Turner, a senior forward who hit 27 percent of her 3-pointers during the year, hit a desperation, falling away trey with 1.8 seconds left to lift the second-seeded Huskies past the third-seeded Lady Bulldogs 77-75 in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
“Tell it like it is, the last shot was a luck shot,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “Take nothing away from her. She had the presence of mind to throw it up and get it headed in the right direction, but from where I was standing it was luck.”’
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said, “Sometimes fate taps you on the shoulder.”
Georgia’s Tasha Humphrey took a final heave from 75 feet as the buzzer sounded, but the ball bounced off the front of the rim.
“One more inch, less than an inch, and it would have gone in,” senior guard Alexis Kendrick said of Humphrey’s hurl.
A sellout crowd of 9,091 in the Arena at Harbor Yard, which is 60 miles from Connecticut’s campus, was thrilled to see the Huskies improve to 31-3 in NCAA Tournament games played in their home state.
The highly partisan crowd was holding its breath after Kendrick hit a 3-pointer from the left baseline with 20 seconds left to put Georgia up 75-74. That moment only made the Lady Bulldogs’ pain worse after Turner’s shot, and many of them broke down in tears on the court after the game.
“A shot like that doesn’t happen every day,” Kendrick said. “It still feels like a dream, but it’s just one of those days. Nine times out of 10 the ball would have rimmed out, but it just happened to go in. The basketball gods were looking down on them today.”
Connecticut set up its final play in a timeout after Kendrick’s bucket and planned to run 3-point specialist Ann Strother off a screen for a 3-point attempt, Turner said, but Georgia switched from a man-to-man to zone and trapped Strother in the corner.
“It was a broken play,” said Turner, who finished with 31 points and nine rebounds. “I just called for the ball and took the shot. That was that.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who finished the season 23-9, fell to 1-3 all-time against the Huskies. Connecticut (32-4) advanced to play top-seed Duke on Tuesday for a chance to go to the Final Four.
Georgia trailed by four at halftime after blowing a 15-point first half lead. It tied the score six times in the second half before finally taking the lead with 1:03 left.
“Their hearts were broken,” Landers said, “and I told them they had every reason to be disappointed just as they had every reason to be extremely proud of what they did out on that floor tonight.”
Humphrey, a unanimous All-SEC selection, missed seven of her nine first half shots and had just seven points at the break, but she rebounded with 20 in the second to keep Georgia in the game.
When Humphrey picked up her fourth foul with 8:54 left, the Huskies began pounding the ball inside to Turner.
“We had to give some things up in the second half,” Landers said.
Senior guard Sherrill Baker, who along with Kendrick played her final game as a Lady Bulldog, had 19 points, nine rebounds and three steals for Georgia.
The Lady Bulldogs built a 25-10 lead in the first 13:17 of the first half but didn’t make a single field goal after that and trailed 34-30 at halftime. It got so bad at one point that Landers walked 15 feet onto the floor and literally asked to be whistled for a technical foul. That came right after Humphrey had been called for an offensive foul.
“I was fully aware of what I was doing,” he said.
Although the two free throws that Strother subsequently hit turned out to be the difference in the game, Landers didn’t regret his actions, he said.
“I felt like I needed to have a voice,” he said. “There’s only so much I can say. There are people at the back of the room, NCAA people with guns, but something had to be said I thought on our behalf. I don’t think I needed a technical, but I needed a voice and if I had to take the T to have the voice, so be it. You have to stick up for your kids.”
The loss ended a season in which Georgia had huge preseason expectations but lost four post players to injury or leaving the team before the first game had been played.
“We didn’t lose,” Landers said. “You lose when you go out and don’t apply the talent that you have to the challenge that you have. When you do the best that you can do with what you have to do with, you don’t lose, you get beat. There’s no shame in getting beat. The shame is not fighting the fight. We fought the fight.”