No. 2 UConn turns back No. 1 Tenn. nTC

January 17, 1995|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

STORRS, Conn. -- Usually when Aretha Franklin's "Respect" blares from an arena's public address system, the song is merely entertainment.

But when the second-ranked Connecticut women's basketball team knocked off No. 1 Tennessee, 77-66, yesterday, the song became the theme song of a team and maybe a sport.

"We're starting something special here at Connecticut. This game should earn us some respect," said Connecticut senior forward Rebecca Lobo.

The Huskies (13-0) had been thought to be a good team in a weak conference, whose weaknesses would be exposed by a dominant team, such as Tennessee, which had vanquished one No. 2 team (Stanford) and five other top 10 teams.

Instead, the Connecticut players -- bolstered by a relentlessly noisy sellout crowd of 8,241 at the Gampel Pavilion -- weathered everything the Lady Vols (16-1) could throw at them. They should, as a result, capture the school's first No. 1 ranking in basketball, men's or women's, when the new rankings are released today.

"We were good today, and we were better than they were today," said Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma. "If we play that team on a neutral court, it would be even. If we play them down there, they would have a little edge, and if we play here, we'd have the edge. That's basically the difference."

That and 6-foot-7 sophomore center Kara Wolters, who bedeviled the Lady Volunteers with 18 points, four rebounds and five blocks.

Wolters, who took up the second-half slack when 6-4 senior Lobo got into foul trouble, came on for 12 points after halftime and was a formidable presence in the middle.

"It was an unbelievable game. I'll sleep good tonight," said Wolters. "We knew when Rebecca went out, we had to pick it up a notch and keep our composure."

Said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt: "When Wolters was on the block, we didn't have an answer for her. They were finishers, and Wolters particularly finished well."

The Huskies also did well for women's basketball, presenting an interesting game for a national television audience and more than 150 credentialed media.

"Coach said before the game that most women or most players in general don't get to play in an atmosphere like this and that we should enjoy it," said Lobo. "I think it's great that people see us as a different entity. We're a different brand of basketball, and we're glad to see our fans see it that way, too."

After turning the ball over on their first two possessions, the Huskies gained control, keeping at least a five-point margin at all times.

The Huskies not only matched the Lady Vols physically, drawing even in rebounding, but outscored them on the bench 17-6 and met the mental challenge of playing the nation's top team.

"We lost to a great team. Our post play was terrible. They scored and we watched," said Tennessee senior forward Dana Johnson (Western), who played with a slightly dislocated left shoulder and had 14 points and eight rebounds.

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