UConn-ND rivalry red hot after multiple meetings
NASHVILLE - If there was any question about the nature of the feelings between UConn and Notre Dame, Kayla McBride put an end to them rather quickly Monday.
"We already don't like each other," the Irish senior said.
That tends to happen when two hyper-competitive groups constantly get in each other's way. The rivalry between the squads is well documented-they had played four times in each of the last three seasons. Notre Dame had been one of the few and, in recent years the only, team to show no fear in the face of UConn.
Almost all of the games have been cut-throat. Most of them have hinged on just a few possessions. Some swung on buzzer beaters, or missed last-second opportunities for one.
Three games in the past two seasons were decided in overtime-or triple overtime, as the case was last March. Three in the last three years were decided by one possession. Last season, as the Husky faithful will well remember, UConn simply couldn't hit a game-winner in Gampel Pavilion. Then they turned it over and allowed a transition layup at the buzzer to lose in the Big East Tournament.
In the last 12 meetings, the Irish had won seven. No other team has had even half that success against the Huskies for the better part of a decade, since Tennessee won three straight in 2005-07.
And UConn doesn't like losing.
"I've lost four times in my career and three of those have been to Notre Dame," Breanna Stewart said. "I think when you can count them on one hand, you're going to remember those losses."
The teams also feature remarkably headstrong coaches at that helm that have grown acres apart throughout the years, which was in plain sight during a verbal sparring match at their respective press conferences ahead of the game.
"I think we're past that point [of civility]," Muffet McGraw said.
"I haven't changed," Geno Auriemma said. "But a funny thing happens to people when they start beating us. Everything changes. It's just the world we live in, I've learned to deal with it."
Of course, that bitter distaste-paired with a mutual pursuit of perfection and a national title-could only make for a sweeter season finale. And the Huskies decided they had had enough of losing.
"Definitely [it's sweeter to beat Notre Dame]," Bria Hartley said. "Especially for me and Stefanie [Dolson]. The whole Notre Dame rivalry arose throughout our career here."
That they did it in such convincing fashion, winning by 21 points in a game that was never particularly close after halftime, was particularly rewarding.
"It makes it awesome," Stewart said. "The fact that Notre Dame had my number, had our number as a team, when you're playing them in the national championship you want to make sure that you go out and give it your all and beat them."
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