TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – All season long Connecticut has been on cruise control, dominating opponents with double-digit victory margins.

Sunday was no different; it just took awhile.

When the Huskies found themselves down eight points – their biggest deficit of the year – they didn’t panic. Instead, the Huskies turned up the defense, forced turnovers and outscored the Bears during a crucial stretch to advance to their 14th regional final in the last 16 seasons.

Freshman Tiffany Hayes scored a career-high 28 points as the undefeated Huskies beat fourth-seeded California 77-53. The Huskies will face Arizona State on Tuesday night with a trip to the Final Four at stake.

Trailing by eight late in the first half, Connecticut went on a 40-12 run over the next 20 minutes to take control of the game.

“As time went on the true character of this team came out,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I love the way we handled the game in the second half. That was classic Connecticut basketball.”

UConn (36-0) continued its march toward the school’s third perfect season.

Ashley Walker scored 21 to lead California (27-7), which was making its first trip to the regionals after blowing out Fresno State and Virginia in the first two rounds.

Hayes finished 9-for-10 from the field easily surpassing her previous career high of 23 set against Louisville. She also had seven assists and five rebounds. Maya Moore, who scored 22 points, is now seven points short of breaking the UConn single-season record of 694 set by Kara Wolters in 1995-96.

Connecticut had dismantled opponents this season, including beating seven ranked teams by an average of 31 points.

But the Huskies got off to a nightmarish start Sunday as center Tina Charles picked up two quick fouls and sat out most of the first half. Montgomery couldn’t buy a basket, missing nine of her first 11 shots. It certainly wasn’t how the Huskies were used to starting games. Fourteen times this season they had at least a 20-point lead at the half.

California jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first few minutes. It marked the first time UConn had trailed in a game since an early deficit against Seton Hall on Feb. 28.

Purdue 67, Rutgers 61

OKLAHOMA CITY – Lakisha Freeman scored 18 points, and sixth-seeded Purdue held off a late rally to beat Rutgers 67-61 on Sunday night and advance to the round of eight in the NCAA tournament.

FahKara Malone hit a key basket in the final minute and Jodi Howell added the clinching free throws with 6.2 seconds left for Purdue (25-10), which will play top-seeded Oklahoma or fourth-seeded Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the regional final. The Boilermakers became the second No. 6 seed this year to reach the round of eight, joining Arizona State.

Purdue, which shot 52.9 percent from the field, will make its eighth appearance in a regional final. The Boilermakers have made the Final Four three times, winning the 1999 national championship.

Arizona St. 84, Texas A&M 69

TRENTON, N.J. – Texas A&M coach Gary Blair is jumping on the Arizona State bandwagon – to some extent.

If the Sun Devils play as well as they did in knocking off the Aggies on Sunday in the Trenton regional semifinal, they have a shot to beat top-seeded and undefeated Connecticut and earn a berth in the Final Four.

“They were the better basketball team today,” Blair said after Arizona State (26-8) scorched his defensive-minded team for the most points in almost three years. “If they can play at that level, they can give Connecticut a good run, and Connecticut is one of the greatest teams I have ever seen.”

Arizona State played a near perfect game in upsetting the second-seeded Aggies (27-8). It shot a season-high 62 percent, got points from nine players, including 22 by Briann January, and did all the little things, winning the hustle plays, making the smart plays and even frustrating its opponents with four or five baskets at the shot clock.

“We’re a program with a team that doesn’t have a lot of swag but has a quiet confidence,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “We believe in ourselves. We can outwork teams. We’re a great basketball team. We choose to do the things we’re capable of doing. I felt like at the beginning of the year we can win championships.”

The current run by the Sun Devils might seem surprising since they lost leading scorer Dymond Simon to a knee injury earlier this month.

However, January has moved from the shooting guard to the point and everyone has stepped up.

Purdue 67, Rutgers 61

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Lakisha Freeman scored 18 points, and sixth-seeded Purdue held off a late rally to beat Rutgers 67-61 on Sunday night and advance to the round of eight in the NCAA tournament.

FahKara Malone hit a key basket in the final minute and Jodi Howell added the clinching free throws with 6.2 seconds left for Purdue (25-10), which will play top-seeded Oklahoma or fourth-seeded Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the regional final. The Boilermakers became the second No. 6 seed this year to reach the round of eight, joining Arizona State.

Purdue, which shot 52.9 percent from the field, will make its eighth appearance in a regional final. The Boilermakers have made the Final Four three times, winning the 1999 national championship.

Brittany Ray scored 19 points and Epiphanny Prince added 15 for seventh-seeded Rutgers (21-13), which upset second-seeded Auburn in the second round.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.