This matchup must feel like deja vu for women’s basketball fans, as the rivals met in last year’s national championship game as well — UConn defeated Notre Dame 79-58 to claim its ninth national championship title. This marks the 44th meeting between the schools overall, and the sixth time they faced each other in the Final Four according to Mechelle Voepel of espnW.
The Huskies lead the all-time series 32-11, which includes a 76-58 victory over the Irish in December. However, Notre Dame has won three of the five Final Four match-ups.
“We’ve had a long, long relationship with Notre Dame,” said UConn’s star forward Breanna Stewart. “It’s been a bumpy road at times. The rivalry that’s been created and hyped up between the two of us is something I think gets both teams excited.”
UConn (37-1), as expected, is in the title game for the third straight year. The Huskies reached its 10th national championship game by defeating Maryland (81-58) behind a tremendous game from Stewart. Stewart finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and four blocked shots.
Redshirt sophomore Morgan Tuck was just as sensational as Stewart, who collected numerous national awards on Saturday against Maryland. Tuck tallied 24 points, on 10-of-16 shooting, and grabbed nine caroms. Junior point guard Moriah Jefferson added 14 points and five assists.
UConn has won 36 in a row and is averaging around 90 points a game and shooting over 54 percent from the field as well as 40 percent from beyond the arc. The Huskies shot 53.7 percent from the field and made 8-of-22 shots from the three-point line against the Terrapins.
While it is not a surprise that UConn is back in the title game, it is kind-of-a shock that the young Irish are the opponents. Notre Dame starts a freshman, two sophomores, and two juniors. Plus, two of the their top four reserves are freshmen.
Notre Dame (36-2) is back in the national championship game after seeking out a 66-65 victory over South Carolina. This is the Irish’s fourth title game appearance in the past five years.
Trailing 65-64 with 32 seconds left, Notre Dame All-American Jewell Loyd grabbed a rebound and raced up court. Loyd, who finished with 22 points, got into the lane and took a 12-foot jumper, which South Carolina freshman Aj’a Wilson got apiece of. The ball eventually fell into the hands of a hustling Madison Cable, who put hit the game winning jumper with 18 seconds left.
Freshman Brianna Turner added 17 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Sophomore Taya Reimer, who made 7-of-10 shots from the field, contributed 16 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Notre Dame has won 22 straight. The Irish rank fifth in the nation in scoring (80.9 ppg), second in field goal percentage (49.8), and fifth in three-point percentage (38.5). Notre Dame shot just 40.6 percent from the floor against South Carolina.
UConn and Notre Dame are the winningest programs over the past six seasons according to Fred Goodall of the AP. The Huskies have won a nation’s best 220 games while the Irish have been victorious 203 times during that span.
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma will join John Wooden as the only coaches with 10 national titles if the Huskies are able to defeat the Irish. Auriemma is 9-0 in national championship games.
While Auriemma is likely looking forward to Tuesday night, he is not looking forward to face the Irish.
“They’re a lot like us. And I think that’s why they have had success against us. They have a lot of the same qualities that we have as a team and as a program. So we give them problems like other teams in the country don’t and they give us problems like other teams in the country don’t.”
“Tuesday night is not going to be any fun, believe me.I’m glad we’re playing in that game, but it’s not going to be any fun. They’re really hard to play against.”
The game is schedule to tip-off at 8:30 p.m. (ET) in Tampa, Florida, and will be televised on ESPN. The game will also be available on the WatchESPN app.
Prediction: UConn wins its third straight national title for the second time in program history. The Huskies prevail 75-62.
[photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]