Wahine center Christen Roper couldn't hold on to this pass yesterday against the Connecticut Huskies.

Wahine give champs a test,
but lose 60-53

For UConn's Taurasi, 'average' is effective

By Al Chase

Hawaii had an opportunity to measure itself against one of the nation's elite teams yesterday when the Rainbow Wahine played No. 5 Connecticut in the semifinal round of the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.

The defending national champion Huskies, a young developing team that won its first three games by an average of 42 points, was facing the host team, one that concerned coach Geno Auriemma.

"My concern was their style of play, how disciplined they are in running their offense," Auriemma said of the Wahine. "We're not a pressing kind of team, so I was concerned about how well we would handle that.

"It's still early in the season. We haven't come up against that kind of discipline yet, but that's the reason you play these games. Every time we come here, we end up playing Hawaii and you know you are going to get tested. It's a mental test."

The Wahine had a chance to break a three-year, eight-game losing streak to nationally ranked teams, but it did not happen yesterday, as UConn won 60-53.

The Huskies (4-0) used a 12-0 spurt in the first half and some tough defense in the final four minutes of the game when their offense managed just two points.

The Wahine started very well early, as April Atuaia scored the first six points for a 6-2 lead. The score was tied at 10 after nine and a half minutes when the Huskies exploded with 12 unanswered points.

Diana Taurasi started the run with a 6-foot, turnaround jumper from the right baseline with 10:09 left before the half. After misses at both ends, Willnet Crockett scored on a driving layup. Ashley Battle picked off a lazy UH pass to the wing and drove the court for a layup. After another UH miss, Taurasi drove the lane and, while in the air, slipped a pass to Crockett for an easy 2. Battle made an identical steal, was fouled and sank both free throws. Jessica Moore completed the run with a bucket off another Taurasi assist.

The Wahine (3-1) made a brief run before the half on a pair of free throws by Amy Sanders and Christen Roper, and baskets by Michelle Gabriel and Natasja Allen. That cut the deficit in half, but UConn responded on a trey by Taurasi and two from Ann Strother to lead at intermission 33-21.

"We kept them to 33 points at halftime and kept their shooting percentage (41 percent) down. They were at a spot where they don't want to be," Goo said. "I'm sure they felt they would come out in the second half and try to run us over so they could clear their bench and play everyone.

"What hurt us was that streak where they got easy transition baskets. They had good anticipation and there was a little bit of anxiety on our part because of our youth."

Goo was forced to use freshmen Penny Jones and Sanders earlier than he might have liked when Allen picked up her second foul with 14:29 left in the opening half.

As usual, Hawaii did not have as much success from its power game, but not from lack of trying; the Wahine only attempted eight 3-pointers.

"We saw (Friday's) game and we saw that UConn kind of sagged off a little of defense, so we could run our offense, but they are so athletic and quick," Gabriel, the UH point guard, said.

"No matter what we ran, we knew they were going to be right there. They didn't do anything that surprised us. They played man the whole time. They were playing off me, but they are so huge I couldn't pass around them. I told our post players I was having trouble getting the ball to them. When we did get a good look at the basket, it was very quick."

The Huskies maintained a double-digit lead most of the second half until their shots stopped falling and UH edged closer and closer by making free throws and the only 3-pointers they made in the game from Gabriel and Atuaia.

Atuaia cut the UConn lead to 55-51 with 4:43 remaining. The Huskies answered with a 24-foot 3-pointer at 4:23 by Maria Conlon, her only points in 28 minutes, and two free throws by Taurasi with 35 seconds left.

Hawaii's only points in the final 4:43 came on a layup by Roper with 17 ticks left, as the UConn defense did its job down the stretch.

"It sucks. We knew we were right there," Gabriel said.

The 60 points was 22 below UConn's season average. The Huskies entered the game shooting 56 percent from the field. UH held them to 37 percent. It still wasn't enough for an upset or to keep the Huskies from their 43rd consecutive win over two seasons.

The Wahine get another chance against a ranked team when they play No. 11 North Carolina for third place today at 5:30 p.m.

In a rematch of last year's NCAA title game, UConn plays Oklahoma for the title at 3:20 p.m.

No. 23 Oklahoma 66, No. 11 North Carolina: The Sooners pulled a mild upset by holding off the Tar Heels in a fast-paced game.

After taking a 33-25 halftime lead, the Sooners (5-1) quickly increased the advantage to 42-30 only to have the Tar Heels (3-1) battle back and take a one-point lead with 11:57 to play on La'Tangela Atkinson's basket.

OU went on another spurt to build an 11-point lead, 61-50, but couldn't shake the Tar Heels, who pulled within two points, 65-63, with 15 seconds left on Coretta Brown's two free throws.

Dionnah Jackson, who led OU with 21 points, made one of two free throws, but Brown's 3-point attempt with four seconds left was off the mark.

DePaul 92, Fordham 73: The Blue Demons (2-1) increased their seven-point halftime lead to 20 in the first 10 minutes of the second half to reach today's fifth-place game against Denver at 1:10 p.m.

The Rams (2-2) play Gonzaga for seventh place at 11 a.m.

Denver 62, Gonzaga 43: The Pioneers (1-3) took advantage of an eight-and-a-half-minute Gonzaga freeze on offense to outscore the Bulldogs (1-3) 18-2 and secure their first win of the season.

UConn 60, Hawaii 53


fg fga ft fta min reb a tp

Taurasi 7 16 2 2 38 6 7 18

Conlon 1 5 0 0 28 4 2 3

Valley 0 0 0 0 3 1 0 0

Wolff 0 2 0 0 18 6 2 0

Battle 3 8 7 9 30 8 1 13

Crockett 2 4 0 0 13 5 2 4

Moore 5 10 0 3 26 6 0 10

Turner 0 3 1 2 14 1 0 1

Strother 4 12 0 0 30 2 2 11

Team 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0

Totals 22 60 10 16 200 40 16 60

WAHINE (3-1)

fg fga ft fta min reb a tp

Abele 1 12 4 6 31 0 1 6

Macfarlane 0 0 0 1 5 0 0 0

Roper 4 12 4 4 33 11 1 12

Jones 1 2 0 0 16 5 0 2

Gabriel 3 5 1 3 35 1 3 8

Sanders 1 3 4 4 17 2 1 6

Atuaia 5 11 6 6 32 3 1 17

Allen 1 2 0 0 27 7 2 2

Spooner 0 0 0 0 4 1 0 0

Team 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 0

Totals 16 47 19 24 200 35 9 53

Key--fg: field goals; fga: field goals attempted; ft: free throws; fta: free throws attempted; min: minutes; reb: rebounds; a: assists; tp: total points.

Halftime -- UConn 33, Hawaii 21

3-point goals -- UConn 6-18 (Strother 3-6, Taurasi 2-5, Conlon 1-2, Battle 0-3, Wolff 0-1, Turner 0-1), Hawaii 2-8 (Gabriel 1-1, Atuaia 1-2, Abele 0-5). Personal fouls -- UConn 18, Hawaii 13. Technical fouls -- none. Steals -- UConn 6 (Battle 4, Moore 2), Hawaii 2 (Abele, Gabriel). Blocked shots -- UConn 5 (Wolff 2, Taurasi, Battle, Moore), Hawaii 1 (Roper). Turnovers -- UConn 8, Hawaii 10. Officials -- Lisa Jones, Donovan Lewis, Todd Apo. T -- NA. A -- 1,759.

UH Athletics

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