NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisville’s basketball teams have been pulling for each other during both NCAA tournaments, sweating through the nail biters, cheering the wins.
There hasn’t been a loss yet. It sure is a joyous time to be a Cardinal.
The women got a pep talk from men’s coach Rick Pitino after they lost to Notre Dame in the Big East tournament _ and they haven’t lost since, beating Cal 64-57 on Sunday night to advance to the school’s second NCAA championship game.
The women’s players gathered at a New Orleans restaurant to watch the men beat Wichita State on Saturday and will be watching again Monday night when the men play Michigan for the title.
“The way I look at it, I think the men are trying to feed off of our success,” women’s coach Jeff Walz said with a smirk before adding on a serious note that he’d received word from Atlanta that the Louisville men “were in the hotel lobby, jumping up and down and cheering for us.”
Pitino texted Walz after their victory “congratulating us and telling me to tell the players what an unbelievable job they did.”
And so they have.
Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma is well aware of what Louisville is going through right now.
Back in 2004, the men’s and women’s teams at UConn were playing for the national title and both came away victorious, the only time one school won both titles in the same season.
Now Louisville can do it again.
“If it were easy, it would have been done a lot of times, but the fact it’s only been done once shows you how difficult it is to do,” said Auriemma after his team routed Notre Dame 83-65 to reach the final. “At the same time, this has been a magical year for Louisville. … It’s just amazing what they’ve been able to do, so I think we’re playing against Louisville and we’re playing against a certain karma, maybe.”
Auriemma’s Huskies were finally able to shake off the Fighting Irish, thanks to an incredible effort by star freshman Breanna Stewart. She scored a career-high 29 points to go with four blocks and was seemingly everywhere.
“Given the stage, and what was at stake, I don’t know that I’ve seen any bigger performance,” said Auriemma. “I know there’s been NCAA tournament games that we’ve had certain individuals play great, but I don’t remember a player having a better game in this environment.”
UConn will be going for its eighth championship Tuesday night, which would match Tennessee for the most in the women’s college game.
No team has dominated the Huskies under Auriemma the way the Irish had over the past few seasons. UConn (34-4) had lost the previous two national semifinals to Notre Dame and dropped three thrilling games this season to their conference rival.