Sports

UConn, Notre Dame set up battle of the unbeatens for NCAA women's title

SportsBasketballUConn HuskiesNotre Dame Fighting IrishMaryland TerrapinsStanford CardinalGeno Auriemma

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Connecticut Huskies are back in a very familiar position, undefeated and playing for a national championship.

They'll be going for an unprecedented ninth national championship after Breanna Stewart scored 18 points and the Huskies advanced to another title game with a 75-56 win against Stanford on Sunday night.

It wasn't easy early, though the Huskies (39-0) did part and set up the highly anticipated championship showdown of undefeated teams.

They will square off against Notre Dame, an 87-61 winner over Maryland, on Tuesday night in the title game. It will be the first women's national title game between unbeaten teams.

"It wouldn't be any fun if you didn't beat teams that were any good," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of the matchup with Notre Dame. "I think women's basketball needs rivalries like this, teams that aspire to be great and want to win championships."

The Huskies also won their 45th straight game after overcoming another sluggish start. Stewart, the Associated Press player of the year, missed her first four shots and UConn was up just 28-24 at halftime.

But Connecticut settled down and put the Cardinal away in the second half, outscoring them 47-32. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis found her shooting stroke, scoring all of her 15 points in the second half.

Bria Hartley added 13 points for UConn and Stefanie Dolson and Moriah Jefferson each finished with 10.

Stanford (33-4) lost its third national semifinal since reaching the 2010 championship against UConn, which the Huskies also won. All-American Chiney Ogwumike finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Amber Orrange scored 16 points, and Lili Thompson had 12.

In the first semifinal, Kayla McBride wouldn't let Notre Dame's pursuit of a perfect season end.

The All-American senior guard had one of the most impressive games of her career in Sunday night's national semifinal, scoring 28 points to lead Notre Dame to an 87-61 win over Maryland.

She seemingly did whatever she wanted, shedding defenders with behind-the-back dribbles and quick cross-overs before scoring. She set the tone for Notre Dame (37-0) and her Irish teammates followed her lead into Tuesday night's championship game.

The Irish are looking for their first title since 2001.

Notre Dame played without senior Natalie Achonwa, who suffered a torn knee ligament in the regional final victory over Baylor. The entire team wore shirts in warmups with Achonwa's No. 11 and the 6-foot-3 forward's nickname "Ace" on the back. She helped her team warm up, passing the ball and offering words of encouragement.

Muffet McGraw, who was the Associated Press coach of the year, was concerned coming into the game about her team's ability to rebound against the bigger Terrapins without Achonwa. It proved to be no problem for the Irish, who dominated the Terrapins (28-7) on the boards.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsBasketballUConn HuskiesNotre Dame Fighting IrishMaryland TerrapinsStanford CardinalGeno Auriemma
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