Published April 10. 2013 4:00AM
New Orleans - It gets harder to rank them. There are eight now, after all. Still, who could forget the first one when Rebecca and the Lobos took down Tennessee? Or Geno Auriemma returning home to Philly and authoring a masterpiece? There was Diana Taurasi and perfection. Three straight. Then came Tina Charles and Maya Moore.
But this one - yes, this one - holds a treasured place in the crowded pantheon. A few weeks ago, nobody dared call UConn a favorite at the Final Four.
Couldn't beat Notre Dame.
Stop Brittney Griner?
Yet what they overcame and how they did it justified their wild celebration Tuesday night in a city famous for wild celebrations. The UConn women won their eighth national championship, dusting Louisville, 93-60, at New Orleans Arena.
Auriemma tied legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt for career national championships (eight apiece). And freshman Breanna Stewart became the first freshman (and third in the history of the game) to be named the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four since Tonya Edwards (1987, Tennessee).
An all-UConn production.
Stewart finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks. In five NCAA tournament games, she scored 104 points.
"She played in this tournament the way we all expected her to, to be honest," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.
UConn players mobbed Stewart on the podium after the game, after learning Stewart had been named Most Outstanding Player.
"I'm just happy for my teammates," Stewart said after, wearing a smile, a championship hat and a championship T-shirt.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 18 points and nine rebounds and Kelly Faris had 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Bria Hartley had 13 points and Stefanie Dolson, who reminded President Obama on the podium after the game "we're baaaack," had 12 points.
Auriemma saluted Louisville on its run to the finals and addressed the title that tied him with Summitt.
"Tying Pat Summitt," Auriemma said, "puts you in the category of the greatest women's basketball coach that ever lived."
UConn (35-4) held Louisville to 37 percent shooting and led by no fewer than 16 points the entire second half.
"They did the same thing to us that they did to everyone else in this tournament," Walz said.
Auriemma removed Faris, a senior, with a little more than two minutes remaining. Coach and player shared a long embrace. Seniors Caroline Doty and Heather Buck of Stonington will graduate as members of three national championship teams.
Only 12 other players in women's basketball history have played on as many as three title teams.
Louisville led 13-8 in the first half before the Huskies used a 21-1 run and were never threatened.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis made a 3-pointer with 8:44 left in the half to cap the run and force Walz to use a timeout.
Earlier in the half, Doty was called for a flagrant foul after contact with Louisville's Bria Smith. Official Lisa Mattingly did not call a foul on the play. But during a timeout, the officials reviewed the play and decided it was flagrant.
Sara Hammond led the Cardinals with 15 points.
UConn's national championship women's basketball team will be treated to a special "Victory Lap" on campus when it returns home today.
The Huskies are scheduled to arrive at Bradley International Airport at approximately 3:30 p.m., where coach Geno Auriemma is expected to make brief remarks during a short public event.
UConn will then return to Storrs at for a "Victory Lap" through campus at approximately 5:15 p.m. The team will ride in an open-air double decker bus before taking part in another speaking program at the Fairfield Way Plaza between the Studen Union and School of Business.
The "Victory Lap" takes the place of a rally at Gampel Pavilion that has taken place in past championship years.
The route begins at the corner of Route 195 and North Eagleville Road, then will turn left onto Glenbrook Road, left onto the "CLAS" Bus Way and drive in front of the Wilbur Cross Building and Gulley Hall.
At Gulley Hall, the team will take a right onto Fairfield Way (at Hawley Armory) and make its way past the Homer Babbidge Library to Fairfield Way Plaza for the speaking program.
Parking for the event on campus will be available in both the North and South Parking Garages.