Huskies rout Cardinals to win 15th Big East tourney championship

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Maya Moore beamed as she walked off the court for good with eight minutes left in the game and her team up by 42.

At that point, Connecticut's All-American had single-handedly outscored Louisville 28-27.

Maybe Moore and UConn will find some competition in the NCAA tournament, because so far this season no opponent has come close to the top-ranked Huskies.

UConn cruised to its 15th Big East tournament championship with a 75-36 victory over No. 5 Louisville on Tuesday night.

"Some players inspire their teammates. She inspires her teammates and takes the life completely out of the other team," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "That's a unique individual we're dealing with here."

The Huskies (33-0) have won four of the last five conference tournament titles and enter the NCAAs unbeaten for the fourth time in school history. UConn went on to win the national championship in 1995 and 2002. In 1996-97 they lost to Tennessee in the regional final.

"I don't know where we fit in big picture historically," Auriemma said. "I think in a couple weeks if we win six more games, they will be one of the six best teams ever to play at Connecticut."

Connecticut's road to a sixth national championship will begin on March 22 at home in Storrs as the Huskies host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

All-Big East forward Angel McCoughtry was held to nine points to lead Louisville (29-4). She averaged 33 in the first two tournament games and 24 for the season.

"They were everywhere," McCoughtry said. "Everywhere you went they were there. They were active and aggressive."

Tina Charles added 21 points and 15 rebounds for UConn for her ninth double-double of the season.

UConn's tournament dominance was just a carry over from the regular season. The Huskies have won by an average of 31 points and been especially good against ranked teams.

They demolished No. 3 Oklahoma by 28 at home in late November, routed No. 11 North Carolina on the road by 30 and took care of Louisville by 28 the first time they met in late January. Throw in victories over Pittsburgh and Notre Dame and the Huskies have beaten Top 25 teams by nearly 30 points a game.

No team has come within single digits of the Huskies all season and their biggest deficit has been six points.

"You almost have to play a game like this every night now. It's the worst thing that could have happened," Auriemma said. "Again how we can match the level of expectation that's out there."

UConn didn't give Louisville a chance, scoring 18 of the first 22 points as the Cardinals missed 11 of their first 12 shots. Charles' three-point play on a putback made it 16-4.

"I thought the first five minutes of the game we had a lot of opportunities to score and missed a lot of easy baskets," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "We let them go on a run early. You can't be upset you don't score and forget to defend."

McCoughtry, who hit the only basket during the drought, then missed a shot on the other end. Walz, whose team had already committed six fouls in the first seven minutes, thought his star player had been bumped on the shot and he promptly let the official know it.

Walz was assessed a technical and Renee Montgomery hit the two free throws to extend the advantage to 18-4.

Becky Burke hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 11, but then UConn went on a 15-2 run to make it 33-9 with just under eight minutes left.

When the half ended, Connecticut was ahead 50-24 and Moore had 19 points. She was 7-for-9 from the field, including hitting four 3-pointers.

"My teammates did a great job of getting me open and setting screens for me," the sophomore said. "My shots were falling tonight."

The 50 points matched a Big East record for points in a half of a championship game.

Charles added 13 points and nine rebounds by the break as UConn shot 59 percent (17-for-29) from the field.

It didn't get any better for Louisville in the second half as they were held scoreless for the first eight minutes. Deseree Byrd finally ended the drought with a free throw with 11:57 left that made it 65-25. Monique Reed's layup with 9:46 left was the Cardinals' first basket of the second half. They missed their first 14 shots.

Louisville ended up shooting just 22 percent (12-for-57) from the field and set a record for futility for points in a title game.

The Huskies fell just short of surpassing their own championship record for margin of victory set in 2002 of 42 points.

This was only the third meeting between the top two seeds in the Big East tournament in the last 11 years. The No. 2 seeds had won both the previous meetings.

That streak never stood a chance against the Huskies.