End of an era in Indy
Indianapolis - It was odd, sure, when UConn and Notre Dame were matched up in the national semifinals exactly 10 years after the last time they met in that game.
That was 2001, the year Notre Dame won the national championship. UConn beat Notre Dame for the Big East Conference tournament title that year, too, before succumbing at the Final Four in St. Louis.
But, as it turned out Sunday night at Conseco Fieldhouse, the return engagement was much more than a coincidence.
Notre Dame, the team UConn had beaten three times before during the 2011 season, is going to the national championship game again, ending the Huskies quest for a third straight title and capping one of the finest careers in women's basketball history, that of UConn's Maya Moore.
The Fighting Irish, who willed themselves to a Final Four in their home state of Indiana - beating two of the top seeds in the NCAA tournament along the way - toppled UConn 72-63 in what was Moore's fourth straight Final Four appearance.
"It's never easy when you don't win your last game because that's kind of the thing you remember going out on," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I know how difficult it is for Maya and Lauren (Dixon) and I just wanted to remind them in the locker room when they were freshman the same thing happened, but what happened in betwween is something only the really, really fortunate can ever experience.
"That's what I'm going to choose to focus on."
Moore finished with 36 points, giving her 3,036 for her career, but the Huskies (36-2) were plagued by fouls, rendering freshman center Stefanie Dolson ineffective.
And junior guard Tiffany Hayes scored just two baskets, with freshman Bria Hartley (10 points), the only one providing much help for Moore.
Notre Dame (31-7) will meet Texas A&M in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night. Texas A&M defeated another top seed in the first semifinal game Sunday, upsetting Stanford 63-62.
It was UConn's first loss since falling to Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., on Dec. 30, and only the fourth of Moore's distinguished career.
"I'm not going to let her be defined by what happened tonight," Auriemma said.
It was another star, sophomore All-American Skylar Diggins, though, who stole the show against UConn, finishing with 28 points. Natalie Novosel added 22 for the Irish, who outscored a clearly flustered UConn team 46-31 in the second half after the Huskies led by six at halftime (32-26).
UConn, down 12 late in the game, got back within three on a 3-pointer by Moore with 2:25 remaining, but Novosel came right back with a jump shot and Diggins drove for a layup to tip the momentum back in Notre Dame's favor.
Moore, who finished 14-for-30 shooting, scored the final 16 points for UConn.
"I was just trying to attack, trying to score," she said. "I'm going to choose to remember the great things, but this is the current taste in my mouth right now. Notre Dame came to win. Every single person they brought in did everything single thing they could do."
One of only seven players in Division I history to reach the 3,000-point plateau and the only one ever to win the Wade Trophy as the national player of the year three times, Moore had 15 points at halftime. She went 1-for-7 to start, then hit her next three. She hit a fallaway shot with 1:19 to go in the half, then, following a UConn timeout, assisted on a layup by Faris that gave the Huskies a 32-26 lead at the break.
In the second half, things got considerably worse for UConn. After Moore scored to put the Huskies up eight, they started misfiring. And fouling.
The Irish executed three three-point plays in the first seven minutes and took the lead at 38-37 on a layup by Becca Bruszewski, assisted by Diggins. UConn's Dolson was forced back to the bench by picking up her fourth foul with 14:00 to go and the Huskies had eight team fouls by the 11:38 mark.
By the time Novosel hit a 3-pointer to give Notre Dame a 55-47 lead with 7:35 to go, prompting a UConn timeout, the Irish had outscored UConn 29-13.
In the end, the Irish proved that one win at the Final Four was greater than UConn's three prior to that point.
At IndianapolisNational SemifinalsSunday's ResultsTexas A&M 63, Stanford 62Notre Dame 72, UConn 63National ChampionshipTuesday's Game>Texas A&M (32-5) vs. Notre Dame (31-7), 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)