NEW ORLEANS —
After Auriemma cut down the final strand of the net, his team carried him around the court in celebration.
The loss ended an unprecedented tournament run by Louisville. The Cardinals became the first No. 5 seed to make the championship game, pulling off the greatest upset in tournament history when they beat Brittney Griner and Baylor in the regional semifinals. Jeff Walz’s team then beat Tennessee in the regional final before topping Cal in the Final Four.
“The run we went on was remarkable and something I’ll always remember” Walz said. “We’re walking out with our head high and proud of what we’ve done.”
The Cardinals just didn’t have enough to beat their Big East foe. Louisville was trying to become just the second school to win both the men’s and women’s championship in the same season and the first since UConn in 2004. Pitino, fresh off his team’s 82-76 win in the title game over Michigan on Monday night, was sitting behind the Cardinals bench, trying to spur on the women’s team. He talked to the players at their pregame meal and told them to just enjoy the moment and have fun in the game.
It wasn’t to be. Instead, the trip to the Big Easy marked the beginning of the Stewart era.
The heralded freshman had one of the most remarkable runs of any first year player in the history of the NCAA tournament. She finished with 105 points in only five games — she missed the first round rout of Idaho to rest a sore calf — the most by any first-year player since 2000, according to STATS.