The second game is now settling in. The UConn and Notre Dame fans have deigned to join us for this one. They took their sweet time showing up for the first game, which is one of the things I detest about both fan bases- they both tend to make double-headers look really bad. I do love the coaching milestones they're showing here.
At halftime, UConn is up 10, and you would pretty much have to be a Boneyarder to have expected this. UConn put on a burst near the end of the first half that was reminiscent of what they did to Kentucky and Maryland. This halftime video about Louisianans giving back to the community is nice, but it's sort of funny when you realize Barbara Farris just left that high school. (But I love Barb. Anyone who considers not having an absentee ballot to be sufficient emergency to use frequent flier miles to go home and vote is awesome in my book.)
Okay, seriously, if you expected this, you are a passionate UConn fan and I salute you. UConn brought it. Bria Hartley was a little shaky, but she looked better than she had for most of the season, and she seemed to gain confidence from her teammates. Moriah Jefferson gave decent minutes, but not quite what she had been doing in the regional rounds. Morgan Tuck does seem to be possessed by the memory of Tiffany Hayes once a game, and I like her physicality in the lane. Heather Buck was the official victory cigar, along with Kiah Stokes. I was surprised that she didn't play more, but maybe her back was flaring up.
Caroline Doty got the start, but that's about it. Hartley played the starter's minutes. Stefanie Dolson got in the middle and made herself an encumbrance to the Notre Dame offense, but a lot of passes went off her hands- I think she got tagged with more than she deserved, looking at the box score. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was solid, in more ways than one- I've mentioned this before, but she seems to have taken it to heart that people were just tagging her as a three-point shooter and has whipped out a whole arsenal of offensive tricks. I continue to be impressed by her development (or is it re-development?). And Breanna Stewart seems to have decided that she doesn't want to be considered overrated or anything like that. She just took over all over the court. And she looked like she was enjoying herself, which is always nice to see.
Geno got mad at a couple of dumb mistakes- blown assignments, bad passes (at one point it was pretty clear how he wanted Dolson to inbound the ball, and then she blew the inbounds pass), that kind of thing. It's sort of hilarious to watch him blow his top.
A lot of Notre Dame players went into the game in the last couple of minutes, when Muffet McGraw wanted to give her star players their curtain calls. I don't remember who most of them were. Madison Cable got a lot of run in the first half, with a little offense and an eye for the three-ball (even if she didn't hit it), but she looked a little like she was in over her head. Markeisha Wright was solid off the bench, including one pretty make on a feed from Natalie Achonwa. Kaila Turner got some first half minutes, but the rotation tightened up in the second half until it was clear-the-bench time.
Kayla McBride really looked like she was pressing, as if she felt she had to live up to that tournament average she'd been putting up. Nothing was falling for her. Jewell Loyd had slightly better luck, but not much. Ariel Braker pretty much tried to sit on a UConn player's legs in the first half, and she ended up fouling out- oh, dear, I wonder why. Natalie Achonwa was solid but unremarkable. She was okay on the boards, though. Skylar Diggins couldn't get her shot to fall, but she had some beautiful passes to set her teammates up. I like how she goes after loose balls, but she needs to follow her shot more often.
Notre Dame, would you please stop with the lime green? The Cal fan on my left looked at you all when you ran out of the tunnel and said, "I'm cheering against the green team." It is an unpleasant color, it really is.
The officiating got interesting, but it got interesting on both sides, so it's hard to complain. Notre Dame got the free throws in the first half; UConn got more calls in the second half. The game got very physical at points, because these two teams don't like each other much and they know it was likely the last time they were going to play each other.
Both fan bases showed out for their game- just not the first game. The chants came thick and fast, on each other's heels, over each other's music and All-American highlights. I really don't think these teams and their fans like each other for some reason.
Right at the end of the first half, UConn went on a tear that I think was the end of the game for Notre Dame. It's the kind of haymaker that took all the air out of Kentucky, and I didn't expect Notre Dame to fall prey to the same very UConn tactic. If the Huskies are on this kind of roll, it's hard to imagine anyone but UConn cutting down the nets on Tuesday.