A student journalist in a ponytail, who couldn't have been more than 11 or 12 years old, asked Maya Moore Saturday about the impending end of her great college career.
She wanted to know if the nation's consensus player of the year, its first three-time winner of the Wade Trophy, thought it would be nice to complete her career with a third straight national championship.
"Well, that would be a dream come true," she said. "That's always the goal. You know, when you're a senior, you always want your last game to be a win for the national championship."
It was a perfect answer from a perfect player. But everything in life doesn't always go perfectly and that's what happened Sunday night as Notre Dame roared back from a six-point deficit to defeat the No. 1 Huskies 72-63 in the national semifinals at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Moore brilliantly led UConn with 36 points. After the Huskies trailed 59-47 with 5:39 to play, the ball was in her hands on every possession. And she scored and scored and scored again, accounting for 16 of UConn's final 18 points.
But she did not lead the Huskies to a win.
"There are positives and negatives to everything," Moore said. "I need to choose to remember all the great things."
An opponent desperately trying not to lose four times in the same season to UConn did not.
"It's never easy when you don't win your last game, because that's the thing you often remember," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I know how tough this is for Maya and Lorin Dixon. I reminded them when they were freshmen, the same thing happened to them [a national semifinal loss to Stanford]. But what happened in between is something only the fortunate can ever experience."
Notre Dame (31-7) will play Texas A&M (32-5), which defeated Stanford 63-62, in the national championship game on Tuesday night. The Irish were led by Skylar Diggins (28) and Natalie Novosel, who scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half.
"This is amazing," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "It's unbelievable."
Notre Dame had lost 12 straight to UConn.
Moore got no help from her teammates and it was the wrong night for that to happen.
Bria Hartley scored 10. Junior Tiffany Hayes had only four points (2 of 7) in 33 minutes.
Playing and beating the Irish three times since January had yielded all the information UConn needed to plot and pounce.
But this would be all about execution and energy. And it was - but it was Notre Dame's.
If UConn figured to have a problem, aside from containing Diggins, it might have been dealing with a potential partisan crowd in Notre Dame's home state.
Irish fans, Stanford fans and those who simply were tired of the Huskies' dominance might try to lift the Irish.
But Conseco, home of the NBA Pacers and WNBA Fever, was not even full. Large sections of the arena, particularly high behind the baskets, were empty.
The Irish came into the game barely shooting 36 percent in their three games against UConn, an aberration for one of the nation's top shooting teams. They ended up shooting 51.9 percent, the first team to shoot over 50 percent against UConn since Boston College in the Big East semifinals in 2004,
And as well as Notre Dame's big frontline had played this year, its biggest and best, senior Devereaux Peters, had been nonexistent in two of the meetings, going scoreless in UConn's 19-point win at Gampel Pavilion in February.
So the agenda for Notre Dame was clear, just as it's been for UConn's opponents in all 116 games in its remarkable three-year run - execute and stay loose. And that's what the Irish did.
The score was 16-16 midway through and Diggins had 12 quick points while Stefanie Dolson (seven) and Moore (five) led the Huskies.
"That's one thing this team has done very well," McGraw said. "It's a very loose bunch."
The game had 12 lead changes and three ties until a layup by Hayes with 3:25 to play in the half gave the Huskies a 25-24 lead.
Moore scored two more baskets and assisted on another by Kelly Faris to give the Huskies a 32-26 halftime lead.
But just like 10 years ago, when the Irish last played UConn in the national semifinals, they came from behind in the second half to win a game few thought they could.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun