There's cause for celebration in Connecticut after the UConn Huskies took home their 10th national title on Tuesday night in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Students and fans gathered outside Gampel Pavilion in the center of the Storrs campus Wednesday evening to welcome home the national champions.
The team's plane touched down at Bradley Airport around 3:45 p.m. and the players and coaches boarded buses for Storrs. Cheering fans greeted them on campus, undeterred by chilly temperatures and rainy weather.
The warm welcome was especially meaningful for seniors Kiah Stokes and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who are ending their college careers on a high note.
"You guys make it all worth it," Stokes said. "And just, thank you for that, and thank you to our teammates and our coaches especially."
Mosqueda-Lewis echoed her words of gratitude.
"We appreciate you guys coming out today and supporting us throughout our four years, and especially this season," she said, "and being a part of all three of the national championships that we've been able to be a part of. And we want to say thank you to our coaches and everybody who's helped us along the way."
But Coach Geno Auriemma said the players are the ones who deserve the credit.
"You have no idea how hard it is to win over and over and over again when everyone's expecting you to win, when everyone's gunning for you, everyone's best game is going to be against you. The pressure that these kids play under is incredible," he explained. "That's why I'm so happy for them, because to come through in those situations says a lot about who they are and their character, and I want to congratulate you guys on an unbelievable season."
With 15 points each, Mosqueda-Lewis and junior Moriah Jefferson led the team to a 63-53 victory over Notre Dame. It was UConn's third straight title; Auriemma and the Huskies have won all 10 of their trips to the national championship game.
Breanna Stewart added 15 rebounds and eight points. The two-time AP Player of the Year has saved her best games for the brightest lights.
She earned most outstanding player of the Final Four honors for the third time, making her the first woman ever to achieve that. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the only men's player to do it when he played for Wooden's Bruins.
Those players have helped Auriemma win those 10 championships over 20 years. It took Wooden 12 years to get to 10.
Auriemma won his title one night after fellow USA Basketball Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski won his fifth men's championship at Duke.
The Connecticut-Notre Dame matchup was just the second time in the history of the tournament that the same teams played in the final in consecutive years. UConn beat Tennessee in 2003 and 2004.
It was also the 55th meeting between the top two teams in the AP poll with the No. 1 team holding a 34-21 lead. UConn, which finished the season atop the poll, has been involved in the last five of them.