Moore leads UConn to Big East title
Tournament title is fourth consecutive title for Huskies
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Stefanie Dolson scored 24 points and Maya Moore added 22 to help No. 1 Connecticut win its fourth consecutive Big East tournament championship with a 73-64 victory against 10th-ranked Notre Dame on Tuesday night.
UConn (32-1) has won 20 consecutive games since losing to Stanford on Dec. 30 to snap the Huskies’ record 90-game winning streak. It was the 21st time in the past 23 seasons that they were in the championship game.
The Huskies have won 17 Big East championships overall.
While UConn has been a frequent visitor to the tournament title game, Notre Dame was making its first trip to the championship since 2001 when the Irish lost to UConn on a buzzer-beater by Sue Bird.
The Irish still have yet to win a championship in five tries.
Natalie Novosel scored 17 points to lead Notre Dame (26-7).
Leading 41-40 early in the second half, UConn went on an 11-0 run to break open a close game.
Moore, who earned tournament MVP honors for the second time in her stellar career, had three points and two assists during the burst. She also had a huge block on Skylar Diggins’ drive that led to an easy layup on the other end by Bria Hartley.
The senior followed that with a 3-pointer from the corner with 12:44 left to cap the spurt and tie her with Penn State great Kelly Mazzante for ninth place on the career NCAA scoring list with 2,919 points.
Notre Dame didn’t go away, going on a 15-6 spurt to close to 58-55 with 5:07 left. Novosel, who had left the game at the end of UConn’s spurt, returned a few minutes later and scored the final seven points of the Irish’s burst.
Moore wouldn’t let Notre Dame get any closer, hitting a jumper from the corner to move past Mazzante. Dolson followed with a layup to restore the seven-point lead. The 6-foot-5 freshman center matched her career high set two days earlier against Georgetown.
The Irish couldn’t get within five the rest of the game.
Moore became only the second two-time MVP of the tournament, joining former UConn great Kara Wolters (1995 and 1996). Moore also won the award as a sophomore. She became just the second player in conference history to win both the regular season and postseason MVP awards in the same year. Shelly Pennefather of Villanova was the only other player to do it.
It was the Huskies’ 81st consecutive victory at home and 69th consecutive conference win. They will open up NCAA tournament play at home in Storrs for the first two rounds.
The Irish fell to 0-9 all time against UConn in the Big East tournament.
It was the third game in three days for both teams. Coming into the tournament, UConn had a lack of depth with only six players getting a majority of the minutes. UConn was able to give most of its players a break in the 24-point semifinal win against Rutgers.
The Irish had to survive another slugfest with their Midwestern rival DePaul to get there and earn their first win against a top-10 team since 2006.
Yet they seemed to be the fresher team in the first half, running the floor and getting easy baskets in building a 22-15 lead with 8:21 left in the half.
UConn answered with a 14-5 spurt as the Huskies turned up their defense and held Notre Dame with out a field goal for nearly 8 minutes. Moore’s steal and layup gave them a 29-26 lead—their biggest of the half.
Natalie Achonwa finally ended the drought with a putback with 30 seconds left in the half.
UConn led 32-31 at the break.
Becca Bruszewski seemed fine after limping off the court in Monday night’s semifinal win. Coach Muffet McGraw had said she was “doubtful” for this game. Bruszewski showed no ill-effects scoring six of the Irish’s first eight points.