Indianapolis, Ind. – Connecticut had little trouble dispatching Syracuse, 82-51 Tuesday night, to claim their 11th national title.
The 38-0 Huskies are the only Division I school to win as many championships, and coach Geno Auriemma surpassed legendary UCLA coach John Wooden for title wins in what turned out to be a storybook season for the team.
Naismith Trophy, Wade Trophy and AP player of the year Breanna Stewart lead the Huskies with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Morgan Tuck added 19 and Moriah Jefferson, 13. The three seniors together won an unprecedented four Championships, and helped accumulate 151 wins for Connecticut – the most in NCAA history.
“It was definitely a special moment, something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” Jefferson said. “And we’re just so excited that we got a chance to do something
that we did. Four in a row is amazing.”
Auriemma, who was emotional in a press conference before semifinals, said the three players left a legacy not only for the school, but for players who follow them.
“They’ve left an imprint on this game that’s going to last a really long time,” he said. “And I think it’s a blueprint for kids coming after them that if you want to know how to do it, they showed everybody how to do it. And they did it the right way. And they did it together and they did it with people that they love. And I’m really, really proud of them.”
The Huskies shot 41 percent in the first quarter while holding the Orange to 25 percent shooting. Tuck, who spearheaded their efforts in Sunday’s round, struggled in the first half, but Stewart took up the slack, scoring 14 points.
Syracuse went on a 16-0 run to begin the third quarter, cutting their deficit to 17 points. But Connecticut freshman Napheesa Collier stopped their momentum with back-to-back layups to end the period. The Orange rallied in the fourth quarter, but were never able to catch the Huskies.
The win was the 75th straight for Connecticut.
The on-court celebration following the final buzzer saw several former Husky greats come down to greet the team, including Maya Moore and Sue Bird. Stewart said the moment was special.
“I think that the biggest thing that we’re able to see with that group of alumni coming back is the fact that, sure, they’ve had so much success on their individual teams themselves but they want to share this with us,” she said. “And just being there and supporting us and wanting to be a part of this.”
“And that’s why when you come to UConn, it really is a family. Some of them have been out of college for a while. Some of them have not. But they were just as excited as we were.”
Auriemma said that after a Championship, he typically kicks seniors out of the locker room once the team gets back to campus. But he said he is going to savor this title, including when he is coaching the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer.
“I’ll be thinking about this for a long time,” Auriemma said.
Marvin Chambers contributed to this report.