Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

North Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Alabama Advance to Final Four

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

North Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Alabama Advance to Final Four

Article excerpt

Tonya Sampson scored 30 points as No. 4 North Carolina advanced to the women's Final Four for the first time by defeating No. 3 Connecticut 81-69 in the East Regional final Saturday.

North Carolina will play the winner of the West Regional title game between Purdue and Stanford in the national semifinal next Saturday in Richmond, Va.

Tar Heels senior center Sylvia Crawley said: "This proves we can play with and beat the best teams. The next two games are just going to be a matter of who wants it more."

The victory was the 12th in a row for the third-seeded Tar Heels (31-2), and it snapped a school-record winning streak at 21 games for top-seeded Connecticut (30-3).

North Carolina forcenovers in the final 17 minutes after the Huskies opened a 49-42 lead.

"I said going in we'd have to play our best game and have some luck at the same time," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "I don't think either of those two things happened, but North Carolina may have had something to do with that."

Sampson, who scored 53 points in the two games at Rutgers Athletic Center, ignited a 14-2 spurt with a 3-point basket and a layup.

Jamelle Elliott put in a rebound for Connecticut, but Charlotte Smith hit a driving layup. Smith was back in the lineup after a one-game suspension for punching an Old Dominion player last weekend.

Sampson, a senior guard, hit a layup after a steal, tying the game 51-51 with 14:44 to go. Smith then hit a 10-foot jumper that put the Tar Heels ahead for good, and Sampson nailed a 3-pointer, making it 56-51.

Connecticut twice cut the lead to one, the last time at 58-57 on a basket by Recebba Lobo. She scored 11 points, eight below her average.

Smith added 17 for North Carolina, Crawley had 13 and Marion Jones 12. Kara Wolters had 23 points for Connecticut, which shot 53.4 percent from the field (31 of 58).

The Huskies, who started no seniors, last reached the Final Four in 1991. …

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