Huskies attacked from start

Senior Stefanie Dolson had reason to smile after scoring 17 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in her final game at UConn, a 79-58 win over Notre Dame in Tuesday's NCAA championship game.
Senior Stefanie Dolson had reason to smile after scoring 17 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in her final game at UConn, a 79-58 win over Notre Dame in Tuesday's NCAA championship game. Mark Humphrey/AP Photo

Nashville, Tenn. - Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw had words with UConn's Geno Auriemma after Tuesday night's NCAA Division I national championship game.

McGraw's words weren't in anger. They were in awe.

"'I said something like, 'I thought we were playing the Miami Heat for a while,'" McGraw said of the postgame handshake. "'You guys are just that good. What a great season, things like that.'

"I thought they were just missing LeBron (James)."

It was the first time in NCAA basketball history that two unbeaten champions played for the national championship. and UConn still put Notre Dame away as if it were a lightweight, 79-58.

"I said this the other day - Notre Dame's the best team we played all year," Auriemma said. "No one else is even close. And I knew it was going to take an unbelievable effort for us to beat them. I told Muffet after the game (that) I don't think she got enough credit. She won coach of the year, but I don't think she even got enough credit for how her team performed all year long.

"That was an unbelievable team we played tonight, and we played about as well as we played at any other time in the season for sure."

It was a record ninth national championship for the Huskies (40-0). The unbeaten 2011-12 Baylor Bears are the only other one team to win that many games in a season. It was also the sixth time that a team won back-to-back titles.

It was also the first time in school history that UConn won three national championships in the same academic year - men's and women's basketball, and field hockey.

"Amazing," Dolson said about the Huskies winning both basketball championships. "We've been talking to the guys all week and they were saying, 'just one more game. Just bring it home. Let's go home with the baggage.' That's exactly what we did."

UConn attacked the rim from the start instead of settling for jump shots, something it did for most of its first half struggle with Stanford in Sunday's semifinal.

Seven of the Huskies' first 10 baskets were layups, four by tournament most outstanding player Breanna Stewart (21 points). It enabled the Huskies to take a 22-8 lead with more than 11 minutes left in the first half.

UConn also bullied the Fighting Irish inside. It outrebounded Notre Dame, 54-31. Dolson had a game-high 16 rebounds, while Stewart (nine), Kiah Stokes (eight) and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (seven) all contributed greatly, too.

"Stewart was phenomenal," McGraw said. "Dolson, 16 and 17, is pretty amazing. I thought we were overmatched in the post."

UConn also outscored the Fighting Irish in the paint, 52-22.

"It's pretty nice, I gotta' say," Dolson said. "Right from the beginning of the game, we went in (and) took advantage of the size we had against them. And right when we realized what an advantage we had, we just kept kind of pushing it at them, and we never really backed down.

"Give a lot of credit to my guards (Moriah Jefferson and Bria Hartley). They got me the ball. Stewy, we got her the ball a lot in the post, too.

"When we got it, we just did what we wanted and finished it."

n.griffen@theday.com

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