Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

UConn routs Notre Dame for women's basketball title

NASHVILLE — Geno Auriemma and Connecticut stand alone in women's college basketball, and they reached the top in unprecedented fashion.

The Huskies routed Notre Dame 79-58 Tuesday night in the first championship game featuring undefeated teams, winning their record ninth national title. Auriemma, the Huskies coach, broke a tie with Pat Summitt and Tennessee for most women's titles all time.

Breanna Stewart scored 21 to lead the Huskies (40-0) and Stefanie Dolson added 17 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.

The UConn men's and women's teams took the championship in the same year for the second time.

"We beat a great, great team," Auriemma said. "Notre Dame is a great team. For them to have the season they had … I can't say enough about their players, coaching staff and it took everything we have. I knew if we played great we'd have a chance to win."

Auriemma has won his titles in 20 seasons — including the past two. He never has lost in a national championship game.

Summit, who once named her two goldfish Pat and Geno after the fish tried to devour each other, said in an emailed statement: "Congratulations to the UConn Huskies for winning the 2014 NCAA National Championship! My compliments also to coach Geno Auriemma for winning his ninth national title. He has accomplished this feat in record time."

John Wooden holds the men's record with 10 titles while at UCLA. Auriemma, 60, has laughed off comparisons with the men's game, once saying there were no men's coaches telling anyone, "If I win eight or nine, I'll catch Geno Auriemma."

It was the fifth unbeaten season for Auriemma and UConn and the first time the Huskies went 40-0, matching Baylor as the only schools to accomplish that feat. The victory was their 46th straight dating to last season. It's the third-longest streak in school history — they hold the NCAA record of 90 straight, from 2008-10.

The loss was Notre Dame's third in the title game in the past four years. Kayla McBride finished her stellar career with 21 points to lead the Irish.

Even with the loss, it was a record-setting season for the Irish. They won by an average of 25.6 points while taking both the ACC regular-season and tournament championships.

Stewart, Dolson and Kiah Stokes dominated the interior as the Huskies outrebounded the Irish 54-31 and held them to a season low in points.

After the teams traded shots early, Stewart fueled a 16-0 run over nearly five minutes. Stewart's layin with 11:02 left made it 22-8.

The Irish stayed in the first half thanks to hot 3-point shooting by Michaela Mabrey and Jewell Loyd. Trailing 37-25 with 4:09 left in the first half, the pair sparked a 13-6 run, hitting three 3-pointers.

UConn led 45-38 at the half, shooting 57 percent and having 16 assists on its 21 baskets.

"I'm probably one of the luckiest people in the coaching profession because I get to coach players like Stefanie and Bria" Hartley, Auriemma said, fighting back tears. "Yeah, I get to coach guys like that and that's why we can do what we do."

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw congratulated Auriemma after the game.

"I said something like, 'I thought we were playing the Miami Heat for a while you guys are just that good.' What a great season, you know things like that," McGraw said. "I thought … LeBron (James) was the only thing they were missing."

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