Svetlana Abrosimova made a three-pointer with just over a minute remaining as No. 1 Connecticut held off sharp-shooting Kentucky for a 68-62 win last night in a first-round game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge in Hartford, Conn.
"They lost me, I guess," Abrosimova said. "It was an easy shot for me."
The Huskies advanced to the championship game on Friday against Old Dominion, which beat Clemson, 68-57, in the earlier game.
Connecticut (2-0) played most of the game without Coach Geno Auriemma, ejected after his second technical early in the first half. Associate head coach Chris Dailey took over.
After several lead changes in the second half, Shea Ralph (17 points) made a jumper with 1 minute 3 seconds remaining in the game that pushed the Huskies out in front 61-59.
After a Wildcats turnover, Ralph found a wide-open Abrosimova for the three-pointer. Abrosimova then made two key rebounds as she and Ralph each made a pair of free throws down the stretch.
Connecticut had to overcome poor shooting in the first half and the Wildcats defensive pressure.
Kentucky, led by speedy guard Erica Jackson (18 points), took the Huskies out of their up-tempo game and raced to a 12-2 lead.
Connecticut shot 29 percent in the first half, and Kentucky (2-1) shot 54 percent. The Huskies won the battle of the boards 41-35, led by Abrosimova's 11 rebounds.
Asjha Jones made Connecticut's first field goal at the 15:04 mark in the first half, starting a 19-8 run that gave the Huskies a 21-20 lead. That lead was short-lived because of two straight technicals on Auriemma, who protested a hand-check call.
"It's hard because we're asking our players to keep their composure under a lot of adversity," Auriemma said. "I really didn't set a good example."
It was Auriemma's first ejection since 1992.
OLD DOMINION 68, CLEMSON 57: Lucienne Berthieu scored 18 points to lead the No. 14 Lady Monarchs in the other first-round game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge. Berthieu had six points in a 13-2 run over the last four minutes to help Old Dominion (2-0) pull away. Clemson (2-1) shot 31 percent from the field.
ILLINOIS 80, DUQUESNE 54: Allison Curtin scored 16 points to lead the 12th-ranked Illini. LynnDee Howell and Oxana Shetko had nine points each for the Dukes.