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Connecticut ends perfect season with NCAA championship, beating Louisville

ST. LOUIS — With one final blowout, Connecticut grabbed the national title and a piece of women's basketball history.

Tina Charles had 25 points and 19 rebounds Tuesday as UConn routed Louisville 76-54 to capture its sixth national championship.

UConn won every one of its 39 games by double digits, an unprecedented run.

Charles commanded both ends of the floor, and Louisville, which lost to UConn for the third time this season, had no one who could stop her.

Coach Geno Auriemma had said before the tournament that his junior center would be the key to UConn winning the title. A year after he benched her in the NCAAs for inconsistent play, Charles delivered.

She was 11-for-13 from the field and fell one rebound short of becoming the second player in a championship game to have at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. Charles was named the outstanding player of the Final Four.

"President Barack Obama, we'll be seeing you at the White House," Charles said.

"I'm really happy for her," Auriemma said.

The Big East became the first conference ever to sweep the NCAA and WNIT championships in the same season. USF topped Kansas 75-71 on Saturday to win the WNIT, which began in 1998.

Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery each added 18 points for the Huskies.

"It's the first time since the brackets came out that I don't feel like I'm going to be sick," Auriemma said.

Angel McCoughtry finished her stellar career for Louisville with 23 points.

"They can score so fast," McCoughtry said. "We have nothing to be disappointed about. We're going to hold our heads up high. We have so much to be proud of."

Candyce Bingham was the only other Cardinal in double figures with 10 points as Louisville shot 31 percent.

"We got really good looks," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "Unfortunately, we just could not put the ball in the basket."

Leading by six, the Huskies turned up their defense. Louisville missed 18 straight shots spanning the half as Connecticut turned a 30-24 lead into a 19-point advantage.

Louisville (34-5) came into its first title game as a big underdog, bidding to knock off three No. 1 seeds.

The victory put the Huskies in the same class as UConn's other unbeaten teams in 1995 and 2002. Tennessee and Texas also have had undefeated seasons.

The title was Connecticut's first since 2004.

Only the Vols, with eight titles, have more than the Huskies.

SELLOUT streak ends: For the first time since 1992, the championship game was not a sellout, as scalpers waved reams of tickets at the Scottrade Center. "Certainly, to break that streak is sad," said Sue Donohoe, the NCAA's vice president for Division I women's basketball. "But we're understanding of the economy."

OU says Paris can keep her money

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma doesn't plan to collect on Courtney Paris' failed national championship guarantee.

Paris had promised that she would repay all four years of her scholarship, estimated conservatively at $64,000, if the Sooners didn't win their first national championship.

Oklahoma lost to Louisville in the Final Four on Sunday night.

But athletic director Joe Castiglione said Tuesday that he doesn't plan to hold Paris to it.

"It's even more meaningful when someone who committed herself for four years to help her teammates become better, making that kind of symbolic gesture," Castiglione said. "But having said that, I don't know of anyone who has had any expectation whatsoever that we would accept the monetary aspect of that gesture."

UConn 76

Louisville 54

FAST FACTS

Division I unbeatens

Since the 1981-82 season

Team Season W-L

Connecticut 2009 39-0

Connecticut 2002 39-0

Tennessee 1998 39-0

Connecticut 1995 35-0

Texas 1986 34-0

Connecticut ends perfect season with NCAA championship, beating Louisville 04/07/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 12:30am]

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