UConn, Tennessee make date for women's final

Huskies erase late nine-point deficit against the Longhorns

Posted: Monday, April 07, 2003

ATLANTA - Her right ankle was aching, her back was sore, her game was off.

Diana Taurasi wasn't about to let those annoyances stand in the way of another trip to the women's national championship game.

Taurasi made big baskets down the stretch and a key defensive stop at the end to give Connecticut a 71-69 victory over Texas on Sunday night.

"I say it over and over again," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We have Dee and they don't. That's probably the biggest reason we won."

Taurasi, the national player of the year, scored 26 points to bring the Huskies back from a nine-point deficit in the second half. The only other UConn player to score in double figures was junior center Jessica Moore, a two-time former Alaska Player of the Year at Colony High School who had 13 points and six rebounds.

Now, the Huskies will get a chance to play for their third championship in four years. The title game is Tuesday night. The opponent is longtime rival Tennessee.

"There's just something about this team," Taurasi said. "We just don't want to go home."

It helps to have the country's best player. Taurasi's 3-pointer from well behind the arc gave the Huskies the lead for good, 67-66, with 2:07 remaining.

Texas still had a chance, but Taurasi knocked the ball away from Alisha Sare as the little-used Texas player raced down the court trying to set up a buzzer-beating shot.

Taurasi grabbed the loose ball and held up her right index finger as the horn sounded. Yes, the Huskies still have a chance to finish No. 1 again.

"The biggest thing you can say about her is she's not afraid," said coach Geno Auriemma, who picked up his 500th career victory. "She wants the ball in the crucial situations."

Earlier, Tennessee beat Duke 66-56 in the other semifinal to advance to a seemingly inevitable meeting with the Huskies.

"I know that's the game everyone's been waiting for," Auriemma said. "Now that it's here, let's enjoy it."

UConn (36-1) closed the semifinals with an 11-3 run to send home the Longhorns (29-6), who were in the Final Four for the first time since 1987.

"I was worried about just what happened," Texas coach Jody Conradt said. "You know when you're playing against a great team and a great player like Diana, you leave yourself open."

Taurasi, who had not practiced since the regional final in an attempt to heal, appeared a bit tentative and pulled off few of the flashy moves she's known for.

But she came through when her team needed her most.

With Texas leading 66-60, Taurasi zipped a great no-look pass from outside the arc to Willnett Crockett standing alone under the basket, sparking the game-ending run.

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