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College basketball

UConn back in Final 4 with win over Purdue

By Associated Press
Published April 2, 2003

DAYTON, Ohio - Connecticut was inconsistent all season. The Huskies were inconsistent against Purdue. That was still good enough to get back to the Final Four.

Diana Taurasi scored 21 and the defending national champions held on after letting much of a 22-point lead slip away to beat Purdue 73-64 Tuesday night to win the East Region.

The frantic finish was no surprise for the Huskies (35-1), who are relying on players who had little or no experience, including three freshmen.

"I think that's the way we've been playing all year, going up to a big lead and letting it go," UConn's Jessica Moore said. "I think it just shows how tough we are that we were able to hold out for that long and keep it."

The top-seeded Huskies are going to the Final Four for the fourth straight year, after what would have been a rebuilding season for any other school. They'll play Texas at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday. Texas beat LSU 78-60 in the West Region final.

After losing four starters from last season's unbeaten team, UConn now has a chance to win its third title in four years.

"This year, there were just a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainties," Taurasi said. "To make it this far and for us to really come together, it was unbelievable, it really was."

Second-seeded Purdue (29-6) did not go quietly, however, and Connecticut had to make nine straight free throws - five by Taurasi and four by Maria Conlon - in the final 2:53 to keep the Boilermakers behind.

Purdue, the 1999 national champion, bounced back from a wretched 19 percent first-half shooting effort to make the Huskies sweat after trailing 62-40 with less than nine minutes to play.

"That last two minutes, only D and Maria were going to touch that ball," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "I don't care if they hadn't hit any shots the whole night, I knew they'd make the free throws."

[Last modified April 2, 2003, 02:03:29]

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