NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One of the best college teams of all-time smothered Stanford's hopes of winning its first national title in 22 years as top-ranked and unequaled Connecticut scored a resounding 75-56 victory at the Final Four on Sunday in front of 19,395 at Bridgestone Arena.

The Stanford locker room was devoid of tears despite the final appearance of All-American Chiney Ogwumike, who was held to a season-low 15 points by a hellacious defense that flustered the Pac-12's best player.

Ogwumike, expected to be the top overall pick in the WNBA draft next week, was not downcast although ending her illustrious Stanford career with a third defeat at the Final Four.

"I want to go out there and play them again," she said an hour afterward.

Coach Tara VanDerveer perhaps would prefer otherwise, wondering how many times the Cardinal (33-4) could defeat Connecticut in a 10-game series.

Probably not many when the Huskies feature a lineup of five All-Americans, including college player of the year Breanna Stewart.

UConn (39-0) will defend its national title Tuesday night against Notre Dame in the first battle of unbeatens in NCAA history. The Fighting Irish (37-0) swamped fourth-seeded Maryland 87-61 in the other semifinal game despite losing center Natalie Achonwa last week to a knee injury.

No question the big dogs owned the Big Dance.

All the bright explosion of energy that propelled Stanford to its sixth Final Four in seven years dissipated on the night the music died for the Cardinal.


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"They were relentless," said senior Mikaela Ruef, who had six points after scoring 17 in the Elite Eight. "If you can't score, you can't win."

The Cardinal stunned the vaunted Huskies by taking a 22-16 lead with 5:39 left in the half on Ruef's prayer as the shot clock expired.

Just as quickly, the momentum swung east. Connecticut went on a 12-0 run behind center Stefanie Dolson and Stewart, who each scored four points.

The Huskies didn't let up.

UConn jumped to a 44-27 lead with 14:12 left when Stanford made only one of its first nine shots of the second half and was unable to counter a decisive 16-3 run.

"Days like these will make me a better player -- and person," said Ogwumike, the Pac-12's all-time scorer and rebounder.

Ogwumike was hounded from the front and behind by 6-foot-3 Kiah Stokes and the 6-5 Dolson.

A player who appeared unstoppable with 27 double-doubles this season was neutralized in her final appearance in a Cardinal uniform.

Connecticut's defense was so effective that Stanford tried to isolate Ogwumike to shoot from outside. She made only 5 of 12 shots, 1 of 3 from 3-point range.

Junior guard Amber Orrange led Stanford with 16 points, and freshman Lili Thompson added 12, 10 in an impressive first-half performance.

Cardinal players and coaches kept using the word "disruptive" to describe the experience.

For Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, everything starts with defense. His players underscored the point on a night they shot 50 percent with all of the starters scoring in double figures.

Stewart led the Huskies with 18 points and seven rebounds. But forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis did the serious damage after a scoreless first half. She finished with 15 points, and guard Bria Hartley added 13.

"We can do things that other teams can't do," Auriemma said.

UConn put Dolson on Ogwumike and let the other defenders harass the Cardinal sharpshooters.

The usually reliable Bonnie Samuelson made one of seven shots -- all from 3-point range.

"They were really big," the 6-3 Samuelson said.

Samuelson's 3-pointer with 5:24 left made it 61-50, and it looked as if Stanford could make UConn uncomfortable for the first time this season.

But Stokes made two low-post baskets, and the Huskies surged to 15-point lead with 3:30 to play as they extended their winning streak to 46 games.

Connecticut, which had defeated opponents by an average margin of 35 points, now goes for a record ninth NCAA title to break a tie with rival Tennessee.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.

INSIDE
Notre Dame rolls past Maryland into title game. PAGE 6

CHAMPIONSHIP game
Tuesday
Notre Dame (37-0) vs. UConn (39-0), 5:30 p.m. ESPN