JOE BIDDLE: Connecticut women win 9th national title - WKRN News 2

JOE BIDDLE: Connecticut women win 9th national title

Posted: Updated: April 8, 2014 10:56 PM CDT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Connecticut's women's undefeated basketball team doubled down in Nash-vegas Tuesday night when they followed the Huskies' men's team in capturing another national championship.

All that stood in their way was another undefeated team, Notre Dame. And the luck of the Irish ran dry as the Huskies won in a rout, 79-58.

Just as the UConn's men did against Kentucky in their national championship game, the women followed suit. It was 22-8, then 45-38 at half as the Huskies ruled the paint, 32-10. Notre Dame trailed by 64-42 at the 12:04 mark in the second half and the game was never in doubt.

"You just cross your fingers and hope they play up to their capability,'' Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game. We played better than I thought we would.''

UConn's interior tandem of MVP Breanna Stewart and Stefanie Dolson overpowered Notre Dame. Dolson had a double-double with 17 points, 16 rebounds. She also blocked three Irish shots.

Stewart had a team-high 21 points, nine rebounds. Five of those were off the offensive glass.

It boosted Auriemma's record in national championship games to 9-0, as he slipped past retired Tennessee legend Pat Summit, who retired with eight titles.

In the women's game, the coaches of elite teams get more publicity than the players. The women can't make the money the men who get NBA contracts command. The men can go one-and-done and cash in. The women usually use all four years of eligibility. The best go to the WNBA, or play professionally overseas. Others use their degrees to enter the work force.

Two of the best coaches in the game were on opposite benches at Bridgestone Arena. Auriemma has built a women's basketball dynasty in Connecticut. Notre Dame's Muffin McGraw is the polar opposite of Auriemma, but her Irish teams have held their own with the best teams in the game. Tuesday night's championship game against Auriemma wasn't her first barbecue.

On the day before their teams met in hopes of cutting down the net, old feelings surfaced between the two coaches who were facing each other for the first time this season.

McGraw talked about how amazing it was that Auriemma's team has committed the fewest fouls in the nation, despite the fact they are so physical.

That got it on.

"The only thing more amazing than that, than how we've committed so few fouls, is how many free throws they've shot against us in the last three years; that only one team in America gets to shoot free throws against us,'' Auriemma sniffed.

"You want to talk about something amazing? That's amazing.''

McGraw has replaced Summit as the burr under Auriemma's saddle.

Like Summitt, McGraw picks here spots with Auriemma.

"I'm a little bit more of an introvert. He's quite the extrovert,'' McGrew said of Geno.

Her team simply couldn't match up with the Huskies. At one point in the game UConn outscored the Irish, 32-10 in the paint. There was little McGraw could do to alter the outcome. Her team finished 37-1 while Connecticut ran the table with an unblemished 40-0 record.

Still McGraw did not shy from, but instead cherished, the competition Tuesday night.

"I love the rivalry,'' McGraw said. "I think it's the one that gets your competitive juices flowing. I think it's something you look forward to. … You want to be coaching for this kind of game and this kind of moment.''

The moment Tuesday night clearly belonged to Geno Auriemma and the Huskies.

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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