Auburn trailed defending national champion Connecticut 42-36 at halftime and looked to be very much in the game. However, the Huskies delighted the packed house home-state crowd of 9,091 with a 10-0 run to start the second half and they were never seriously challenged the rest of the way.
Auburn, the seventh seed in the East Regional, ends its season with a 22-9 record. UConn, the second seed, advances to the Sweet 16 to play Cal-Santa Barbara. UConn has 27 victories and just four losses.
The Tigers didn't have any shooting problems in the first half. They hit 52 percent of their shots, including 6-11 three-pointers. However, the second half was a very different story. The Tigers played 16 minutes and 11 seconds before senior forward Le'Coe Willingham hit Auburn's first field goal of the second period. By that time Auburn was down 72-42.
In the second half, Auburn took 23 shots from the field and made just four. UConn hit 14-29 second half field goals.
Willingham led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points and four rebounds in her final college game. Louise Emeagi came off the bench to score 12 points, including 10 in the first half.
Louise Emeagi added a spark off the bench for the Tigers as she made five of nine shots and added four rebounds and two steals.
As well as Auburn shot the ball in the first half, UConn was even better. The Huskies hit 8-11 treys in the first half and made 64 percent of their field goals to more than match Auburn's good shooting.
"We tried to match them in the first half, but you look at the stat sheet and you see they are 8-11 from behind the three-point line and they are shooting 64 percent from the floor," said Auburn coach Joe Ciampi. "Looking at the score we thought we had a great opportunity. "In the first five minutes of the second half, though, they just exploded."
Natasha Brackett, who scored 26 points for the Tigers in the NCAA first round victory over North Carolina State on Sunday, made just one of seven field goals and finished with eight points. Another starter, point guard Nicole Louden, made just one of eight field goals while scoring two points. The two other starters struggled to score, too. Senior center Mandisa Stevenson finished with six points and senior guard Nancy Derrick had three points.
Auburn was dominated on the boards, something it often does to its opponents. The Huskies had 35 rebounds, 11 more than the Tigers. Each team had 16 turnovers.
All-American guard Diana Taurasi led the Huskies with 17 points as she hit five of nine three-pointers. As a team UConn was 14-28 on threes while Auburn hit 7-20.
Guard Ann Strother added 16 for UConn as she hit 4-8 treys as did Maria Conlon, who added a dozen points. Barbara Turner scored 13 for the winners.
Nitasha Brown added six points off the bench for Auburn and Marita Payne scored two.
UConn did a good job of keeping the ball away from Auburn's leading scorer. Willingham shot 75 percent from the field, but she was only able to get eight shots off in 33 minutes on the court.
"We played a great team tonight that showed why they are the defending national champions," Ciampi said. "If they play like this throughout the tournament, good things are going to happen for them."