Connecticut's Breanna Stewart goes up for a rebound in Tuesday night's NCAA championship game in New Orleans. Stewart, a Cicero-North Syracuse graduate, was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player as the Huskies beat Notre Dame and Louisville to capture its eighth national title.
This meant a ticket to New Orleans and the Final Four, and a chance at redemption for both Stewart and her teammates.
The national semifinal Sunday night pitted the Huskies against Notre Dame. The two had sparred atop the Big East all season, meeting three times. Each time, the Fighting Irish won in close, excruciating fashion, including a triple-overtime decision in South Bend on March 4 and a last-second win in the Big East Tournament final in Hartford eight days later.
On the fourth try, Stewart - and UConn - would finally catch Notre Dame. Draining four of the five 3-pointers she attempted and 10 of 16 field goals, plus all five of her free throws, Stewart had 29 points, adding five rebounds and four blocks, and the Huskies eliminated the Irish 83-65.
Waiting for UConn in the title game was Louisville. After the Huskies stunned Baylor, it knocked off another major power, Tennessee, to get to the Final Four, and came from behind to defeat California in the other national semifinal.
Louisville would take an early 14-10 lead on UConn in the title game - and then Stewart took over. Hitting everything from tip-ins in the paint to long 3-pointers, Stewart notched 17 points before halftime as the Huskies roared to a 48-29 edge.
Though Stewart cooled off in the second half, the rest of the Huskies would put the Cardinals away, and the 93-60 margin was the most lopsided in an NCAA women's title game.
Finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks, Stewart was the runaway choice as Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, and Auriemma had matched Tennessee legend Pat Summit with eight national championships, with a real chance to go further in Stewart's remaining three years in Storrs.