McGraw, Auriemma have crossed paths for years
“She doesn’t have to prove anything to me and I don’t have to prove anything to her,” Auriemma said.
McGraw said she never looks at it as a one-on-one battle with another coach, but concedes some victories are more satisfying than others. She pointed to finally beating Tennessee and Pat Summitt in an NCAA regional championship game two years ago, when the Irish were 0-20 all-time against the Volunteers and McGraw was 0-16.
Foster, though, believes it is a bit of a factor for any coach.
“I think some of that is always in the back of your head, but it’s the smallest percentage. It’s about this game and your team,” he said.
Notre Dame was 0-11 against the Huskies before the then-No. 3 Irish led by All-American center Ruth Riley upset top-ranked UConn 92-76 in a nationally televised game in January 2001, ending 30-game winning streak by the Huskies and handing them their worst loss in more than seven years. The Irish did it again in the NCAA semifinal that year, winning 90-75 en route to the championship.
“That game certainly gave us and our program kind of a great momentum swing,” McGraw said.
The Irish went 2-4 against the Huskies over the next four seasons, before the Huskies rattled off 12 consecutive victories. The Irish finally beat UConn 72-63 two years ago in the NCAA semifinals behind the play of Skylar Diggins, keeping Maya Moore and her teammates from winning a third straight national title. The Irish did it again last year, winning in overtime.
Both coaches admit they are tired of meeting in the semifinals, saying they would have preferred delaying the rematch until the final.
“We’ve played them three years in a row now and it would be nice to play somebody else,” McGraw said.
Foster believes there’s no telling what to expect with two teams so familiar with one another.
“It could be brilliantly played or it could be an ugly game because they know each other so well,” Foster said.
As do their coaches. Notre Dame and Connecticut aren’t scheduled to play each other next season with the Irish moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference, but it’s likely the paths of McGraw and Auriemma will cross again. They always do.