Stewart scored the first basket of the night just 20 seconds into the game, to give the Huskies an early 2-0 lead. The Irish didn’t take long to get their first lead after tying it up at four. Lindsey Allen connected on 2 free throws at the line to give the Irish a 6-4 lead with 1:58 expired from the clock.
As Morgan Tuck scored on a layup with 11:26 left in the half, the Huskies had jumped out to a 7-point lead. The Irish weren’t about to let UConn just run away with this one as they drew within 3-points with 7:48 left to play in the half.
It didn’t take long before the Huskies drew their lead out again. With 1:37 left on the clock in the first half the Huskies had pulled back out to a 7-point lead and were looking to do more damage before the half. A foul by Hannah Huffman would send UConn’s Morgan Tuck to line and she would connect on 1 of 2 shots. As the final buzzer sounded to mark the end of the half, the huskies were out to an 31-23 lead, their biggest of the half.
Eager to get back in the game, Michaela Mabrey dilled a triple for the Irish from the left side of the court to make it a 5 point game just 16 seconds into the 2nd half. The excitement for Notre Dame didn’t last long as the Huskies jumped out to a quick 12 point lead with just 17:16 left to play in the Championship game.
With 15:56 left to play in the title game the Huskies were out rebounding Notre Dame 38-28.
Notre Dame had cut the Huskies lead to just 6 points with 14:09 left to play as Jewell Loyd sunk two free-throws for the Irish. But the Huskies continued to answer all of Notre Dames scores extending their lead to 10 with 11:33 left to play making it 48-38 as Morgan Tuck drilled a 3-pointer and the crowd erupted.
The Irish again fought back and cut the lead to 6 points with 10:42 to play on a layup by Brianna Turner. But then a 3-pointer by Huskies junior Moriah Jefferson made it a 9-point game with 9:42 to play and it seemed like the Huskies were poised to put this one away. But the Irish just wouldn’t go quietly; Brianna Turner scored two consecutive baskets to cut the Huskies lead to just 5 with 7:34 to play. Turner was the Irish leading scorer with 14 points on the night.
With the Irish still in the ball game and time winding down, both teams started trading shots. UConn drilled a triple to make it 54-46, and then Turner answered right back again with a jumper for the Irish to draw within 6. After each team traded shots again we had a 56-50 game with the Huskies on top with 5:26 to play in the game. We looked to be in for an exciting finish that would go down to the final play.
The win gives UConn head coach Geno Auriemma 10 National Title wins to put him in the same category as the great John Wooden and Phil Jackson. Out of those 10 titles, Breanna Stewart has now helped bring three of those back to Storrs with a shot next year to bring back a fourth.
“I think it's really surreal, and I think I haven't had a chance to even think about that, the fact that I've won three National Championships. But I said I want to win four, and you can't win four without winning three.” said Stewart after the game of the accomplishment and future possibilities.
But Stewart’s humbleness continues to proceed here despite her lofty goals. When the final buzzer sounded and the award for Most Outstanding Player was given to her, she could only talk and vouch for her teammate Moriah Jefferson.
“…, I thought that Moriah should have gotten the MOP. I thought the way she played was phenomenal these past two games. And I think that people wanted to give it to me just because it was my opportunity to win three in a row.”
Jefferson finished the game with 15 points, with 9 points coming from 3-pointers, as well as adding 5 assists and 3 rebounds. When you look at the stat line’s this was a complete team win by the Huskies.
“There just hasn't been a player like Stewy in the women's game in a long, long time. I think she might be like two inches taller and longer than Cheryl Miller. And Cheryl Miller was one of the best players I ever saw that size. Lisa Leslie was a great, great player, but I don't know if she was as versatile. Stewy is not as big as Lisa, but I don't know that Lisa was ‑‑ Stewy's the kind of player that women's basketball probably has not seen, because it's still young. Kind of like when Kareem came to UCLA. Not a whole lot of players coming out of high school were like Kareem, in the history of the men's game.” said Auriemma of Brianna Stewart postgame.
This bond between teammates and their head coach will surely be needed as they look to go for a 4th consecutive National Title next season. But for now it’s back to Storr’s, CT so their hometown faithful can join in on the celebration of a 10th national title in Women’s basketball for the University of Connecticut.