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UConn Rules The Basketball World

Both teams were No. 1 at the beginning, and now they're both on top at the end. For Connecticut, this was a basketball season like no other.

Two teams, two titles and one unprecedented feat.

The Connecticut women completed a championship sweep for the school and further enhanced their stature as the nation's dominant program by beating Tennessee 70-61 Tuesday night for their third straight NCAA title.

The night before, UConn defeated Georgia Tech in San Antonio to win the men's championship.

A Division I school had never before won both titles in the same season.

"We don't even understand the magnitude of our own win, let alone what both programs have accomplished in the same year," UConn's Maria Conlon said. "Hopefully in a couple of weeks, when we settle in, we'll understand how special this is.

"We watched the men's game together last night and we said there is no way we are going to miss the opportunity to make history."

Thanks to Diana Taurasi and a terrific supporting cast, the Huskies got it done. And they did it against the only other school that has won three straight titles, the program the Huskies have usurped to become the nation's best.

Tennessee won three in a row from 1996-98, but hasn't had a title since. Connecticut has won four since 2000 and has five overall, one short of Tennessee's record total. Four of the Huskies' championships have come with victories over Tennessee in the title game.

"Tennessee's been great for so long and as a little kid, that's the team everyone looked at and now, I think we made it," Taurasi said. "I think we're the top program out there. I don't care what anyone says anymore."

Both Connecticut teams were No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason poll and each stumbled at times during the regular season before getting it back together in the NCAA tournament.

Women's coach Geno Auriemma pushed all the right buttons in March and here they are in April — champions again.

"Because if you're the defending national champions, that's a lot different than if you're a bunch of kids trying to prove that you're really good," he said. "They had to defend it every night. And that's hard to do."

Tuesday night's game wasn't easy, either, though it certainly started that way. Making shots from everywhere, the Huskies stormed to a 17-point lead in the first half. Then they went scoreless the final 6½ minutes of the half and Tennessee got within six at the break.

"We had a lot of confidence when we made our runs," Tennessee's Shanna Zolman said. "We were excited."

The Lady Vols got even more excited when they pulled to within two on Brittany Jackson's long 3-pointer midway through the second half.

But on this night, Connecticut had too many answers, whether it was Taurasi making a double-pump layup on a baseline drive, Ann Strother hitting all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point shot or Willnett Crockett converting a huge three-point play to take the lead to seven with 3:01 left.

"I thought we were going to come back, but every time we made a defensive mistake, Connecticut capitalized on it," Tennessee's Tasha Butts said. "We had too many breakdowns."

The Connecticut women's title brought a second night of rowdy celebration in Storrs, Conn., where fans overturned two cars and set one on fire Tuesday night about a mile north of campus. There were no reports of injuries.

It was at the same apartment complex Monday night, after the men's victory, where revelers overturned two cars and set several bonfires. Police arrested 35 people on and off campus after the men's game.

UConn police reported about five arrests early Wednesday for several incidents around campus. The exact charges were not immediately available.

By Chuck Schoffner

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