Monday, March 15, 1999

CONNECTICUT 86, XAVIER 84


Biggest upset of all escapes Muskies

BY DOM AMORE
Enquirer contributor

[kremer]
Nikki Kremer is consoled by a UConn player.
(AP photo)

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        STORRS, Conn. — The Xavier Musketeers did everything they could have hoped. They made top-seeded Connecticut sweat, made the Huskies crowd squirm. Far from intimidated, senior Nikki Kremer was never afraid to stick the needle where it could hurt the heavily favored Huskies most.

        All the Musketeers failed to do was win. Kremer missed two free throws with 38 seconds left and UConn's Tamika Williams, the high school All-American from Dayton, made two at the other end with 7.1 seconds left.

        That's all that separated the teams. Top-seeded and No.3 UConn (29-4) scored the last eight points and escaped with an 86-84 victory in the second round of the NCAA Mideast Regional and advances to Cincinnati for the regional finals.

[phillips]
Jennifer Phillips shoots over UConn's Tamika Williams.
(AP photo)

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        “It's going to be hard to put (the loss) aside,” Kremer said, fighting through tears in the postgame press conference. “Those free throws are going to be with me for a long time. But I wanted to be the one to take them. I wanted to be the one with the ball and all the pressure. I just didn't come through like I have.”

        Kremer scored 17 in the first half and finished with 23.

        The Musketeers (24-9) were winning the battles under the boards, for every loose ball and in the turnover column until the final minutes.

        Using only six players for most of the game, the Musketeers were exhausted as the game wound down and turned the ball over twice down the stretch.

        “This is a tough way to lose,” said Xavier coach Melanie Balcomb. “UConn turned up the pressure and we did not execute.”

        UConn tied the game on Svetlana Abrosimova's twisting lay-in, and on its final possession, took the lead after Kremer fouled Williams during a scramble under the offensive boards. With the buildling eerily silent, Williams made both and Xavier was unable to get off a makeable shot on its end.

[phillips]
Phillips blocks out UConn's Shea Ralph.
(AP photo)

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        The combination of the Huskies' quickness and the Gampel Pavilion crowd usually intimidates opponents. But Xavier came out poised, withstood the noise and pressure, and staved off the early haymaker.

        Eight minutes into the game, the Musketeers were not only hanging in, but leading 13-12 as a result of Katie Griggs' three.

        With the score tied at 20, UConn took a timeout, but Xavier took control after that. Kremer hit three-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor and her perfect pass through the lane to Kim Hotz for an easy lay-in completed a 13-4 run.

        “The never game us a chance to go on a run because they wouldn't miss enough shots and we got frustrated,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

[levandusky]
Nicole Levandusky defends against UConn's Svetlana Abrosimova.
(AP photo)

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        Kremer continued to make plays and Xavier continued to play aggressively. When she stole an inbounds pass — Xavier's seventh steal of the half - and hit another three-pointer, the Musketeers went up 38-28 with 2:33 left.

        A UConn flurry in the final 90 seconds cut Xavier's lead to 40-36 as the half ended.

        Kremer finished the half with 17 points. UConn had 14 turnovers.

        Kremer cooled off and distributed the scoring load in the second half. The Huskies took better care of the ball, but UConn could not put together a run.

        Until the end.

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MARCH MADNESS PAGE


XAVIER (84)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Griggs          37   5-7   1-3   1-4  3  0   14
Hotz            32  4-11   4-4   1-3  2  1   12
Phillips        21   4-5   1-1   2-2  1  4    9
Kremer          40  6-11  8-10   0-1  6  2   23
Levandusky      35  5-16   2-2   1-6  3  3   15
Tuukkanen       27   4-9   3-3   3-5  1  4   11
Riley            8   0-0   0-0   0-1  1  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 28-59 19-23  8-22 17 14   84
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.475, FT-.826. 3-Point Goals: 9-15, .600 (Griggs 3-4, Kremer 3-4, Levandusky 3-7). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 1 (Tuukkanen). Turnovers: 17 (Kremer 6, Phillips 3, Griggs 2, Riley 2, Tuukkanen 2, Hotz). Steals: 8 (Kremer 2, Levandusky 2, Riley 2, Hotz, Tuukkanen).

CONNECTICUT (86) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Abrosimova 37 6-15 1-1 2-6 5 3 14 Williams 29 8-12 3-4 4-9 1 2 19 Jones 25 6-11 0-0 3-6 2 4 12 Glenney 23 1-4 0-0 1-1 4 3 3 Ralph 31 6-13 3-3 2-5 6 3 16 Hansmeyer 6 1-1 1-2 0-0 0 2 3 Duran 29 3-8 0-0 0-2 3 0 9 Cash 15 4-5 0-0 2-6 0 3 8 Sauer 5 0-0 2-2 0-1 0 1 2 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 35-69 10-12 14-36 21 21 86 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.507, FT-.833. 3-Point Goals: 6-17, .353 (Abrosimova 1-4, Glenney 1-2, Ralph 1-4, Duran 3-7). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 5 (Cash 2, Duran, Williams, Jones). Turnovers: 19 (Abrosimova 6, Cash 3, Jones 3, Duran 2, Glenney 2, Williams 2, Ralph). Steals: 7 (Glenney 2, Abrosimova, Cash, Hansmeyer, Jones, Ralph). __________________________________ Xavier 40 44 - 84 Connecticut 36 50 - 86 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 10,027. Officials: Dennis Mayer, Mark Zentz, Mike Brooks.