NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Connecticut surged ahead in the second half Sunday to advance to the NCAA championship game. The Huskies are 39-0 and will meet Notre Dame, which is 37-0. It marks the first time in women's or men's NCAA Division I basketball history that two unbeaten teams will meet for the title.
How the game was won: Defense. This wasn't a good offensive night for Connecticut. In fact, for most of the game, scoring was a struggle. The Huskies won because they made offense even more of a struggle for Stanford. Much more. Connecticut's relentlessness made a Cardinal attack based on ball and body movement look like it was in slow motion.
Player of the game: Breanna Stewart. The Connecticut sophomore actually had another disappointing overall performance, but persevered more than anything. Geno Auriemma spent most of the first half disappointed in her effort, but she was more lively in the second half and, despite making just four field goals, finished with a game-high 18 points. She made the most of the free throw line, going 9-for-11. Still, Stewart shined brightest on the defensive end. Matched up with Chiney Ogwumike much of the night, Stewart helped hold Stanford's All-American to just 5-of-12 shooting. Eight of Ogwumike's 15 points came after UConn had already established a solid double-digit lead.
Turning point: Stanford led 22-16 with 5:39 left in the first half after Mikaela Ruef banked in a long two-point field goal near the top of the key. That turned out to be Stanford's last happy moment. UConn scored the next 12 points and held the Cardinal to just five points over the next 11½, covering the end of the first half and the start of the second. By the time Stanford's drought was over, the Huskies led 44-27.
Key stat: It isn't so much that Stanford made only six 3-pointers. It's that the Cardinal launched 25. They are a team that too often settles. Those 25 long-rang attempts accounted for 45 percent of their overall field goal attempts. UConn held Stanford to 38.7 percent shooting for the game.
Key stat II: All those jump shots also account for why Stanford went to the line just 10 times, none in the first half.
X factor: UConn's success in this entire tournament can be attributed to its ability to make each of its opponents' possessions a chore. Stanford just could not get good looks, much like Texas A&M and BYU could not in the second halves of their games against Connecticut. The Huskies' own offense has yet to find a groove, but on the defensive end, they have been every bit the best in the country.