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Stanford ends UConn's title streak

Monday, March 28, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Women's basketball will have a new champion this year -- finally. Connecticut's remarkable run is over.

Stanford made all the right plays down the stretch and got 21 points from freshman sensation Candice Wiggins to beat Connecticut 76-59 on Sunday night in the semifinals of the Kansas City Regional.

After winning the last three national championships and four of the last five, Connecticut won't even make it back to the Final Four, its 20-game winning streak in NCAA tournament play is history.

It was the Huskies' earliest exit from the NCAAs since they lost to Iowa State in the regional finals in 1999. Since then, they had gone 30-1 in the tournament until running into a Stanford team that showed the same grit that has carried UConn to so many victories through the years.

Stanford (32-2), ranked No. 1 but only the No. 2 seed in the regional, moves on with a 23-game winning streak and is just a victory from its first Final Four trip since 1997. The Cardinal will play top-seeded Michigan State, a 76-64 winner over Vanderbilt, in the regional final Tuesday night.

They got there with a strong second half against the game's most dominant program.

The Cardinal (32-2) erased a six-point halftime deficit by starting the second half with a 6-0 run, then went ahead to stay with a 16-5 burst midway through the half.

Wiggins, Susan King Borchardt and Sebnem Kimyacioglu each made a 3-pointer during that critical stretch, Wiggins added a 15-foot jumper and T'Nae Thiel converted a three-point play, making it 54-46 with 7:18 to play.

There was still enough time for Connecticut to make one more run, but it never happened. The Huskies got it down to 58-53 on Ashley Battle's 3 with 4:42 remaining, only to have Stanford deliver the fatal blows.

First it was a 3-pointer by Borchardt, then a 3 by Wiggins, who came on strong after a terrible first half. That made it 64-53 with 3 1/2 minutes to play and the end was near for the Huskies. They couldn't come up with any miracle plays on the floor and coach Geno Auriemma couldn't conjure up any more sideline magic.

As the final seconds ticked away, the Connecticut players sat glumly on the bench and Auriemma stood with his hands on his hips, a look of resignation on his face. He started toward the Stanford bench to shake hands with coach Tara VanDerveer even before the final buzzer sounded.

Other regional semifinals

* Kristin Haynie had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to help top-seeded Michigan State rally past Vanderbilt 76-64.

* Shyra Ely scored 23 points to help Tennessee advance to their 20th regional final by beating Texas Tech 75-59.

* Cappie Pondexter scored 24 points, and third-seeded Rutgers turned 15 Ohio State turnovers into 22 points in a 64-58 win.


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