The time was now for the Huskies. The time had come for them to prove that they could execute in the face of a run by Notre Dame.
A 3-pointer by Jewell Loyd and a jumper off the glass by Ariel Braker cut UConn’s lead to 61-55 with 6:24 left. How would the Huskies respond? Just fine.
They scored seven straight points as part of game-breaking 14-2 run. Breanna Stewart had six points in the run. Bria Hartley had five.
“This was a lot about how we’ve changed,’’ senior Kelly Faris said. “I know that we’ve talked about it and talked about it and how we’ve prepared differently, blah, blah, blah. And I’m sure a lot of
people out there were thinking, `OK, yeah, right.’ Tonight we showed that we really have. Our work paid off.’’
Here is what UConn coach Geno Auriemma had to say to the players in the locker room after the game …
“He said `This is one of the first times all season where I really felt when we were in one of these games you guys deserved to win the whole time,’’’ sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. “He said the whole time he was thinking, `These guys really deserve it,’ when we were on the free throw line or when they were shooting the ball and it didn’t go in.’’
Here are Auriemma’s thoughts on playing in the title game Tuesday and Louisville coach Jeff Walz (both playful and serious) …
“Our program right now, we’re the beneficiary of a lot of things that have happened over the last 20 some years,’’ Auriemma said. “And the players that we get and the expectation level is such that this is where we’re supposed to be. So the way the program is structured and the kind of players that we get, they are never surprised that we’re where we are. There may be bumps along the road, but they know exactly what the destination is all the time.
“We’ve got a problem Tuesday night I think because I think Louisville … Louisville really thinks they’re the best team in the country right now. After the way they’ve played and what they’ve done, and these last couple weeks, they probably think there’s nobody that can beat them. They probably think it will be a huge upset if we win that game Tuesday night. And Jeff’s a big part of that. People have issues with me. He’s the cockiest guy I ever met. He wears an Italian tablecloth for a shirt today. I was going to hire him for my restaurant. But, you know, I’ve gotten to know him really well, and I think we were … we were at a certain level relationship wise when he first got the job at Louisville. And I would say probably over the last two or three years I don’t think there’s anybody that I respect more for their coaching ability than Jeff. In our league. I don’t know that anybody does a better job day in and day out of getting their team ready to play than Jeff does.’’