SAN ANTONIO, March 31 (UPI) -- The Connecticut Huskies, behind a 20-point effort from Swin Cash, completed an unbeaten season Sunday night by fighting off the Oklahoma Sooners, 82-70, to win the NCAA women's basketball championship.
Connecticut became the second women's team in NCAA history to record a 39-0 season, joining the 1998 Tennessee Lady Vols. It is the third national title for the Huskies, who won all but one of their games this season by at least 10 points.
The Huskies, however, saw what had been a 16-point lead trimmed to six in the final minutes and Oklahoma had a chance to get closer than that with 91 seconds to play when Connecticut's Diana Taurasi missed a three-point shot.
But Cash swept in for the offensive rebound and fed it to Taurasi, who hit a layup and was fouled. The resulting free throw gave the Huskies a 76-67 cushion and six free throws down the stretch by superstar Sue Bird ended any hopes of what would have been a huge upset.
The Sooners, making their first appearance in the Final Four, played the powerful Huskies on even terms for most of the night, but two Connecticut runs in the first half proved to be the decisive moments.
Bird ended a nine-point surge with a basket with 9:18 to play in the first half and she started a streak of eight straight points to end the opening period -- giving Connecticut a 42-30 halftime lead.
Oklahoma (32-4) gave Connecticut what was easily its toughest test of the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies' five previous wins in the tourney came by an average of almost 30 points.
"Everybody has been saying we have a great team, but they also asked what we would do in a close game," said Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma. "We were in a close game tonight and they came through.
"I know those Oklahoma kids and I know the way they are coached. We got up and had some chances to put the game away and when we didn't, I knew they would come back."
Cash claimed 13 rebounds to go with her 20 points as Connecticut shot 52 percent from the field, hit 22 of 25 free throws and still had a battle on its hands. Asjha Jones contributed 19 for the Huskies and Bird had 14, hitting all eight of her foul shots.
Oklahoma was led by 18 points from Stacey Dales and 17 by Rosalind Ross. The Sooners forced 21 turnovers to stay in the game and hit eight of 20 three-point shots while Connecticut missed all nine of its long-range attempts.
The Huskies were in front by just three midway through the first half when they went on a nine-piont run. Taurasi scored four points during that surge. Oklahoma fought back within four points late in the half before the Huskies scored eight straight, Bird hitting a jumper and two free throws to start the key run.