The University of Connecticut captured its third straight women’s college basketball championship and its 10th national title under coach Geno Auriemma by defeating Notre Dame 63-53.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson each scored 15 points Monday night in Tampa, Florida, for the Huskies, who became the second Division One college basketball team with 10 or more titles -- joining the UCLA men, who have 11.
Auriemma’s 10 championships tie UCLA’s John Wooden for the most among college coaches.
“We have to work really, really hard to make it look easy,” Auriemma said at the trophy ceremony. “Sometimes people watch us play and think it comes easy. They don’t realize how hard every day these kids have come in and worked.”
Brianna Turner had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Jewell Loyd added 12 points for the Fighting Irish, who hurt themselves with 17 turnovers and 33 percent shooting. Loyd, who led the Irish by averaging 20 points a game this season, was held to 4-for-18 shooting and missed all three of her 3-point attempts.
Notre Dame has lost in the title game four times in the last five years.
“It was a great accomplishment to get here,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said, “disappointing we weren’t able to play our game.”
Connecticut went 38-1 this season, with its only loss coming in overtime at Stanford in November. But while the Huskies defeated previous opponents by an average of 41.4 points per game this season, Notre Dame (36-3) stayed within six points of Connecticut until the game’s final five minutes.
Then Mosqueda-Lewis took over, scoring seven straight points to give the Huskies a 13-point lead heading into the game’s final two minutes.
Breanna Stewart, a junior who had eight points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots for Connecticut despite turning her left ankle in the first half, was chosen the Final Four Most Outstanding Player for an unprecedented third straight year.
“We had to work really hard for this one, and we got it,” she said during the trophy ceremony.