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Women win Big East for fifth year in a row
March 9, 1998

Co-captain Rita Williams led the Huskies to a fifth straight Big East championship Tuesday, despite the absence of all-time leading scorer and Big East Player of the Year Nykesha Sales.

Sales ended her collegiate career after suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon in the Huskies' win over Notre Dame on February 21. The loss of Sales led many to believe that the Huskies were a vulnerable team entering the tournament, but Williams stepped up to fill the void and led a strong team effort over the course of the tournament.

The quest of the No. 3 nationally ranked UConn women's basketball team for a fifth straight Big East championship began March 1, with a quarterfinal matchup against West Virginia on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Connecticut, the No. 1 seeded team in the tournament with a 17-1 conference record, had a bye in the first round. After a 84-82 victory over West Virginia on Sunday and a 73-53 rout of Notre Dame in Monday's semifinal game, UConn advanced to the Big East Conference Tournament finals for the fifth consecutive year.

Tuesday's title game found UConn pitted against Rutgers, one of the two teams to gain a victory over the Huskies in the regular season and one of just two Big East foes to defeat them during the past five years. Heading into the final, the two teams had faced each other two previous times in the 1997-98 regular season, with UConn taking an 82-69 win in Storrs on New Year's Eve and Rutgers handing the Huskies a 74-70 defeat in Piscataway on February 10, marking UConn's only conference loss of the season.

Junior Amy Duran scored 17 points and Williams added 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as Connecticut avenged its loss to the Lady Knights and clinched an automatic NCAA Tournament berth with a 67-58 win over Rutgers.

Williams was named the championship's MVP, while Duran and Abrosimova were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith is an athletic communications assistant.