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Archive for Sunday, March 31, 2002

UConn could be best ever

March 31, 2002

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— The question has followed Connecticut throughout the NCAA tournament, and through much of the season as well.

Is this the best women's basketball team ever assembled?

With a 38-0 record, four All-Americans and an average victory margin of 36 points, the Huskies certainly can make a strong argument for that distinction. Tonight, they get one last chance to state their case.

Connecticut meets Oklahoma (32-3), a remarkable story in its own right, in the national championship game at the Alamodome. And this much is sure: If Connecticut wins, it matches Tennessee's 1997-98 team for the best record in women's basketball, 39-0.

It also would give the Huskies and coach Geno Auriemma their third title, adding to his program's growing legacy. As for how this team will be remembered, UConn's Tamika Williams said that's not important now.

"You know when that's going to matter?" Williams said. "When my kids are like 7, 8 years old and they're starting to play sports and I can tell them I was part of the best thing ever in women's basketball. That's when it will be history for me.

"As for right now, I'm just trying to win this game and finish off the great career we four seniors have had."

Connecticut has reached this point because it has five players who fit perfectly. They pass with precision. They don't miss when open. They don't care who scores, just as long as someone does. And their defense?

Just ask Tennessee about that. The Huskies hounded Tennessee from start to finish while overwhelming the Vols, 79-56, in the semifinals Friday night.

"They're relentless," Oklahoma's Caton Hill said. "If you make a turnover, they're going to make you pay. They're so smart they make big runs off that. That's what makes them the team that they are."

It starts with point guard Sue Bird, a first-team All-American and the national player of the year. Guard Diana Taurasi  there's no shot too tough or too far from the basket for her  and forward Swin Cash were second-team picks. Forward Asjha Jones made the third team.

The fifth starter, Williams, received honorable mention. No team ever had more All-Americans. Yet all know their roles.

"Maybe when it's all said and done, this thing about great teams and not-so-great teams, win or lose tomorrow night, I think there has to be a certain appreciation for the way these kids have handled playing the game," Auriemma said.

"There's a certain style these kids have. There's a certain flair that they play the game with."

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