SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Connecticut did not play the perfect game, but it did not affect its pursuit of a perfect season.
Swin Cash had 20 points and 13 rebounds and Asjha Jones added 19 and nine as Connecticut completed its second undefeated season with an 82-70 victory over Oklahoma for its third national championship.
The Huskies were the most dominant team in women's basketball, and a national title seemed inevitable from the start. But Connecticut's dominant offense was disrupted by Oklahoma's stingy defense, and the Huskies had to make big shots in the final minutes for the first time this postseason.
The Sooners rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half and climbed within 73-67 on a layup by Stacey Dales with 2:22 remaining. Connecticut's Diana Taurasi misfired on a 3-pointer, but Cash grabbed the offensive rebound.
After a timeout, Taurasi buried a jumper in the lane as she was hit by Dales, who fouled out with 18 points.
"Those plays are crucial down the stretch," Dales said. "I was playing with four fouls, you take your chances." "That was the play of the game, and there's never just one," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said.
Taurasi sank the ensuing free throw for a 76-67 lead with 91 seconds left and Sue Bird made six free throws in the final 61 seconds to secure the Huskies' third championship in seven years.
"I never thought the game was over until the buzzer went off," said Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who became the first coach in the history of women's basketball to have two unbeaten teams. "I know those Oklahoma kids never give up. We had a couple of chances to put the game away and I knew they were coming back." Connecticut became just the second team to complete an unbeaten 39-game season, tying the NCAA record set by Tennessee in 1998.
"I don't think I can top this," Auriemma said. "Everybody's been saying this is a great team, but what are they going to do when they get in close games? Well, we got in a close game and these kids came through. It's unbelievable." The Huskies shot 53 percent (30-of-57) and made 22-of-25 free throws but failed to make a 3-pointer and committed 21 turnovers.
Tamika Williams had 12 points and nine rebounds as Connecticut, which has one of the best backcourts in the nation, pounded the glass and held an overwhelming 44-25 rebounding advantage.
"Rebounding was our focus tonight," said Cash, who was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. "We knew we had to be tough and go inside for easy buckets. We just kept fighting. I can't describe my feelings right now. We just had one of the best seasons ever." The Huskies collected 14 offensive rebounds and scored 24 second-chance points compared to 13 for the Sooners.
"They're a very, very physical team and have a size advantage at almost every spot against us," Coale said. "I think that continual battling inside wore on us a little bit." Bird finished with 14 points and Taurasi had 13 for Connecticut, which got 78 points from its starting lineup.
Rosalind Ross, who had a career-high 26 points in the national semifinals, scored 17 points and LaNeisha Caufield added 14 for Oklahoma, which shot just 39 percent (24-of-62) and made 8-of-20 3-pointers.
The Sooners, who had never made it past the "Sweet 16" prior to this season, had an 11-game winning streak snapped, the second-longest in school history.
"I couldn't be more proud of this basketball team," Coale said. "I'm sad not because we lost, but because it's over. For us, it's never been just about winning, it's about the process of it." The Huskies scored 12 of the game's first 16 points and had a 27-15 cushion less than 11 minutes in after Bird drained a jumper from the left corner. The Sooners responded with a 15-7 run to pull within 34-30 on a driving layup by Dales with 2:27 to go.
But Bird responded with a jumper and two free throws as Connecticut closed the half with eight straight points for a 42-30 halftime advantage.
The Huskies had their largest lead, 54-38 after a jumper by Taurasi with 15:34 left. They had a 71-60 edge with 4:44 to go, but Hill made a 3-pointer and Caufield made two free throws to cut the lead to six.
Jones made a short jumper for a 73-65 lead at 2:28 and Dales responded with a layup nine seconds later before Taurasi's clutch three-point play sealed the win for UConn.