UConn day in history: The Taurasi three-peat

Photo from the London 2012 Summer Olympics women's basketball finals.  Diana Taurasi, number 12, was a key player in the NCAA wins for UConn from 2002-2004.  (Daniel Coomber/ Flickr Creative Commons)

The UConn women from 2002-2004 shocked the world of women’s basketball as the Huskies went 107-5 and won three straight national championships under head coach Geno Auriemma. In each of those three tournament runs, the Huskies won NCAA tournament games on March 23, winning the three games by a margin of 91 points.

The defending champion Huskies in 2000 headed into the 2001 season ready for a repeat, as they won in the Big East Tournament, but lost in the national semifinals to Notre Dame. Sophomore Diana Taurasi and the Huskies returned hungrier than ever in the 2002 season, rolling through the Big East and winning the national championship.

The 39-0 squad led by Sue Bird, Taurasi, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams is highly regarded as the best starting five in women’s basketball history as they ran through the league and NCAA tournament. On March 23, 2002, the No. 1 seed Huskies lined up against No. 4 seed Penn State in the Sweet 16, and UConn went on to win the game by a score of 82-64.

In that game, Bird had 25 points and Jones had 14 points and nine rebounds. They were later joined by Swin Cash in being named the All-tournament team, as the Huskies defeated fellow No. 1 seed Oklahoma 82-70 in the finals.

Following up the perfect season was up to Taurasi as her four fellow starters went to the WNBA, as she was joined by Maria Conlon, Jessica Moore, Ashley Battle and freshman Ann Strother. That season, Taurasi won a multitude of awards, including the Wade trophy and the Naismith Award.

In the tournament, the No. 1 seed Huskies defeated No. 16 Boston University on March 23 by a score of 91-44 at Gampel Pavilion in front of 8,647 fans. That season, UConn went 37-1 as the lone loss to Villanova in the Big East championship snapped their NCAA history 70-game winning streak.

With Taurasi back for her senior season, things did not come as easy as it would seem, as the Huskies went 25-4 in the regular season and lost by three to Boston College in the Big East championship. UConn entered the tournament as a No. 2 seed instead of a No. 1, but went on to defeat No. 7 seed Auburn on March 23 by a score of 27-4 in Bridgeport in front of 9,091 fans. In that game, the Huskies hit a then-program-record 14 3-pointers as Taurasi had a game-high 17 points, which pushed her to second on the all-time scoring list in NCAA tournament play.

After the second round victory, UConn defeated UC Santa Barbara, Penn State, Minnesota and bitter rival Tennessee in order to complete the three-peat. That season, Taurasi once again won the Naismith Award and went on to be selected first overall in the WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury, where she has won three championships and still plays today.


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.