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Juicy rivalry to add another chapter

ATLANTA -- Here they go again. It's Tennessee vs.
Connecticut for the national championship in women's basketball.

The sport's most prominent and successful programs will decide
the title Tuesday night after grinding out tough semifinal
victories Sunday night.

Connecticut (36-1), the defending champion, came from nine
points down in the second half to beat Texas 71-69. Tennessee
(33-4) pulled away late to beat Duke 66-56 in the first game.

So now the nation's hottest rivalry will play out in the
championship game for the third time. Connecticut beat Tennessee in
the 1995 and 2000 title games and defeated the Lady Vols in last
year's semifinals before beating Oklahoma for the championship.

"We're looking forward to it,'' UConn star Diana Taurasi said.
"There's a championship at stake, and we let one get away earlier.
We'll be ready.''

She was referring to a loss to Villanova in the final of the Big
East tournament. That broke the Huskies' 70-game winning streak.

Tennessee avenged one of its losses by beating Duke and now has
a chance to make amends for another. The Lady Vols lost to UConn
63-62 in overtime on Jan. 4. They have won 24 of 25 since then.

Connecticut made it back to the title game in what for any other
program would have been a rebuilding year. The Huskies lost four
seniors from last season's 39-0 club, and their starting lineup now
includes two freshmen and a sophomore. Another freshman is a key
reserve.

But one of those starters is the incomparable Taurasi, who was
voted the national player of the year and has been outstanding in
the NCAA Tournament. Taurasi scored 26 points Sunday night and
knocked the ball from the Longhorns' Alisha Sare in the closing
seconds to preserve the win.

Taurasi held up her right index finger as the horn sounded, but
there's still a game to play before the Huskies can finally claim
to be No. 1. They'll be going for their third title in four years
and fourth overall.

Tennessee, seeking its seventh championship, started its march
to the title game after a humbling 78-62 loss to LSU in the
Southeastern Conference tournament final. The Lady Vols had almost
two weeks between that game and the start of the NCAA tournament
and, as usual, coach Pat Summitt had them ready.

Playing the first four rounds at home, Tennessee breezed to its
14th Final Four by an average margin of 23.6 points. Then, against
Duke, the Lady Vols used their defense and rebounding to hold on
until Gwen Jackson closed with a tremendous performance down the
stretch.

Jackson scored 13 of her 25 points in the final 6:08 and
finished with 15 rebounds.

The Lady Vols also showed off their depth. Loree Moore, not
usually a big scorer, came up with 11 points. Brittany Jackson
scored seven off the bench, getting three key baskets in the second
half.

So it'll be Tennessee's depth and experience vs. the exuberance
of Connecticut's youth and brilliance of Taurasi -- definitely a
game worth watching.