Tonight's the night for Stewart and the Huskies.
TORRINGTON: Tonight is that night that UConn great Breanna Stewart has been waiting for since she first stepped onto the Storrs campus as a freshman with big dreams and an even bigger confidence level.
The Huskies take on upstart Syracuse tonight from Indianapolis at 8:30, looking to win their unprecedented fourth consecutive National Championship, eleventh overall for head coach Geno Auriemma.
On Sunday night when UConn dispatched Oregon State by an 80-51 final, Stewart predicted one more win in front of the ESPN cameras, much to the chagrin of her head coach who should be used to these kind of things by now.
It’s not that Stewart was bragging or pulling a Joe Namath like prediction but simply stating what her intended goal has been since she came here from upstate New York four years ago.
UConn expects to win this championship. Stewart expects to make sure it happens.
“I think that we’ve been talking about that the entire year and throughout my career,” Stewart said. “When this is the moment that we have prepared for, I’m not going to say that we are going to lose. Everyone knows we want to win this game. That we want this national championship for a number of reason. It’s some people’s first, some people’s second, some people’s third and it will be our fourth. To end my college career with the other seniors, there is no other way I want it to happen. I believe we’re going to win. I think if we execute our game plan and do what we are supposed to do that we’re going to be okay.”
Sure, the Orangemen would love to pull the upset of the century (it’s only 16 years old so that’s not really a stretch) by bombarding the Huskies with a multitude of three pointers that find the bottom of the net.
After all, nobody comes into a championship expecting to lose but a team like UConn does come in expecting to win.
It’s all about the options that Auriemma has at his disposal.
Yes, Katie Lou Samuelson’s loss is a tough one for the team and even more so for the stand out freshman who has come so far in her first year, only to feel it come to an end soon after an awkward drive to the basketball broke a bone in her left foot.
Think of the options though.
Gabby Williams will get the start for Samuelson and is not a stranger to the starting role and has shown an ability to come through in big spots.
Fellow frosh, Naphessa Collier has already shown she can come off the bench and give quality minutes when needed but remember, the Big Three would love to spend every second of the 40-minute game on the court.
It doesn’t happen often but Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck were built for these kinds of moments.
Tuck torched Oregon State when they decided to dare her to shoot from beyond the arc on Sunday night while Stewart scored but two points in the first twenty minutes and the team still led by 21 at the half.
Jefferson was not called on to carry a punch of the offense in the scoring department but handed out gifts to become the Huskies all-time leader in assists.
If UConn needs 20 from the best point guard in America, it will happen.
If UConn needs 30 from Stewart or Tuck, it will happen.
The look you often see in Stewart’s eyes when she talks about playing on the biggest stage is never one of nerves but one that welcomes the challenge, relishes the moment.
It’s time for Stewart to put the finishing touches on the masterpiece she created four years ago that seemed a little far-fetched when the then first year player said it.
Now it’s not so much of a guarantee but of a promise to herself kept.