HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)Crystal Dangerfield scored 14 points and No. 3 UConn used a dominant third quarter to beat 23rd-ranked Tennessee 60-45 on Thursday night – 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.
Rennia Davis scored 16 points to lead the Lady Vols (15-4).
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.
The series ended after the 2007 season when then-Tennessee coach Pat Summitt called it off. Geno Auriemma said at the time that Summitt had accused the Huskies of a recruiting violation. Summitt never went public into specifics about why she ended the series. She died in 2016 at age 64 of Alzheimer’s disease.
Former Tennessee coach Holly Warlick, a longtime assistant of Summitt’s who helped set up Thursday’s game, told The AP that the reason she agreed to restart the series was because it will benefit the Pat Summitt Foundation. The two teams will play in Knoxville next season. Proceeds from both games will go to it, along with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
UConn donated $10,000 to Summitt’s foundation with Auriemma and Tennessee coach Kellie Harper taking part in a ceremony at the half. The Huskies also are auctioning off the black uniforms they wore for the game with the proceeds going to the foundation.
The game was part of the We Back Pat week in honor of Summitt. Both teams wore shirts honoring her. Tennessee got off to a fast start, scoring 10 of the first points. The Lady Vols led 16-14 after one quarter. They extended the lead to eight before holding a 31-28 advantage at the half. It was a sloppy opening 20 minutes with the two teams combining for 24 turnovers.
MISCUES: Tennessee committed 27 turnovers on the game, one short of their season worst, which was 28 against Notre Dame – a game the Lady Vols won.
SPARK OFF THE BENCH: Aubrey Griffin had 13 points, seven rebounds and five steals, providing a huge lift for UConn.
HISTORY: The Huskies won 13 of the first 22 meetings, including going 4-0 in the national championship game. Tennessee won the previous three meetings in the series before Thursday. Former stars of the series Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Rebecca Lobo were iin attendance working the game on TV as well as Harper, who played for Tennessee.
Tennessee: Hosts LSU on Sunday.
UConn: At East Carolina on Saturday.