Another late meltdown costs UConn
Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong.
UConn led by six points in the first overtime and the Huskies were up by five in overtime No. 2 only to lose the lead both times due to untimely miscues and mental mistakes.
If Notre Dame had stormed back with some incredibly clutch plays, that would be one thing but the way the Huskies allowed the Fighting Irish to rally from behind and steal this one could make it one of the toughest losses for the UConn players and coaches that I can recall in quite some time.
UConn missed the front end of 1 and 1s three times in the first overtime and then allowed Kayla McBride to dribble right up to the 3-point line with the Fighting Irish down three in the closing seconds and take a relatively open 3. It wasn't the most majestic of shots as it hit the front rim but went straight up and fell through the hoop.
In the second overtime UConn committed three turnovers after taking a five-point lead to allow Notre Dame to once again fight from behind and extend the game.
Finally in the third overtime Notre Dame was able to take control of the game.
"We had multiple opportunities to win the game starting with me missing free throws," UConn senior guard Kelly Faris said. "We needed to step up and hit those are we would have had the game won."
This is a familiar script for the Huskies. In both losses to Baylor in the last two seasons and the last three losses to Notre Dame UConn had the lead in the second half but couldn't close the deal.
Both Faris, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who led the Huskies with 26 points, said that something needs to change on this year's team because these late collapses have become an annoying pattern.
"It is like every opportunity we had we let it slip away from us," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "How many chances can you have. You are on the road against a really good team, you might get one chance, you might get two chances when it really matters but you are not going to get unlimited chances. Their guards, when they had to make some really big shots they made them. We had a chance to win the game at the free-throw line and we didn't."
Auriemma said that there was a discussion of fouling Notre Dame before the Fighting Irish was in the act of shooting with a three-point lead in the final 10 seconds of the first overtime and in retrospect he might have done it. Of course he did not plan on giving Kayla McBride an open 3-pointer.
"We were going to make sure Skylar didn't have the ball so we took the ball out of her hands and then I was comfortable with anybody else taking it because they didn't shoot the ball well tonight from the 3-point line," Auriemma said. "The team they had out there wasn't a great 3-point shooting team and that is what is so frustrating that only two guys are going to shoot the ball at the end of that game, one we took out be because we double-teamed her and the other one shoots the ball and they tie the game. It is incredibly frustrating."
No number jumps off the stat sheet more than the program record 35 turnovers including 11 coming from Stefanie Dolson. Dolson also needlessly set a screen about 75-80 from the basket resulting in her fifth foul with 32 seconds left in the second half. Bria Hartley fouled out five seconds later.
If there is a silver lining it is that UConn could have one or two shots at the Fighting Irish. The first would come if both reach the Big East tournament final and they are highly likely to be on the same side of the bracket in the NCAA tournament meaning yet another national semifinal matchup.
Of course each time Notre Dame rallies from behind to stun the Huskies, the more they believe they have UConn's number. The Huskies have a bye into the Big East quarterfinals. No. 15 seed Pittsburgh will play No. 10 Marquette on Friday at 6 p.m. with the winner meeting DePaul Saturday at 6 p.m. Whoever emerges out of those two games will meet UConn on Sunday at 6 p.m.