Two numbers stand out from tonight's National Championship game between the Connecticut Huskies and Louisville Cardinals: 3 and 19.
UConn used three freshmen, led by Breanna Stewart, to fuel a 19-0 run in the first half on their way to a 93-60 rout.
The win gives Geno Auruemma his eighth national championship to tie former Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt as his Huskies ran Louisville off the court.
UConn shut down the 3-point shooting spree that had carried Louisville to an improbable win over the defending national champion Baylor Lady Bears followed by wins over Tennessee and the California Golden Bears. Tonight, the Huskies held Cardinals star Shoni Schimmel to 1-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc and the team to just 5-for-23 shooting (21.7%).
"I told our players, too, we're going to have to try to make someone shoot the ball that normally might not," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said after the game. "But the problem is when you go 13 and 26 from the 3‑point line, it makes it tough to defend you. And that's really what happened tonight. I thought Kelly Faris was great for them. She always doesn't get a lot of the props because she doesn't do‑‑ she might not always be the high scorer, but just how she plays, how hard she plays. She defended so well. And then she goes out there and goes four of seven from the 3‑point line."
While Louisville got a lesson in how dangerous Faris can be, the lesson that the rest of the country learned is that UConn will be difficult, if not impossible, to beat for at least the next two or three seasons.
Auriemma said before the season that Stewart could end up as his best player ever, better than the incomparable Diana Taurasi or Maya Moore. Some laughed. He may have the last laugh with that one: Stewart scored more points in the first half (18) than any freshman had ever scored previously in an entire national championship game.
"If she didn't turn it around and step up like she has‑‑ I mean, we have a freshman that's the MVP of the national championship game," Faris said after the game. "And that doesn't happen anywhere but here. And she deserves it. And kind of, again, I'm glad she's on our side. I wouldn't want to be playing against her."
In addition to the emergence of Stewart, UConn returns virtually its entire team and does not even have Notre dame to contend with in the Big East as the Fighting Irish join the ACC.
"Right now I'm really anxious for next year to start because I want to see what Bria Hartley looks like and I want to see what Stefanie Dolson looks like as seniors, because they've been in the middle of this since their freshmen year," Auriemma said after the game. "And for them to finally be seniors next year, I think it's probably going to be pretty exciting for me."
Auriemma is now just two national championships away from legendary UCLA men's coach John Wooden and his chances of getting them sooner rather than later look pretty good.
For more on the Final Four, check out our storystream.