Notre Dame, UConn set for historic women’s title game
Women’s hoops • Huskies and Irish unbeaten — and they dislike each other.
Published: April 8, 2014 09:05AM
Updated: April 7, 2014 11:30PM
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Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma listens to a question during a news conference at the NCAA women's Final Four college basketball tournament Monday, April 7, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Connecticut is scheduled to face Notre Dame in the championship game Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Nashville, Tenn. • Muffet McGraw and Geno Auriemma were well aware of the talk. There has been a buzz throughout women’s basketball all season about the potential showdown between their undefeated teams.

Well, the wait is over.

UConn (39-0) and Notre Dame (37-0) are set to meet in an unprecedented championship clash Tuesday night.

“I think it’s something that everyone’s looked forward to all year long,” McGraw said. “People were hoping we would end up here. It’s great for the game and I think it’s great we’re both undefeated coming into it. It should be a great matchup for women’s basketball.”

Auriemma agreed that this once in-a-lifetime matchup — the first time undefeated basketball teams, men or women, have met for the NCAA national crown — could help boost the women’s game.

“An awful lot of people might tune in Tuesday night that wouldn’t normally tune in,” he said. “A game on national television between two great teams ­— nothing could be better for the sport.”

There’s also so much at stake for both teams.

A victory by UConn over its rival would be the ninth of Geno Auriemma’s career, breaking a tie with Pat Summitt for the most all-time.

“I’m not a numbers guy and don’t get caught up in that stuff,” Auriemma said. “Wednesday morning when I wake up, my life doesn’t change one iota. Stewie [Breanna Stewart] says she came to win four national championships. That’s what I think is more significant. For Bria [Hartley] and Stef [Dolson] to win a national championship their senior years. They get ‘X’ amount of chances to do it. God willing, I’ll get more chances down the road.”

While Auriemma deflected the talk on a record title, Dolson is happy to be a part of it.

“It’s amazing,” the 6-foot-5 Connecticut center said. “I mean, obviously it’s something coach isn’t going to talk about. We don’t really talk about it as a team; it’s just something that we know that we have the chance to help him kind of win that ninth one. ”

It would be the fifth unbeaten season for Auriemma and UConn and the first time the Huskies went 40-0. They’d match Baylor as the only team to accomplish that feat.

Notre Dame isn’t concerned about UConn’s program. The Irish are looking for their first title since 2001 — the school’s only championship.

They have made the Final Four the past four seasons, including reaching the title game in three of those years. This year they hope for a breakthrough.

“Getting here consistently has been great for our program,” McGraw said. “Taking the next step would be a huge accomplishment.”

Notre Dame has owned the series lately, winning seven of the last nine meetings between the schools. The Irish players have a simple explanation on why they’ve had success against the Huskies.

“We’re not afraid of them,” Irish sophomore star Jewell Loyd said.

The former Big East schools have a mutual respect for each other, but that’s about where it ends.

There’s no love lost between the programs — not even with the coaches.

“We don’t have a relationship,” McGraw said.

NCAA women’s championship

P UConn vs. Notre Dame, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

TV • ESPN