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Tuesday, April 6, 2004
Updated: April 7, 4:44 AM ET
Tennessee's surges not enough vs. UConn

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Tasha Butts seemed stunned.

After all, pulling victories out in the final seconds had become a habit for the Tennessee Lady Vols. They never got the chance Tuesday night against Connecticut.

After three straight two-point victories decided in the final seconds, the Volunteers ran out of magic Tuesday night in a 70-61 loss to the rival Huskies in the championship game.

Tasha Butts
Tasha Butts helped pull off miracles in two Tournament games, but not on Tuesday night.

"I thought we were going to come back," Butts said. "But every time we made a defensive mistake, Connecticut capitalized on it. We had too many breakdowns and every time we did, they took advantage of it."

By the time Butts took Tennessee's last shot -- a missed layup with 15 seconds left -- Connecticut had already sealed its third straight NCAA title. The Huskies also beat Tennessee in the title games in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

Tennessee, the only other team to win three straight championships, managed another comeback, but it was not enough. "We've been playing from behind a lot this tournament," Brittany Jackson said. "It's hard to come back from a big deficit, especially against a team like Connecticut."

Tennessee's 113 points in its two Final Four games -- they beat LSU 52-50 -- are the fewest scored in two Final Four games in NCAA tournament history. The Lady Vols also recorded the lowest two-game field-goal percentage (40-for-118, 33.9 percent) and the second- fewest field goals in two games.

"We knew what we had to do and we tried to do it," LaToya Davis said. "But every time we'd make a run they'd come up with a way to stop us."

After trailing by as many as 17 points in the first half, Tennessee pulled within two at 50-48 on Ashley Robinson's 3-pointer with 9:46 remaining.

But Connecticut outscored Tennessee 20-13 the rest of the way.

The Vols shot 36 percent (22-of-61) from the field, including a 4-for-16 performance from 3-point range.

"We pulled together obviously being able to make a run from 17 down," Shanna Zolman said. "But they had an answer for everything we did."

Rebounding, the Vols' strong suit in the first half when they beat Connecticut 22-13 on the boards, dropped off in the second half and they finished with a 39-31 margin.

"It's a really sad feeling," said Robinson, a senior. "Knoxville has been so good to me. I wish I could have left with a championship and left my mark. But it's time to move on."