The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team reached the pinnacle in style Tuesday night, routing the University of Notre Dame 79-58 in the first NCAA basketball championship game featuring two undefeated teams. With his ninth national title, UConn coach Geno Auriemma is only one championship away from tying former UCLA men’s coach John Wooden for the most ever in college basketball. But for Auriemma, “The numbers aren’t nearly as important as the people attached to those numbers.”
Last night’s dismantling of the Fighting Irish in Nashville, Tenn., capped the careers of UConn seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley. The pair are the final remaining links to the Huskies’ NCAA-record 90-game winning streak that ended when they were freshmen. “This has been a second family for me,” Dolson said. “Ever since I was a freshman they took me in.”
The duo finished their careers with back-to-back championships, and Auriemma choked up after the game remembering their careers. “It’s overwhelming,” he said. “Those two kids are two of the most unbelievable kids I’ve ever been around in my life, and to see their faces when they walked off the court; I don’t usually get this emotional, but this one got to me.”
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was also a major factor in this year’s title run, overcoming two injuries and mononucleosis to score 18 points and pull down seven rebounds Tuesday.
It was the fifth unbeaten season for Auriemma and UConn but the first time the Huskies have won 40 games—joining the Baylor women as the only college basketball teams to accomplish that feat. The victory was also Connecticut’s 46th straight, dating back to last season’s Big East Conference tournament, where the Huskies lost to Notre Dame. In fact, three of UConn’s four loses last year came against the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw congratulated Auriemma when they shook hands after the game. “I said something like, ‘I thought we were playing the Miami Heat for a while. You guys are just that good.’” she told reporters. “ I thought … LeBron was the only thing they were missing.”
But UConn didn’t need LeBron Tuesday night.
“We played better than I thought we were going to play,” Auriemma said. But with just a minute to go in the game, he was still screaming at his players. “I never want my players to look bad, so when they do dumb stuff I feel bad for them,” he said to rolls of laughter in the stands. “It’s part of our charm at Connecticut the way we love each other.”
The UConn men’s team defeated the University of Kentucky in its NCAA title game Monday night, a decade after the school previously won twin national championships. No other Division I school has accomplished that feat.