TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Connecticut’s bid for a third consecutive NCAA women’s basketball title is off to a strong start.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored eight points and Moriah Jefferson had seven, helping the Huskies overcome poor shooting to take a 31-23 lead over Notre Dame at halftime of Tuesday night’s national championship game.
AP Player of the Year Breanna Stewart had six points and eight rebounds, bu left the game briefly to have her left ankle re-taped after slipping to the floor trying to catch up with an outlet pass heading toward the UConn basket.
Jewell Loyd leads Notre Dame with 10 points on four of 10 shooting.
UConn shot just 38.2 percent in the opening half. They were even worse on 3-point attempt, missing 10 of their first 13 shots from beyond the arc.
The two-time defending champions are chasing a second three-peat, as well as a 10th national title for coach Geno Auriemma, which would tie him with UCLA men’s coach John Wooden for the most basketball championships in NCAA history.
The Huskies won three in a row from 2002 to 2004. Tennessee is the only other program to capture three straight, winning from 1996-98.
Notre Dame, back in the championship game for the fourth time in five years, won its only title in 2001. Tuesday night marked just the second time in the history of the tournament that the same teams played in the final in consecutive years.
UConn beat Tennessee in 2003 and 2004.
Unlike last season when the Huskies and Irish didn’t play until the championship game — UConn won by 21 points — they met in December in South Bend, Indiana. The Huskies came away with an 18-point victory.
Notre Dame was missing freshman Brianna Turner, who was nursing a shoulder injury, that game.