Dec. 21, 2001
HARTFORD, Conn. - One perfect season will have to come to an end on Saturday.
In one of the feature matchups of the young season, top-ranked Connecticut plays host to No. 3 Oklahoma. Both squads bring 10-0 records into the contest.
The two powerhouses have breezed through the early portions of their schedules. Connecticut has hardly been challenged, winning its games by an astounding average of 38.7 points. Its smallest margin of victory was 19 points in a win over then-No. 3 Vanderbilt on Nov. 18.
The Sooners, who have won their games by an average of 22.8 points, played their only close game of the season in an 80-75 victory over then-No. 9 Purdue on Nov. 11.
"It's nice to be 10-0," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "Now, we can think about what we've been trying not to think about for a couple of weeks, and that's Connecticut."
Coale knows the Huskies will present a challenge unlike anything her squad has seen this season.
On Dec. 16, the Huskies led by as many as 33 points in cruising to a 74-50 win over then-No. 8 Louisiana Tech. Sophomore guard Diana Taurasi led the way, matching a career high with 24 points and shooting 6-of-11 from 3-point territory.
"These are the kind of games she lives for," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said of Taurasi. "She puts a lot of pressure on herself to be great. I've never coached anyone that has the range she has."
Taurasi, however, is just one of several weapons in Connecticut's arsenal.
Swin Cash, an honorable mention All-America last season, leads four Huskies averaging double figures with 14.9 points per game. Taurasi is second on the team with a 14.8 average. All-American guard Sue Bird is scoring 13.7 per game, and forward Asjha Jones is averaging 12.5.
But Oklahoma will also bring some top-notch talent of its own to Storrs, Conn.
All-America candidates LaNeisha Caufield and Stacey Dales are the Sooners' most dangerous threats. Caufield, who averages a team-high 20.3 points, is coming off a 28-point performance in a 91-69 win over Illinois on Sunday.
"Neisha's definitely doing a great job," Dales said. "She's finding the gaps, finding the seams and we're able to get her the ball in the crucial areas and she's a great finisher around the basket."
Dales, a first team All-America selection last season, added 21 points and seven assists in the win over the Illini.
Both of the previous meetings between Connecticut and Oklahoma came during the 1999-00 season. The Huskies won both, including a 102-80 victory in the East Region semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
By RICK HAGGERTY
AP MegaSports Writer