Commentary

Analysis: UConn 79, Notre Dame 58

Originally Published: April 8, 2014
By Charlie Creme | espnW.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With a 79-58 victory Tuesday, Connecticut capped a perfect 40-0 season to win its second consecutive NCAA title and record ninth overall. A look at how the Huskies easily beat Notre Dame.

How the game was won: Connecticut won its ninth championship playing about as well as a team can perform. The Huskies were not perfect, but they were outstanding in the areas they needed to be. They took full advantage of size and skill advantages in their frontcourt and made Notre Dame's scorers look ordinary.

UConn's guards were average. They didn't shoot well from 3-point range or the free throw line, and the Huskies turned over the ball a little too often for coach Geno Auriemma's liking. But Connecticut still managed to dominate another team that no other team could beat all season long. The Huskies made everything difficult for the Irish -- so much so that a second consecutive championship and a fifth undefeated season was a forgone conclusion midway through the second half.

Player of the game: From the outset, Breanna Stewart was the game's best player. She scored eight of the Huskies first 14 points, all on layups. With Natalie Achonwa out with her knee injury, Notre Dame offered little resistance to the espnW.com and AP Player of the Year. Stewart finished with 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting and nine rebounds.

Player of the game II: UConn senior center Stefanie Dolson has one of only three triple-doubles in Connecticut history and she almost added a second in her final game. She followed a quick scoring start with an overall tremendous floor game. Dolson finished her career with one of her best games: 17 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.

Player of the game III: One of those other UConn triple-doubles was by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. She wasn't near that Tuesday night, but her 18 points and seven rebounds were also huge.

Turning point: UConn used a 16-0 run in the first half to establish which team would be the frontrunner in the game, but Notre Dame eased back into it by the half and was within striking distance, 45-37. However, the Irish needed to establish themselves early in the second half. Instead, they missed eight of their first 10 shots after the break. That coincided with another big Huskies' 16-2 spurt. The biggest play in the run came five minutes into the half, when Dolson grabbed an offensive rebound and, on the subsequent sequence, every Huskies player touched the ball in rapid succession, leading to a Stewart layup. By the time the run was over, UConn led 63-42.

Key stat: The Huskies were just unstoppable on the interior. From the start, Stewart and Dolson were able to get free down low for easy looks. The game ended with Connecticut holding a whopping 52-22 advantage in points in the paint. The Huskies made 30 of 54 two-point field goal attempts.

Key stat II: UConn's domination in the lane might not have shown up in the box score in the first half (the Huskies grabbed 20 boards to Notre Dame's 18). It certainly did in the second half. The Huskies finished the game with an 54-31 advantage on the glass. Notre Dame outrebounded Maryland by 29 boards on Sunday.

X factor: Connecticut's size was just too much for Notre Dame. Ultimately, the Irish had no one to match up with UConn's trio of Stewart, Dolson and Mosqueda-Lewis. Missing Achonwa certainly hurt Notre Dame, but for as well as each of Connecticut's post players played, it's unlikely Achonwa could have changed that much. The three were so dominant that Connecticut did not need much production from its backcourt of Bria Hartley and Moriah Jefferson. Connecticut's coaching staff realized it had a mismatch in the frontcourt and exploited it all night long.

Quotable: "Congratulations to the UConn Huskies for winning the 2014 NCAA national championship! My compliments also to coach Geno Auriemma for winning his ninth national title. He has accomplished this feat in record time, with the help of some incredibly talented student-athletes and staff members. My best to each and every one of them! Enjoy the moment and cherish the memories." -- Pat Summitt, head coach emeritus, Tennessee

Charlie Creme | email

Women's College Basketball
Charlie Creme projects the women's NCAA Tournament bracket for ESPN.com.

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