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Stanford knocks off defending champ Connecticut

Associated Press

Women’s basketball will have a new champion this year – finally. Connecticut’s remarkable run is over.

Stanford made all the right plays down the stretch and got 21 points from freshman sensation Candice Wiggins to beat Connecticut 76-59 on Sunday night in the semifinals of the Kansas City (Mo.) Regional.

After winning the last three national championships and four of the last five, Connecticut (25-8) won’t even make it back to the Final Four, its 20-game winning streak in NCAA tournament play is history.

It was the Huskies’ earliest exit from the NCAAs since they lost to Iowa State in the regional finals in 1999. Since then they had gone 30-1 in the tournament until running into a Stanford team that showed the same grit that has carried UConn to so many victories through the years.

Stanford (32-2), ranked No. 1 but only the No. 2 seed in the regional, moves on with a 23-game winning streak and is just a victory from its first Final Four trip since 1997. The Cardinal will play top-seeded Michigan State, a 76-64 winner over Vanderbilt, in the regional final Tuesday night.

They got there with a strong second half against the game’s most dominant program. It wasn’t always pretty, what with all the jostling and shoving underneath the basket and, in the first half especially, some near woeful shooting.

But the Cardinal will take it. They erased a six-point halftime deficit by starting the second half with a 6-0 run, then went ahead to stay with a 16-5 burst midway through the half.

Wiggins, Susan King Borchardt and Sebnem Kimyacioglu each made a 3-pointer during that critical stretch, Wiggins added a 15-foot jumper and T’Nae Thiel converted a three-point play, making it 54-46 with 7:18 to play.

There was still enough time for Connecticut to make one more run, but it never happened. The Huskies got it down to 58-53 on Ashley Battle’s 3 with 4:42 remaining, only to have Stanford deliver the fatal blows.

Elsewhere in the Kansas City regional:

Michigan St. 76, Vanderbilt 64: Kristin Haynie had a triple-double and led the top-seeded Spartans (31-3) past the fourth-seeded Commodores (24-8).

Haynie, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, had just two points in a first half mostly dominated by the Commodores. But she finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the second triple-double in the program’s 32-year history.

The Spartans, who never even reached the round of 16 in five previous tournaments, scored 18 of the first 21 points of the second half. They are now a win away from the women’s Final Four.

Philadelphia Regional

Rutgers 64, Ohio State 58: Rutgers let Ohio State All-American Jessica Davenport get her points, but shut down the rest of the Buckeyes with tenacious defense.

Cappie Pondexter scored 24 points, and the third-seeded Scarlet Knights (28-6) turned 15 Ohio State turnovers into 22 points in a win over the second-seeded Buckeyes (30-5) in Philadelphia.

Freshman Matee Ajavon added 14 points, and Chelsea Newton had 13 for the Scarlet Knights, who came into the game limiting opponents to 50.8 points.

Tennessee 75, Texas Tech 59: Shyra Ely scored 23 points and led the top-seeded Lady Vols (29-4) into their 20th regional final with a win over the fourth-seeded Lady Raiders.

The Lady Vols, who will play Rutgers Tuesday for a trip to the Final Four, used a smothering defense to shut down the fourth-seeded Lady Raiders (24-8) and help coach Pat Summitt build on her NCAA record with her 881st career victory.

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