April 7, 2013
In the end, it seemed less a victory than an exorcism.
A startling and near-complete dominance that Notre Dame held over Connecticut in recent seasons finally ended Sunday night. Not even Tennessee at the height of its power could defeat the Huskies with such assured regularity.
After losing to the Fighting Irish in the past two national semifinal rounds,UConn prevailed Sunday, 83-65, to advance to the N.C.A.A. title game against Louisville on Tuesday. The Huskies defeated the Cardinals, 72-58, in Big East conference play this season.
Notre Dame (35-2) had defeated UConn (34-4) in seven of their last eight meetings, including three times since January. But the Huskies are a more assured team now. Their freshmen, forwards Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck and guard Moriah Jefferson, have matured, no longer seeming to be burdened by expectation. All have reached the stage when they can play instead of think to the point of paralysis by analysis.
Stewart delivered a career-high 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Tuck grabbed seven rebounds, and Jefferson did her part defensively to keep Skylar Diggins without a field goal in the first half and a frigid 3 for 15 on the night.
Notre Dame shot only 22 for 74 over all. Guard Kayla McBride, who scored more than 20 points in each of the three previous games this season against UConn, missed 15 of her 20 attempts Sunday.
“I think getting back to just playing basketball instead of focusing on doing anything special has really helped me to play well late in the season,” said Stewart, who was named the most outstanding player of the Bridgeport Regional.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 16 points for the Huskies, who finally kept their poise and successfully closed out a game after leading in the second half of all seven defeats to the Irish, which dated to the 2011 national semifinals. UConn also got some redemptive guard play from Bria Hartley, who has not seemed assured this season, but scored 16 points on Sunday.
On Tuesday, Coach Geno Auriemma will seek his eighth national title, attempting to match the number won by Tennessee’s pioneering former coach Pat Summitt, whose career was cut short by early onset Alzheimer’s.
Familiarity, nerves, defensive obstructiveness and the importance of the moment conspired to make for an awkward start to Sunday’s game. Midway through the first half, the score was tied at 12-12. UConn missed 14 of its first 20 shots and Notre Dame 22 of its first 25. Diggins fired one shot that bounced over the backboard then threw a pass into press row. She missed all six of her field-goal attempts in the half.
The game picked up some rhythm and coherence with a series of lead changes. Still, neither team could establish any breathing room. The Huskies made the first significant run of the night with a 14-3 burst in the final three minutes of the half to take a 39-29 lead at intermission.
Awakened was the junior guard Hartley, who scored a career-high 29 points as a freshman against Notre Dame. But her confidence seemed to ebb this season as she shot a tepid 38.8 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from three-point range.
Sunday night, Hartley began the game on the bench. But she appeared revived late in the first half with a 3-point shot, a jumper on the fast break, another shot behind the arc and a rebound that gave the Huskies a final basket.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame shot 9 for 38 from the field. McBride was 1 for 8. Still, nothing appeared decided.
“Because we are so familiar with each one another, and we play so often, it comes down to who has a greater will to win and who’s going to step up and make those tough plays,” Hartley said before the game. “We know what Notre Dame runs; we know it better than our own offense. I think it’s going to come down to who’s going to make those big plays and who’s going to step up.”
Notre Dame made a threatening run to open the second half as McBride found her stroke from 3-point range and Diggins stripped the ball from Jefferson and drove for a layup. UConn’s lead had been whittled to 42-35.
But Stewart grabbed an offensive rebound, hit a follow shot and drew a foul. Her free throw restored the Huskies’ lead to double digits at 47-37. With a superb head fake, Hartley drove past Diggins and hit a runner to make it 49-39.
UConn was not yet in the clear. It was risking foul trouble. Mosqueda-Lewis drew her third personal seven seconds into the final half. Stefanie Dolson drew her third with 13 minutes 40 seconds remaining. Yet UConn remained composed.
Hartley stole an inbounds pass and hit a free throw. Mosqueda-Lewis, who can disappear for stretches in a game, dropped in a 3-pointer, then Stewart feathered another shot beyond the arc. The Huskies took their biggest lead, 56-43.
With 10:35 remaining, UConn got a scare when Stewart injured her right shoulder while running through a pick set by Notre Dame’s Markisha Wright. She bent in pain in front of the Irish bench, then received attention from the UConn trainer during a timeout.
Stewart remained on the bench when play resumed, but Mosqueda-Lewis hit a jumper in the lane, drew a foul and sank a free throw. Again, UConn had a 13-point lead, 59-46, with 10:14 remaining.
Stewart then with 8:47 left and the Huskies ahead, 59-48. Her jumper in the lane quieted concerns and put UConn up by 61-50 with 7:21 left. Notre Dame closed within 61-55 on two assists by Diggins, but Kelly Faris grabbed two offensive rebounds and a missed free throw on the same possession and Stewart’s swooping runner made it 64-55. A pair of free throws by Stewart ended the suspense at 68-55 with 4:08 left.
Breanna Stewart was born on August 27th, 1994 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breanna_Stewart
August 27th, 1994
4 + 27 +1+9+9+4 = 54 = her life lesson = Watch this. Check this out.
August 27th, 1994
8 + 27 = 35 = her core number = Defense. Strength in adversity.
August 27th, 1994
27 +1+9+9+4 = 50 = her “secret” number = Overjoyed.
August 27th, 1994
8 + 27 +2+0+1+2 = 40 = her personal year (from August 27th, 2012 to August 26th, 2013) = Doing her part. Pitching in. Helping out.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
2951551 1255192 53
her path of destiny = 53 = Offense. Having a warrior spirit.
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