‘Nova falls to undefeated Connecticut in Big East semifinals


Despite keeping the contest close for much of the first half, the women’s basketball team fell to undefeated Connecticut, 72-42, in the semifinal round of the Big East tournament on Monday evening in Hartford, Conn. The No. 1 Huskies, who improved to a perfect 32-0 on the season, advanced to their second-straight Big East final to face No. 7 Louisville in a rematch of last year’s conference championship.

Villanova was able to play with the Huskies for nearly 15 minutes of the first half, and a 3-pointer by senior Siobhan O’Connor with 5:37 left to play in the half tied the game at 26 points apiece. However, UConn’s Big East player of the year Maya Moore (who scored a game high 17 points) took over at that point, scoring twice and dishing out two assists to lead the Huskies on an 11-0 run to close out the half. From that point on it was all UConn, as Villanova’s perimeter shooters, who had kept the game close up until then, went cold. The Wildcats shot 30 3-pointers throughout the game, but only made two in the second half for a total of eight. The Huskies, meanwhile, dominated inside and made an impressive 56.4 percent of their field goals.

While junior Tia Grant (13 points) and O’Connor (11 points) had solid games for Villanova, the team greatly missed the production of leading scorer Laura Kurz, who was held scoreless throughout the entire game. Kurz, who led the Wildcats with 21 points in their victory over Notre Dame in the quarterfinals, was frustrated by stifling defense from UConn’s freshman Tiffany Hayes. Hayes allowed Kurz only seven field goal attempts in her 31 minutes of playing time, all of which she missed, and did not allow her to get to the free throw line at all.

The Huskies played disciplined defense throughout the contest, giving up a mere five fouls and only sending Villanova players to the line twice. Meanwhile, Moore alone had six steals to lead her team to a 24-3 advantage over the Wildcats in points scored off of turnovers.

In the faceoff of the Big East’s co-coaches of the year, Connecticut Head Coach Geno Auriemma’s squad simply played at a faster pace than that of Harry Perretta’s Villanova team, leading to multiple double-digit runs for the Huskies that kept the game out of the Wildcats’ reach. UConn, which has not lost to an unranked opponent in its last 113 games, also saw solid production from Tina Charles (16 points) and Renee Montgomery (12 points).

By advancing to this year’s Big East final, the Huskies won their 20th conference title in the last 22 years. They hope to do in order to maintain their momentum as they enter the NCAA tournament as heavy favorites for the national title.

While losing to Connecticut for the second time in as many weeks was a disappointing end to the conference tournament for the Villanova players, their season is likely far from over. Despite the loss, Villanova’s 58-47 quarterfinal victory over Notre Dame, augmenting their 19-13 overall record (10-6 in conference play), is expected to be enough to gain them one of the Big East’s at-large bids for the NCAA tournament. While recent projections show expectations of somewhere around a No. 8 seed for the Wildcats, they can only wait and see what the selection committee will decide.