Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck lead No. 1 UConn to another title game appearance

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With schools allowed to nominate just three players for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association all-america team, UConn junior forward Morgan Tuck wound up being the one Husky left out of the mix. Breanna Stewart, the national Player of the Year, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson were all deserving, and each wound up being first team all-americans, but there’s no denying the impact that Tuck has for Geno Auriemma’s Huskies.

Tuck entered Sunday’s national semifinal game against No. 1 Maryland averaging 19.8 points per game and shooting 68 percent from the field in the NCAA tournament, and she continued her recent run of success in UConn’s 81-58 win over the Terrapins.

Tuck scored 24 points, scoring 13 in the first half, shooting 10-for-16 from the field and also grabbing nine rebounds. Stewart led the way with a game-high 25 points and Jefferson added 14 and five assists for the Huskies, who shot 53.7 percent for the game and proved to be too much for Brenda Frese’s Big Ten champions to keep up with.

Maryland, which entered the game having won 29 straight games, shot the ball well early on and kept pace with UConn for most of the first half. But in the latter stages UConn did a better job defensively, taking an 11-point lead into the half, and they were even better on that end of the floor in the second half. Maryland shot just 32.1 percent from the field in the second half, with Laurin Mincy and Lexie Brown combining to score just four points.

Brionna Jones led Maryland with 14 points with Brown and Brene Moseley adding 12 apiece, but as their shots got tougher UConn continued to execute in an efficient manner on the other end. UConn’s now won 36 straight games this season, with their lone defeat coming at Stanford in mid-November, and they’ll see a familiar foe in Tuesday’s national title game in Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish, who beat No. 1 South Carolina 66-65 in the first semifinal, have won seven of the last 11 meetings in the series and they’re also 3-2 against UConn at the Final Four. However the Huskies have won the last three meetings, including a comfortable win in South Bend during the regular season (Brianna Turner missed that game for Notre Dame), and they’re also 9-0 all time in national title games.

Geno Auriemma is now one win from his tenth national title, a mark no other coach in the history of Division I women’s college basketball has reached (John Wooden holds the record on the men’s side with ten). To get there his team will need to get past Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish, a team that in the past has displayed no fear when it comes to taking on UConn, whether it’s been during conference games as members of the Big East or in the NCAA tournament.