Championship game


No. 1 Connecticut (35-1) vs. No. 2 Tennessee (33-3)

When: Tonight, 9


Conference records: Connecticut won the Big East with a 16-0 record. Tennessee won the Southeast with a 16-1 record.

Coaches: Geno Auriemma is 392-95 in 15 years at Connecticut. Pat Summitt is 728-149 in 26 seasons at Tennessee.

Previous meetings: The two teams split in two meetings this season. Connecticut won, 74-67, in Knoxville on Jan. 8. Tennessee won, 72-71, in Storrs on Feb. 2.

Starting lineups: Connecticut: G Sue Bird (11.1 ppg, 4.3 apg, .507 3FG pct.), G Shea Ralph (14.3 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.8 rpg, .617 FG pct.), F Svetlana Abrosimova (13.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.2 apg), F Swin Cash (9.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg), C Kelly Schumacher (5.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg). Tennessee: G Kara Lawson (13.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg), G Kristen Clement (5.6 ppg, 3.5 apg) F Semeka Randall (14.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg), F Tamika Catchings (15.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.5 steals per game).

Bench strength: Forward Gwen Jackson and guards April McDivitt and Kyra Elzy get most of the spare minutes for Tennessee, Elzy as a top defensive stopper and McDivitt spelling Clement and Lawson. Connecticut's bench is the best, period, with Tamika Williams and Asjha Jones leading a charge that provides 40 percent of the team's scoring and little if any drop-off on defense.

Key matchups: Tennessee defense against Connecticut guard Sue Bird, who averaged 20 points in the two regular-season meetings between the teams and has been the Huskies' most effective player during the tournament (14.6 ppg, .515 FG pct.). It is expected that Clement, Randall and Elzy will take turns guarding Bird.

What Tennessee must do to win: The Lady Vols must stop Bird, effectively defend the Huskies in transition and get another big game from Catchings, as they did during their win against Connecticut in early February.

What Connecticut must do to win: Find another way to contain Catchings, who adjusted to the rough play that frazzled her in the first meeting and came up with 19 points and 13 rebounds in the second.

Bottom line: If one has a feeling, it's that Tennessee will win because of a slightly better starting five and that Summitt's six national championships make a good precedent. But logically, the edge goes to Connecticut, a team with more talent throughout its roster.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad