UConn will need right altitude to deal with UCSB's Taylor

Huskies dominate inside, but Gauchos' 6-8 center is the tallest they've seen

NCAA women's tournament

College Basketball

March 27, 2004|By Jeff Goldberg | Jeff Goldberg,HARTFORD COURANT

HARTFORD, Conn. - Barbara Turner got her first good look at UC Santa Barbara center Lindsay Taylor last summer when they were teammates on the U.S. Pan Am Games team.

Turner got a good long look. Taylor is 6 feet 8, after all.

"She was a big presence," Turner said. "Of course, you have to go at her. Some things worked. A lot of things didn't work."

Taylor and Turner will be reunited this afternoon. UConn, the No. 2 seed in the East, takes on 11th-seeded UC Santa Barbara in the regional semifinals at the Hartford Civic Center.

For the Huskies (27-4), it is their 11th straight Sweet 16 appearance. For Taylor's Gauchos (27-6), it is their first trip this deep into the NCAA tournament. And to keep their Cinderella run alive, they will have to find an answer to UConn's inside game.

In the first two rounds, Turner and Jessica Moore have proved quite a tall order.

"All year in our conference [the Big West], a lot of post players try to go one-on-one, so fortunately we have that experience," Taylor said. "We're well prepared for that, and I don't think it will be any different, except they're a little more athletic, a little quicker."

Turner's athleticism and quickness were a factor Tuesday against Auburn. The sophomore forward used her inside moves to score the first two baskets against the Tigers' zone, setting up the Huskies' three-point attack.

Turner is averaging 15 points after two tournament games, relying heavily on her post-up skills.

She has been equally effective with her back to the basket, as well as slashing to the hoop. She's shooting 54.5 percent this season, having made 159 field goals - nine fewer than team leader Diana Taurasi.

"I try to read what's happening," Turner said. "I don't try to predict what I'm going to do. It just depends on how the defense is playing me. If I know that I'm going to get double-teamed, I just look to find the open person. If not, then if I catch it one-on-one, I'm going to look to score."

Maria Conlon, who benefited from Turner's quick start Tuesday by hitting four three-pointers, said she knows Turner is going to score when she calls for the ball.

"She's playing really aggressive right now, really confident," Conlon said. "There's not many people that can guard Barbara one-on-one, so when she gets that in her head, she's a hard person to guard and we're a hard team to play against."

But Taylor will be equally difficult for the Huskies to handle. At 6-8, she doesn't compare to any female players the Huskies have played against.

"Guys, yeah, but not girls," said Moore, UConn's 6-3 center, who is averaging 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the tournament. "My tallest was 6-6 when I was in high school, but never 6-8. That's pretty darn tall."

Taylor, who only averages 2.0 blocks despite her height advantage, said she's not really an intimidator. But she does alter shots.

"She moves really well," Turner said. "It's going to be important for us to push her up the lane and make her come out and guard us. Trying to shoot over doesn't work. Getting by her probably does. We respect her, but it's going to be important for us to approach it like she's not even on the floor."

Easier said than done. Already, Taylor has influenced UConn's game plan, judging by the talk in the locker room yesterday.

"I think we have to take into account that she's a lot bigger and we have to change a few things," Moore said. "But you can't be afraid of her and not play the way we play and do what we're good at. We just have to use our quickness away from the basket to try and go by her and get her in foul trouble."

Turner said UConn is ready for whatever scheme the Gauchos choose.

"They have a presence on the inside and the outside," Turner said. "Every time our team has the success that we're supposed to have, it depends on what me and Jessica do. If we come out and set the tone and make plays offensively, that will set us up for the rest of the game."

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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