SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- The latest edition of the most intense rivalry in women's college basketball was decidedly one-sided.
Sue Bird scored 18 points and Diana Taurasi collected 17 and 10 rebounds as Connecticut moved within one victory of its second unbeaten season with a 79-56 rout of archrival Tennessee in the national semifinals.
The Huskies and Lady Vols have combined to win five of the last seven national titles and usually have had to go through each other to win a championship. But Connecticut is seemingly unbeatable, and even the team that derailed its perfect season in 1997 never had a chance.
"For the majority of their team it was their first Final Four," Connecticut forward Tamika Williams said. "We have the experience and so we wanted to distract them." The Huskies are within one victory of their third national title and an undefeated 39-game season, which would tie a record set by the Lady Vols in 1998. Connecticut (38-0) will face Oklahoma in Sunday's national championship.
After Tennessee made the first basket of the game, the Huskies scored 20 of the next 27 points take the lead for good. Bird scored seven points during the spurt and Moore capped it with a layip for a 20-9 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.
Tennessee scored six straight points to close within 20-15, but Bird sank a 3-pointer to start a 14-4 Connecticut run. The Huskies had a 38-25 halftime cushion and had their largest lead, 73-41 after a 3-pointer by Taurasi with 7:58 to go.
"You never expect anything like this going in," Auriemma said. "I was the most nervous guy in America going into the game today. I have a lot of confidence in my players. You can't predict this. We really played great basketball in the second half." The Lady Vols suffered their worst Final Four defeat since an 83-59 loss to Southern California in 1986.
"We were not as competitive as I anticipated we would be," Summitt said. "They outplayed us at every position. They execute so much better and they knocked down shots." Taurasi, who scored only four points on 1-of-15 shooting in the national semifinals last season, continued to torture Tennessee. She is averaging 21.3 points in four all-time meetings against the Lady Vols and scored 49 points in two matchups this season.
Connecticut improved to 9-6 all time against Tennessee and has won three of four meetings in the Final Four. The Huskies defeated the Lady Vols to win both their national championships in 1995 and 2000.
Asjha Jones had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies, who shot 45 percent 29-of-65), including 7-of-17 from 3-point range.
Kara Lawson scored nine points and freshman Brittany Jackson added eight for Tennessee (29-4), which was limited to 32 percent (22-of-69) shooting and committed 17 turnovers.
"We didn't hit the open shot and they did," Jackson said. "UConn is a great team and we knew that coming in. We just didn't execute our game plan." "Certainly anytime you end a season with a loss, you take some lessons from it," Lawson said. "We have a lot of players returning and the future looks bright for our team." .