April 5, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Last year, Butler's men had a virtual homecourt advantage when they played in the Final Four just a few miles from their Indianapolis campus.
This year, the Notre Dame women took advantage of a similar situation in Sunday night's semifinal against Connecticut. The Fighting Irish had plenty of boisterous fan support to fuel their 72-63 upset victory.
Green T-shirts were plentiful around Conseco Fieldhouse, which is about a three-hour drive from Notre Dame's South Bend, Ind., campus.
"Words cannot explain it all," forward Devereaux Peters said. "It's a great feeling to have all your fans there, and it's the most fans we've had anywhere all year cheering for us."
Now, they hope for similar support on Tuesday, when they play Texas A&M for the national championship.
Notre Dame's Becca Bruszewski, an Indiana native, was hoping the relatively short trip would offset Connecticut's tendency to draw fans away from home, and it did. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the fact that the Final Four would be close to home was in the back of her players' minds all season.
The players had noticed a spike in support leading up to the game. They have made new friends since arriving in Indianapolis on Thursday.
"There is tremendous support for us. I think Indiana is an amazing basketball state, and they support their basketball and athletics a lot, and it's great to have a great fan base here for us," freshman Natalie Achonwa said.
AURIEMMA SUPPORTS IRISH: After Connecticut lost to Notre Dame, UConn coach Geno Auriemma was asked who he would pick to win the title game.
He said he knew little about Texas A&M other than that their style of play and their defensive intensity bothered teams.
Then, he stopped analyzing.
"I'll be rooting for NOTRE Dame because they're in our league, and I know them and I like a lot of their kids and their coaching staff," he said.
He started to correct himself out of respect for Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, but didn't quite get there.
"Not to say I don't like Gary. I don't. I don't like Gary as much as I like Muffet," Auriemma said, ending the press conference by drawing laughter from the media.