Women’s Big East Notebook 3-8-12

Geno Auriemma the Fastest Coach to 800 Wins with Huskies Title

Notre Dame proved to be the best regular season team in the Big East, winning the regular season title by two games. But it was Connecticut that proved to be the best team in the conference in a tournament setting, holding off the Fighting Irish, 63-54 to win its seventh Big East Tournament Championship in the last eight years.

Connecticut (29-4, 13-3 Big East) coach Geno Auriemma became the fastest coach in men’s or women’s basketball to win 800 games, needing only 928 games to reach the milestone. Auriemma led the Huskies to their 15th Big East Tournament title since 1985, his first season at Connecticut.

Notre Dame (30-3, 15-1 Big East) has made the tournament finals six times and lost each time to Connecticut. The Fighting Irish bounced the Huskies from the NCAA Tournament last season with a victory in the national semifinals and won both regular season matchups this year.

Connecticut’s victory marks the 19th consecutive season that the Huskies have won either the Big East regular season or tournament title. The Huskies had the home court advantage throughout the tournament with nearly 10,000 people packing the XL Center in Hartford.

The Huskies’ victory likely gives the Big East a pair of No. 1 seeds for the NCAA Tournament. Connecticut and Notre Dame have spent most of the season in top five of the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls this season.

A fourth meeting this season between these two teams is possible in either the national semifinal or national championship game. Unlike the BCS national championship game, this rematch would be a treat to watch for 40 minutes.

Eight Teams Likely to Hear Their Names on Monday

Much like the men’s side, the women’s Big East conference proved to be incredibly deep this season. It is likely to see eight teams go dancing this season. Of the top 10 teams in the conference, nine of the teams won at least one game in the tournament. The lone exception was Georgetown, who was ranked 15th in the Coaches Poll last week.

St. John’s entered the tournament with a league-leading eight game winning streak to earn the number two seed. The Red Storm knocked off 17th ranked Louisville in overtime to advance to the semifinals.

St. John’s was throttled by Connecticut, losing by 31 points in a rematch of the Red Storm’s upset over the Huskies in Hartford a couple weeks earlier.

Louisville has spent most of the season in the top 20 in both polls. The Red Storm entered the national rankings late in the season, but a second place finish and a big winning streak to end the season help their seeding. Georgetown, St. John’s and Louisville will likely be seeded around the five line in March.

DePaul was the eighth seed in the Big East Championship Tournament, yet spent most of the season ranked in the top 25. The Blue Demons have a pair of wins against teams ranked in the top 15 at the time of the matchup. They are likely to receive a double-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament.

West Virginia’s win at Notre Dame in early February helped solidify a single-digit seed for the Mountaineers. Rutgers played a difficult non-conference schedule helping it raise its ranking inside the top 10 during the middle of the season. There is an outside chance of a ninth team, like South Florida, but at least eight teams will be invited to the big dance.

Players of the Week

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, freshman forward, Connecticut #23

19.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 57 percent field goal percentage, 56 percent three-point percentage

Mosqueda-Lewis was named Big East Sixth Man of the Year, but she was more than that in the Big East Tournament. The unanimous All-Freshman First Team selection broke former Husky great Maya Moore’s freshman record for 3-pointers made in a season and lit up Rutgers and St. John’s for nine 3s on just 14 attempts.

Mosqueda-Lewis saved her best performance for the championship, pouring in 19 points and eight rebounds against Notre Dame.

Player of the Week

Devereaux Peters, senior forward, Notre Dame, #14

11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.3 blocks

Peters had a pair of double-doubles in wins over DePaul and West Virginia. The All-Big East First Team selection filled up the stat sheet against the Blue Demons in the quarterfinals with 16 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. Peters struggled in the championship game against Connecticut, shooting 2-of-9 from the floor, but finished with seven points and 11 rebounds. The Fighting Irish forward was named to the All-Tournament Team for her contributions.

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