HARTFORD, Conn. – The latest chapter in the UConn-Tennessee rivalry was different for Geno Auriemma. Pat Summitt was no longer on the sideline for the Lady Vols.
“It wasn't the same. I miss having her there," an emotional Auriemma said after UConn's 60-45 victory Thursday night. “I miss looking forward to having her there."
Crystal Dangerfield scored 14 points and No. 3 UConn used a dominant third quarter to beat 23rd-ranked Tennessee in the first matchup in 13 years between the teams whose rivalry dominated the sport for over a decade.
Trailing by three at the half, the Huskies (17-1) scored 17 of the first 19 points in the third quarter, taking a 45-33 lead on Dangerfield's 3-pointer with 1:45 left in the period. UConn led by 11 after three and Tennessee could get no closer in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like they came out with a different intensity defensively in the second half," Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. “The game plan might have changed a little bit. ... We lost our composure in the third quarter.”
Rennia Davis scored 16 points to lead the Lady Vols (15-4). They had only 14 points in the second half — the lowest total in program history.
“It was great to play in this environment with the history between both programs," Davis said.
Thursday night provided a little bit of nostalgia for those who remembered how these two teams carried women's basketball for over a decade since their first historic meeting in 1995 that was a 1 vs 2 showdown. They played 22 times over a 12-year span, with each one being a circle-the-calendar game whether it was in Tennessee, Connecticut or the NCAA Tournament.