HARTFORD, Conn. — Geno Auriemma was at a loss. For the third time this season his Connecticut Huskies came up short against Notre Dame.
This time it cost the Huskies the Big East tournament championship.
“What can I say, I feel really bad for these guys,” he said. “They played an amazing second half and we put ourselves in a big hole in the first half. They deserved to win because they made one more play at the end than we did.”
Natalie Achonwa’s layup with 1.8 seconds left lifted No. 2 Notre Dame to a 61-59 victory over third-ranked UConn on Tuesday night.
Notre Dame has had the Huskies’ number lately. The Irish have dominated the series recently with seven victories in the last eight meetings. No team has ever dominated the Huskies like that since UConn won its first national championship in 1995.
The only UConn victory came in the conference title game last season, but the Huskies couldn’t pull off a third straight win over Notre Dame in the tournament championship.
The loss ended a run of 19 straight seasons that Connecticut had won either the regular season or postseason conference title.
Now the Huskies will turn their focus on winning an eighth national championship.
“At this point this program is all about how you respond and that’s what coach teaches us how to do,” said senior Kelly Faris. We haven’t responded the way we need to, the way the program is used to. That’s why we are sitting where we’re at right now. This is our last chance right now to respond in the right way. This is our last opportunity to step up and make something of it.”
What didn’t help the Huskies was their inability to hit anything from behind the 3-point line. They were 0-for-5, marking the first time since the 2002 NCAA championship game that they didn’t hit a 3-pointer — a span of 403 games.
“For us to go 0-for, I never think we’re going to do that,” Auriemma said. “I think we’ll make our share and we always do.”