Geno Auriemma joined John Wooden as the only college basketball coach to win ten national titles as Auriemma's Connecticut Huskies defeated Notre Dame, 63-53, Tuesday night in Tampa.
The win gave the Huskies three consecutive national championships for the second time in Auriemma's 30-year tenure. They also went back-to-back-to-back between 2002 and 2004. Connecticut has now won five of the last seven titles and maintained their unbeaten record in championship games.
Breanna Stewart, who won the Naismith Award as the best women's college player in America, was held to just eight points on eight shots, but she grabbed 15 rebounds as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson led UConn with 15 points each. Stewart was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player for the third time, making her the first woman ever to achieve that. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the only men's player to do it when he played for Wooden's Bruins.
Stewart stated when she came to UConn that her goal was to win four championships. The junior is now one title away from being the first to win four straight. The 6-foot-4 star is the latest in a long line of outstanding UConn players that Auriemma has coached, including Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Maya Moore. Those players have helped Auriemma win those 10 championships over 20 years. It took Wooden 12 years to get to 10.
"I just know that in our sport, from 1995 to today, what we've done against our peers is as good if not better than anybody else has done in their sport against their peers," Auriemma said. "I don't care whether it's harder in that sport."
Auriemma won his title one night after fellow USA Basketball Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski won his fifth men's championship at Duke.
"Our Dad was very proud of Geno and Mike and how throughout their years as collegiate head basketball coaches they have diligently led their student-athletes to be successful on the court, in the classroom and in their lives," Wooden's children Nan and Jim Wooden said in a statement.
Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd did all she could to get the Irish over the top. Coach Muffet McGraw had her team back in the championship game for the fourth time in five seasons. The Irish have come up short each time, including the last two against UConn.
Notre Dame's lone title came in 2001.
Loyd had 12 points for the Irish, going 4 for 18 from the field. She missed all eight of her shots in the second half.
The Irish (36-3) were able to slow the Huskies in the early going, not letting the Huskies get any kind of run going on offense. UConn (38-1) only led 25-21 with 4 minutes left in the half before Jefferson stole the inbounds pass and drove the length of the court for a layup. The Huskies scored six of the final eight points of the half to open up a 31-23 lead at the break.
After the Irish cut it to five to start the second half, UConn scored seven straight to open up a double-digit advantage. The Irish wouldn't go away, thanks to Brianna Turner, who missed the earlier meeting which the Huskies won by 18 points.
She was scoreless in the first half, but came alive after the break. She had eight straight points for the Irish, including banking in a shot from the top of the key as the shot clock was reaching zero. That put the Irish within 54-48.
After the teams traded baskets, Mosqueda-Lewis scored seven straight to restore the double-digit advantage with just over four minutes left and Notre Dame couldn't recover.
Auriemma took Stewart out with about 30 seconds to play and gave her a big hug.
Turner finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The Connecticut-Notre Dame matchup was just the second time in the history of the tournament that the same teams played in the final in consecutive years. UConn beat Tennessee in 2003 and 2004.
It was also the 55th meeting between the top two teams in the AP poll with the No. 1 team holding a 34-21 lead. UConn, which finished the season atop the poll, has been involved in the last five of them.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.