Top-ranked UConn crushes LIU 101-29
Updated: Sunday March 18, 2001 8:38 AM
STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- With Connecticut preparing to open defense of its NCAA title, head coach Geno Auriemma must have wondered who would step up in place of injured All-Americans Svetlana Abrosimova and Shea Ralph.
He got his answer Saturday night: everybody.
Swin Cash had 12 points and 16 rebounds as top-ranked UConn cruised to a 101-29 rout of Long Island University in the first round of the East Regional, the best defensive effort in the history of the women's NCAA tournament.
The 29 points allowed eclipsed Colorado's 78-34 win against Southwest Missouri State in 1995.
"With the injuries, it has forced our players to focus a little more on the little things since our margin for error is not as great," Auriemma said.
UConn's 72-point victory also tied the second-biggest margin in tournament history. Tennessee beat North Carolina A&T 111-37 in 1994.
The Huskies are without their two All-Americans, sidelined with season-ending injuries. But their teammates picked up the slack against the much-smaller Blackbirds as six Huskies scored in double figures and all 11 players had points.
"I realize we played a team that was physically unable to handle what we did, but we played well. We took care of the ball and got a lot of people involved," Auriemma said.
Tamika Williams was 6-of-6 from the floor and finished with 12 points. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi combined for 25 points and 12 assists for the top-seeded Huskies (29-2).
It was a rough NCAA tournament debut for the Blackbirds (16-15), who suffered the worst loss in school history. No opponent had ever scored more than 92 points against them. They shot 15 percent from the floor, hitting 10-of-65 attempts, and committed 19 turnovers.
"I think we had stage fright, then a little shell-shocked," LIU head coach Tony Bozzella said. "It's one thing to shoot bad, it's another thing to be scared to shoot."
This one was over quickly, as UConn raced out to a 24-3 lead on three inside baskets by Williams. The 16th-seeded Blackbirds, champions of the Northeast Conference, couldn't match up with UConn's size, speed and depth and missed their first 10 shots.
The second half was much of the same. UConn opened with 19-0 run, while the Blackbirds missed their first 14 shots.
The Blackbirds had never played before a crowd larger than 620. There were 10,000-plus raucous UConn fans on hand Saturday night.
"It took us 10 minutes to get over the awe of the place, then we were star struck in the second half," said Kim MacMillan, who led LIU with 15 points.
"It was the players -- having a whole bench playing like their whole life is basketball."
Kelly Schumacher had five of Connecticut's 12 blocks. The Huskies outrebounded LIU 57-31 and outscored the Blackbirds 54-4 in the paint.
"I couldn't be happier with how this tournament started,"
Auriemma said. "It's a good start - but that's all it is."