On Tuesday night in Indianapolis, top-seeded Connecticut made history, beating No. 4 Syracuse 82 to 51 to become the first NCAA Division I women’s team to win four consecutive NCAA basketball championships.
The win also marked the 11th national championship for UConn head coach Geno Auriemma who surpassed coach John Wooden on the all-time championship win list — for both college and pro basketball. Auriemma is now tied with coach Phil Jackson for basketball championship wins.
UConn jumped out to a 9-0 lead thanks in part to a couple of three-pointers from senior guard Moriah Jefferson and from Breanna Stewart, UConn’s towering 6-foot-4-inch senior forward who’s widely expected to be taken No. 1 in the WNBA draft.
Syracuse junior guard Brittney Sykes momentarily stemmed the tide with a smooth underhand layup to get on the scoreboard, but UConn, as they’ve done all season, upped their game.
At the end of the first quarter, UConn led 28-13. By the end of the first half, the Huskies were up 50-23. Jefferson and Stewart alone outscored Syracuse 25-23 in the first half.
Even casual basketball fans knew the UConn team was all but unstoppable (in fact some people even said its dominance was bad for women’s basketball), but the team’s seamless passes, impenetrable defense and superb shooting left some viewers in awe.
At the half, Sykes told ESPN’s Holly Rowe that Syracuse was focused on every possession; they were going to play in four-minute segments so as to chip away at UConn’s lead. That they did, stringing together an impressive 16-0 run in the third quarter, forcing Auriemma to call a defensive timeout. But the Orange still trailed by 17, and couldn’t loosen the Huskies’ grip on the lead.
UConn stepped on the gas, blotting out Syracuse’s glimmer of hope.
With just under two minutes left to play and the score at 80-51, Auriemma called a timeout to sub out Stewart, Jefferson and fellow Huskies senior Morgan Tuck, the three of whom made up the core of the team. UConn’s other senior, Briana Pulido, came on in the final minutes. To the delight of her teammates and the fans, she drained a shot in the game’s waning seconds, and the primarily pro-UConn arena erupted in cheers.
“It was perfect,” Stewart said after the game. “To play with these guys is unbelievable.”