The University of Connecticut made basketball history this week. It became the only school to win both women’s and men’s NCAA basketball tournaments in the same year.
On Tuesday night in Nashville, Tennessee, the Connecticut Huskies faced the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the NCAA women’s tournament championship game. It was the first final matchup of two undefeated women’s teams. UConn beat Notre Dame 79-58, earning their ninth national championship. Head Coach Geno Auriemma broke a tie with head coach Pat Summitt for most national titles on record.
“We beat a great, great team,” Auriemma said. “Notre Dame is a great team. I can’t say enough about their players and coaching staff, and it took everything we have. I knew if we played great we’d have a chance to win.”
On Monday night, the Huskies’ men’s team beat Kentucky. It was their fourth time winning the title. “I couldn’t be prouder of what the men did last night,” Auriemma said.
A Promise to Fans
In the final men’s game, Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie led the team to beat the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54. Ollie fulfilled the promise he made to fans at the end of the regular season that the Huskies would be back for the championship game in April. More than 79,000 people showed up for the game at AT&T stadium on Monday night.
“You’re looking at the hungry Huskies,” UConn senior guard Shabazz Napier told the crowd. Senior forward Niels Giffey added, “It’s not about going to the next level, it’s not about going to the pros, but playing for your university, playing for your teammates,” he said.
Leading the Team
While the athletes move on after four years, the coach remains the same. UConn women’s Coach Auriemma has won nine titles in 20 seasons, including the last two. He has never lost in a national championship game. It was the fifth unbeaten season for Auriemma and UConn, and the first time the Huskies went 40-0. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw congratulated the coach when they shook hands after the game. The two talked about UConn’s talent. “I thought we were playing the Miami Heat for a while,” McGraw said to Auriemma. “I thought ... LeBron was the only thing they were missing.”
UConn out-rebounded Notre Dame 54-31 and held them to a season-low in points. Breanna Stewart, led the team with 21 points. Senior Stefanie Dolson scored 17 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists. Dolson had promised President Barack Obama that the Huskies would be back, and UConn delivered.