After a thriller in the NCAA men’s basketball final Monday for CBS, the see-saw women’s championship game between Stanford and Connecticut on Tuesday brought ESPN a 32% increase in total viewers compared with last year’s finale.
Undaunted by a low-scoring affair, an average of 3.5 million viewers watched Connecticut rally from a 20-12 halftime deficit to defeat Stanford, 53-47, and complete its second consecutive undefeated championship season. In 2009, the Huskies’ title-clinching victory over Louisville drew 2.7 million viewers.
Interest in the game might have been heightened by the building rivalry between Connecticut and Stanford. The Cardinal is the last team to defeat Connecticut before the Huskies began their 78-game winning streak. Stanford’s only three losses in its past 59 games are to Connecticut — two at the women’s Final Four.
Audience totals for the 2010 women’s Final Four on ESPN increased 22% from 2009, to 3.2 million. ESPN has broadcast all 63 games of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament for eight straight years.