UConn Defeats UT, Repeats as Champions

Tennessee crashed the boards with abandon but it couldn't break UConn's stranglehold on the college basketball's top rung, as the Lady Huskies withstood a late rally to score a 73-68 victory and win their third national title in four years.

Led by Diana Taurasi's game-high 28 points, the defending national champions followed last season's 39-0 season with a 37-1 mark, despite replacing four starters and not having a single senior in the lineup.

Tennessee never led in the game, which was tied four times, and never had an answer for Taurasi. Neither did the Lady Vols get the big shot when they needed it most or come up with the big stop on defense when momentum appeared to be turning in their favor.

In short, it was much the same storyline of the last four meetings between these premier programs all won by UConn, which also has prevailed in six of the last seven contests in a series that is rapidly becoming one-sided with the Huskies holding an 11-6 lead. UConn is also 3-0 against UT in championship games.

Using a rotation of seven players, UConn didn't wither against Tennessee's defense as was clearly demonstrated by its accurate shooting. Working the ball patiently, the Huskies broke down UT's defense and often had open looks at the basket with the shot clock under five seconds. UConn shot 51 percent from the field (25-of-51), 48 percent from 3-point range (10-of-21) and 81percent from the foul line (13-of-16).

Conversely, Tennessee struggled in its half-court offense and couldn't ever get the transition game in high gear. The Lady Vols shot 44 percent from the field (25-of-57) and just 58 percent from the foul line (11-of-19), including several critical misses down the stretch.

UT held a commanding 37 to 22 rebounding advantage, highlighted by a 17-5 edge on the offensive glass. However, the Lady Vols were only able to convert those 17 second chances into 18 points.

Kara Lawson led Tennessee with 18 points and five assists while Gwen Jackson added 15 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Brittany Jackson came off the bench to score 13 points, but Tennessee starters Shyra Ely, Tasha Butts and Loree Moore combined for just 15 points.

Taurasi led four UConn players in double figures and got solid support from Ann Strother who scored 17, hitting 6-of-11 from the field and 3-of-7 of her 3-point attempts. Maria Colon added 11 points and Barbara Turner scored 10.

UConn made its break with the score tied with :30 remaining in the first half and the scored tied at 30-30. First Taurasi knocked down a trey and then UConn forced a turnover and turned it into a basket at the buzzer by Turner for a 35-30 lead.

The Huskies took up where they left off in the second half opening with a 12-4 run for a 47-34 advantage. Tennessee made a couple of runs at the lead and got the deficit down to 71-68 with 21 seconds left on a rebound basket by Gwen Jackson, but after UConn hit a pair of free throws UT turned the ball over and the Huskies killed the clock.

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