Connecticut Beats Stanford, 53-47 For NCAA Title

Connecticut's Lady Huskies have won the NCAA women's basketball championship. They rallied from a horrible first half to beat Stanford 53-47 for their 78th straight victory. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan talks to Renee Montagne about the game.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And as baseball season begins, college basketball ends. Now for some game highlights of last night's women's championship. The UConn Huskies will continue to reign after taking this year's NCAA title. Connecticut beat number two Stanford, 53 to 47.

USAToday columnist Christine Brennan joins us now with the news on all of that.

Good morning, Christine.

Ms. CHRISTINE BRENNAN (Columnist, USAToday): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So UConn wins again and - although that is not really big news.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: But the team really had to work for that victory, didnt it?

Ms. BRENNAN: Well, you're right, Renee. When a team wins its 78th consecutive game, as UConn did last night, how bad could it be? But it was really bad in the first half. UConn scored only 12 points in the entire first half. It was the worst first-half performance in championship history, those 12 points.

The Connecticut Huskies missed 18 of their first 20 shots in the first half. They went 10 and a half minutes without scoring. Maya Moore, their star, the most outstanding player in the tournament, scored only five points in the first half. And their coach, Geno Auriemma, said it was the worst he had seen his team play, ever. Completely out of rhythm, they looked rushed. They said later they felt rushed, they felt nervous.

But they got it together in the second half. Maya Moore, who only had five in the first half, had 18 points in the second half. Connecticut poured it on, scored 41 points in that second half. And with all that, they won the game by six, but what a struggle for the national champs.

MONTAGNE: And how is historic, then, was this win for UConn?

POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Our guest incorrectly stated that the University of Connecticut womens basketball team was the first womens college basketball team to ever have back-to-back undefeated seasons. The womens basketball team at Washington University in St. Louis, playing at the NCAAs Division III level, was undefeated in 1999 and again in 2000. UConn plays Division I basketball.

Ms. BRENNAN: It was as historic as it might have looked ugly in the first half. It's the first time, Renee, that a women's college basketball team has put together back-to-back, perfect - undefeated seasons, ever. The only men's team to ever do that was UCLA back in the early 1970s, with 88. So this 78-and-O run by Connecticut is something that has never before been seen in women's basketball.

And Geno Auriemma, the coach I mentioned earlier, is now seven-and-O in national title games. He has not lost one. Only Tennessee's Pat Summitt has more, with eight.

But is this an interesting little footnote to this one: It was the first time that Connecticut did not win a game by double digits, by only winning by six against Stanford. So thats to Stanford's credit. But we saw one of the greatest teams ever in college basketball, finishing its season last night.

MONTAGNE: Well, Stanford has also lost only two games all season, and both of them were to UConn. So Stanford also a team to be reckoned with.

Ms. BRENNAN: Oh, you know, they deserve all the credit in the world - the Stanford Cardinals, led by Tara VanDerveer, their coach. They'd won two national titles back in the early '90s. This was just not to be, unfortunately, for them. But those two losses, both to Connecticut, one by 12 points, now by six. So to their great credit, they hung in there.

Jayne Appel, their star center, an All-American, had a sore ankle. She was injured, in and out of the game, and went O-for-12 in field goals - really struggling. First time her coach has ever seen her do that. So Stanford deserves a ton of credit for getting in the game and for leading in the first half, but just couldnt hold on against a stronger UConn team.

MONTAGNE: Let's get to the other two teams in the Final Four. That would be Oklahoma and Baylor. And this year's breakthrough star was Baylor's Brittney Griner. Talk to us about her.

Ms. BRENNAN: She's 6-foot-8...

MONTAGNE: Right, thats a start.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BRENNAN: Thats kind of the headline there, for Brittney Griner. She's a freshman. She wears a size 17 men's shoe. And she's been the story of the tournament and really, the story of women's basketball, this year - and in many ways, all of women's sports, Renee.

Now, some might remember that she had a very unfortunate incident. She punched an opponent early in March, was suspended for two games. But Brittney Griner was and apologized, and said she's learned her lesson.

She was not going to let that be what people remember her by. And all of a sudden, the punch turned into the blocked shots, as she set a record for blocking shots in this tournament.

MONTAGNE: Right.

Ms. BRENNAN: As I said, a freshman on a team of freshmen, the season ends but Baylor cannot wait 'til next year.

MONTAGNE: Christine, thanks very much.

Ms. BRENNAN: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: USAToday columnist Christine Brennan.

And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And Im Steve Inskeep.

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Correction April 9, 2010

Our guest incorrectly stated that the University of Connecticut women's basketball team was the first women's college basketball team to ever have back-to-back undefeated seasons. The women's basketball team at Washington University in St. Louis, playing at the NCAA's Division III level, was undefeated in 1999 and again in 2000. UConn plays Division I basketball. 

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