Diana Taurasi takes over in the extra period to lead the No. 3 Huskies to their 51st straight win, 63-62 over No. 5 Vols.
January 5, 2003
HARTFORD, Conn. -- As Tennessee ran off the Hartford Civic Center floor, stung by yet another loss to Connecticut, one of the 16,000-plus fans shouted what the Vols already knew: "Too much Taurasi!"
Diana Taurasi kept the third-ranked Huskies rolling toward the record book with a 25-point performance that included the tying shot in regulation and the 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 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. She also made a jaw-dropping 3-pointer from about 60 feet 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 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 is the only returning starter from the Huskies' national championship team.
The Vols outrebounded the Huskies 42-39, but leading rebounder Ashley Robinson was held to four, three below her average.
"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 the 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, Kara Lawson scored nine in a 13-5 Tennessee run to go 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 an 7-0 run over the next five minutes. She had three of those points and 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.
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 sank her 3-pointer with 7.5 on the clock.
"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's jumper with 1:22 left put Tennessee back in front by a point before Taurasi's winner. Tennessee had one final shot with 1.9 seconds left, but Lawson's jumper bounced off the rim.