It's UConn vs. Tennessee -- Again

ATLANTA (AP) -- Her right ankle was aching, her back was sore, her game was off.

Diana Taurasi wasn't about to let those annoyances stand in the way of another trip to the women's national championship game.

Taurasi made big baskets down the stretch and a key defensive stop at the end to give Connecticut a 71-69 victory over Texas on Sunday night.

"I say it over and over again," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We have Dee and they don't. That's probably the biggest reason we won."

Taurasi, the national player of the year, scored 26 points to bring the Huskies back from a nine-point deficit in the second half. Now, they'll get a chance to play for their third championship in four years.

The title game is Tuesday night. The opponent is longtime rival Tennessee.

"There's just something about this team," Taurasi said. "We just don't want to go home."

It helps to have the country's best player. Taurasi's 3-pointer from well behind the arc gave the Huskies the lead for good, 67-66, with 2:07 remaining.

Texas still had a chance, but Taurasi knocked the ball away from Alisha Sare as the little-used Texas player raced down the court trying to set up a buzzer-beating shot.

Taurasi grabbed the loose ball and held up her right index finger as the horn sounded. Yes, the Huskies still have a chance to finish No. 1 again.

"The biggest thing you can say about her is she's not afraid," said coach Geno Auriemma, who picked up his 500th career victory. "She wants the ball in the crucial situations."

Earlier, Tennessee beat Duke 66-56 in the other semifinal to advance to a seemingly inevitable meeting with the Huskies.

"I know that's the game everyone's been waiting for," Auriemma said. "Now that it's here, let's enjoy it."

UConn (36-1) closed the semifinals with an 11-3 run to send home the Longhorns (29-6), who were in the Final Four for the first time since 1987.

"I was worried about just what happened," Texas coach Jody Conradt said. "You know when you're playing against a great team and a great player like Diana, you leave yourself open."

Taurasi, who had not practiced since the regional final in an attempt to heal, appeared a bit tentative and pulled off few of the flashy moves she's known for.

But she came through when her team needed her most.

With Texas leading 66-60, Taurasi zipped a great no-look pass from outside the arc to Willnett Crockett standing alone under the basket, sparking the game-ending run.

On UConn's next possession, Taurasi worked into the lane, made the shot and drew a foul, leading to a three-point play that drew the Huskies closer.

Finally, she put them ahead to stay with the long 3-pointer.

"She's the player of the year for a reason," Texas' Stacy Stephens said. "At the end of the game, she took over."

The Longhorns went nearly three minutes without scoring, finally breaking the drought on Jamie Carey's 3-pointer with 28 seconds left. That was the last basket of the game.

Crockett gave Texas a chance by missing two free throws with 8.2 seconds left. Sare raced up the court and tried to set up a pass to Carey in the corner. But the ball slipped away when Taurasi stepped into her path.

"I am glad we had the opportunity, but that is not where the game was lost," Sare said.

UConn beat the Lady Vols 63-62 in overtime during the regular season. The Huskies hold a 10-6 lead in the series, which includes two victories in the title game.

Last year, UConn romped to a 79-56 victory over Tennessee in the semifinals, then finished off a perfect 39-0 season by beating Oklahoma in the title game.

Taurasi was the only holdover starter from that team; the other four went in the first six choices of the WNBA draft. But Auriemma brought in a talented group of freshmen and teamed them with the player of the year for another winning combination.

UConn has won five games in a row since its NCAA-record 70-game winning streak was snapped by Villanova in the Big East Tournament final.

"There's a championship at stake, and we let one get away earlier," Taurasi said. "We'll be ready."

The Huskies were on the ropes when Texas pushed its lead to 50-41 with 12½ minutes remaining, prompting Auriemma to call a timeout.

"I thought we were dead in the water," he said.

Taurasi rarely drove to the basket, preferring to stay on the outside and shoot jumpers. She was shadowed by Kala Bowers and Tai Dillard, who worked hard to deny the UConn star from getting the ball.

Grimacing at one point after a miss, Taurasi made 10 of 22 from the field -- including 4-for-11 from behind the arc. An 82 percent free-throw shooter, she went only 2-for-5 at the line.

It was barely enough.

Stephens scored 16 points to lead the Longhorns, but she missed a crucial shot in the final minute.

The Longhorns went ahead for the first time, 30-29, on Stephens' follow with two minutes left in the first half. They went to the locker room with a 35-33 lead when Nina Norman hit a straightaway jumper as the buzzer sounded.

Texas came in with a 17-game winning streak, the longest in the nation. But the Longhorn women suffered the same fate as the men, who were beaten by Syracuse in the national semifinals at New Orleans a day earlier.