NEW ORLEANS, LA – Though they didn’t dominate the regular season as they have so many times in the past, the Connecticut Huskies took their play to another level once the NCAA Tournament began, which culminated with an historic achievement for Geno Auriemma’s squad.
With their eighth National Title courtesy of a 93-60 blowout victory over Louisville – the largest margin of victory ever in a women’s championship game – Connecticut tied Tennessee for the most titles in women’s basketball history. The victory ended a three-year championship “drought” for the Huskies, and also prevented Louisville from becoming just the second school to capture men’s and women’s basketball titles in the same season. The only school to pull it off? Connecticut, of course, in 2004.
Tuesday’s tilt was a re-match of the 2009 National Championship game, which UConn also won, 76-54. After Louisville came out with a strong start to build an early 14-10 lead, the Huskies responded with a blistering 19-0 run to take command of the game, and they never looked back. Connecticut was so thoroughly efficient and dominant it sapped the energy out of a sell-out crowd at New Orleans Arena, who were hoping to see a back-and-forth affair between a Cardinal team which was riding an incredible high following their shocking upset of defending champion Baylor, and a UConn squad which has become the benchmark for excellence in women’s college basketball since the turn of the century. But the Huskies were ruthless in their dismantling of the Cardinals, and the second half of the game became more of a coronation than a competition.
Freshman Breanna Stewart – named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four – capped off an incredible NCAA Tournament with a 23-point, nine-rebound effort, while Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 18 points and nine rebounds. Kelly Farris added 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists, as the Huskies put five players in double-figures. Sara Hammond was the lone Cardinal in double-figures, with 15 points, as Louisville standout Shoni Schimmel struggled badly, scoring just nine points on 3-for-15 shooting.
With the victory, Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma is now 8-0 in the National Championship game, and he may be embarking on another dominant multi-year stretch. His two best players – Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis – are just a freshman and sophomore, respectively. And another highly-touted recruiting class should have the Huskies as the pre-season favorite to capture a record-setting ninth National Title in 2014.
Besides the Huskies’ eighth title, Tuesday’s game was historic for another reason: it marked the last-ever basketball game in Big East history, as currently configured. Connecticut’s triumph ensured that the dissolving conference reigned supreme in both men’s and women’s basketball, combined with Louisville’s triumph over Michigan in the men’s championship game on Monday night.
Dave Ryan, Debbie Antonelli and Krista Blunk called the action on Westwood One Sports.