Latest title embodies the Geno way


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With every other moniker you could give UConn coach Geno Auriemma -- "The Dominator" or "The Closer" or "The Master" -- you might also refer to him as Cinderella's worst friend. Because once the Huskies get into the national championship game, all the fairy tales are over.

Auriemma's Huskies beat Notre Dame 79-58 on Tuesday night to earn the program's record ninth NCAA title. That passes Tennessee's Pat Summitt, who won her eighth and final title in 2008. UConn finished this season 40-0, and the big-time kid, sophomore Breanna Stewart, is now 2-for-2 in being named the Women's Final Four's most outstanding player.

Auriemma's record in the final is 9-0. No matter the opponent, no matter what adversity his team might have faced during the season, Auriemma always has his Huskies ready for the last game.

"I think that we were confident, but we weren't underestimating Notre Dame at all," said Stewart, who had 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists. "But we knew if we came and got contributions from everyone, it was going to be hard to stop us."

Hard? It looked pretty much impossible on this night for the Irish. If you were hoping for a "Win One for the Gipper" game from Notre Dame with senior center Natalie Achonwa out injured ... sorry, that script never got in front of the cameras.

And the snippiness of Monday's news conferences wasn't part of the narrative Tuesday, either. Auriemma complimented the Irish for battling without a key player. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of the Huskies, "They just overpowered us."

UConn started well and allowed a mild Irish run in the first half, after which the Huskies led 45-38. But UConn spent the second half taking any drama out of the question of which team's pursuit of perfection would end well.

Despite their 37-0 record coming in, the Irish were a decided underdog without Achonwa. And underdogs never seem able to spin magic against the Huskies, at least not when a title is on the line.

"Congratulations to the UConn Huskies for winning the 2014 national championship!" Summitt, now the coach emeritus at Tennessee, said in a statement. "My compliments also to coach Geno Auriemma for winning his ninth national title. He has accomplished this feat in record time, with the help of some incredibly talented student-athletes and staff members. My best to each and every one of them! Enjoy the moment and cherish the memories."

Let's stack up what else Tuesday's victory means historically: It secured the program's fifth perfect season; no other women's team in the NCAA era has more than one. It's the Huskies' fourth title in the past six seasons. UConn also had a stretch ending a decade ago when it won four titles in five seasons. Talk about compulsive hoarders.

The names of the UConn players change, but their attention to detail does not. And that insistence on following the process goes all the way back to when Auriemma and assistant Chris Dailey took over at UConn in 1985. Were they in sync from the start?

"Absolutely," Dailey said. "We agreed completely about that. Our personalities are totally different, but the baseline is the same in terms of philosophy."

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