Mar. 2, 1998
No. 2 Connecticut Too Strong for Notre DameGame Statistics
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Nykesha Sales showed up for the semifinals of the Big East Tournament and so did the old Connecticut.
Freshman Svetlana Abrosimova scored eight of her 19 points in a game-opening 17-2 spurt and Connecticut forced 31 turnovers in a 73-53 victory against Notre Dame on Monday night.
It was the Huskies' third straight win since Sales ruptured her Achilles' tendon a little more than a week ago, but it was the first time Connecticut (30-2) looked dominant without their career leading scorer. The Huskies' wins against Villanova and West Virginia were by a combined margin of six points.
Against Notre Dame (20-9), Connecticut got help from everyone and dominated from the start. Stacy Hansmeyer had a career-high 21 points, Amy Duran added 15 and Rita Williams had seven points, seven assists and six steals. The 53 points were the fewest of the season for Notre Dame.
The Huskies will go for a fifth straight Big East Conference Tournament title and another automatic NCAA Tournament bid on Tuesday night against the winner of Monday's other semifinal between second-seeded Rutgers and third-seeded Miami.
Even if they lose, the Huskies are going to the NCAA Tournament.
The presence of Sales, who gained notoriety a week ago for being allowed to score her record-setting basket against Villanova after being injured, seemed to inspire the Huskies.
Wearing a Connecticut T-shirt and sitting next to coach Geno Auriemma's wife, Kathy, Sales was up on her feet from the start, clapping when Abrosimova scored on a layup off the opening tap and getting back up when Hansmeyer scored in the lane with 14:31 to go to make it 17-2.
The only time Notre Dame threatened to make it close was in the final minutes of the first half when Connecticut sent center Paige Sauer and Abrosimova to the bench with two fouls. Four straight points by Neile Ivey closed the gap to 33-23 at intermission.
Any hope Notre Dame had of coming back ended in the opening minutes of the second half when the Huskies scored the first eight points with Duran and Abrosimova, hitting 3s.
Center Ruth Riley led the Irish with 12 points, while Ivey had 10.