NEW ORLEANS - Geno Auriemma and Connecticut are back on top. With freshman Breanna Stewart leading the way, it might be a while before they relinquish that spot.
Stewart scored 18 of her 23 points in the first half and Connecticut won its eighth national championship with a 93-60 rout of Louisville on Tuesday night. It was the most lopsided victory in a title game.
The title tied Auriemma and the Huskies (35-4) with Pat Summitt and Tennessee for the most in women's basketball history.
It might not take long for Auriemma to pass Summitt the way Stewart and the rest of his Huskies played. His prized freshman was unstoppable, hitting shots from everywhere on the court.
The loss brought to the end an unprecedented tournament run by Louisville. The Cardinals became the first No. 5 seed to make the championship game, pulling off the greatest upset in tournament history when they beat Brittney Griner and Baylor in the regional semifinals. Jeff Walz's team then beat Tennessee in the regional final before topping Cal in the Final Four.
The Cardinals just didn't have enough to beat their Big East foe. Louisville was trying to become just the second school to win both the men's and women's championship in the same season and the first since UConn in 2004.
Louisville men's coach Rick Pitino, fresh off his team's 82-76 win in the title game over Michigan on Monday night, was sitting behind the Cardinals bench, trying to spur on the women's team. He talked to the players at their pregame meal and told them to just enjoy the moment and have fun in the game.
This trip to the Big Easy marked the beginning of the Stewart era. The heralded freshman had one of the most remarkable runs of any first year player in the history of the NCAA tournament. She finished with 105 points in the tournament in only five games - she missed the first round rout of Idaho to rest a sore calf. It's the most by any first-year player since 2000, according to STATS. UConn's Maya Moore held the previous mark with 93 points.
The 6-foot-4 star passed Moore with a neat tip-in with 7:04 left in the first half. She scored seven points during a 19-0 run that turned a four-point deficit into a double-digit lead and put the Cardinals in a hole they couldn't climb out of.
With UConn's victory, the Big East won a ninth national championship. The conference, which will split apart after this season, has been the most dominant in women's basketball over the past decade.