Scores

Final

(1) Connecticut 83

(34-4, 14-2 Big East)

(3) Notre Dame 65

(35-2, 16-0 Big East)

    Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

    9:07 PM ET, April 7, 2013

    Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

    1 2 T
    #1CONN 39 4483
    #3ND 29 3665

    Top Performers

    Connecticut: B. Stewart 29 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 Blk

    Notre Dame: K. McBride 16 Pts, 6 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

    UConn finally beats Notre Dame, advances to title game

    ESPN.com news services

    NEW ORLEANS -- Geno Auriemma shook his head in amazement. With all the incredible players he has coached, he couldn't remember a better effort than the one Breanna Stewart had against Notre Dame.

    Not with what was on the line.

    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 the Fighting Irish -- their nemesis of late -- on Sunday night.

    "Given the stage, and what was at stake I don't know that I've seen any bigger performance," Auriemma said. "I know there's been NCAA tournament games that we've had certain individuals play great, but I don't remember a player having a better game in this environment."

    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 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 their 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.

    "Don't cry because its over; smile because it happened! Thank you so much to all of my fans for your support! I love you so much!" Diggins tweeted following the game.

    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.

    "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 and Irish have developed one of the best rivalries in women's basketball over the past few seasons, and this game might have been the final chapter between the two with Notre Dame headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

    Two years ago, the Huskies won the first three meetings before Notre Dame shocked them in the national semifinals. Notre Dame had won seven of the previous eight meetings before Sunday night and this one, for once, started slowly. Notre Dame went nearly 7½ minutes without a field goal, missing 14 consecutive shots, and neither team led by more than four points for the first 16 minutes.

    But trailing 26-25 with 3:44 left in the half, UConn started to take over. Bria Hartley, who has struggled all season while recovering from an ankle injury she suffered over the summer, was the spark. The junior guard started the spurt with a 3-pointer and added a nifty pullup moments later to make it 32-26.

    After Notre Dame scored to pull within four, Morgan Tuck put back a miss and Stewart hit a 3-pointer. A Kelly Faris layup with 3.9 seconds left capped the burst and made it 39-29 at the break.

    Diggins was 0 for 6 from the field in the first half as the Huskies harassed her all over the court. She scored the Irish's first two points on free throws and didn't have another point until getting a steal early in the second half and converting it for the easy layup to make it 42-35. The two-time All-American tried to do everything she could to rally her team, twice chasing down Hartley on the break to block her shot, but her shots weren't falling and her team was falling behind.

    UConn led 50-43 with 12:22 left before Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart hit back-to-back 3s to give the Huskies their biggest lead of the game.

    Notre Dame wasn't done, their star freshman Jewell Loyd scoring five points during a 9-2 run to get the Irish within 61-55. That was as close as they could get as Stewart and UConn scored the next seven points to seal the victory.

    "Notre Dame is a really good team and they make runs like that," Stewart said. "It's how we answer. We went on a run after they cut it to six."

    Stewart was the most heralded freshman coming into the season, but struggled through the middle part of the year. But ever since the Big East tournament she's really been on a roll.

    "Every player, especially young players, deal with things differently," Auriemma said. "And I think when the season ended, it just let the air out of the balloon and she said, 'Now I just want to play basketball.' My God, she was amazing tonight."

    The 6-foot-4 budding star had 16 points in the loss to the Irish for the conference title and earned most outstanding player of the Bridgeport regional.

    "It was really impressive to have a freshman have that type of game," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "To come into the Final Four and play with such confidence. You don't expect a freshman to rise to the occasion like that, phenomenal performance for her."

    The loss ended an incredible season for Notre Dame, which lost only to Baylor before Sunday night. It also left Diggins without a national championship. She accomplished nearly everything else in her stellar career at the school, including helping her Irish turn around their rivalry against the Huskies.

    Diggins said she spoke with Auriemma after the loss.

    "Don't let this define my career," she said he told her, and that, "I've done more for women's basketball than some people have done who have won four championships."

    "He just told me I was a good player," she said. "You respect that coming from such a good coach."

    Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    Team Stat Comparison

     
    CONN
    ND
    Points 83 65
    FG Made-Attempted 29-62 (.468) 22-74 (.297)
    3P Made-Attempted 6-14 (.429) 4-13 (.308)
    FT Made-Attempted 19-21 (.905) 17-20 (.850)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 18 (0/0) 19 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 19 2

    Game Leaders

     
    CONN
    ND
    PointsB. Stewart 29K. McBride 16
    ReboundsM. Tuck 7A. Braker 9
    AssistsK. Faris 6S. Diggins 8
    StealsB. Hartley 4S. Diggins 4
    BlocksS. Dolson 5S. Diggins 3

    Series

    DATEGAMELINKS
    » Apr 7, 2013 CONN 83, @ND 65Recap | Box Score

    Research Notes

    Notre Dame missed all 12 of its shot attempts outside the paint in the first half, including 0-of-7 combined from Skylar Diggins and Kayla McBride. Diggins finished the game 0-of-6 outside the paint. She was 8-of-37 (21.6 percent) on such attempts against the Huskies this season.
    Breanna Stewart made 5-of-9 field goal attempts outside the paint (4-5 3-pt FG) against the Irish after combining to shoot 3-of-19 (1-10 3-pt FG) in three losses to the Irish this season. The rest of the Huskies combined to make 4-of-16 shots outside the paint Sunday.
      [+]
    Breanna Stewart made 4-of-5 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, including a wide open three to increase UConn's lead to 13 with 10:57 remaining in the second half. Entering the game, Stewart was 0-of-9 in three losses against the Irish this season on such shots, and 1-of-4 in the tournament.
    Notre Dame was 6-for-26 from the floor when only one player touched the ball on the play, including 2-for-8 by Skylar Diggins. Meanwhile, Connecticut was 11-for-14 on such attempts, thanks in part to making all six of their attempts directly following an offensive rebound.
    Notre Dame shot 32.6 percent in the paint and 15.4 percent in transition against Connecticut in the Final Four. The Irish had one more turnover (3) in transition than they had field goals (2). In their three previous games against the Huskies, the Irish shot 49 percent in the paint and 54 percent in transition.
      [+]

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