Updated: Monday, 01 Mar 2010, 11:32 PM EST
Published : Monday, 01 Mar 2010, 11:32 PM EST
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Tina Charles had 18 points and eight rebounds to become top-ranked Connecticut's career leader in both categories in a 76-51 win over No. 6 Notre Dame on Monday night, leaving the Huskies one shy of tying their NCAA women's record for consecutive victories.
Connecticut (30-0, 16-0), which reached 30 wins for the fifth straight season, can match the record of 70 consecutive wins set by the Huskies from 2001-2003 in the Big East tournament quarterfinals on Sunday. It is the eighth time the Huskies have gone unbeaten in a Big East regular season.
Every win in the streak has been by double figures.
The loss dropped the Fighting Irish (25-4, 12-4) into a fourth-place tie with No. 16 St. John's, but the Irish will be the fifth seed in the tournament because of a loss to the Red Storm.
Charles passed Nykesha Sales (1995-98) as the school's all-time leading scorer and Rebecca Lobo (1992-95) as its leading rebounder.
Maya Moore had 17 points and nine rebounds as all five Connecticut starters finished in double figures. Tiffany Hayes added 13 points, Kalana Greene 12 and Caroline Doty 11. The Huskies got just five points from their bench.
Devereaux Peters matched her career high in leading the Irish with 15 points, and Becca Bruszewski also had 15 as the Irish got 31 points from its bench.
The Irish who appeared intimidated in falling behind 24-4 en route to a 70-46 loss at UConn on Jan. 16, their first of the season, got off to a much better start on Monday. The Irish closed to 16-15 when Bruszewski hit a 3-pointer midway through the first half.
But the Huskies quickly responded with a 10-0 run capped by a three-point play by Doty that gave UConn a 26-15 lead. The Huskies extended the lead to 36-23 at halftime as the Irish frequently struggled to get quality shots, repeatedly taking shots just before the shot clock buzzer, They had one shot clock violation as they struggled to make passes.
The Irish didn't register their first assist until Peters scored inside on a pass from Ashley Barlow with 5 minutes left in the first half.
New Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly spoke at halftime to the sellout crowd of 9,149, the sixth this season for the Irish and 12th in the 33-year history of the program. He praised the fans for their support of the women's basketball team.
"We're the Fighting Irish. We're going to keep fighting. This game isn't over yet," he said to loud applause.
While Kelly's word inspired the crowd, he couldn't help the Irish. The Huskies ended the first half on a 5-0 run, then opened the second half with an 8-2 burst, moving ahead 44-27 on a free throw by Moore. After a free throw by Skylar Diggins cut Connecticut's lead to 46-32, Charles scored consecutive baskets inside to spark a 13-0 run that put the game away.
Notre Dame simply couldn't live up to its reputation as streak busters. The women's basketball team ended a 30-game winning streak by UConn in 2001. The Irish also stopped Oklahoma's 47-game winning streak in football in 1957, and UCLA's 88-game winning streak in men's basketball in 1974.
But it never came close to challenging the Huskies in two games this season, as the Irish never held a lead against UConn.
Notre Dame, which shot a season-low 27 percent in the first game against Connecticut, didn't do much better on Monday, shooting 31 percent.
Notre Dame had won 14 straight games at home since losing 79-71 to Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. UConn has won 27 straight road games and improved to 22-0 against ranked teams during the winning streak and to 12-0 against top 10 teams.