Wednesday, March 17, 1999

UConn is big toe in the Shoe

Huskies to tangle with Iowa State in Mideast Regional

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Top-seeded Connecticut, nearly upset by Xavier on its way to Cincinnati, meets No.4 seed Iowa at noon Saturday in the first of two Mideast Regional women's basketball games at UC's Shoemaker Center.

        The second game, No.2 Clemson vs. No.3 Georgia, will follow 30 minutes after the end of the first game, probably around 2:30 p.m.

        Saturday's winners advance to the Mideast finals Monday at UC. That winner goes to the Final Four March 26 and 28 in San Jose, Calif.

        UConn (29-4) had to score the last eight points to beat underdog Xavier 86-84 on the Huskies' home court Sunday night. UConn, a perennial power and 1995 NCAA champion, has battled injuries and youth this season. It starts two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior.

        “Our inexperience sometimes shows, and we've been hurt by a lot of injuries,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said this week. “But we're a good team. In the Xavier game, we played a great team, but our defense came up big at the end, and we made some big shots when we had to.”

        In Iowa State, UConn will face a 24-7 team that ranks second to Xavier in three-point-shooting percentage (39.6 percent) and in three-point field goals a game (7.6). Iowa State also has the nation's leading perimeter shooter in junior guard Stacy Frese, who during the regular season shot 49 percent from three-point range.

        Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly is in the round of 16 for the first time.

        “I've been coaching 24 years, and I told my wife, one time I'd like to get in the Sweet 16 before I die. That was the best present they've ever given me,” he said.

        In the second game, Georgia (25-6) will make its 11th trip to the Sweet 16. Clemson (26-5), another NCAA regular in its 12th trip overall, lost in the second round in 1998.

        Enquirer news services contributed.