Huskies beat Irish on 4th try of season
New Orleans • Breanna Stewart had all the answers to help UConn finally vanquish Notre Dame.
The stellar freshman scored a career-high 29 points to go with four blocks and was seemingly everywhere in leading the Huskies back to the national championship game with an 83-65 win over Notre Dame on Sunday night.
The Huskies will face Louisville in the title game Tuesday night, and it will be an all-Big East affair after the Cardinals rallied to beat California 64-57 in the other semifinal. UConn will be going for its eighth national championship to match Tennessee for the most in women's basketball history.
No team has dominated Geno Auriemma's Huskies the way that the Irish had over the past few seasons. UConn (34-4) had lost the previous two national semifinals to the Irish and dropped three thrilling games this season to its rival.
Stewart and her teammates wouldn't let it happen again, ending the brilliant career of Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins. She finished her last college game with 10 points, going a dismal 3 for 15 from the field.
"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."
The Huskies built a 10-point halftime lead playing incredible defense and Notre Dame (35-2) could only get within six in the second half as its school record 30-game winning streak came to an end.
The Huskies and Irish have developed the best rivalry in women's basketball over the past few seasons, and this game might have been the peak, with Notre Dame headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Louisville 64, California 57 • When Layshia Clarendon sank a game-tying rainbow 3 from the left wing with 1:51, it looked like California might have the composure to halt Louisville's remarkable run in the women's NCAA tournament.
Then everything went wrong for the Golden Bears, who left the Final Four after one game as the Cardinals' third straight upset victim, joining defending national champion Baylor and Tennessee.
"I'll give it to Louisville, they outplayed us," Cal guard Brittany Boyd said. "It seemed like they wanted it more."
Antonita Slaughter scored 18 points on six 3-pointers and Louisville clawed back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Cal. Bria Smith scored 17 on 6 of 7 shooting for the Cardinals (29-8), who were a No. 5 seed and became the first team seeded worse than fourth to win a Final Four game.
The result ensures an all-Big East Conference final in the league's last season in its current form, with Louisville vs. Connecticut on Tuesday night one night after the Louisville men's team plays Michigan for the championship.
"Right now anything can happen," coach Jeff Walz said. "Why not us?"
Layshia Clarendon scored 17 for Cal (32-4), which had won the Spokane Region as a second seed. Gennifer Brandon added 12 for the Golden Bears and Boyd added 10 points.
Louisville vs. Connecticut
P Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
TV • ESPN