Dolson And Hartley: Seniors Leave UConn As National Champs

NASHVILLE — Stefanie Dolson stood in the UConn locker room Tuesday night in Bridgestone Arena, a national championship cap on her head, a piece of twine from the cut-down net poking out from under it.

"It feels great," Dolson said. "You want to go into that last game and play as well as you can. I was going to leave it all out there. I knew it was my last game in this jersey. I was proud of myself and proud of my teammates for getting me the ball and executing so well on offense and just trusting me."

Dolson, one of two UConn seniors, had a big game when it counted most. She had 17 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and blocked three shots in 38 minutes to help UConn win its second consecutive and record ninth women's basketball championship over previously unbeaten Notre Dame.

The 79-58 victory enabled the Huskies to finish 40-0 for their fifth undefeated season and join the men in winning dual championships for the second time in Division I basketball history.

Sophomore Breanna Stewart, who had 21 points and nine rebounds, was named the Final Four most outstanding player for the second consecutive year.

Tuesday night she said she didn't want to think about playing her last game with the two seniors, Dolson and Bria Hartley, who played with foul trouble and finished with 13 points, six shy of 2,000 for her career.

"I'm not going to think about it just yet," Stewart said. "I'm just going to savor this moment. We may be done with this season but we're going to enjoy them off the court as much as we can."

It hit coach Geno Auriemma when the two came off the court for the last time at the end of the game and he enveloped both in long, emotional hugs.

"I probably haven't felt that except a few times," Auriemma said. "But there's always a moment that kind of brings you to your knees.

"When Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson played their first game at Connecticut, it was win No. 79 in a row. That's a lot to be thrown into as a freshman. And the second game of the year was Baylor. And then we went on to win that record 90 in a row. And ever since that day, I can't think of two people that have given every ounce of their energy and everything that they possibly have to give for the basketball program and the people at UConn. So when they came off the floor, I think we all knew exactly what was coming to an end. It really hit me. Hit me really hard."

Said Dolson: "It was something I was looking forward to, that hug at the end of the game. We didn't hug a ton my whole career. He was saving it for that moment and that's a moment I'll never forget, that's for sure."

Hartley was impressed by how well her teammate played and how she took advantage of the absence of Notre Dame senior center Natalie Achonwa, who was out with a torn ACL. It seemed as if Dolson couldn't miss and, in fact, at one point in the first half, she was 5-for-5 from the field.

"I remember at one point we were running back on defense and I was like, 'Stef, you're balling right now,' " Hartley said. "She was doing everything. What'd she have, 17 and 16? Seven assists? That's an amazing performance, especially for a center.

"She's such a great player. She's improved so much through her four years here. I don't know if anyone imagined she'd be this good, but I saw it. I saw how hard she worked and how much she wanted it. I'm really proud of the way she played."