December 30, 2014

As it seems is the case most years lately, 2014 was another strong one for Geno Auriemma.

UConn's Hall of Fame coach won a record ninth national championship in April breaking a tie with Pat Summitt for the most all-time. The Huskies went 40-0 marking the fifth time the program hasn't lost a game.

He didn't stop there, guiding the U.S. women's national team to a world championship in Istanbul this past fall - his second while in charge of the Americans.

''All in all when you look back it was a pretty amazing year for me,'' said Auriemma. ''I wish every coach could experience something like that. I've been very fortunate to experience something like that. It doesn't happen much that way. Everybody wants to have that kind of script. Everyone would love to have a scenario where everything you do turns out perfectly.''

Here are a few other highlights from the past year in women's college basketball:

LAUREN HILL: There probably was no more inspirational story in women's basketball this past year than Mount St. Joseph's freshman Lauren Hill, who is fighting an inoperable brain tumor.

She was diagnosed with the brain tumor during her senior year in high school. She went to the Division III school and played in four of Mount St. Joseph's first eight games, making five layups while spending a few minutes total on the court.

While her playing career is over, she's now an honorary coach at the school and has raised over $1 million for cancer research.

IRISH EYES ARE SMILING: Notre Dame fell one game short of winning the national championship, losing to UConn in Nashville. Still the Irish had one of the best seasons in the history of the school, going undefeated until that game. Notre Dame ran through the ACC in its first year in the conference led by stars Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa.

O IS FOR OGWUMIKE: Chiney Ogwumike capped off a stellar career at Stanford, finishing as the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. She guided the team to the Final Four before falling to the Irish. Ogwumike then went on to be the top pick in the WNBA draft and earned rookie of the year honors for the Connecticut Sun.

''You can still pinch me. This year has been a dream,'' Ogwumike said. ''From advancing to the Final Four to receiving my diploma from my mentor Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the memories I made at Stanford, on and off the court, were unforgettable. And then to be drafted No. 1 (like my big sister) in front of my family, friends and new fans was surreal. It felt like destiny, reminding me that hard work can truly pay off.''

OFFENSIVE SHOWCASE: New points of emphasis last season tried to increase the freedom of movement on the court and that led to more scoring. Teams averaged 67.4 points a game, the most in since the 1999-00 season according to STATS.

SCHIMMEL TIME: Shoni Schimmel and her sister Jude were treated like rock stars nearly everywhere they went with a huge Native American following. Shoni's last regular season home game at Louisville had a packed house for Native American Appreciation Night. Native Americans from nearly 40 different states were part of the 22,000 fans that packed the arena and stayed for hours after to get autographs.

Shoni was picked for the WNBA All-Star game and the Atlanta Dream rookie put on quite a show for the fans, earning MVP honors.

ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE: When Arizona coach Niya Butts approached the Kay Yow Foundation about doing a cold water challenge in June to help raise funds for the organization, neither side had any idea how big an impact it would make.

A few months later, the (hash)Chillin4Charity initiative raised $50,000. It's not just the money that has impressed executive director Sue Donohoe, but the awareness it's brought.

''The response we've seen has been incredible,'' Donohoe said at the end of the summer. ''From a social media standpoint, we've had over 78,000 tweets, 100,000 retweets and 215 million twitter reaches.''

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