The Mohegan Sun Arena recently increased its presence in women's basketball as the casino facility hosted the first American Athletic Conference tournament in February.
American Indian basketball celebrities Shoni and Jude Schimmel provided some of the fireworks for the newly created league's first finals. The sisters, from the Umatilla reservation in Oregon, played three games at the Uncasville, Connecticut, facility for the Louisville Cardinals, who lost the championship game to the University of Connecticut.
The 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun is the home court of the Mohegan-owned Connecticut Sun of the Women’s National Basketball Association. In 2013 it played host to the WNBA All Star game.
At the time the deal was announced last year, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority chief executive Mitchell Etess credited the casino’s collaboration with the Sun for the Mohegan Sun Arena scoring the opportunity to host the Big East women’s basketball tournament (which later became the American Athletic Conference, of AAC tournament). “This is what bringing the Connecticut Sun here has done for us, it has made us a true entertainment company, not just a gaming or hotel company,” Etess said.
AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco agreed with Etess. “Mohegan Sun Arena offers our student-athletes, coaches and fans the best of many things—a world-class facility, a great destination and committed management.
According to the Hartford Courant, the deal includes the conference’s option to host the NCAA division I tournament at Mohegan Sun next year as well.
The AAC was playing its inaugural tournament after being created out of a realignment of the Big East and other conferences. Besides UConn and Louisville, the ten-team league includes Rutgers, the University of South Florida, Southern Methodist University, the University of Houston, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Central Florida, the University of Memphis, and Temple University. All 10 teams played in the single-elimination tournament.
Shoni Schimmel made the go-ahead basket for Louisville in the most exciting game of the tournament, the quarterfinal match with the University of South Florida. Jude Schimmel put the game out of reach with two foul shots just a few seconds later, and the Cardinals won 60-56. Shoni Schimmel led all Louisville scorers with 17 points.
The younger Schimmel sister is not a starter for the Cardinals but was a crowd favorite, with the Louisville band leading spectators in serenading her with the chorus of the Beatles' "Hey Jude" after each basket.
Shoni Schimmel had 15 points and Jude 6 in Louisville's trouncing of the University of Houston in their quarterfinal game, as the Cardinals won the game by 45 points. But Louisville, seeded number 2 in the tournament and number 3 in the nation, could not withstand the top team in the conference and in women’s college basketball, the University of Connecticut.
This year’s undefeated Huskies squad, touted as one of the best teams ever to play college women’s basketball, rolled over the Cardinals by 20 points in front of a large contingent of in-state fans, despite Shoni Schimmel’s 20-point effort. More than 8,000 fans attended the championship game at Mohegan Sun, and more than 7,500 attended the thrilling semifinal against the University of South Florida.