Not all fond memories of Cincinnati for Huskies

By Carl Adamec

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team is 3-0 at Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center against Cincinnati heading into tonight’s Big East game against the Bearcats (8 p.m., SNY).

But that’s not to say there are all fond memories for Huskies’ coach Geno Auriemma, assistant coach Shea Ralph, and even his former assistant, Bearcats’ coach Jamelle Elliott.

UConn’s first trip to the Shoemaker Center was in 1999 when it faced Iowa State in a NCAA tournament Mideast Regional semifinal game. Auriemma was trying to get UConn to the Elite Eight for a sixth straight year and Elliott was a second-year assistant on his staff.

The Huskies were the region’s No. 1 seed but had struggled just to get to the Sweet 16. They needed a game-closing 8-0 run, capped by two Tamika Williams free throws with 7.0 seconds left, to sneak past Xavier 86-84 in the second round.

It didn’t get better against Iowa State.

“It was terrible. Sveta (Abrosimova) and I were like 4-for-29,” Ralph said.

It was 5-for-29 to be exact. Abrosimova, having the first of three All-American seasons, was 3-for-17 from the floor and 1-for-8 from 3-point land. Ralph, UConn’s leading scorer and an All-American a year later, was 2-for-12 overall and missed all nine of her shots from behind the arc.

The Huskies shot 29.85 percent from the floor. In 500 games since, UConn has shot worse only once (29.82 percent in a 53-48 win at Seton Hall on Jan. 15, 2003).

Still, the Huskies almost won.

UConn broke a halftime tie to lead by as many as seven. It was 50-44 with 5:40 left when the Cyclones caught fire. They went 5-for-6 from behind the arc in a 3:15 span to go ahead 59-55. The Huskies had a chance to tie in the final 45 seconds, but Abrosimova’s attempt barely touched the iron and Iowa State iced it at the foul line.

“We caught them on the perfect night and things kind of fell for us,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said in 2010.

UConn finished 29-5. That year and 2004-05 are the only time in the last 19 seasons the Huskies have not reached the 30-win plateau and the NCAA regional finals.