Dave Martin Associated Press Connecticut's Breanna Stewart, center, is joined by her teammates as they celebrate their resounding win over Louisville.

Stewart-led Huskies storm to their eighth national title

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013 - 12:35 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013 - 5:45 pm

NEW ORLEANS – Geno Auriemma and Connecticut are back on top. With freshman Breanna Stewart leading the way, it might be awhile before they give it up, too.

Stewart scored 18 of her 23 points in a dazzling first half as 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, and it put the Huskies back atop college basketball after missing the title game the past two years.

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."

It might not take long for Auriemma to pass Summitt, not with 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.

Stewart is only 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."

The loss ended an unprecedented tournament run by Louisville.

The Cardinals (29-9) 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 run we went on was remarkable and something I'll always remember," Walz said. "We're walking out with our head high and proud of what we've done."

The Cardinals just didn't have enough to beat their Big East Conferencefoe. 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.

UConn and Stewart proved too tall a hurdle.

Stewart finished with 104 points in only five games – she missed the first-round rout of Idaho to rest a sore calf – 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 star passed Moore with a neat tip-in with 7:04 left in the first half and wound up with a performance reminiscent of two of the all-time greats. As freshmen, Cheryl Miller guided USC to a title in 1983 and Chamique Holdsclaw led Tennessee to a championship in 1996.

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

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Read more articles by Doug Feinberg



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