No more pursuit, perfection achieved. UConn defeats Notre Dame 79-58 in championship to finish 40-0
By David Siegel and Cheryl Coward
NASHVILLE – “President Obama, we’re baaaaaack,” exclaimed Stefanie Dolson, providing an exclamation point to a national championship game that saw her Connecticut Huskies defeat previously unbeaten Notre Dame, 79-58.
The Huskies dominated the paint, taking advantage of senior center Natalie Achonwa’s absence for Notre Dame, as the post combination of Breanna Stewart and Dolson combined for 38 points, 25 rebounds, and 11 assists. For her game high 21 points, Stewart was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the “other” member of the Husky frontcourt contributed 18 points and seven rebounds. Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart were all-tournament team selections along with Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd.
“Well, there really isn’t much that you can say when we have a performance like thatm, where your players are just really locked into what we wanted to do,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma about the victory.
The UConn defense was outstanding, holding the potent Irish offense to only 20 second-half points, as they turned a four-point halftime lead into the final margin of 21. The Irish shot 35 percent for the game. In addition, Notre Dame, who set records for their rebound margin in the semifinals versus Maryland, was outrebounded 54 to 31 by UConn. Furthermore, UConn scored 52 points in the paint while Notre Dame had a meager 22.
“I think we just didn’t come out and box out like we needed to,” said Irish senior forward Ariel Braker. “We knew that they were going to be physical. We knew that they were going to be bigger and getting boards. We just didn’t do the things we need to do.”
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw echoed those thoughts, saying that UConn “just overpowered us.”
“They killed us inside,” said McGraw. “Their bigs were just too much for us.”
The 24-point second-half deficit was the largest for Notre Dame all year. The last time Notre Dame lost by at least 20 points was Feb. 19, 2011 (78-57 at Connecticut).
Dolson attributed much of UConn’s dominance during the contest to size. “We knew we had a size advantage with them,” she said. “Losing Achonwa was terrible, but we knew we could really get the ball in the paint and that’s what we did. We finished inside.”
Senior McBride led Notre Dame with 21 points and Loyd added 13, but hit only 12-of 33 shots.
This season marks the first team UConn won 40 games, tying Baylor for the most in history, and vaulting Geno Auriemma past Pat Summitt, for national titles, with his ninth championship. The UConn men won their title game Monday night. The Huskies are the only Division I team to accomplish this feat. Both the men’s and women’s teams also won national titles in 2004.
- UConn has won 18 Women’s Final Four games, the second-most of any program (Tennessee, 21). The Huskies have won 97 games all-time in the NCAA Tournament, marking the second-highest total of any program (Tennessee, 115).
- The Huskies become the eighth undefeated national champion in NCAA history and the fourth team to finish with a perfect record in the last six seasons.
- Connecticut posted its fifth undefeated national championship season in program history, joining the 1994-95, 2001-02, 2008-09 and 2009-10 squads. UConn has finished undefeated three times in the last six seasons.
- This marks the sixth time in NCAA history that the same team has won at least two consecutive national championships. Southern Cal (1983-84), Tennessee (1996-98), Connecticut (2002-04), Tennessee (2007-08) and Connecticut (2009-10) were the others.
- Connecticut finishes the year 40-0, the second team in NCAA history to reach 40 wins, joining the 2012 Baylor squad in the record books.