NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While Notre Dame and UConn rolled to the Final Four over the past two weekends, Stanford’s perspective shifted.
Stanford kids are smart. They knew a national championship game between the Huskies and Irish was widely anticipated. It would not only be a rematch of former Big East rivals but the first title game between unbeatens in the history of the sport.
The Cardinal slowly went from simple consumer of news to a team that didn’t want to be consumed to make it.
“If we’re going to be someone’s hors d’oeuvres, we’re not going to get swallowed easily,” Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said.
But what are you going to do in a world where the food chain is so clearly defined? As badly as the Cardinal tried to avoid it, as hard they worked to steer clear of it, UConn gobbled them up, 75-56, in the national semifinal game at Bridgestone Arena.
And now, here we go: UConn (39-0) and Notre Dame (37-0), the closest thing this sport has to a cold war, make appointment television when they play for the national championship on Tuesday.
Breanna Stewart led the Huskies with 18 points. Bria Hartley added 13 in a game UConn trailed in for more than 13 minutes in the first half.
But it was the red-hot second half of junior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who didn’t score in the first, that truly put the Huskies into their ninth national title game since 1995. She scored 15.
The collegiate career of Stanford’s All-American, Chiney Ogwumike, ended with a line of frustration and 15 points.
Amber Orrange scored 16 for the Cardinal (33-4). Freshman Lili Thompson added 12, 10 in the game’s first 7:28.
Stewart’s first field goal, with 3:03 left, gave UConn the lead again, 24-22, ending a deficit that lasted more than 13 minutes. The Huskies rebuilt the lead to 28-22 and went to the locker room ahead 28-24 after making five of their final seven shots of the half.
Mosqueda-Lewis, the most outstanding player of the Lincoln regional, didn’t score for the first time until making a field goal with 18:41 to play to give UConn a 32-27 lead. She was 0 for 4 in the first half. But when she scored again with 16:42 to play, UConn had its first 10-point lead, 38-27. She scored nine points in the first 12 minutes of the half.
This was the fifth time these teams had met in the Final Four, their second meeting this season. The Huskies, in their second game of the season, beat the Cardinal 76-57 at Gampel Pavilion on Nov. 11, 2013.
For UConn, taking out Notre Dame will be highly personal, especially if the men beat Kentucky tonight and win the national championship.
Should the men win, the women will have the chance to create just the second dual championship in college basketball history, matching the feat of UConn’s 2004 champions.