8:30 PM ET, April 8, 2003
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
ATLANTA (AP) -- After winning the national championship last year, Connecticut lost its four senior starters but still had the one player it needed -- Diana Taurasi.
Tennessee's inside game had carried the Lady Vols up to this point in the NCAA Tournament. But Connecticut won its second consecutive title by taking away Tennessee's inside game. Although the Lady Vols grabbed 40 rebounds to UConn's 22, the Huskies' interior players doubled-down on and outplayed Tennessee's posts, who failed to take advantage of second-chance points and capitalize on all those rebounds. Shyra Ely (six points, two rebounds) and Tasha Butts (four points, one rebound) never got going, and never penetrated UConn's defense. Kara Lawson played her heart out, but fellow senior Gwen Jackson, who played so well in the semifinals, never truly seemed to be a factor and wasn't able to step up and take over the game when her team needed it. As a result, Tennessee's offense seemed a little stagnate at times. Ann Strother's performance was incredible, and without her 17 points and clutch 3-pointers, I'm not sure the Huskies would be holding up the championship trophy. Strother forced Tennessee to split its defensive attention between her and Diana Taurasi, who once again handled everything thrown her way. She was sensational, and is the type of player we haven't seen in a long time. UConn's Maria Conlon scored 11 big points, and she benefited from Tennessee focusing on Strother and Taurasi. We know those two can create their own shots, but Conlon shoots better when she gets an open look. Tonight, she just had to be patient and ready when the ball was reversed to her. She obviously was, draining 3 of 5 3-pointers. UConn's defense outside the paint was crucial, too. They ran a box on Lawson, limiting her shots and shading her side of the floor. Tennessee also failed to generate many fast-break opportunities.
|UConn won its second straight title and third in four years. A look at some of the other stories behind the Huskies' championship run:
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