Pair of perfect teams punch tickets


LINCOLN, Neb. -- Yes, we've been talking and writing and thinking about it for a while. But now, it's official: The Women's Final Four will have two perfect teams. And both of them had to expend some real sweat Monday to get out of the Elite Eight.

Just looking at the final scores might not tell you that, as both top-seeded Connecticut (38-0) and Notre Dame (36-0) won by double digits. But watching the games, you knew that the Huskies and Fighting Irish weren't just handed their tickets to Nashville by teams that considered themselves overmatched.

"BYU and Texas A&M, both of them, came out fighting," UConn center Stefanie Dolson said of the Huskies' foes here at the Lincoln Regional. "They made us work. Tonight, Texas A&M was very physical down low. [But] it shows that even when we aren't making a lot of shots, we can still win games."

Of course, "not making a lot of shots" is a matter of perception, isn't it? Maybe by their absurdly lofty standards, coach Geno Auriemma's Huskies didn't have a stellar offensive performance in beating the Aggies 69-54.

But, heck, they still shot 48.2 percent from the field (27-of-56), made 8 of 9 free throws and had just 10 turnovers. Dolson had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds (and 8 blocks), and the Lincoln Regional's most valuable player Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the way with 17 points. She also had seven rebounds and two assists, which followed a 19-point, 13-rebound, 4-assist performance against BYU on Saturday.

"I'm getting a little closer and closer to being my normal self," said Mosqueda-Lewis, who has dealt with elbow injuries and mononucleosis this season. "Now that I'm finally helping my teammates the way I know I can, it's completely gratifying."

UConn is making its 15th trip to the Women's Final Four and the program's seventh in a row. The Huskies will be trying to earn what would be a record ninth NCAA title.

"I think a lot of people can take things for granted, but our team doesn't," said Dolson, who high-fived all the UConn cheerleaders, hugged Jonathan the Husky mascot, saluted the band, and gave a little boy an autograph before she ran smiling off the floor following the game.

"For me being a senior, this is our fourth Final Four together for Bria [Hartley] and I. I'm just so ecstatic about getting there again."

Unlike the game that preceded it at Notre Dame, the UConn-Texas A&M contest wasn't filled with whistles. There were 25 total fouls called, and both teams attempted just nine free throws.

Baylor alone had more fouls than that -- 27 -- in its 88-69 loss to Notre Dame, which was called for 19 fouls. And there was a pall cast over the Irish's victory because of standout center Natalie Achonwa's knee injury late in the game.

Everyone who follows women's basketball is crossing their fingers hoping that the senior Achonwa is OK for the Final Four (she is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Tuesday). Meanwhile, UConn appears to be going into Nashville as strong as the Huskies can be.

It's well-established that UConn doesn't have a lot of depth; only one player beyond the starting five -- Kiah Stokes -- played any significant minutes for the Huskies on Monday.

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