Monday January 7, 2013

STORRS, Conn. -- It’s been a rollercoaster seven days for Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies.

After easily beating then-No. 1 Stanford by 25 points last weekend, the top-ranked Huskies were edged 73-72 at home by No. 5 Notre Dame on Saturday.

"It’s definitely been an up and down week," said Stefanie Dolson, who scored 17 points to lead Connecticut. "We were all extremely excited and on a high when we beat Stanford the way we did. We came into this game and we weren’t ready. I don’t think we were ready for how hard Notre Dame was going to come at us. They out-toughed us."

The Huskies (12-1, 0-1 Big East) had a few chances to pull out the win in the final 30 seconds, but in front of a sellout crowd of 10,127, they fell short.

Trailing by one, freshman star Breanna Stewart had her shot blocked in the lane. The Huskies maintained possession and then after a timeout, Stewart missed a jumper from the top of the key.

Kelly Faris grabbed the rebound giving UConn one more chance, but Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis caught the ball in the corner and her wide-open 3 with 6 seconds left fell off the rim.

The Irish grabbed the loose ball and Skylar Diggins ran out the clock.

"You got the best 3-point shooter in the country with a wide open 3 to win it and it doesn’t go in," Auriemma said. "I’m more upset if the wrong guy took the wrong shot at the wrong time. We came out of timeout and got the shot we wanted and it didn’t go in."

The Huskies were quick to point out that it wasn’t the final 30 seconds that cost them.

The Irish have turned one of the best rivalries in women’s basketball into a one-sided affair lately, winning five of the past six meetings.

Diggins, the senior All-American, scored 19 points hitting big shot after big shot in the second half to lift Notre Dame.

This was the latest victory for the Irish (12-1, 1-0), who also ended UConn’s season the past two years by beating the Huskies in past two Final Fours.

"I think when we play them, there is a lot on the line, whether it is a Big East Championship or them being ranked higher than us or in the Final Four," Diggins said. "This is good for us."

No team has had this kind of success against UConn in the past 20 years.

The last team to beat UConn five out of six times was Miami back in the early 1990s -- before the Huskies started winning national championships.

The Irish were expected to be down this season with three starters graduated. It didn’t matter with Diggins still on the team.

With UConn poised to pull away in the second half, Diggins hit back-to-back 3-pointers to keep her team in the game.

Later with the shot clock about to run out, Diggins hit a leaner from the wing.

Finally, with the Irish down by one with 49 seconds left, she got fouled on a drive and calmly sank both free throws. It would be the last points of the game.

UConn trailed by two at the half and took a 48-44 lead on Dolson’s layup with 16:18 left in the game. The Huskies led 63-60 with 8 minutes left before Notre Dame scored five quick points.

Neither team could get more than a two-point lead the rest of the way.

Stewart, the high school player of the year last season, scored all 10 of her points in the second half after missing her first five shots. She also had six blocks and nine rebounds.

Notre Dame’s lone defeat this season came at home to No. 2 Baylor, 73-61, on Dec. 5.