Too tall for Stanford on Saturday, No. 1 Connecticut gave the women's Final Four its marquee matchup: a championship-game rematch with No. 3 Tennessee.
Kara Wolters, the Huskies' 6-foot-7 center, dominated down low on her way to 31 points and nine rebounds, working flawlessly with 6-4 national player of the year Rebecca Lobo in an 87-60 victory over fourth-ranked Stanford.The Huskies (34-0) advanced to their first-ever NCAA title game and will try to repeat their 77-66 January victory over then-No. 1 Tennessee, which also used a strong inside game to beat Georgia 73-51 in Saturday's first semifinal.
Scoring from 3-point range as well as in traffic, Lobo had 17 points and nine rebounds as Connecticut moved within one victory of just the second perfect season since the women's NCAA tournament began in 1982.
If the Huskies can beat the Lady Vols, they will join the 1986 Texas team as the only unbeaten women's NCAA champions.
Jamelle Elliott added to Connecticut's front line power, equaling her season high with 21 points.
But as awesome as the Huskies were inside, they were even better on defense. Connecticut held opponents to 31.4 percent shooting this season, the best in the nation, and was even better in the first half on its way to a 24-point halftime lead.
Stanford (30-3) shot just 22 percent in the first half and 31 percent for the game. Stanford's leading scorer, sophomore Kate Starbird, was scoreless until only 10 minutes remained in the game. She finished with just two points, 14 below her average.
Kristin Folkl and Anita Kaplan led Stanford, one of the youngest teams in America, with 12 points apiece.
The 27-point defeat was the worst tournament loss for Stanford since its first-ever appearance, an 82-48 loss to Maryland in 1982. But with a roster that includes 11 freshmen and sophomores, Stanford has the potential to continue its impressive string of NCAA tournament performances.
Stanford is 24-7 since the tournament began in 1982 and 24-6 since Tara VanDerveer took over as coach in 1985. It is 21-4 in the tournament during the 1990s, a run which includes four trips to the national semifinals and championships in 1990 and 1992.
None of that mattered Saturday.
The Huskies, who made their only other Final Four appearance in 1991, steamrolled Stanford just as they've done to nearly every other opponent this season.
Until last weekend's 67-63 victory over Virginia in the East Regional final, Connecticut hadn't had a game closer than 10 points. The Huskies entered Saturday's game beating opponents by an average of 34.2 points, better than the NCAA-record 33-point average Louisiana Tech posted on its way to the inaugural NCAA title in 1982.
The Huskies clearly benefited from the close call against Virginia. In that game, they opened a 29-10 lead and then fell behind by seven at the half.
On Saturday, they opened a 16-4 lead and didn't let up.
Stuffing the ball into the heart of Stanford's zone defense from the start, the Huskies force-fed the ball to Lobo and Wolters. Stanford was powerless to stop it and never got its offense on track.
Wolters had nine points in the first 4:24. The Cardinal, meanwhile, scored just four points in the first 5:46 and were shut out in the last 5:27 of the half.
Wolters and Lobo stamped their mark on the game late in the first half.
Wolters, the tallest player in the Final Four, zipped an over-the-shoulder pass from the foul line to Lobo cutting for the basket. Her reverse layup pushed the lead to 20 for the first time, and Stanford didn't get closer than 17.