NCAA WBK: Sooners drop to No. 1 Huskies
By JEFF LATZKE
AP Sports Writer
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma gave top-ranked Connecticut the kind of second-half scare it rarely has gotten as its streaks toward the history books.
Huskies coach Geno Auriemma wants to see more of it.
Tiffany Hayes scored 20 points, Maya Moore added 18 points and 10 rebounds and Connecticut trailed after halftime for only the second time this season before pulling away to beat No. 11 Oklahoma 76-60 Monday night and extend its unbeaten streak to 65 straight games.
“The people out there that read our scores and watch us, they’re under this impression that we come out, we play and everybody just says, ‘OK, let’s lose by 30 and then go home,'” Auriemma said. “When other teams compete and the other teams play really hard and they do what they’re supposed to do and they’re well-coached like this team is, it’s going to be a game.”
“Not enough people do that against us. Yeah, we’re really good but when teams play us as hard as Oklahoma did tonight, the scores will be what they are.”
Making their last foray outside Big East play before the postseason, the Huskies (26-0) trailed with 16 minutes to play – the latest they’ve trailed this season – before Moore had six points during a 13-2 response as UConn regained control.
“Inside of our minds, we still could have been so much more relentless, so much more aggressive, just so much more of that killer instinct, which is, I think, why we are who we are,” Moore said. “That’s why we can walk away from this game feeling proud of ourselves but still not being satisfied.
“I think as long as we keep that feeling of not being satisfied, on top of the way we practice, and just continuing to develop that attitude, the sky will be the limit for us.”
Oklahoma (18-7) rallied back from a 14-point, first-half deficit and led by one on three occasions before Connecticut clamped down and started forcing the Sooners to settle for jump shots.
Danielle Robinson scored 18 points to lead Oklahoma, and Amanda Thompson added 16 points on 6-for-21 shooting and 13 rebounds. The Sooners fell to 0-8 against Connecticut and 0-10 against No. 1 teams.
“We can compete with anyone on any given night. We can compete,” coach Sherri Coale said. “You know, you can tell your kids that, and it’s another thing entirely for them to do it and to know that from the experience of it. I know it’s a loss, but I think if anything, we build from this and go attack the rest of our Big 12 Conference schedule.”
The Sooners were trailing by three when they had to force shots on back-to-back possessions with the shot clock running down, and the Huskies didn’t afford them any more opportunities. Coale credited Auriemma with switching his defense to zone and then back to man-to-man to get Oklahoma off-balance.
“I thought we stopped producing on the offensive end, and that was the big difference,” she said.
Tina Charles hit a foul line jumper, Caroline Doty nailed a 3-pointer from the left side and Moore connected on a jumper in the lane after a scrum for an offensive rebound as Connecticut’s lead grew to 51-41 with 10:29 left. Oklahoma was still within 10 with under 6 minutes left before the Huskies inched away to win by double digits as they have throughout their winning streak – the second-longest in women’s basketball history.
The Huskies have won all 20 of their games against ranked opponents during the streak by an average of 26 points.
“We knew what we were capable of, and we came out and showed that tonight,” Robinson said. “I don’t think the score is representative of how we played, as tight as the game was. We just didn’t make some plays at the end, but I think we fought.”
Charles had 19 points and nine rebounds and Kalana Greene had 14 points for UConn. Oklahoma, a 71 percent foul shooting team, went 10-for-17 on free throws, with most of the misses coming when the Huskies were well within reach.
“You can’t miss easy shots against these guys. And we’ve been so good from the free throw line,” Coale said. I kind of think it affected our confidence.”
Connecticut got off to its usual fast start, opening its first double-digit lead in the first 7 1/2 minutes and going up 26-12 when Greene got behind the defense for an easy layup with 8:39 left in the first half.
Coale called timeout immediately after that basket and deployed a 2-3 zone that slowed a Huskies’ offense that had been creating layups with relative ease. She went to a 1-3-1 a few possessions later and disrupted UConn even more, with Oklahoma scoring the final eight points of the half to get within 32-30.
Thompson took an inbounds pass from Robinson right under the basket and banked in a layup, then bounded the full length of the court as though the Sooners had just won the game on a buzzer-beater.
It was only the fourth time since the winning streak began that an opponent was within two points of Connecticut at halftime.
Oklahoma went ahead for the first time on Thompson’s jumper with 18:10 left in the game and Robinson was able to answer baskets by Greene and Moore to put the Sooners up twice more. Greene then scored off a baseline inbounds pass to put UConn back on top 40-39 with 15:46 left, and the Huskies started pulling away from there.
Updated February 16, 2010