UConn women go for eighth title against upstart Louisville
NEW ORLEANS — 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 Tennessee for the most in women's basketball.
Auriemma didn't want to think about it.
“Talking about things that haven't happened yet is never a good idea,” Auriemma said.
UConn is 7-0 in title games, including a victory in the 2009 game against Louisville and the 2004 game that also was played in New Orleans. That game was the college finale of Diana Taurasi, who finished with three straight championships.
This trip to the Big Easy could be the beginning of a new dynasty for the Huskies led by Breanna Stewart. The heralded freshman has been on one of the most remarkable runs of any first year player in the history of the NCAA tournament. She had a season-high 29 points in the semifinal victory over Notre Dame and was honored as the most outstanding player of the Bridgeport regional.
Auriemma said he couldn't remember a player having a better game in such a setting.
“I was sitting next to Jim Boeheim at the Olympics, and we were talking during the gold medal game,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “He said, ‘There's this kid that plays in the open gym with the women up at Syracuse, and she's going to UConn and is one of the best players I've ever seen.' It's not a surprise in what she's doing.”
Walz isn't fazed by his team's lack of success against Connecticut. It's hard to blame him the way the Cardinals have rolled through the tournament behind freewheeling guard Shoni Schimmel.
First came the upset of Brittney Griner and Baylor that shocked everyone. Then came the victory over the Lady Vols, the winningest program in women's basketball history. And finally the Final Four win over tournament newcomer Cal to get back to the title game for the second time in five seasons.
“It's going to take the best game we've played to date,” Walz said. “We're going to have to play 40 minutes of pretty much perfect basketball.”
No matter who wins, the Big East will have a ninth national championship. The conference, which will split apart after this season, has been the most dominant in women's basketball over the past decade.
“It's a special thing,” Walz said. “Every time you turn on a Final Four there's Big East teams playing in it. This is the best league in women's basketball.”