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UConn Fans Welcome Women’s Hoops Champs

April 9, 2003

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (AP) _ Several dozen University of Connecticut fans gathered in the freezing rain outside Bradley International Airport to welcome home the national champions Wednesday.

Connecticut won its second consecutive women’s basketball championship by defeating Tennessee 73-68 Tuesday night. It’s the Huskies’ fourth NCAA crown, and their third in four seasons.

Diana Taurasi poured in 28 points for the Huskies, who shot 51 percent for the game. UConn also hit 10 of its 21 three-point tries. Kara Lawson paced the Lady Vols with 18 points and had five rebounds. Tennessee was seeking its seventh national championship, and its first since 1998.

``Every year, we come, whenever we make the Final Four,″ said Paige Reising of Torrington, who huddled with friends under a UConn blanket.

The team was expected at the airport shortly after noon.

A podium was set up near the runway, where Coach Geno Auriemma was to briefly address the crowd before the team headed for Gampel Pavilion, where a homecoming rally was scheduled for 2:45 p.m.

A victory rally is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at the state Capitol, rain or shine.

Dennis Burns of Windsor was at the airport carrying an American Flag with a basketball stuck to the top.

He said the fall of Baghdad in the war with Iraq and the UConn victory made it a great day to celebrate.

``There should be a lot more people here,″ he said. ``A little state like this, and we’ve got the national champions.″

Hundreds of fans cheered and stomped at Gampel Pavilion on the UConn campus Tuesday night as they watched the 73-68 victory over Tennessee on giant screens.

During commercial breaks, the UConn band played, cheerleaders cheered and people bit their nails until the final buzzer sounded.

The game was often drowned out by cheering and stomping feet.

Maria Loyeva, 19, rattled two pompoms each time UConn scored.

``Thank you, Lord!″ she shouted as the final buzzer sounded. ``I knew they would do it!″

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