NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Geno Auriemma and UConn reached the top of women’s college basketball in unprecedented fashion. After winning a record ninth national championship – they stand alone.
The Huskies reached the pinnacle in style, routing Notre Dame in the first NCAA basketball championship game featuring undefeated teams. Auriemma and his Huskies now have one more title than Pat Summitt and Tennessee for most all-time, and they did it in the Hall of Famer’s backyard.
The Huskies had struggled recently against the Irish, but not Tuesday night, cruising to a 79-58 win.
“It means we’ve done something no one else has ever done,” Auriemma said. “Flattered and grateful and all the things that come with this kind of accomplishment. … I’m more proud of the legacy that exists and what Connecticut basketball is as opposed to the number of championships.”
Breanna Stewart, who was The Associated Press Player of the Year, scored 21 points to lead the Huskies (40-0) while Stefanie Dolson added 17 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists. Auriemma took out his senior center with a minute left and the game well in hand with the pair embracing in a long hug.
“We beat a great, great team,” Auriemma said. “Notre Dame is a great team. For them to have the season they had and lose their starting center and to do what they did, I can’t say enough about their players, coaching staff and it took everything we have. I knew if we played great we’d have a chance to win.”
The victory also meant that UConn is now the center of the college basketball world with both the men’s and women’s teams winning the championship in the same year again. The men’s team beat Kentucky in the title game Monday. These titles came a decade after UConn became the only Division I school to accomplish the feat.
“I couldn’t be prouder of what the men did last night,” Auriemma said.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw congratulated the UConn coach after the game.
“I said something like, ‘I thought we were playing the Miami Heat for a while you guys are just that good.’ What a great season, you know things like that,” McGraw said. “I thought … LeBron was the only thing they were missing.”
While the names change at UConn, from Rebecca Lobo to Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and now Stewart, Auriemma has been the constant, winning nine titles in only 20 seasons – including the last two. He’s never lost in a national championship game.
“Congratulations to the UConn Huskies for winning the 2014 NCAA National Championship!,” Summitt said in a statement emailed to the AP. “My compliments also to coach Geno Auriemma for winning his ninth national title. He has accomplished this feat in record time.”
It was the fifth unbeaten season for Auriemma and UConn and the first time the Huskies went 40-0 – matching Baylor as the only schools to accomplish that feat.
The victory was also Connecticut’s 46th straight dating back to last season’s NCAA tournament title run. It’s the third longest streak in school history – well short of the NCAA record 90 straight they won.
The loss was Notre Dame’s third in the title game in the past four years. Kayla McBride finished off her stellar career with 21 points to lead the Irish, who were looking for their first title since 2001.
“They got comfortable,” McBride said. “They got into a rhythm, and it just went downhill from there.”