NEW ORLEANS — Breanna Stewart had all the answers to help UConn finally vanquish Notre Dame.
The stellar freshman scored a career-high 29 to go with four blocks and was seemingly everywhere in leading the Huskies back to the national championship game with an 83-65 win over Notre Dame on Sunday night.
The Huskies will face Louisville in the title game Tuesday night, and it will be an all-Big East affair. UConn will be going for its eighth championship to match Tennessee for the most in women's basketball history.
No team has dominated Geno Auriemma's Huskies the way that the Irish had over the past few seasons. UConn (34-4) had lost the previous two national semifinals to the Irish and dropped three thrilling games this season to its rival.
Stewart and her teammates wouldn't let it happen again, ending the brilliant career of Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins. She finished her last college game with 10 points, going a dismal 3-for-15 from the field.
"Once you get here you're only going to beat great teams. And the reason Notre Dame has beaten us seven of the last eight times is because they're really, really good," Auriemma said. "For one night, that's what's great about the NCAA Tournament, for one night, for just this night, we just needed to be better than them, and we were."
The Huskies built a 10-point halftime lead playing incredible defense and Notre Dame (35-2) could only get within six in the second half as its school record 30-game winning streak came to an end.
The Huskies and Irish have developed the best rivalry in women's basketball over the past few seasons, and this game might have been the final chapter between the two with Notre Dame headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Two years ago, the Huskies won the first three meetings before Notre Dame shocked them in the national semifinals. Notre Dame had won seven of eight meetings before Sunday, and this one, for once, started slowly. With the teams so familiar with each other, getting easy baskets was difficult. Notre Dame went nearly 7½ minutes without a field goal, missing 14 consecutive shots.
Another Louisville upset
NEW ORLEANS — The more Louisville extends its remarkable run, the more coach Jeff Walz wants to make sure his Cardinals enjoy every moment.
As long as they have one more upset in them for the championship game.
The upstart Cardinals got 18 points, all on 3-pointers, from Antonita Slaughter, and they methodically clawed back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat California 64-57 in the NCAA semifinals. For a team that has beaten Baylor, Tennessee and now the second-seeded Golden Bears, a little celebration was in order.
"We're going to go on Bourbon Street," said Walz, whose team has one last practice today before Tuesday night's title game. "I'll tell the kids, as long as they're back by 2, we're okay."
Bria Smith scored 17 on 6-of-7 shooting for the fifth-seeded Cardinals (29-8), who became the first team seeded lower than fourth to win a Final Four game. They'll meet Connecticut one night after the Louisville men's team plays Michigan for the championship.
"The way I look at it, I think the men are trying to feed off of our success," Walz said with a smirk before adding on a serious note that he'd received word from Atlanta that the Louisville men "were in the hotel lobby jumping up and down and cheering for us."
Layshia Clarendon scored 17 for Cal (32-4), which had won the Spokane Region as a second seed. Gennifer Brandon added 12 for the Golden Bears and Brittany Boyd had 10.
"Credit Louisville, which obviously has been really hot," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "They outfought us in the second half."
It was the third straight upset by Louisville, which beat defending national champion Baylor and the powerful Vols to get to the Big Easy.
"No one expects us to be here," Slaughter said. "No one expects us to be in the championship game. Just come together as a team and win as a team."