INDIANAPOLIS — It was Morgan Tuck’s turn to shine Sunday night.With a team-high 21 points, Tuck ensured that Connecticut took one more step toward history as the Huskies topped Oregon State, 80-51, in the first game of the NCAA Women’s Final Four.
UConn’s many offensive weapons made Oregon State have to choose whether they would guard National Player of the Year Breanna Stewart — or Tuck. They chose Stewart.
While the Beavers held Stewart to just two points in the first half, her slow offensive start wasn’t even an issue for the Huskies.
Because Tuck made them pay.
With Stewart tied up, Tuck was left unguarded most of the night. And she took full advantage of the opportunity.
The redshirt junior forward from Bolingbrook, Illinois, scored 10 consecutive points during a 3:18 stretch in the first quarter as the Huskies quickly jumped out ahead to a 26-17 lead.
“It was huge,” Stewart said. “Morgan stepped up and she was doing what she does. She was playing the game that we all know she can play. And when people are not guarding her and giving her the open shot, as you can see, she knocked it in and really started a run for our team.”
For the game, Tuck made 8-of-13 field goals attempts, including 4-of-8 shots from beyond the arc.
“It’s hard not to be impressed by the things Tuck did in our first half run,” said Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma.
Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck knew it would be a gamble to leave Tuck open, but there aren’t many options when you’re facing the Huskies.
“It's hard to take everything they want to do away, because the minute that you go get (Tuck), they're dunking the ball at the rim,” said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck. “And so what do you want to give up? So I thought we could have done a little better job of showing a little bit more at Tuck than we did certainly, but you also hope maybe she misses one.”
Tuck’s performance certainly didn’t surprise Auriemma. He and the Huskies know she’s a big reason why Connecticut is poised to win its fourth consecutive NCAA title.
In Saturday’s pregame press conference, Auriemma was asked if he thought Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, who had been named First Team All-Americans earlier in the week, overshadowed Tuck.
Auriemma said the media may have their own opinion when handing out awards, but Stewart and Jefferson know better.
“Without Morgan they wouldn’t be here,” Auriemma told the media Saturday. “They would be home.”
And he guessed that coaches around the nation probably felt differently.
“I think if you polled the 365 coaches around the country and told them they could pick any five players in America to be on their team for one game, I wonder where Tuck would come in,” Auriemma quipped.
And on Sunday night, Tuck showed everyone exactly why.
“I think it shows how good our team is and that Stewie is the best player in the country, but she has a great supporting cast and we're able to step up and make plays,” Tuck said.
• UConn improves to 37-0 on the season with the victory and has won 74 consecutive games, extending the second-longest streak in NCAA history.
• UConn will seek its sixth undefeated season in program history on Tuesday night in the national championship game, including second in three seasons and fourth since 2009.
• UConn has won 23 straight games in NCAA Tournament play, extending their own record.
• UConn’s 29-point margin of victory was the second largest in a game in Women’s Final Four history and the largest margin in a national semifinal game.
· With his 21st all-time Women’s Final Four win, head coach Geno Auriemma ties Tennessee’s Pat Summitt for first among coaches in wins in the Women’s Final Four at 21. No other coach has more than six wins in the Women’s Final Four.
· Oregon State entered the game leading the nation in field goal percentage defense at 31.7 percent. The Huskies shot 56.7 percent for the game.