Not only was a team crowned the National Champion, but records were broken as the University of Connecticut capped off another stellar season, cruising past Notre Dame 79-58 to win its second national championship in a row Tuesday evening in Nashville, Tenn.
In the first ever championship game featuring two undefeated teams, the Huskies dominated in all phases of the game. After both teams went back-and-forth in early minutes of the first half, Breanna Stewart led UConn on a 16-0 run. During the run, the stifling Husky defense limited the Irish from scoring for nearly five minutes in the game. With 11:02 remaining in the first half, Stewart converted on a lay-up to make the score 22-8.
Despite the Lady Huskies (40-0) dominating the first half, the Fighting Irish managed to stay in the game. Without senior center Natalie Achonwa, who tore her ACL in the regional final against Baylor, sharp three-point shooting from Michaela Mabrey and Jewell Loyd allowed the Irish to remain in the game.
After trailing 37-25 with 4:09 remaining in the half, the two went on a 13-6 run, converting on clutch three pointers. The Irish cut the lead to 43-38, the smallest deficit they would see for the game. At halftime, UConn led 45-38.
In the first half, the Lady Huskies outscored the Fighting Irish 32-10 in the paint, center Stefanie Dolson and forward and the Associated Press Player of the Year Breanna Stewart combined for 24 of UConn’s first 45 points.
Despite the Irish cutting the lead to seven at the half, UConn accelerated their game, taking full control. In the first eight minutes, the Lady Huskies went on an 18-4 run.
The final straw of the game came when Dolson hit a pair of free throws after being fouled going up for a layup, increasing the lead to 60-42. With 5:00 minutes left in the game, UConn had a 22-point advantage over the Irish before eventually winning the game.
For the game, the Lady Huskies scored a whopping 52 points in the paint to just 22 by the Irish.
“They just overpowered us,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “They killed us inside and their bigs were too much for us.”
UConn limited Notre Dame (37-1), one of the best shooting teams in the country, to only 20 points in the second half and 35.5 percent (22-for-62) from the floor for the game. Stewart led all UConn scorers with 21 points and nine rebounds, followed by Dolson’s 17 points and an impressive 16 rebounds.
“Stefanie Dolson played the game of her life and got every rebound,” Auriemma said. “That was key.”
With the win, UConn celebrated its fourth national championship in six years, fifth unbeaten season for head coach Auriemma and the Huskies and first time going 40-0, joining Baylor as the only schools to complete this task.
As for Auriemma, he won his ninth championship with the Huskies in 20 seasons, breaking a tie for most all-time championships won by former Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt.
With a victory by the Lady Huskies, UConn owns the college basketball world, both teams winning national championships this year. UConn is the only school to accomplish this milestone and it was first completed a decade ago.