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UConn, Duke on to Final Four

Sue Bird and unbeaten Connecticut bounced the party crashers right out of the NCAA Tournament.

Bird scored a career-high 26 points and dished out 11 assists as UConn advanced to its third Final Four in eight years by beating Old Dominion 85-64 on Monday night in the Mideast Region final at Milwaukee. The national semifinals are Friday and the championship is Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

The Monarchs (28-6), miffed at their No. 7 seeding, used the perceived slight to fuel upsets of No. 2 Purdue and No. 3 Kansas State.

But they watched helplessly as the top-ranked and top-seeded Huskies (37-0) made their first 13 shots in racing to a 34-14 lead less than 10 minutes in. The Huskies next face the winner of the late Midwest Region final between Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

Over the weekend, Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry, whose team had won 21 in row, said: "We're in a position now to ruin parties."

In the East Region final at Raleigh, N.C., Alana Beard scored 24 and Monique Currie added 15 as Duke beat South Carolina 77-68.

On Friday, the top-seeded Blue Devils (31-3), who have won a school-record 22 in a row, face the winner of the late West Region final between Oklahoma and Colorado. The Blue Devils are returning to the Final Four for the first time since 1999, when they lost to Purdue in the championship game.

South Carolina (25-7) beat Duke during the regular season, winning 87-81 in overtime at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Nov. 25.

On Monday, No. 3 South Carolina rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to take a 46-45 lead on a layup by Jocelyn Penn with 9:54 left. Duke answered quickly, as Beard had a 3-point play and two free throws to put Duke up 50-46 with 9:03 left.

_ Complete coverage, 7C