The Norman Transcript

National Sports

April 2, 2014

Looking ahead to the home stretch of the women’s NCCA tourney

NORMAN — UConn and Notre Dame have been on a collision course all season for an unprecedented national championship game.

Now the two unbeaten teams are each one victory away from making that happen in the Music City. The Huskies will face Stanford while the Irish play Maryland on Sunday in the Final Four in Nashville. Both games are rematches of early season contests.

Connecticut, which has won 44 straight games, advanced to the national semifinals for the seventh straight season. The Huskies won the national championship last year and are trying to win a record ninth title.

“It’s not easy to beat anybody at this time of the year because everybody is playing their best basketball,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We beat a pretty good team ..., and I’m proud of my team. I thought we were really, really good when we needed to be really, really good.”

Like the Huskies, the Irish have been to four straight Final Fours. They are the sixth school to reach the national semifinals in four consecutive years, joining UConn, LSU, Stanford, Louisiana Tech and Tennessee.

“It means so much to our program. I think it’s a statement,” McGraw said. “When Skylar (Diggins) came in, I think people expected that we would be in the Final Four, and then when Skylar graduated I don’t think anyone expected that we’d be back in the Final Four. So I think it says a lot about this team.”

The Irish’s chances of winning their first national championship since 2001 took a big blow in their regional final victory over Baylor when forward Natalie Achonwa tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.

“We still believe,” McGraw said. “She got us to this point, now somebody else has to finish it.”

Achonwa was third on the team at 14.9 points per game, but the Irish will miss her most on the boards since she led the Irish in rebounding with 7.7 per game.

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