TAMPA, Fla. - Few things could make Connecticut's women's basketball team look vulnerable, but Notre Dame, facing the Huskies in the national championship game for the second year in a row Tuesday night, certainly is one of them.
Granted, the last three times the teams met, UConn dominated, as it does against most teams. The Huskies beat the Irish by 18 points in December after a 21-point win in last year's title game and an 18-point win in the 2013 semifinals.
But no college basketball team has found ways to beat UConn as often as Notre Dame has under coach Muffet McGraw. In the last five seasons, the Fighting Irish have seven wins against the Huskies; the rest of the NCAA has a total of six.
"They're a lot like us, and I think that's why they have had success against us," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Sunday night. "So we give them problems like other teams in the country don't, and they give us problems like other teams in the country don't. So Tuesday night is not going to be any fun, believe me. I'm glad we're playing in that game, but it's not going to be any fun."
The old Big East rivals -- they played four times a year for three years straight from 2011-13 -- have spent the last two seasons in separate conferences, with Notre Dame dominating the ACC and UConn owning the new American Athletic Conference.
All of Notre Dame's recent wins over UConn came with Skylar Diggins leading the way. In UConn's win in December, Notre Dame played without forward Brianna Turner, who was out with a shoulder injury. She had 17 points in Sunday's semifinal, and her presence should help the Irish contain UConn's Morgan Tuck, who scored 25 points in the first meeting.
"It's night and day. We are such a different team," Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer said of the changes in her team since the first meeting. "Everybody has grown since then. We've become more of a team, I think. At this point of the season, we have so many different weapons, so many people that can do so many different things.
"Obviously, it helps having Bri, so that's going to be a lot different. We are a different team, but they are a different team, too. They've grown. It's going to be a battle."