UConn’s run of Big East titles ends

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Geno Auriemma was at a loss. For the third time this season his Connecticut Huskies came up short against Notre Dame.

This time it cost the Huskies the Big East tournament championship.

“What can I say, I feel really bad for these guys,” he said. “They played an amazing second half and we put ourselves in a big hole in the first half. They deserved to win because they made one more play at the end than we did.”

Natalie Achonwa’s layup with 1.8 seconds left lifted No. 2 Notre Dame to a 61-59 victory against third-ranked UConn on Tuesday night.

Notre Dame has had the Huskies’ number lately. The Irish have dominated the series recently with seven victories in the last eight meetings. No team has ever dominated the Huskies like that since UConn won its first national championship in 1995.

The only UConn victory came in the conference title game last season, but the Huskies couldn’t pull off a third straight win over Notre Dame in the tournament championship.

The loss ended a run of 19 straight seasons Connecticut had won either the regular season or postseason conference title.

Now the Huskies will turn their focus on winning an eighth national championship.

What didn’t help the Huskies was their inability to hit anything from behind the 3-point line. They were 0-for-5, marking the first time since the 2002 NCAA championship game that they didn’t hit a 3-pointer — a span of 403 games.

The Irish (31-1) weren’t going to be denied in their final chance to win an elusive Big East championship. Earlier in the day, Notre Dame announced it would be joining the ACC starting next season — a year earlier than expected.

Kayla McBride, named the tournament’s most outstanding player, scored 23 points to lead the Irish. Jewell Loyd finished with 16 and Diggins had 12.

Stefanie Dolson had 18 points and 14 rebounds, while Breanna Stewart had 16 points for UConn (29-4), which had won the last five Big East tournament titles but fell to Notre Dame for the third time this season.

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