There will be no clean sweep of Division I basketball for the Louisville Cardinals. In a contest that didn't quite live up to the captivating thrill ride of the men's side, the Connecticut Huskies made it abundantly clear who the class of women's college basketball is on Tuesday night.
The top-seeded Huskies defeated the fifth-seeded Louisville Cardinals, 93-60, to capture the eighth national championship in school history in what amounted to little more than a rout.
Two nights after recording a career-high 29 points against Notre Dame, Breanna Stewart proved again what a dominating force she'll be for years to come. The freshman forward led the way for Connecticut, scoring 23 points, including 18 in the first half, while grabbing nine rebounds.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 18 points and Kelly Faris 16, the latter in her final game in a UConn uniform. It was a truly special night for all involved, though the Cardinals undoubtedly wish the game would have looked like the first couple of minutes.
Louisville hit the ground running with an initial 13-8 surge that made most in New Orleans think they were in for a close battle, but that facade quickly faded. A Bria Smith free throw was the only basket the Cardinals made for over a six-minute stretch after taking that early lead, as Connecticut swarmed an overwhelmed Louisville squad and struck a gaping wound.
Stewart went on a seven-point run by herself during that span, scoring from all over the floor. She was joined by Mosqueda-Lewis and Bria Hartley, as the trio essentially took over the game and gave the Huskies a 29-14 lead with 8:44 remaining in the first half.
The run forced Jeff Walz to call a timeout. His Cardinals put up four straight points after the stoppage, but that was the last time Louisville showed even remote signs of making a run.
Soon, Connecticut was back to pulverizing Louisville from everywhere on the floor. Stewart, Mosqueda-Lewis and Faris all knocked down jumpers from deep, putting Connecticut ahead by as many as 23 points before going into the halftime break ahead, 48-29.
Most would have been quick to pull the plug on the contest at that point—and understandably so. The Huskies were a formidable force, a suffocating combination of defensive excellence and sharp-shooting that is nearly impossible to keep up with.
Though the Cardinals came out with a valiant effort to start the second half, the burst was again short-lived. Soon, Louisville was clanking bricks off the front and side irons again, and Connecticut was extending its lead far beyond the scope of reasonable doubt.
Overall, the Cardinals shot only 37.1 percent on the night. Shoni Schimmel had a forgettable performance with just nine points on 3-of-15 shooting, as Sara Hammond was the only Louisville player who scored in double-figures.
Tuesday's victory gives Connecticut eight national championships, tying Tennessee for the most in Division I history. All of those titles have come under head coach Geno Auriemma, as the legendary Huskies coach has cut down the nets in three different decades and is one title away from passing Pat Summitt for the most all-time.
Louisville came into this contest hoping for a clean sweep of Division I basketball championships. Instead, what we got was merely the continuation of a women's college basketball monolith.
It's difficult to quantify Auriemma's accomplishments at Connecticut, but Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix attempts to by predicting he will one day pass John Wooden for most championships in history:
What Geno Auriemma has done at UConn is simply remarkable. He'll pass John Wooden someday. Men, women, it's an unbelievable accomplishment— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 10, 2013
Former NFL receiver Chad Johnson decided watching Dancing With the Stars took precedence over the national-title game in the second half:
I just turned from the Louisville/UConn game to watch DWTS just for Andrea Bocelli... #Epic— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) April 10, 2013
Not only did Breanna Stewart have arguably the best night of her young career on Tuesday, but her coach also compared her to a former NBA great, per Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch:
For you old-school NBA fans, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Breanna Stewart reminds him of George Gervin.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 10, 2013
Deitsch also tweeted out fantastic shot of the Huskies holding up their prize:
It's UConn's world tonight: twitter.com/richarddeitsch…— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 10, 2013
Also impressed with Stewart was ESPN's Twitter feed, which uttered a joke we've all made at least on one occasion, or 200:
It's Breanna Stewart's world, and we're just living in it. What. A. Half. #NCAAW— ESPN (@espn) April 10, 2013
More on the comic relief section, this time from the broadcast itself. Eric Stangel, who writes for Late Night With David Letterman, noted this particularly funny mistake regarding Kelly Faris' "mother":
Doris Burke, who was calling the game for ESPN, helped provide some solace to Louisville fans regarding the future of their program, according to Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal:
Doris Burke comparing Jeff Walz to Geno Auriemma in his early years at UConn. He ended up building a monster.— Steve Jones (@SteveJones_CJ) April 10, 2013
While the future is undoubtedly bright for the Cardinals, Connecticut shined above the rest and reclaimed its throne in the present.