Adding to the list from yesterday and today: Santa Barbara, San Jose State, Army, several Washington players (real Huskies wear purple, woof!), Phoenix Mercury, Drury, Nevada, Bowling Green, Green Bay, South Florida, Evansville, Kansas, USC-Aiken, Pepperdine, Liberty, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Towson, Southeastern Louisiana, Dillard, Montebello, Northwestern, UNO, Butler, CCNY. (And at the very last, Cincinnati. I'm 70% sure the woman in the airport with the Cincy backpack was Jamelle Elliott.)
We've made our choice and picked our side. We're in the lobby of the Sheraton New Orleans, where Louisville fans are already starting to gather for the pep rally in an hour. Some uncomfortably lost UConn fans have wandered through. (I may be a St. John's fan, but I'm not lost. I'm wearing red and white.) The woman next to us is hoarse from cheering in Atlanta. The guy across from us is completely sacked out. There's a woman with a Louisville pocketbook, which is awesome. Looks like the rest of the band came in from Atlanta. This is going to be good. And it was amazing. Got some side-eyes from Louisville fans for my St. John's gear, but it's amazing how quickly they became friendly when the magic words "anyone but UConn" were uttered. Shelby Harper came down and mixed with the fans for a while. Two different people had Louisville bottle cozies.
Two different security people had issues with the laptop that I got in on Saturday and Sunday with no issues, but they called a supervisor, so there was no need to get angry, because no one likes me when I'm angry.
Seriously, this coaching milestones video is all the awesome. Some amazing coaches up there.
We got our seats upgraded for the final through a friend who had to leave town after the semis. It's awesome.
The all-time Final Four coaches video is very cool, especially when they go back into the history.
Dear NCAA, why did you have to inflict Kym Hampton on us? It's bad enough Lib fans have to hear her increasingly cracked rendition of the anthem every year, but come on. Can't you go find Tari Phillips?
It was 11-7 Louisville at one point. It's 48-29 UConn at the half. Breanna Stewart has been fantastic. Louisville has been extremely disorganized.
They're doing a fantastic presentation on the AIAW at the half, with some true legends out there. I'm so glad the NCAA has decided to acknowledge the AIAW history (now can we acknowledge the AIAW records, maybe?). I have yet to detect a flaw in Lynette Woodard.
If you want to beat UConn, you have to come at them without fear but with discipline. You can't let them run out ahead and expect to come back. You can't throw up fast, wild shots; you can't slack on defense; you can't let UConn have open threes. I mean, really, how many times can you leave Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis or Kelly Faris beyond the arc and expect to not get your butt handed to you?
Shelby Harper was sort of a spaghetti move in the first half, briefly coming in and jacking a three before going back to the bench. She returned when the game was utterly out of hand. That's pretty much when Megan Deines got her time, too. Monique Reid played like an idiot. On back to back possessions she didn't bother following her shot, then slapped Stefanie Dolson in the face. Or maybe that was the stupid foul when Stewart hit the three-pointer. I forget which bout of idiocy that was. Jude Schimmel kept committing stupid fouls, though she got her shot together in the second half when UConn got less intense on defense.
Sara Hammond played like one of the only Cardinals who actually wanted to win the game. You can't miss the open shots that she did, but she was going hard in the paint and fighting for rebounds. Antonita Slaughter was covered pretty closely, but she also got the job done. She's going to be the steal of the 2014 draft. Sheronne Vails hit one off a pretty feed from Bria Smith, but that's about all I remember her doing- that, and being the recipient of a lot of feeds underneath because the UConn defense wasn't interested in her. Smith made a lot of stupid mistakes regarding the dimensions of the court and the position of the UConn defenders when she got into her passing game. I like her aggression, but not her judgment. Shoni Schimmel played out of control. She's always wild, but that seemed more prevalent than usual. I think they needed her to show a little more judgment.
The biggest cheer from the UConn fans (and a few non-affiliated fans like your intrepid blogger) came when Heather Buck got the steal and the fast break lay-up; my memory is that it turned out to be the last basket for UConn, which is appropriate. Kiah Stokes also got in near the end of the game, but I think she missed her opportunity to score when UConn was milking the clock near the end. I'm really starting to think Morgan Tuck intentionally takes that one bad three per game just to remind everyone what number she wears. I still like her physicality, though. Moriah Jefferson showed off her speed a fair bit in the second half. She's a lot of fun to watch. Bria Hartley was all right- not great, with some dumb mistakes, but efficient when she wasn't making mistakes.
It's a good thing this was Caroline Doty's last game, because it's become clear that she's terrified of making a move. She dodged taking at least two shots that were within her game. She was okay, defensively, though. Kelly Faris was all over the place, and she did a great job getting open beyond the arc, both off the dribble and with help from her teammates screening for her. Stefanie Dolson looked more for her shot in the second half, but was always on the boards and looking to help her teammates get in position. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was rock-solid. She's blossoming into the superstar she was expected to be. And so is Breanna Stewart. I wasn't impressed with her at the start of the season, and I'll happily get in line to admit that I was wrong, that the Stewart I was seeing in the first part of the season wasn't the Stewart that Geno recruited. She has such beautiful touch beyond the arc, yet can get inside and hit tough shots in the lane with a gawky sort of grace (it makes sense in context, I swear). She needs to get a little tougher about taking contact, but she's a freshman, she's got three more years to learn that, one of which will likely be spent getting smacked by Dolson in practice and all of which will probably include Tuck getting physical with her.
It took the officials enough time to call the elbow by Doty, but they did do it. Of course the UConn contingent objected to it, but if an elbow connects to a face, a foul is likely to be called, so they're just going to have to deal with it. Other than that, the refereeing was unremarkable. I think the crew showed great restraint in not calling the technical on Jeff Walz that he so dearly seemed to be asking for in the second half after Reid's idiotic foul on Dolson. You could almost imagine Denise Brooks telling Walz that they didn't want to humiliate him any further.
The UConn band was really loud. We were hearing them better than the Louisville band in front of us. (Though it was a relief not to be behind the UConn band for the first time in six possible chances.) The Louisville fans tried to get their chants going during some of the UConn musical segments; of course, the UConn fans got their call and response going at pretty much every opportunity.
Credit to the UConn fan with the ever-changing collection of signs on neon paper. I don't know how many of them she had, but they were plentiful.
We didn't stay for the official outdoor trophy presentation. Not for nothing, but I've been to more than my share of UConn love-ins. I think I'll pass.
UConn threw the haymaker early, and Louisville was unable to recover. They beat Louisville at the game that had gotten Louisville into the championship game, while Louisville seemed to have been doing the bulk of their preparation by studying Cal's defense on them. How many times can you sag off Kelly Faris before you realize she might be having a good shooting night? Louisville did't know how to prepare and they should have known how to prepare.
But congrats to UConn. They played a phenomenal game, and got what they needed when they needed it.