NEW ORLEANS — Geno Auriemma and Connecticut are back on top. With freshman Breanna Stewart leading the way, it might be a while before they relinquish that spot.
Stewart scored 18 of her 23 points in a dazzling first half and Connecticut won its eighth national championship with a 93-60 rout of Louisville Tuesday night. It was the most lopsided victory in a title game.
The title tied Auriemma and the Huskies (35-4) with Pat Summitt and Tennessee for the most in women’s basketball history.
‘‘The fact that I tied Pat Summitt’s record puts you in the category of the greatest women’s basketball coach that ever lived,’’ Auriemma said. ‘‘I'm just thrilled for our seniors. This team accomplished an amazing feat this last month.’’
Prized freshman Stewart was unstoppable, hitting shots from everywhere on the court to earn Most Outstanding Player honors for the Final Four. Even her father in the stands watching repeatedly said ‘‘wow’’ as his daughter took the game over.
‘‘This is unbelievable,’’ she said. ‘‘This is what we've thought about since the beginning of the season. And now to be here and actually win it, it’s a great feeling and I don’t think it’s going to set in for a while. I just played really confident and stopped thinking. When I second-guess myself, nothing good comes out of that.’’
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 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.
Louisville men’s coach Rick Pitino, fresh off his team’s 82-76 win in the title game over Michigan 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.
Pitino was impressed by Stewart, too. ‘‘This is one of the best freshmen in basketball,’’ he said in a halftime interview.
Under NCAA rules, neither the school nor Pitino could pay for the men’s players to attend the game. The NCAA said it granted a waiver to Louisville early Tuesday that would have allowed the school to pay for the trip, but the school said it had made plans to go home.
Stewart 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 the tournament in only five games — she missed the first-round rout of Idaho to rest a sore calf. UConn’s Maya Moore held the previous mark with 93 points.