run.
"I thought we got some pretty good looks in the last seven minutes but once they got it spread there in the last two minutes I started running some thing to get quick shots," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "It's a tough team to get quick shots against. That's a big time team playing a big time game in a big time atmosphere."
Game Notes: The loss snapped DePaul's seven-game winning streak... the team has now made 203 three-pointers this season, marking the seventh straight year with at least 200 three's... the 38-33 deficit at halftime was the first time DePaul trailed at the half since Jan. 31 at West Virginia... the Blue Demons have held their last nine opponents to less than 70 points... they are 7-2 in that span with defeats at then No.9 Rutgers and against Connecticut in the BIG EAST Tournament... Khara Smith played her 128th career game setting a new school record... she also registered her 20th double-double of the season and 74th of her career... Caprice Smith's 11 rebounds marked her second career game with at least 10 boards... Connecticut now leads the series, 2-1, with two victories this season.