Governor helps UConn celebrate title
STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut's women's basketball team returned home Wednesday to celebrate a sixth national championship with delighted fans all but over the UConn men getting upset in their trip to the Final Four.
About 100 people met the team at Bradley International Airport a day after UConn routed Big East rival Louisville 76-54 to cap a perfect season and claim their first NCAA title since 2004. Over 1,000 cheered wildly at a pep rally later in the day inside Gampel Pavilion.
"It's just great to bring happiness to any people's lives, because right now people are going through hard times," said senior guard Renee Montgomery. "Especially on our campus with the men, and everybody wanted the men to win, and we wanted the men to win. Just to be able to shine a little light here, it's great."
The No. 1-seeded men's program, defeated by Michigan State in the national semifinals on Saturday, is facing allegations of NCAA recruiting violations. But all that was forgotten Wednesday as Montgomery led the team off their jet, holding the championship trophy high.
"What a beautiful season, what a perfect season," said Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who gave flowers to each player. "Ladies, you are perfection this year and you make us very proud."
The Huskies were dominant, running up a 39-0 record and beating opponents by an average of over 30 points a game. They cruised past all 10 of the ranked opponents they faced, then closed the season with the second-largest margin ever in a title game.
"It's always special to do what we just did," coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's hard for us to explain to you what it feels like for these kids. Obviously we have the best team in the country and the greatest fans."
UConn also won titles in 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004, all under Auriemma. Combined with men's titles in 1999 and 2004, the school now has eight basketball championships.
"The girls are something special," said Bill DePascale, a retired engineer from Coventry who met the team at the airport. "They're good kids, they're smart kids. There's no phoniness about them."
Peter Sepowitz, 66, of Montville said he was just happy to see positive headlines about Connecticut basketball.
"I think this really brought the state of Connecticut back to where it should be," he said. "The situation with the investigation with the men's program, everyone was focused on that. Now, everyone is focused on the women and what they've accomplished, and lets hope it stays that way."
After their pep rally, the players circled their home court, high-fiving fans and signing autographs.
Many fans said they expect a similar party next year. UConn loses just one starter, Montgomery, from a team that won every game by double digits.
National player of the year Maya Moore is a sophomore and center Tina Charles, who had 25 points and 19 rebounds in the championship game, also returns.
"It's our fault," Moore said. "We have high expectations, and we go out every year trying to win the national championship and go undefeated. Of course we're going to work hard and try and do it again next year, but I do think it's important to also enjoy this one."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press