Posted April 07, 2013 on
AP on Fox
Breanna Stewart put on quite a show to help UConn finally vanquish Notre Dame.
The stellar freshman scored a career-high 29 points to go with four blocks, leading the Huskies to the national championship game with an 83-65 win over Notre Dame on Sunday night.
The Huskies will face Louisville in the championship game Tuesday night in an all-Big East final after the Cardinals rallied to beat California 64-57 in the other NCAA semifinal. UConn will be going for its eighth national championship to match Tennessee for the most in women's basketball history.
No team has dominated Geno Auriemma's Huskies the way that the Irish had over the past few seasons.
UConn (34-4) had lost the previous two national semifinals to the Irish and dropped three thrilling games this season to their rival.
Stewart and her teammates wouldn't let it happen again, ending the brilliant career of Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins. She finished her last college game with 10 points, going a dismal 3 for 15 from the field.
''Once you get here you're only gonna beat great teams. And the reason Notre Dame has beaten us seven of the last eight times is because they're really, really good,'' Auriemma said. ''For one night, that's what's great about the NCAA tournament, for one night, for just this night, we just needed to be better than them, and we were.''
The Huskies built a 10-point halftime lead playing incredible defense and Notre Dame (35-2) could only get within six in the second half as its school record 30-game winning streak came to an end.
The Huskies and Irish have developed the best rivalry in women's basketball over the past few seasons, and this game might have been the final chapter between the two with Notre Dame headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Two years ago, the Huskies won the first three meetings before Notre Dame shocked them in the national semifinals. Notre Dame had won seven of the previous eight meetings before Sunday night and this one, for once, started slowly. With the teams so familiar with each other, getting easy baskets was virtually impossible. Notre Dame went nearly 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal missing 14 consecutive shots.
While UConn would usually knockout most opponents during a scoreless stretch like that, the Huskies couldn't take advantage against the Irish scoring only four points themselves.
Neither team led by more than four points for the first 16 minutes. But trailing 26-25 with 3:44 left in the half, UConn took over. Bria Hartley, who has struggled all season while recovering from an ankle injury she suffered over the summer, was the spark. The junior guard started the spurt with a 3-pointer and added a nifty pullup moments later to make it 32-26.
After Notre Dame scored to pull within four, Morgan Tuck put back a miss and Stewart hit a 3-pointer. A Kelly Faris layup with 3.9 seconds left capped the burst and made it 39-29 at the break.
Diggins was 0 for 6 from the field in the first half as the Huskies harassed her all over the court. She scored the Irish's first two points on free throws and didn't have another point until getting a steal early in the second half and converting it for the easy layup to make it 42-35. The two-time All-American tried to do everything she could to rally her team. Twice she chased down Hartley on the break to block her shot.
UConn led 50-43 with 12:22 left before Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart hit back-to-back 3s to give the Huskies their biggest lead of the game.
Notre Dame wasn't done, their star freshman Jewell Loyd scoring five points during a 9-2 run to get the Irish within 61-55.
That was as close as they could get as Stewart and UConn scored the next seven points to seal the victory. Stewart was the most heralded freshman coming into the season, but struggled through the middle part of the year. But ever since the Big East tournament she's really been on a roll.
''Every player, especially young players, deal with things differently,'' Auriemma said. ''And I think when the season ended, it just let the air out of the balloon and she said, `Now I just want to play basketball.' My God, she was amazing tonight.''
The 6-foot-4 budding star had 16 points in the loss to the Irish for the conference title and earned most outstanding player of the Bridgeport regional.
The loss ended an incredible season for Notre Dame and left Diggins without a national championship. The star guard had accomplished nearly everything else in her stellar career at the school, including helping her Irish turn around their rivalry against the Huskies.
Notre Dame won a school record 30 straight games with the only other loss coming against Baylor in early December. The Irish won their second straight Big East regular season title and first conference tournament championship.
Notre Dame failed to become the second team to win four games against its opponent in the same season since 2000. Oral Roberts is the only school to do it since 1999-00 when the Eagles swept all of its games against UMKC, according to STATS LCC.
BEST OF MAXIM
Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw is The Associated Press' women's college basketball Coach of the Year.
McGraw has guided her team to 30 straight victories and has the Fighting Irish back in the Final Four for a third straight season.
She was presented the award Saturday after receiving 24 votes from the 40-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. The voting...
Skylar Diggins has accomplished nearly everything she could have imagined in her career at Notre Dame. The only thing missing is a national championship.
To get another chance at that elusive title, Diggins will have to help the Fighting Irish women beat Big East rival Connecticut for an unprecedented fourth straight time this season.
''It would mean a lot,'' Diggins...
Notre Dame Tight end Tyler Eifert decided to skip his senior season to enter the 2013 NFL draft and will be the first tight end off the board. Eifert was one of the Golden Domers most effective offensive players last season with 50 catches, 685 yards and four touchdowns. That success helped the Fighting Irish junior win the Mackey Award given to the nations top tight end.
1. Davaris Daniels. WR. Notre Dame, Redshirt Sophomore Davaris Daniels came into his redshirt freshman season trying to help the Fighting Irish fill the void left by All-American and First Round Pick Michael Floyd. Before breaking his collarbone against Boston College, which led to him missing the last 2 regular seasons games, Daniels stepped into [...]
[[ This is a content summary...
Hot News for S Zeke Motta
NEW ORLEANS - Notre Dame dug a hole early in Sunday night's Final Four game against all too familiar rival UConn, and Diggins and the Irish had no answers for the Huskies' stellar defense and hot shooting from Breanna Stewart.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly met with the media today to discuss his squad's progress, injuries, and development through the first half of the spring session.
There are no secrets between Notre Dame and UConn. The fourth meeting of the season between these rivals has the most at stake, however. The winner goes to the national championship game.
Talented athlete DeAndre Thompkins of Swansboro (N.C.) High just added his 12th offer from Notre Dame. Thompkins explains what he likes about the Irish, if he plans to take a visit to Notre Dame, and when he expects to make a final decision.
Notre Dame's 2012 defensive front was the program's best unit last fall. After losing just one of its top eight contributors from a 12-1 campaign, it has a chance to be better in 2013, and a big reason for that is sophomore defensive end, Sheldon Day.
For the first time in my mock drafts former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o find himself landing in the first round.
Geno Auriemma has never lost an NCAA championship game.
His UConn Huskies haven't had to face a team like upstart Louisville, which is making an unprecedented run through the tournament. A victory Tuesday night over the Cardinals would be the school's eighth title, tying UConn with Tennessee for the most ever in women's basketball.
Auriemma didn't want to think...
Irish commit offensive tackle Jimmy Byrne became even more comfortable with Notre Dame during his visit this weekend. He talks about the highlights of his time in South Bend and how he's responding to outside suitors seeking the committed lineman.
Geno Auriemma has never lost an NCAA championship game.
Of course, his UConn Huskies haven't had to face a team like upstart Louisville, which is making an unprecedented run through the women's tournament. A victory Tuesday night over the Cardinals would be UConn's eighth title, matching them with Tennessee for the most ever in women's basketball.
For Louisville's Schimmel sisters, success on the basketball court during the NCAA tournament has brought their family closer together in ways they never anticipated.
It inspired their parents to finally get married, for one.
As Shoni Schimmel and younger sister Jude recounted Saturday, the eve of Louisville's national semifinal matchup with Cal, the events leading to their...