The Connecticut Huskies trucked over teams and ran through the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on their way to the school’s eighth national title.
With heralded freshman Breanna Stewart, sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, and most of the team back, this could be the next great UConn era, another dynasty run.
Over the last three seasons, UConn has lost 11 games – including twice in the Final Four. The Huskies went 35-4 this season.
“We feel like all we can go is up from here,” said Mosqueda-Lewis, who scored 18 points in the 93-60 rout of Louisville (29-9) in the championship game Tuesday night in New Orleans.
With their eighth national championship, UConn (35-4) and coach Geno Auriemma tied the legendary former University of Tennessee coach Pat Summitt for the most titles in women’s basketball. It may not take long for Auriemma to stand alone atop the list.
Stewart had one of the most remarkable debut runs in the history of the NCAA tournament. She finished with 104 points in only five games – missing the first-round rout of Idaho to rest a sore calf – the most by any first-year player since 2000, according to STATS. UConn’s Maya Moore held the previous mark with 93 points She became the first freshman since 1987 to win Most Outstanding Player honors in the Final Four after another stellar performance (23 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks, three steals).
UConn, the top seed in the Bridgeport Regional, cruised through the tournament, winning by an average of 35 points, blowing out Maryland, Kentucky, and Louisville. Yet the team struggled and didn’t win a regular-season or Big East tournament title for the first time in 19 seasons.
That shouldn’t happen anytime soon with the Big East splitting up after this season. UConn will be part of the new American Athletic Conference.
Fifth-seeded Louisville made its first title-game appearance since 2009, pulling off the monumental upset of defending champion Britney Griner and Baylor along the way.
The Cardinals made the run without three key players, including starting forward Shawnta’ Dyer. She was sidelined by a torn anterior cruciate ligament in December. Louisville will return leading scorer Shoni Schimmel and point guard Bria Smith.
The men’s college basketball national championship trophy returns to Kentucky after the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines, 82-76, to win the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship Monday night in Atlanta. The showdown was epic, with a dazzling array of airborne theatrics, jaw-dropping dunks and 3-pointers from well behind the line; everything to keep your attention from tip-off to final buzzer (and fireworks).
The second half saw the lead change hands five times in the early going before the Cardinals were able to build a tenuous lead and hold on to it until the final buzzer.
Perhaps the only thing equaling the number of momentum changes was the number of players who took over the game at one point.
In the first half, sparingly used Michigan guard Spike Albrecht exploded for 17 points, making four of five three-pointers and helping the Wolverines build their early lead. With Player of the Year Trey Burke in foul trouble, Albrecht was able to carry the load for the Wolverines.
Then it was The ‘Ville’s turn to do the spectacular, Louisville’s Luke Hancock, the star of its Final Four victory over Wichita State, went on a run of his own. Hancock scored 14 points in just 2:34, making four three-pointers in that span. Hancock finished the game with 22 points and the award for the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. This was the first time a bench player ever won this award.
Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino said his team was able to top the Wolverines’ “absolutely incredible” performance “probably because I have the 13 toughest guys I’ve ever coached.”
During a routine block attempt, Ware landed awkwardly and snapped his right shin, drawing gasps of horror as the bone protruded through his skin.
Ware joined his teammates during the championship trophy presentation on crutches.
“These are my brothers, you know. They got the job done, and I’m so proud of them.”
Naismith Trophy winner Trey Burke led a ferocious Michigan squad with 24 points, but it wasn’t enough to top No. 1 seed Louisville.
Now, Pitino must live up to a promise he made to his players this season.
“They said, ‘If you win the national championship, coach, you’re getting a tattoo.’ I said, ‘Hell yes, I’m getting a tattoo.'”
Oh yea, before I forget and log off on this post. I’m going to toot my own horn and show you guys who I picked to go to the championship and who was going to be the winner (If you want proof, go to my March 21st NCAA News post). They don’t call me The Sage of Sports for nothing.