UConn Ends N.C. State's Dream, 78-71
Kay Yow's run comes to an end at the hands of the Huskies
March 24, 2007
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -Kay Yow waved to her fans as she slowly walked off the court - her team's emotion-fueled run through the NCAA tournament having come to an abrupt end.
The coach who inspired her players and countless others by her fight with breast cancer said she had a hard time grasping that there would be no more practices or games in this remarkable season.
The inside play of Charde Houston and Tina Charles proved to be more powerful than North Carolina State's emotion and the top-seeded Huskies knocked out the fourth-seeded Wolfpack with a 78-71 victory Saturday night in the Fresno Regional semifinal.
"This will be a team that will never be forgotten," Yow said. "This will be a team that stands out."
That's because of the Wolfpack's Hall of Fame coach. N.C. State (25-10) had won 12 of 14 games to advance to their first regional semifinal since 2001, but lost for the 10th time in 11 trips to this round under Yow.
The emotions in this game were so deep that Wolfpack star Khadijah Whittington broke down in tears on the podium and even UConn coach Geno Auriemma got a little choked up.
"We were in a tough situation. We were playing against a lot of things - not just a basketball team," he said. "Sometimes you need to be reminded how special this opportunity is.
"You feel like the bad guy because you're the guy who ends it. At the same time, it would have been even harder walking into that locker room if we had lost."
After trailing at the half for a second straight game, Houston and Charles took control early in the second half to send the Huskies (32-3) into Monday night's Fresno Regional final against the winner of the game between third-seeded LSU (28-7) and 10th-seeded Florida State (24-9).
"There are no players on this team who have been to a Final Four," Houston said. "We have only been to the elite eight. Our inspiration is our team."
Charles scored the first two baskets of the half as the Huskies scored the first eight points to go up 44-37. Houston over from there, scoring nine points in a five-minute span. UConn's lead was 11 when Charles blocked a shot by Marquetta Dickens that led to a layup by Renee Montgomery.
"We lost the game at the beginning of the second half," Yow said. "For whatever reason, we came out with no energy the first five minutes."
After a timeout, Shayla Fields hit a pair of 3-pointers during an 8-0 run for N.C. State that cut the lead to 61-58 with 7:44 to go. But the Wolfpack couldn't get any closer after that.
Houston scored 18 points to lead UConn. Charles and Kalana Greene added 17 points apiece, and Montgomery had 12 points and eight assists as UConn won for the 18th time in 19 games.
Dickens led N.C. State with 14 points, while Whittington and Fields had 13 apiece.
"This team will take a whole lot of life lessons from this year," Whittington said. "Just having a coach that's going to fight for you and is able to do that for you throughout what he's going through. There were so many times I felt like giving up and then I see Coach Yow and she never gives up."
Yow took a 16-game leave earlier this season to undergo treatment for a recurrence of her stage 4 breast cancer. She has been coaching despite undergoing nearly weekly chemotherapy sessions that seriously weakened her, but her players say her strength has been their inspiration even though she struggled at times to get out of her chair to argue with the officials or yell instructions to her players.
This season's success is one of many milestones in her 36-year career, including the last 32 at N.C. State. She has won an Olympic gold medal as a coach in 1988, four ACC tournament championships, and made 20 appearances in the NCAA tournament.
She said after the game that she would wait to see how she felt before deciding if she'd be back next season.
"I'm so proud of this team," Yow said. "They lost tonight, but they put their heart and soul and everything into every game I've been around in. I couldn't be more proud of them. I wish they could have won tonight, but in the loss I'm really proud of everything they did."
The Wolfpack scored at will early, making 10 of their first 13 shots. They led 22-15 after Alicia Key's three-point play with 12:29 to go.
UConn then closed the gap and took its first lead at 36-34 when Ketia Swanier's 3-pointer with 39 seconds to go capped an 8-0 run.
Fields then drew a foul at the other end and made the first free throw. Whittington rebounded the miss of the second shot and converted to put the Wolfpack up 37-36 at the half.
Auriemma was livid that Whittington wasn't called for a foul on the play and yelled at the officials as the half ended. Associate coach Chris Dailey got in between Auriemma and the officials, but he pushed her aside to continue the yelling before heading to the locker room.