By Carl Adamec
NEW ORLEANS — Unless there’s a change in the criteria for the women’s basketball side of the Huskies of Honor, Kelly Faris and her No. 34 won’t be on the Gampel Pavilion wall.
Faris, though, will be part of the honor roll in the way she’d want to be — as part of a national championship team.
The senior guard went out a winner Tuesday night. She had 16 points, nine rebounds, six assists, a pair of steals, while playing her usual lock-up defense as the Huskies walloped Louisville 93-60 in the NCAA Tournament final at sold-out New Orleans Arena. Faris was also a member of the 2010 title team.
“It would have been nice to win the other two,” Faris said with a smile. “But, man, I don’t even know what to say but thank you to everyone that was a part of it. My teammates? I’m so proud of them. I know a lot of people on the outside don’t know what they did for us. They did an amazing job.”
For her efforts, Faris was named to the Final Four all-tournament team. She was also selected to the NCAA all-regional team a week ago in Bridgeport.
On her Senior Day Feb. 23, UConn coach Geno Auriemma told Faris he would do everything he could to make sure her career would end the right way. Prior to the NCAA Tournament, the Hall of Fame coach told his team he would show it how to win a national championship.
“The trick for us is to try to reward every senior who deserves it with a national championship,” Auriemma said. “When we recruit them, we tell them that is what is going to happen when you come to Connecticut. And the pressure is all on me. The pressure is on my coaching staff, that we need to get them to this point where we are right now. That is our job. And some players, quite frankly, don’t deserve it, because maybe they don’t put the time and effort in and they don’t work as hard.
“Kelly Faris competes for the national championship every minute of every day in everything she does. Morning to night, there is not a day that goes by that she is not winning a national championship in her mind with her sacrifice and her hard work and what she is doing. That is all she thinks about every single day, so she deserves it.”
Faris never missed a contest at UConn and her 154th consecutive game matched the school record shared by Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes. Only NCAA record holder Kalana Greene (157) played in more games with the Huskies than Faris.
In her last eight years of competitive basketball, four at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis and four at UConn, Faris cut down the nets six times after the final game.
“It never gets old. Are you kidding me?” Faris said. “I told Shea (assistant coach Ralph) I wish I could do this for four more years here. That’s something you can’t take for granted. Ten years down the road it will mean that much more when I think back about it. I would love to keep doing it.”
Louisville led early Tuesday night before a 19-0 run put the Huskies’ in command. Not only did the Big East Defensive Player of the Year blanket Louisville leading scorer Shoni Schimmel, Faris also connected on four 3-pointers as UConn turned it into a rout.
“As much as you want to say you’re not nervous or you’re not too excited, it’s going to take a little bit to calm down and play at our pace,” Faris said. “We started off a little rough but we turned it around.
“I’m glad my shots went in. It took me a little bit. But everyone contributed and that got me back on my feet.”
Faris finishes her college career 34th at UConn in scoring (1,109 points), 11th in rebounds (821), sixth in assists (545), and fifth in steals (294). The only other UConn player to end their career with 1,000 points, 750 rebounds, 500 assists, and 250 steals is Moore.
The three-time Wade Trophy winner was in the UConn locker room after the game and was absolutely thrilled for her former teammate.
“I remember sitting on that podium next to Kelly after we lost to Notre Dame (in 2011),” Moore said. “To see her go out as a champion and the way they did it, it was unbelievable.”
Up next for Faris in the WNBA Draft and some team will pick a winner. The Huskies were 143-11 in her time in Storrs.
She’ll be part of the Huskies of Honor with the two title teams. However …
“That place is reserved for first-team All-Americans,” Auriemma said. “Maybe down the road we have to change it to put Kelly Faris up there.”