A triple for the women, a double for the school. Connecticut's championship sweep is complete.
Led by the incomparable Diana Taurasi, the UConn women delivered an encore to the title won by the men's team, beating Tennessee 70-61 Tuesday night
for their third straight championship.
So now there's a new Titletown: tiny Storrs, Conn., the Huskies' home.
The victory by the women -- their fourth title in five years -- came after UConn beat Georgia Tech in the men's championship game Monday night, making
Connecticut the first Division I school to sweep both titles.
"Unbelievable," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's so mind-boggling. An unbelievable accomplishment for a school."
It was the fifth title overall for the women and came at the expense of the only other school that has won three straight championships. Tennessee and
coach Pat Summitt still lead all teams with six NCAA titles, but Auriemma and the Huskies are closing fast.
UConn started fast in this one, racing to a 17-point lead in the first half, then had to fend off Tennessee time and time again in the second half.
The Huskies did it with contributions from everyone.
Taurasi scored 17 points and three teammates weren't far behind. Jessica Moore and Ann Strother each had 14 and Moore grabbed nine rebounds. Barbara
Turner had nine rebounds, 12 points, four assists, two steals and two blocks.
This was a team championship.
"Every time we needed a big play from someone, we got it," said Taurasi, voted the Final Four's outstanding player for the second straight year.
Tennessee cut the lead to six at halftime, closed to three early in the second half and trailed by just two after Brittany Jackson hit a 3-pointer
from 3 feet behind the arc with 9:50 to play.
Connecticut (31-4) pushed the lead back to eight, but the Lady Vols kept coming. Ashley Robinson blocked Turner's turnaround shot, raced to the other
end, caught a no-look pass from Shanna Zolman and made a layup, drawing the Lady Vols to 59-55.
It would get no closer. Willnett Crockett's three-point play, her only points of the night, stopped Tennessee's momentum and the Huskies finished it
off with free throws.
"This season was incredibly difficult in so many ways," said Auriemma, who returned everyone from last season's national championship team. "They had
to be everything everybody expected them to be."
As the clock wound down, Taurasi gritted her teeth and raised her clenched fists. Then she grabbed the bouncing ball after the buzzer sounded and
punted it into the stands with a boot that would have done Ray Guy justice.
"UConn domination -- bottom line," Taurasi exclaimed. "Tennessee is a great team. They were able to make their runs, but we showed a lot of composure.
It is the absolute best feeling in the world."
Moore scored 12 of her points in the second half to help keep UConn ahead and her biggest rebound came at her most painful moment of the game. She
twisted her left knee after grabbing an offensive rebound and crashed to the floor after getting rid of the ball.
With Moore still down, Strother was fouled on a 3-point shot and hit all three free throws, giving UConn a 57-49 lead. Moore was helped to the bench,
examined by a trainer and returned to an ovation 3½ minutes later.
Zolman led Tennessee with 19 points, Robinson had 13 and Shyra Ely 10. Tasha Butts, one of Tennessee's stars in the postseason, had a tough night. She
shot 1-for-10 and was held to eight points.
"We wanted to own the game. We wanted to own the second half," Zolman said. "They had an answer for everything we did."
So the brash, fast-talking Auriemma once again got the best of Summitt, whose frosty relationship with the UConn coach has become legendary. The
Huskies have defeated Tennessee six straight times and, even more important, they're 4-0 against the Lady Vols in national championship games,
including a 73-68 victory last year.
"His teams are a reflection of his personality," Summitt said of Auriemma. "They have a toughness about them."
Tennessee went back-to-back-to-back from 1996-98, but the Lady Vols haven't won since.
They made it to this year's championship game -- their 11th -- with three straight two-point victories decided in the final seconds. They kept things
interesting Tuesday night but there was no chance to make a play at the end, mainly because the Lady Vols had to come from too far down.
"We could cut it and get it within two, but we could not sustain our game," Summitt said. "I thought they beat us to the ball all night."
Less than 10 minutes into the game, Connecticut led by 11. Two minutes later, the lead grew to 16 when Strother threw in an over-the-shoulder layup.
When Strother's 3 from the left wing made it 30-13 with 6:29 left in the half, the Huskies were shooting 67 percent.
But they didn't score again in the half and Tennessee ran off the last 11 points to cut the lead to six. Ely scored the final basket in that surge and
smiled broadly as she ran back down the court -- a sharp contrast to the glum looks as the Lady Vols trudged off the court when it was over.
"They're in a lot of pain tonight," Summitt said. "I want the pain to go away so they can realize what they've accomplished this year."
The Huskies have won 18 straight NCAA tournament games. They haven't lost in the tournament since Notre Dame beat them in the national semifinals in
2001, Taurasi's freshman year.
"I feel like it was just yesterday we were lying in the locker room in St. Louis crying our eyes out, saying we never wanted to have this feeling
again," senior Maria Conlon said. "Sure enough, we never did."