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Pat Summitt congratulates Geno Auriemma on record title win

Lady Vols head coach emeritus released a statement congratulating the UConn coach for winning his ninth national title
Apr 8, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma cuts the net after the championship game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Womens Division I Championship tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Connecticut Huskies won 79-58. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, now the program's head coach emeritus, released a statement after Connecticut won its ninth women's basketball title on Tuesday, passing the Lady Vols for the record.

"Congratulations to the UConn Huskies for winning the 2014 NCAA national championship," Summitt said. "My compliments also to coach Geno Auriemma for winning his ninth national title. He has accomplished this feat in record time with the help of some incredibly talented student-athletes and staff members.

"My best to each and every one of them. Enjoy the moment and cherish the memories."

Summitt stepped down as UT's coach in 2012, one season after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Her influence still was apparent at this event. Fans wearing "We back Pat" orange T-shirts were strolling on the sidewalk before the game. Orange-clad fans were sprinkled throughout the crowd, which filled Bridgestone Arena to the top row.

Summitt's presence also was felt before the game when her image was shown on the scoreboard screen. It drew a large ovation from the crowd.

Touching moment: An unusually emotional Auriemma engaged in prolonged embraces with seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley after taking them out in the game's final minutes.

"I haven't done that except for a few times," said Auriemma, who completed his 29th season at Connecticut. "There's always a moment that kind of brings you to your knees sometimes. When Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson played their very first games at Connecticut, it was win 79 in a row — that's a lot to be thrown into as a freshman."

The senior went out with a 45-game winning streak of their own, winning back-to-back national championships.

Strange territory: In rolling to a mark of 37-0 going into Tuesday's title game, Notre Dame had never trailed by more than a dozen points this season.

That deficit occurred against Tennessee on Jan. 20, when the Fighting Irish fell behind 39-27 before rallying for a 16-point victory. But the Irish trailed by as many as 24 points in falling to Connecticut on Tuesday.

Notre Dame's seven-point deficit at halftime against Connecticut was also its biggest of the season. The biggest previous mark had also come against Tennessee, which led the Irish by five at halftime.

Sweeping the awards: Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw made a clean sweep of the nation's four top coaching awards this season.

The last two came Monday night, when she was selected as this year's recipient of the Pat Summitt Trophy (presented by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association) and the Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year award, as chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club and its National Voting Academy.

The previous two awards she captured were the Associated Press Division I Women's National Coach of the Year, followed a day later by the United States Basketball Writers Association Women's National Coach of the Year.

McGraw became the first NCAA Division I coach to sweep the four major national coaching awards three times in her career. She also did so in 2008 and 2009.

The floor's future: The playing court used during the Women's Final Four will be made available to the public if the event's host, the Ohio Valley Conference, chooses not to purchase it.

The OVC will have the first opportunity to buy part or all of the court, which will be sanded down and cut into pieces by Conner Sports, which provides the flooring for the men's and women's Final Fours.

The pieces usually sell for about $25.

Proceeds from the sale of the floor often go to charities.

Contributing: Nick Cole, John Glennon, Mike Organ, Knoxville News-Sentinel

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