UConn Has One Hurdle Left: Tuesday Vs. Stanford

UConn's Tiffany Hayes, right, slams into Stanford's Kayla Pedersen (foreground) and Nnemkadi Ogwumike in the first half Tuesday night. (Bettina Hansen / Hartford Courant)

The UConn women have focused intently, dominated historically and won just about every minute of their 38 games. And here they are again.

"What's gone into coming back [to tonight's national championship game] has been so incredible and so amazing," coach Geno Auriemma said.

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The Huskies have created their own system of measure by which all teams that follow will now be compared.

"We force ourselves every day to do things that are against human nature," Maya Moore said.

But it is not yet a championship season. There is one more necessary step before the Huskies can allow themselves to exhale and exult.

"We asked for this. We want to be great. We want to be the best team that we can be," Kalana Greene said. "We never said we wanted it to be easy. We know if we lose one game and don't win the national championship, we didn't reach our goal."

Enter Stanford, the perennial national powerhouse stocked with All-Americans and Olympic prospects. It's the other No. 1 seed in tonight's national championship game at the Alamodome.

Nearly two years ago in Tampa, Fla., the Cardinal defeated the Huskies in the national semifinals. That was 77 consecutive victories ago for the Huskies; enough for one undefeated national championship season, but not quite enough for two.

Stanford (36-1) would like to provide the other bookend.

"I was talking to family and friends and someone actually said to me they hoped UConn would beat Baylor [in Sunday's semifinal]," Stanford's Rosalyn Gold-Onwude said. "They said they wanted us to face UConn and have the chance to beat what people are calling maybe one of the most dominating UConn teams ever."

The Huskies are 6-0 in national championship games, including the 76-54 victory over Louisville last year in St. Louis, where they beat Stanford in the semifinals.

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This season, the Cardinal led the Huskies 40-38 at halftime of their Dec. 23 game in Hartford before the Huskies pulled away for an 80-68 win. Since then, Stanford has won 27 straight and spent much of the time between games watching film of that loss.

"I think at this point of the season we are better equipped to deal with UConn's pressure," Gold-Onwude said. "Our coaches are more prepared, as well. There had been so few games played up to that point in the season that UConn hadn't sculpted itself. They had question marks, too. I think now we can figure out what will make us successful."