No. 4 UConn 74, No. 13 St. John’s 43

Kim Barnes Arico wasn’t ready to reflect yet on the tremendous

Big East season that St. John’s had.

It’s tough to blame the veteran coach as her 13th-ranked Red

Storm had just been routed 74-43 by No. 4 Connecticut in the

conference semifinals Monday night.

”It’s so hard to end on a note like this,” she said. ”I want

to appreciate what the kids have been able to do all season. I

think I tried to talk to them in the hallway. I know tonight is

frustrating because they felt a little embarassed. We played so

well leading up to this. I’ll need a few days.”

Despite the loss, it was a breakthrough season for the Red

Storm. They won 14 of their previous 16 games under the Big East

coach of the year and have a shot to get the highest seed in school

history when the NCAA tournament bracket comes out next Monday

night.

”Tomorrow’s a new day and what they’ve been able to accomplish

this year has been incredible,” Barnes Arico said. ”To beat UConn

at UConn and break that streak. They wanted to play us more than

anyone. It was a tough game for us. The year has been tremendous

and we’ve accomplished things we’ve never been able to accomplish

before. I wish we could erase tonight.”

Stefanie Dolson scored 23 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis

added 22 for the Huskies. The win was the 799th of Geno Auriemma’s

Hall of Fame career.

The Huskies will play No. 3 Notre Dame in the championship game

Tuesday night. The Irish routed West Virginia 73-45 in the first

semifinal.

”It’s been a while since we’ve had an opportunity to be the

team that we think we are,” Auriemma said. ”We’ll know more after

tomorrow night. We’re playing one of the top two teams in the

country tomorrow night. I think the challenge ahead of us is much

greater than last night or tonight.”

The teams have met five times in the title game and UConn has

come out on top each time.

UConn is one victory away from continuing its 18-year run of

winning either the Big East regular season or tournament title. The

last time the Huskies were a three seed in 2005, they won the

tournament crown.

To keep that streak alive, they will have to figure out a way to

beat the Irish, who have a rare three-game losing streak against

Notre Dame. The Irish beat them in the national semifinals last

season before sweeping them this year en route to their first

outright Big East title.

”The best team in our league is Notre Dame. They’ve proven it

since Day 1,” Auriemma said. ”We’re the next best team in the

league. We’re the two teams that shold be playing in the

championship game tommorrow.”

Connecticut (28-4) gained a measure of revenge on the Red Storm

(22-9) on Monday night. St. John’s ended UConn’s 99-game home

winning streak when the two teams played on Feb. 18. The Huskies

then lost a second straight home game, falling to Notre Dame last

Monday night ending a 19-year run of not losing consecutive home

games. UConn also was at a loss that game as far as what went

wrong.

”I think we’ve just come out with the right mindset and

executed on offense and played great defense,” Dolson said.

”We’ve come out with the mindset of being aggressive, confident

with ourselves and our shots and we’ve done a great job with it and

hopefully we’ll keep it up.”

UConn jumped all over St. John’s, scoring the game’s first seven

points. The Red Storm got within 13-8, but then the Huskies quickly

erased any hopes of a second victory in Connecticut for St. John’s

by outscoring them 23-6 over the next 10 minutes. Dolson and Bria

Hartley combined for 13 points during the burst.

The Huskies led 38-18 at the half and Dolson extended the

advantage to 24, scoring the first six points of the second half.

She only had six points in the earlier meeting between the

teams.

”I came out with the right mindset tonight,” Dolson said. ”I

give credit to my teammates who were able to pass me the ball today

perfectly.”

After Dolson’s two free throws made it 42-18 and St. John’s

couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.

Nadirah McKenith scored 10 points to lead St. John’s, which shot

just 30 percent from the field.

The Red Storm finished second in the conference and that forced

the Huskies to wear their road blue uniforms in Hartford for the

first time since 2005 when they were also a three seed in the Big

East tournament. Still the XL Center had a home feel for UConn,

which dressed in its normal locker room and had most of the crowd

of 8,731 cheering on every one of their baskets.