New Orleans, LA – It may have taken four tries, but Connecticut finally defeated Notre Dame when it mattered most.
Breanna Stewart recorded 29 points and four blocks and led Connecticut to a 83-65 rout against Notre Dame in the Final Four on Sunday.
Connecticut lost to Notre Dame twice in the regular season, including a 96-87 triple overtime game on Mar. 4, and then again in the Big East Conference Tournament final, 61-59, just eight days later.
However, the Huskies (34-4), the top seed in the Bridgeport regional, were able to take down the Fighting Irish, whose only loss this season was against Baylor on Dec. 5.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 16 points and Bria Hartley had 15 points and four steals off the bench for the Huskies.
With the win, Connecticut will be looking for its eighth national championship under coach Geno Auriemma, but will have to face another Big East foe in Louisville on Tuesday to win it.
"Once you get here you're only going to beat great teams. And the reason Notre Dame has beaten us seven of the last eight times is because they're really, really good," Auriemma said. "For one night, that's what's great about the NCAA tournament, for one night, for just this night, we just needed to be better than them, and we were."
Kayla McBride had a team-high 16 points and six rebounds while Jewell Loyd tallied 11 for the Fighting Irish (35-2), the top seed in the Norfolk region. Two-time Big East Player of the Year Skylar Diggins had 10 points, eight assists, four steals and three blocks in defeat.
The first half was tight with neither team managing a lead of more than two points. However, down 26-25 with 2:56 left, Hartley drilled a 3-pointer to not only give the Huskies the lead, but also started a 14-3 surge over the remainder of the half.
At halftime, Connecticut had a 39-29 advantage.
Notre Dame improved in the second half, shooting 36.1 percent compared to 23.7 percent in the first half, but it was not enough to warrant a comeback.
With 5:45 remaining in regulation, the Huskies had a 14-2 run and led 75-57 with 1:43 left. The Huskies would extend their lead by as much as 19 points thirty seconds later, sealing the win.
I'm just so proud of this team and what we accomplished this year and hate for it to end on a game like this when we just-- just played so poorly," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.