HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- As Tennessee ran off the Hartford Civic
Center floor, stung by yet another loss to Connecticut (No. 2 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP), one of the
16,000-plus fans shouted what the Lady Vols already knew: "Too
Diana Taurasi kept the Huskies rolling toward the
record book with a 25-point performance that included the tying
shot in regulation and the game-winner with 31 seconds left in
overtime of UConn's 63-62 victory.
With 51 straight wins, the Huskies (12-0) have the
second-longest winning streak in NCAA history, behind Louisiana
Tech's 54 straight victories from 1980-82.
"This one feels really good, knowing that we had every chance
to lose the ballgame," Taurasi said.
The All-American made a 3-pointer with 7.5 seconds left to send
the game to the extra period tied at 56-56. She also made a
jaw-dropping 3-pointer from about 60 feet away as time expired in
the first half to put UConn ahead 29-26.
"It was just luck," she said of that shot. "There is no other
way to put it."
The fifth-ranked Lady Vols (9-3) were bigger inside and had more
experience, with coach Pat Summitt returning nine veterans from
last year's Final Four team. Taurasi, by contrast, is the only
returning starter from the Huskies' national championship team.
"We came into this game outmanned in every area. We knew if we
didn't come in here and play hard, with a lot of passion, then we
would probably get drilled," Taurasi said.
UConn leads the series against Tennessee 10-6, and Saturday
marked only the third time in the rivalry's history that one of the
schools wasn't ranked No. 1.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Saturday's game might have been
one of the best regular-season contests in his 18 years at UConn.
"Games like this are when great players make plays," he said.
"I didn't think this was an upset. We were home, we had a great
crowd, we have the best player in the country."
In the tightly contested game, Tennessee made the first move to
pull away midway through the second half. Tied at 41-41, Kara
Lawson scored nine points in a 13-5 Tennessee run to put the Lady
Vols ahead 54-46 with 5:17 left. The eight-point edge was the
biggest for either team.
"I was hoping we'd stretch that lead out a little more and get
the win," Lawson said. "Any Connecticut game is a game of runs.
We made one there, and they made one right back."
Led by Taurasi, the Huskies responded with a 7-0 run over the
next five minutes. She scored three points of those points made a
tap-pass beneath the basket to Jessica Moore, who converted the
layup. Ann Strother's driving layup capped the spurt and pulled the
Huskies within a point with 43.8 seconds left to play.
Shyra Ely brought Tennessee back, splitting the defense in the
lane for a layup with 17 seconds left. On the UConn inbounds,
Taurasi took a feed from Maria Conlon and calmly sank her 3-pointer
with 7.5 seconds left.
"When you have a Diana Taurasi, you're never out of it,"
Summitt said. "We just can't make the offensive plays they can.
She hits the shot at the end of the first half, the shot to send it
into overtime ... she just makes big shots."
In overtime, Shanna Zolman made a pair of free throws to give
Tennessee a 58-56 lead. Conlon countered for UConn with a
3-pointer. Taurasi then rebounded a miss by Tennessee. With Lawson
guarding her, Taurasi backed into the lane and hit a turnaround
jumper for 61-58 UConn lead with 2:35 to play.
Zolman hit a jumper with 1:22 left to put Tennessee back in
front by a point before Taurasi responded with the game-winner.
Tennessee had one final shot with 1.9 seconds left, but Lawson's
jumper bounced off the rim.
The Lady Vols outrebounded the Huskies 42-39, but leading
rebounder Ashley Robinson was held to just four, three below her
average. Gwen Jackson, who averages six rebounds and 15.7 points
game, played 16 minutes and finished with two points and no
rebounds. She was benched for all but two minutes in the second
half, and Summitt replaced her with Ely.
The Huskies were banged up coming into the game. Starting
freshman guard Nicole Wolff is out six weeks with a stress fracture
in her left foot, and Taurasi has a sore right ankle. But as
Tennessee could see, she still had plenty of game.
"She gutted it out," Auriemma said. "It was a Brett Favre
performance. She lives for these games."