March 6, 2001
By DONNA TOMMELLEO
AP Sports Writer
STORRS, Conn. (AP) - Sue Bird hit a fadeway jumper at the buzzer to lift No.
2 Connecticut to a 78-76 victory over No. 1 Notre Dame on Tuesday night and
give the Huskies their 10th Big East tournament championship.
Bird raced down court with the inbounds pass with 5.1 seconds left after
Ruth Riley made the second of her two free throws after missing the first. Bird
drove down the left side of the lane and fired the winner.
It was sweet redemption for the junior point guard, who lost her dribble out
of bounds with 38 seconds and UConn up 76-75. The Irish worked the ball inside
to the 6-foot-5 Riley, who was fouled by Kelly Schumacher.
It was the eighth straight tournament title for the Huskies (28-2), who
avenged a Jan. 15 loss to the Irish (28-2). Notre Dame has been to the title
game four times since joining the conference six years ago, and has lost each
time to UConn.
Bird finished with a team-high 15 points that included a half-court
3-pointer at the buzzer to close out the first half and give UConn a 52-46 lead
at the break.
Riley, the Big East player of the year, had a game-high 23 points and nine
Riley's 3-point play with 5:24 left started a 7-3 Notre Dame run and the
Irish pulled even at 73-73 with 3:51 left. UConn regained the lead on Bird's
3-pointer with 49.8 seconds remaining. Riley brought the Irish within one at
75-76 with an inside bucket and tied it on Notre Dame's next possession,
setting up Bird's heroics.
The officials reviewed the tape to make sure time was on the clock when Bird
launched the game-winner. And after a few anxious moments in the sold out
10,000-seat Gampel Pavilion, the basket was counted.
UConn freshman Diana Taurasi, the tournament MVP, scored 14 points before
The Huskies lost senior guard Shea Ralph with 5:18 left in the first half to
a leg injury. Ralph, last year's Final Four MVP, came down hard on her left
knee while scrambling for her missed layup. She had 11 points and six assists
when she went down. Ralph returned in the second half wearing an air splint and
watched from courtside as her teammates played one of the closest games of the
There were seven lead changes, and UConn never led by more than seven points
and focused on shutting down Notre Dame's 3-point game. Riley didn't face many
double teams and the teams played even in the paint, scoring 42 points apiece.
The Irish, the best 3-point shooting team in the nation at 46 percent, shot
40 percent on 9-of-25 from behind the arc.
UConn's Kelly Schumacher, Asjha Jones and Swin Cash had six rebounds each.
Kelley Siemon finished with 16 points for Notre Dame.