As Tennessee's players ran off the Hartford Civic Center floor Saturday, stung by yet another loss to Connecticut, one of the 16,000-plus fans shouted what the Lady 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 game-winner with 31 seconds left in overtime of UConn's 63-62 victory at Harftford, Conn.
With 51 straight wins, the Huskies (12-0) have the second-longest winning streak in NCAA history, behind Louisiana Tech's 54 straight victories from 1980-82.
"This one feels really good, knowing that we had every chance to lose the ballgame," Taurasi said.
She made a three-pointer with 7.5 seconds left to send the game to the extra period tied at 56-56. She also made a three-pointer from about 60 feet away 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 Lady 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, by contrast, is the only returning starter from the Huskies' national championship team.
Tennessee made the first move to pull away midway through the second half. Kara Lawson scored nine points in a 13-5 Tennessee run to put the Lady Vols 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 a 7-0 run in the next five minutes. She scored 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 run and pulled the Huskies within a point with 43.8 seconds left to play.
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 calmly made her three-pointer with 7.5 seconds left.
"When you have a Diana Taurasi, you're never out of it," Summitt said.
In overtime, Shanna Zolman made two free throws to give Tennessee a 58-56 lead. Conlon countered for UConn with a three-pointer. Taurasi then rebounded a miss by Tennessee. With Lawson guarding her, Taurasi backed into the lane and hit a turnaround jumper for a 61-58 UConn lead with 2:35 to play.
Zolman hit a jumper with 1:22 left to put Tennessee back in front by a point before Taurasi responded with the game-winner, a 10-foot jumper from the lane. Tennessee had one final shot with 1.9 seconds left, but Lawson's jumper bounced off the rim.
Aiysha Smith scored 22 points as No. 2 Louisiana State extended its unbeaten streak to 12 games with an 80-63 victory over No. 15 Penn State (10-3) at Baton Rouge.... No. 7 Purdue (11-1) beat No. 13 Notre Dame (8-3) 71-54, taking control with a 15-0 run that started late in the first half at South Bend, Ind.... Chantelle Anderson scored 20 points to lead six players in double figures as No. 12 Vanderbilt (9-3)defeated Holy Cross (6-5), 86-54, at Nashville....Jocelyn Penn scored a school-record 51 points as No. 16 South Carolina (12-1) defeated Stetson (1-9), 101-39, at Columbia, S.C.... Trina Frierson scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as No. 14 Louisiana Tech (8-2) hit six free throws in the closing seconds to hang on for a 74-64 victory over Southern Methodist (6-5) at Dallas in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams.... Shawntinice Polk had 18 points and 11 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season, leading No. 20 Arizona (9-3, 3-1) to a 72-44 victory over Oregon State(7-6, 1-3) at Tucson....
Sara Boyer broke the school career three-point record, and Tiffany Mor scored a career-high 18 points to lead No. 21 Wisconsin-Green Bay (11-2, 3-0 Horizon League) to an 86-53 victory over Detroit (3-9, 1-1) at Green Bay, Wis.... Jessalyn Deveny had a career-high 36 points and nine rebounds to lead No. 23 Boston College (8-3, 1-0 Big East) to an 85-63 victory over Providence (5-6, 0-1) at Providence, R.I.... Kelly Nash scored 19 points and Nicole Druckenmiller added a career-high 17 points to lead No. 24 Villanova (10-1, 1-0 Big East) to a 77-53 victory over St. John's (6-6, 0-1) at Villanova, Pa.