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Women defeat Stanford, will meet Notre Dame Tuesday

By Matt Stypulkoski
On April 7, 2014

NASHVILLE - The UConn women's basketball team is making sure to keep up with its male counterpart. A 75-56 win over No. 2-seed Stanford Sunday night at Bridgestone Arena put both teams in the national championship game for the second time in school history.

Now, the Huskies (39-0) have a date with undefeated Notre Dame in the season's final game Tuesday night.

"As the season wore on, it almost looked like it was inevitable," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Like it was supposed to happen." 

Despite another terrible shooting night that began 0 of 7 from behind the arc, UConn was able to win comfortably on the back of its defense and strength in the paint.

The Cardinal took a six-point lead in the first half - the third straight game the Huskies have trailed by six points - but was never able to take full command of the game. 

UConn's stifling defense kept it in the game when nothing would fall. The Cardinal's Chiney Ogwumike was kept uncomfortable throughout the night, drawing different defenders and often attracting double teams when she touched it down low.

"I think that we're really comfortable and confident with our defense," Breanna Stewart said. "The fact that we're able to really pressure people on the perimeter and not let the posts get the position they want on the block, that makes it difficult for other teams."

Stanford was limited to just 56 points, but that is actually the largest total allowed by the Huskies in the NCAA tournament. Prior to Sunday, no team had scored more than 54.

blanketed by that stout defense all night. The senior, who averaged 26.4 points entering the night, managed just 15.

"It's tough for a player to have one, two, three people [defending them]," Ogwumike said. "And it's hard for me to not force things."

The game turned on a 12-0 UConn run over 3:24 near the close of the first half. Suddenly, the Huskies had turned a six-point deficit into a six-point lead and the Cardinal could never recover.

An unlikely contributor, Kiah Stokes, was a major piece in getting UConn back on top. The junior forward was thrown into the game to add size on the Huskies' back line and help pack in the lane to prevent Stanford's easy buckets. That she added nine points was just an added bonus.

"Kiah has been a really, really good defensive player and she's been a real good shot-blocker," Auriemma said. "We trust her now - we didn't in the past - but we do...this is the best game that she's ever played, I think, since she came to Connecticut."

This is the second time that UConn has made it to the season's ultimate game in both men's and women's basketball - the last time coming in 2004, when both squads took home the only dual national title in NCAA history. Only two other times, Louisville in 2013 and Duke in 1999, has a school made both national championship games.

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