Taurasi, Huskies Defeat Eagles
Diana Taurasi had it going from the start and so did her Connecticut teammates. Boston College had no chance to win on a buzzer-beater this time.
Taurasi scored 18 of her 26 points in the first half, and Connecticut ran past Big East rival Boston College, 70-49, Sunday in the NCAA East Regional women’s basketball semifinals.
The top-seeded Huskies (34-1), who shot 59% for the game, took a 19-point halftime lead and limited the Eagles to 32% shooting, ending Boston College’s surprising run in the NCAA tournament.
“I think in the first half that was probably the best we’ve run our offense in a while,” Taurasi said. “Everyone was touching the ball, a lot of screens, a lot of cuts. That was probably one of the best paces we’ve played at for a while.”
Connecticut, the defending national champion, will play Purdue in the regional final Tuesday night. A victory would send the Huskies to the Final Four for the fourth consecutive year and seventh time overall.
Fifth-seeded Boston College (22-9) had advanced to the round of 16 for the first time by beating Old Dominion and Vanderbilt on last-second shots. But with Taurasi scoring eight points, the Huskies closed the first half with a 14-2 run to take a 44-25 lead.
Boston College got no closer than 17 in the second half. Connecticut took a 65-41 lead on Taurasi’s baseline jump shot with 6:21 left. With 4:51 left, she went to the bench for good with the Huskies leading, 65-44.
Taurasi, coming off a career-high 35-point outing against Texas Christian, is averaging 27.3 points for the tournament.
“She just took over,” Boston College Coach Cathy Inglese said of Taurasi. “You need to have a leader and impact player, and she is that for them. It’s difficult for me to think anybody will beat them if they play like they did today.”
Purdue 66, Notre Dame 47 -- The second-seeded Boilermakers (29-5) opened the second half with a 22-4 run and never looked back against the 11th-seeded Fighting Irish.
“The bottom line was we felt like we weren’t rebounding, and we felt like from free-throw line to free-throw line we were getting beat up and down the floor,” Purdue Coach Kristy Curry said.
“So the kids did a better job of picking up the intensity the first five minutes of the second half. It set the tone. Whoever delivered the first punch, it was a knockout.”
Notre Dame (21-11), which had lost to Purdue, 71-54, at South Bend, Ind., on Jan. 4, made only one field goal over the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second half.
Erika Valek, at 5 feet 6 the smallest player on the floor, closed the half by sinking a three-point shot that gave Purdue a 33-29 lead at halftime. Valek finished with 19 points.
“She was the difference in the game,” Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw said. “I didn’t think anybody else really hurt us.”
The Fighting Irish had been the lowest seeded team remaining in the tournament after beating No. 6 Arizona in the first round and No. 3 Kansas State in the second round.
Notre Dame’s leading scorer, Jacqueline Batteast, struggled again. She made only two of 26 shots and scored five points in the team’s first two NCAA games.
Batteast made four of 17 shots and ended up with eight points and 12 rebounds Sunday.