The newly crowned NCAA women’s basketball champion, Connecticut, began its title run last month at a tribally owned and operated arena.

The Connecticut Huskies celebrated their American Athletic Conference championship last month at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Photo courtesy of American Athletic Conference).

The Connecticut Huskies celebrated their American Athletic Conference championship last month at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Photo courtesy of American Athletic Conference).

As Indian Country Today Media Network reports, the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., part of a large casino, was host to the first-ever American Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament, won by UConn.

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, or 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.

Making the AAC tournament even more noteworthy for Native Americans, UConn – which went undefeated this season at 40-0 – had to get by a team featuring probably the best known Native American players in the college game this season.

As Mark Fogarty reported at ICTMN, Shoni and Jude Schimmel, who play for the University of Louisville, are sisters from the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon.

Louisville also advanced to the tournament championship game, but despite 20 points from Shoni Schimmel, the Cardinals fell 72-52 to UConn. The Huskies beat Notre Dame for the national championship Tuesday night.

- Vince Devlin

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