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Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

Huskies one win away from securing perfect season

March 30, 2002

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— By overwhelming its biggest rival, Connecticut showed why it's the perfect team.

Now, there's just one game to go to complete a perfect season.

With its usual combination of masterful offense and sticky defense plus a flawless game from player of the year Sue Bird Connecticut rolled past Tennessee and into the national championship game with a 79-56 victory Friday night.

Oklahoma is all that stands between Connecticut and its second national title in three years and third overall.

Connecticut grabbed the lead early, refused to give it up and dominated one of the few teams that was given any chance of beating the Huskies (38-0).

"When you're going into a game of this magnitude, you really don't know what to expect," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "All day long, I was just preparing myself for anything that could happen.

"Just the way we took the game to a very good team, a very good team, I'm really, really proud of my team right now. They're a pretty special group and we played a pretty special kind of game."

It's a group that certainly was too good for Tennessee, the most storied program in women's basketball with six national titles but in over its head in this one.

"It was very shocking to see how we played," Tennessee's Loree Moore said. "We didn't get going into our rhythm and they took advantage of that. They just steamrolled."

Earlier, Oklahoma beat Duke 86-71 in the other semifinal and will get its shot at Connecticut on Sunday night. The Sooners played gamely against the Huskies in the regular season, keeping it close much of the way before losing 86-72 on Dec. 22.

Yet, there's even more at stake than a title for the Huskies, who have a chance to make their claim as the best women's team ever.

They sure looked it against Tennessee. Connecticut-Tennessee is the marquee rivalry in women's basketball, but the Huskies made this one look like a scrimmage against the reserves.

"We wore them down with our rebounding and physicalness inside," UConn's Diana Taurasi said. "We just kept pushing the ball at them."

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