Women's NCAA championship: Connecticut 93, Louisville 60: Eighth title for Huskies

Freshman Stewart dominates; Summitt record is in jeopardy
2013-04-10T00:00:00Z Women's NCAA championship: Connecticut 93, Louisville 60: Eighth title for HuskiesThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

NEW ORLEANS - Geno Auriemma and Connecticut are back on top. With freshman Breanna Stewart leading the way, it might be a while before they relinquish that spot.

Stewart scored 18 of her 23 points in a dazzling first half and Connecticut won its eighth national championship with a 93-60 rout of Louisville on Tuesday night. It was the most lopsided victory in a title game.

The title tied Auriemma and the Huskies (35-4) with Pat Summitt and Tennessee for the most in women's basketball history.

"The fact that I tied Pat Summitt's record puts you in the category of the greatest women's basketball coach that ever lived," Auriemma said. "I'm just thrilled for our seniors. This team accomplished an amazing feat this last month."

It might not take long for Auriemma to pass Summitt the way Stewart and the rest of his Huskies played. His prized freshman was unstoppable, hitting shots from everywhere on the court to earn Most Outstanding Player honors for the Final Four. Even her father, in the stands watching, repeatedly said "wow" as his daughter took the game over.

"This is unbelievable," Stewart said. "This is what we've thought about since the beginning of the season. ... I just played really confident and stopped thinking. When I second-guess myself, nothing good comes out of that."

The loss ended an unprecedented tournament run by Louisville. The Cardinals became the first No. 5 seed to make the championship game, pulling off the greatest upset in tournament history when they beat Brittney Griner and Baylor in the regional semifinals. Jeff Walz's team then beat Tennessee in the regional final before topping Cal in the Final Four.

The Cardinals just didn't have enough to beat their Big East foe. Louisville was trying to become just the second school to win both the men's and women's championship in the same season and the first since UConn in 2004.

Louisville men's coach Rick Pitino, fresh off his team's 82-76 win in the title game over Michigan on Monday, sat behind the Cardinals bench, trying to spur on the women's team. He talked to the players at their pregame meal and told them to just enjoy the moment and have fun.

This trip to the Big Easy marked the beginning of the Stewart era. The heralded freshman had one of the most remarkable runs of any first year player in the history of the NCAA tournament. She finished with 105 points in the tournament in only five games - she missed the first-round rout of Idaho to rest a sore calf. It's the most by any first-year player since 2000, according to STATS. UConn's Maya Moore held the previous mark with 93 points.

The 6-foot-4 Stewart passed Moore with a neat tip-in with 7:04 left in the first half.

She scored seven points during a 19-0 run that turned a four-point deficit into a double-digit lead and put the Cardinals in a hole they couldn't climb out of.

"We rushed a lot, we started to panic a bit," Louisville's Walz said. "They started executing."

Stewart later swooped in for an incredible offensive rebound that she put back to make it 39-23. The Huskies led 48-29 at the half as Stewart had 18 points.

UConn dashed any hopes of a Louisville comeback going on a 12-2 run after the Cardinals had cut the deficit to 60-44. The only question over the last 10 minutes would be whether this would be the biggest blowout in title game history, and the Huskies easily surpassed Tennessee's 23-point win over Louisiana Tech in 1987. The Huskies beat Louisville by 22 points in the 2009 title game.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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