Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 19 points to help No. 4 Connecticut beat third-ranked Notre Dame 63-54 in the Big East Conference tournament final in Hartford, Conn.
HARTFORD, Conn. — Coach Geno Auriemma and Connecticut came into the Big East tournament questioning whether they were a championship team.
They answered with a fifth consecutive conference title.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 19 points and Bria Hartley added 18 to help No. 4 UConn beat third-ranked Notre Dame 63-54 Tuesday night.
The Huskies relied on standouts Tina Charles and Maya Moore to win the past few titles, and Auriemma felt this one was more of a team effort.
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“Tonight and last night they weren’t looking for Maya Moore or Tina. This one feels really good for them because it’s theirs,” he said. “They really own this one. It feels way better than the other ones they won.”
The victory also made Auriemma the sixth Division I women’s coach with at least 800 career victories, reaching the mark in fewer games than anybody else.
“We felt like we won 800 this year,” said Auriemma, who is 800-128 in 27 seasons at UConn. “That’s what it felt like. This was the most grueling and taxing year that we’ve had at Connecticut in a long, long time.”
Tennessee’s Pat Summitt had been the fastest to 800 victories. She did it in 958 games and 29 seasons.
The Huskies entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed after dropping their final two home games of the regular season, including a 13-point loss last week to Notre Dame in Hartford. After that game, the Huskies were searching for their normal swagger.
They have it back.
“We got it back last night, a little more tonight,” Auriemma said. “Hopefully now we can hold on to it for three weekends. Today’s Tuesday, I wish the NCAA tournament started Saturday. This is when you want to keep going now. For us to have to wait two weeks is difficult. So we’ll have to work really hard to hold on to this thing we have.”
Notre Dame (30-3) was seeking its first Big East tournament title. The Irish, who won the outright regular-season title for the first time, have made the tournament-championship game six times and lost each one to the Huskies (29-4).
UConn also ended a rare three-game losing streak to the Irish. Notre Dame beat the Huskies in the national semifinals last season, then swept the two regular-season meetings this year.
“It’s hard to lose any game,” said senior guard Tiffany Hayes, who didn’t drop a game in her first two years at UConn. “To lose to one team three straight times doesn’t sit well. With this team we just knew we were better than we have played the last couple of games. We were willing to fight till the end.”
past Eastern Washington
MISSOULA, Mont. — Mathias Ward, who is from Gig Harbor, scored 19 points to help Montana beat Eastern Washington 74-66 in a Big Sky tournament semifinal game.
Eastern (15-17) led 62-61 with 1:46 remaining but the Grizzlies (26-4) went on an 11-0 run in the next 1:28 before a crowd of 5,563.
Top-seeded Montana will play Weber State (24-5) in Wednesday’s final.
Cliff Colimon scored a game-high 27 points for the Eagles, who led by 11 points in the first half.
Eastern’s Cliff Ederaine added 16 points and Laron Griffin contributed 15 points and 14 rebounds.
“I thought we played a great game,” first-season Eastern coach Jim Hayford said. “I can’t imagine an Eastern fan who watched it or was here who wouldn’t be tremendously proud of this team.”
Montana outscored the Eagles 27-11 from the free-throw line.
• The Harvard men will make their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1946. The Crimson became Ivy League champions, earning an automatic NCAA bid, when host Princeton beat Pennsylvania 62-52.
Penn (19-12, 11-3 Ivy) needed to beat Princeton to tie Harvard (26-4, 12-2) for the league title and force a one-game playoff that would have decided the automatic NCAA berth.
Princeton senior forward Patrick Saunders said, “We don’t have much love for either team.”
• The Gonzaga men are among eight teams in the 2013 EA Sports Maui Invitational in Lahaina, Hawaii. The Zags won the event in 2009.
Gonzaga will be joined by Syracuse (the 1990 and 1998 tournament winner), Arkansas, Baylor, California, Dayton, Minnesota and Division II Chaminade, the host school.