NEW ORLEANS – Louisville sophomore Sara Hammond had a tough choice when it came down to colleges. The Mount Vernon, Ky. resident was down to the Cardinals and UConn.
It came down to the ability of her family, notable parents Eddie and Roxanne, to watch her play that swayed her decision.
"I decided to stay at home because I wanted my family to watch me play," Hammond said. "I took a visit to Connecticut. I loved their program. I loved their campus. Geno Auriemma, besides Jeff Walz, was my next favorite coach. I saw the look on my mom and dad's face when they saw me excited.
"They loved it and they were happy for me. But I could tell they were going to be really sad if they couldn't watch me play basketball. And I knew 15 hours away from home would be heartbreaking to my family and me. So I think that was the main reason I stayed in Louisville. Instead of driving 15 hours they just had to drive only two hours down the road to watch me play."
It's worked out well so far as Hammond has thrived for the Cardinals getting them to the national championship game for the second time in five seasons.
PLAYING THROUGH PAIN: UConn center Stefanie Dolson admitted that in the past she might not have been able to play through the level of pain that she is dealing with right now. She has a stress fracture in a non-weight bearing bone in her right ankle and plantar fasciitis in her left foot.
Dolson still played 29 minutes in Sunday's 18-point win over Notre Dame and finished with nine points and a career-high five blocks.
"Last year probably, the year before probably not," the junior said referring to whether or not she would have been able to play through these injuries.
"Obviously, maturity comes along with it. My teammates help a lot with just supporting me and making sure that I know that I'm not letting them down when I can't do things in practice or whatever, which is kind of a hard thing to swallow when you can't practice sometimes. But, yeah, I don't think I would've been able to handle it as well as I am."
Dolson said the only time she's not in pain is when she's sleeping. She said she's not looking into having surgery after the season.
"Just a lot of rehab and stuff," Dolson said.
FREE THROWS: Notre Dame holds a distinct honor as the men's and women's teams were the last school to beat the eventual national champion. The men's team knocked off Louisville in the five-overtime thriller. It's the first time that's ever happened according to STATS. ... It's the third time that a school has had both its basketball teams play in the championship game. Both the Duke men and women lost in the 1999 championship games and Connecticut swept the 2004 titles. ... Louisville would be the lowest seed ever to win a national championship. One or two seeds have won the past 15 national titles and 29 of the 31 overall. ... Louisville is the third team to reach the championship game without a member of AP All-America first, second or third teams. Rutgers did it in 2007 and Michigan State achieved it in 2005. Both those teams lost. ... This will be the third time that the Big East holds both national championships. The Syracuse men won in 2003 as well as the UConn women. Connecticut swept the 2004 titles.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.