Connecticut routed Louisville 93-60 to win the program's eighth NCAA women's championship.
NEW ORLEANS — Geno Auriemma has been chasing Pat Summitt since he started coaching women’s basketball. With his eighth NCAA championship, he has finally caught her.
It might not be long before Auriemma stands alone, with Breanna Stewart leading the way to more success.
Freshman Stewart scored 18 of her 23 points in a dazzling first half and Connecticut won the title with a 93-60 rout of Louisville on Tuesday night. It was the most lopsided victory in a championship game, and it put the Huskies back atop the sport after not being in the final the past two years.
The title tied Auriemma and the Huskies (35-4) with former Tennessee coach Summitt for the NCAA women’s record.
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“The only person I compare myself to is Pat Summitt and to be there in that spot with her means a lot to me,” Auriemma said. “The fact that I tied Pat Summitt’s record puts you in the category of the greatest women’s basketball coach that ever lived.”
Stewart was virtually unstoppable, seemingly making shots from everywhere on the court. She earned Most Outstanding Player honors for the Final Four. She is the fourth freshman to have that honor and first since 1987. Even her father in the stands repeatedly said “wow” as his daughter took the game over and Cardinals men’s coach Rick Pitino, in town to cheer on the Louisville women, called her one of the best freshmen in basketball.
“This is unbelievable,” Stewart said. “This is what we’ve thought about since the beginning of the season. And now to be here and actually win it, it’s a great feeling and I don’t think it’s going to set in for a while. I just played really confident and stopped thinking. When I second-guess myself, nothing good comes out of that.”
After Auriemma cut down the final strand of the net, his team carried him around the court in celebration. He is 8-0 in title games. Previous UConn titles were in 1995, 2000, 2002 through 2004, 2009 and 2010.
Summitt, who stepped down a year ago and suffers from early-onset dementia, released a statement through her son, Tyler.
“Congratulations to Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut Huskies on a remarkable season and an eighth national title,” she said. “Geno is a proven champion and a leader in our game.”
The loss ended an unprecedented tournament run by Louisville. The Cardinals (29-9) became the first No. 5 seed to make the final, pulling off a huge upset when they beat Brittney Griner and top-ranked Baylor in the regional semifinals.
Coach Jeff Walz’s team then beat Tennessee in the regional final before topping California in the Final Four.
“The run we went on was remarkable and something I’ll always remember,” Walz said.
Louisville was trying to become the second school to win both the men’s and women’s championship in the same season and the first since UConn in 2004.
Percentages: FG .371, FT .900. Three-point goals: 5-23, .217 (Reid 1-2, J. Schimmel 1-2, Hammond 1-3, Slaughter 1-4, S. Schimmel 1-8, Vails 0-1, Smith 0-1, Harper 0-1, Deines 0-1). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 4 (Hammond 2, Smith, Slaughter). Turnovers: 17 (Smith 6, Slaughter 5, S. Schimmel 3, J. Schimmel, Deines, Hammond). Steals: 10 (Slaughter 4, Hammond 2, Smith, J. Schimmel, Vails, S. Schimmel). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .530, FT .714. Three-point goals: 13-26, .500 (Mosqueda-Lewis 5-8, Faris 4-7, Stewart 3-3, Hartley 1-2, Dolson 0-1, Jefferson 0-1, Doty 0-1, Tuck 0-3). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 7 (Stewart 3, Dolson 2, Mosqueda-Lewis, Faris). Turnovers: 17 (Tuck 4, Faris 3, Hartley 3, Jefferson 2, Dolson 2, Mosqueda-Lewis 2, Stewart). Steals: 13 (Hartley 3, Stewart 3, Dolson 2, Doty 2, Faris 2, Buck). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 17,545. Officials: Denise Brooks, Lisa Mattingly, Brenda Pantoja.