Connecticut drubs Oklahoma, 102-80

Huskies pull away early

LSU handles Duke, 79-66

East at Richmond, Va.

East at Richmond, Va.

March 26, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. -- Oklahoma's hope against top-ranked Connecticut was its ability to weather the storm against a squad that buries opponents with bunches of points.

But even Noah's ark might not have withstood what the Huskies hit the Sooners with on the way to a 102-80 victory in yesterday's East Regional semifinal at the Siegel Center.

In the space of 3: 28, Connecticut (33-1) scored 18 points with little resistance.

After a missed basket by Oklahoma star Phylesha Whaley and a Sue Bird three-pointer for Connecticut, all of the other points in the run followed Oklahoma turnovers.

At the end of the spree, Tamika Williams followed a missed lay-up for a basket and a 24-9 Huskies lead, leaving 33: 25 of foregone conclusion to go.

"I don't know how that happened; they do it on everybody," said Whaley, who led all scorers with 24 points, followed by LaNeishea Caulfield with 22. "If you're going to compete with Connecticut, you can't let them get that far up on you."

Indeed, Oklahoma (25-8) rebounded to score 42 first-half points. But the Sooners still trailed by 15 at the half.

"There's not a whole lot that I can say that wasn't evident by the way we played today," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "At this time, Cinderella stories happen because the favorites don't play well. We played with the intensity you need to win a game, as opposed to Oklahoma losing it."

To make their first Final Four appearance since 1996, the Huskies must defeat Louisiana State, which defeated Atlantic Coast Conference champion and 1999 national runner-up Duke.

Connecticut All-American guard Shea Ralph, who had five steals, eight assists and 10 points, said her team doesn't have much time to enjoy a performance in which it shot 59 percent from the field, stole the ball 21 times and forced the Sooners into 33 turnovers.

"Everything is one step at a time," she said. "If we don't win this game, we go home, so we'll enjoy this tonight, then tomorrow it's back to business."

The Huskies had five players in double figures, led by reserves Williams and Asjha Jones, who had 16 points apiece.

Connecticut's depth left Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale at a loss for advice to give LSU.

"I don't know if there's an answer," she said. "I don't know if you can stop them. They have to stop themselves."

Louisiana State 79, Duke 66: After Duke outhustled Louisiana State in the first 20 minutes of their East Regional semifinal game yesterday, the thought was that it would cruise into the final if shots began falling.

Maybe so, but the Blue Devils never clicked. The Tigers did, however, using a Marie Ferdinand-driven 18-4 run on the way to the program's first regional final appearance since 1986.

Ferdinand had 16 points in the second half for a game-high 22 while also dishing out eight assists.

In her second straight double-double game, DeTrina White had 19 points and 11 rebounds as LSU (25-6) moved one step closer to giving coach Sue Gunter her first Final Four appearance in a 36-year career.

"That was one of our goals at the beginning of the season," said Katrina Hibbert, who had 14 points for the Tigers; "to make history and do it for Coach Gunter."

With 14 minutes to go, Duke (28-6) seemed to be in position to make it to the Elite Eight for the third straight season, taking a 47-42 lead with two free throws by Sheana Mosch with 12: 56 left.

But Louisiana State, which is allowing an average of 56 points per game, held the Blue Devils without a basket for five minutes to take a 60-51 lead on April Brown's three-point play with 5: 07 remaining.

"They do a great job of closing down defensively and they are one of the best defensive teams that we've faced this season," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said.

LSU held Duke to 37 percent shooting and hit 56 percent of its own shots, using deft passing to escape the Blue Devils' traps and find open shots. The Tigers had 22 assists on their 30 field goals.

Gunter said better spacing helped White work more effectively down low in the second half. Ten of White's 13 second-half points came on direct feeds, whether from Ferdinand, Hibbert or Brown, who finished with six assists, 16 points and nine rebounds.

"Our spacing on offense improved," Gunter said. "We were able to pull them up from the baseline, and they couldn't double down on DeTrina."

Duke struggled against LSU's defense, though it used 12 offensive rebounds (compared with LSU's three) in the first half to overcome the Tigers' 1-3-1 defense and lead 31-30 at the break.

After LSU abandoned the zone and rebounded more, Duke remained a cold-shooting team.

"Coaches always tell the young players to keep shooting," said Duke's ACC player of the year, Georgia Schweitzer, who finished with 14 points. "I thought that the shots would eventually fall."

Lauren Rice ended her Duke career with 17 points.

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