WBEN-Big East Tourney Recap

Player of the Week: Stefanie Dolson, Connecticut

When many people think of Connecticut, they usually think of senior forward Maya Moore, but it was the freshman center who led the team in scoring in two of the Huskies’ three wins in the Big East Tournament.

Dolson scored 24 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots in a 59-43 victory over Georgetown in the quarterfinals.

She nearly picked up a double-double in Connecticut’s 75-51 rout of Rutgers in the semifinals with 12 points and nine rebounds – the only game in which she didn’t lead Connecticut in scoring.

In the Big East Championship, she again led the Huskies with 24 points and nine rebounds in a 73-64 win over Notre Dame to clinch Connecticut’s fourth straight conference tournament title.

Six more than enough for Connecticut

Expectations were high for the No. 1/1 Connecticut Huskies in the Big East Tournament. The Huskies completed their ninth undefeated conference season with an 82-47 victory over Syracuse on Feb. 28, but entered the tournament facing a tough reality.

The loss of starting junior point guard Caroline Doty to a torn ACL before the season started and freshman Samarie Walker’s departure from the program left Connecticut seriously shorthanded, which teams can overcome in a regular season with days off between games, but Big East Tournament games are played consecutively, leaving little time for rest.

For the majority of the tournament, the Huskies relied primarily on a six-player rotation, a daunting task in any conference tournament, let alone the Big East.

The first test came in the quarterfinals against No. 23/21 Georgetown. In a game that saw senior forward Maya Moore score a mere six points, Connecticut needed an offensive  boost from her supporting cast. It got its lift in the form of freshman forward Stefanie Dolson’s 24 points and 10 more from junior guard Tiffany Hayes.

The Huskies pulled off the 59-43 win and moved on to the semifinals against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights couldn’t hang with Connecticut thanks to a 22-point effort from a rejuvenated Moore, and the Huskies advanced to the final with a 75-51 victory.

After playing a combined 128 minutes in the first two contests, fatigue was not a factor for Moore and Dolson against No. 10/7 Notre Dame.

Dolson again led Connecticut with 24 points and Moore repeated her total of 22 to secure the Huskies’ fourth consecutive Big East Tournament title. Moore and Dolson never left the floor in the 73-64 victory, each playing 40 minutes.

Whether or not their improbable stamina will be enough to propel the Huskies to another national championship remains to be seen, but so far these stalwart six are still reason to believe that Connecticut can bring home number eight.

Underdogs have little bite in Big East Tournament

Fans hoping for an unpredictable Big East Tournament were left disappointed. If a team wasn’t favored in this year’s Big East tournament, odds are it went home.

The first round saw No. -/25 West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Villanova advance – all were the higher seed except Villanova, which beat a Providence team 52-50 that was three conference wins better.

In the second round, Louisville ended Villanova’s run 69-47, No. 25/23 Marquette edged the Panthers 65-61 and No. 23/21 Georgetown survived the Orange 61-60 – again, all were the higher seeds.

It could be argued that the unranked St. John’s Red Storm’s 59-51 victory over the Mountaineers was an upset, but St. John’s was the higher seed in the tournament.

In a similar situation in the quarterfinal round where Rutgers was the higher seed against a ranked Marquette squad, the Scarlet Knights defeated the Golden Eagles 68-62 in the quarterfinals, and No. 1/1 Connecticut, No. 10/7 Notre Dame and No. 9/12 DePaul handled their competition in the quarterfinals.

As one could expect, the favorites took care of their business with the Huskies taking home the title and leaving behind a very predictable Big East bracket.