March 22, 2005
STORRS, Conn. – Connecticut’s depth and defense has carried the three-time defending national champions deep into March again.
Ann Strother scored 19 points, and Jessica Moore had 12 rebounds and three steals to lead the third-seeded Huskies to a 70-52 victory over Florida State on Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
UConn (25-7), in the round of 16 for the 12th straight year, has won its last 20 NCAA games since falling to Notre Dame in the 2001 national semifinals. The Huskies will play second-seeded Stanford in the Kansas City Regional semifinals Sunday.
The sixth-seeded Seminoles (24-8) were trying to advance past the second round for the first time and for the first 10 minutes matched UConn basket for basket. Senior Roneeka Hodges, who finished with 28 points, provided most of the Florida State’s offense.
Coach Geno Auriemma went to his deep bench early in the game and quickly wore down the Seminoles, who briefly led 14-12.
The first wave of substitutes that included freshmen Mel Thomas, Ketia Swanier and Charde Houston turned up the tempo. In the group’s first sequence, Houston hit a driving layup, Thomas came up with a loose ball and Swanier took a charge.
That immediately brought the Gampel Pavilion crowd back into the game and for the rest of the half, they watched the Huskies play near perfect ball. Their transition game wore down the Seminoles and the Huskies closed the half on a 28-5 run for a 40-19 lead.
Florida State hit just two field goals in the final 11:23 of the half, both by Roneeka Hodges. She had all five of Florida State’s field goals in the period. The Huskies slowed the tempo in the second half, but the cushion was too large for the Seminoles to overcome, despite 16 more points from Hodges in the period.
When she was finally pulled with 18 seconds left in the game, Hodges drew an ovation. The senior transfer from LSU was an immediate impact player for coach Sue Semrau, the Atlantic Coach Conference coach of the year. Semrau turned the program around in her eight years, leading the Seminoles from the conference cellar to a contender.
Florida State closed out its first 20-win season since 1990-91 in a season that began tragically. The sudden death of 6-foot-5 post player Ronalda Pierce from a heart defect last summer tightly bonded the Seminoles, who wore her No. 55 on the back of their shoes to honor her.
Led by Moore, the Huskies dominated inside, outrebounding the Seminoles 40-30 and outscoring them 36-22 in the paint. Moore finished with 11 points, and Barbara Turner added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Alicia Gladden finished with 10 points for Florida State.
AP Sports Writer