UConn to meet Notre Dame for national title
TAMPA – You just can’t guard them all and Sunday night in the Women’s national semifinal Maryland had no answer for Morgan Tuck.
One year after watching the Huskies roll to a second straight title her career in question with a serious knee injury, Tuck came out firing, strafing Maryland with a gem of a 24-point, nine-rebound effort in a methodical 81-58 victory over Maryland.
The victory for the Huskies (37-1) sets up a rematch of last year’s title game against Notre Dame Tuesday night with a third straight title and record 10th overall on the line. UConn won the battle of unbeatens a year ago, 79-58. The Irish survived a near collapse to hold South Carolina in the first semifinal, 66-65. UConn is 9-0 in title games.
National Player of the Year Breanna Stewart was, well, Breanna Stewart with 25 points, eight rebounds and four blocks while Moriah Jefferson added 14 points, the duo along with Tuck outscoring the entire Maryland team.
But it was Tuck who was the pain in the Terrapins tail. She hit a pair of 3-pointers, drove to the basket and on a night when Maryland gave Kaleena Mosqueada Lewis little room to operate (4 points on 1-8 shooting) Tuck just brought it from a different direction.
“Obviously Tuck was a big time x-factor for (UConn) tonight. She was one their three that wasn’t an All-American and had an All-American night. She is such a difficult matchup. She took us inside, she took us out. She was able to score low. She recognized when Bree (Briona Jones) was in foul trouble. She has a really high IQ.”
“I think it was a credit to my teammates, they gave me the ball where I’m best at,” said Tuck. “That’s around the basket or driving to the basket. So I think I played well because my teammates played well as well.”
Maryland hung with the Huskies for the first 11 minutes and this would be no all the sudden blitz UConn is so famous for. But, the separation started, it was typically relentless. Leading just, 22-19, with 9:12 to go in the first half the Huskies went on a 12-2 run over the next four minutes to build a double digit edge, 34-21.
Stewart got it going with a pair from the line, stroked a 3-pointer and Jefferson capped the run off with a layup. The lead held at 11 points, 44-33, at the half. The Huskies shot 56 percent in the half (17-for-30), setting Maryland up for the hammer.
And down it came in the first four minutes of the second half. Tuck buried a 3-pointer and layup in a nine-point run as the lead hit 53-33 and the national semifinal turned into another exhibition of UConn’s brilliance.
“We played really well for long stretches of time,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. ‘We’ve got the kind of team when we go on runs and things start breaking our way, we take advantage of those situations, and we did again tonight.”
“The runs in the second half really hurt us,” said Frese. “They came out, their aggressiveness defensively, they were really physical and we were having difficult time trying to score. “
The score never got closer to 15 points the rest of the game. Jones led Maryland (34-3) with 14 points while Lexie Brown and Brene Mosley had 12 each.
All of which leads to the Irish.
“Tuesday night is not going to be any fun believe me,” said Auriemma. “I’m glad we’re playing in that game, but it is not going to be any fun. Notre Dame is really hard to play against.”
One more time for a national title.