Women's Basketball: Tuck, Stewart lead the way in win over Florida State

UNCASVILLE ­— In a game featuring two of the best frontcourts in the country, it was No. 1 UConn’s duo of Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart that took over the game in their 73-49 victory over No. 11 Florida State.

UConn forward Morgan Tuck goes for a layup against Florida State at the Hall of Fame Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena on Dec. 11, 2015. (Bailey Wright/The Daily Campus)

Tuck led all scorers with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field. Stewart added 16 points along with seven assists and six blocks and five steals.

Stewart also moved into seventh place on UConn’s all-time scoring list after passing both Rebecca Lobo and Kara Wolters respectively as she jumped from ninth place.

After the game, Florida State head coach Sue Semarau had high praises for Tuck who can sometimes slip under the radar playing alongside Stewart, who Semarau called one of the best players on the planet.

“I just think Morgan is such an unsung hero,” Semarau said. “She is somebody that in the short corner is just deadly. To be able to just catch and go around people, she is undersized but her ability to do that makes her really special.”

Not only did the UConn starting forwards have strong scoring nights, they also did a great job defensively on Florida State center Adut Bulgak. The Huskies limited the preseason All-American to just four points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field. Bulgak missed her first six shot attempts on her way to her lowest scoring output of the season.

“I think today we just tried to make sure that they weren’t getting their first option,” Tuck said. “They had to work a little bit harder and move the ball around more to score. And if they got a shot we tried to make sure it was contested.”

Sophomore forward Shakayla Thomas had a solid night off the bench for the Seminoles. In 28 minutes, Thomas scored a team-high 16 points.

If there was any area the Florida State frontcourt excelled at it was rebounding. Florida State outrebounded UConn 37-24 with Bulgak grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. Rebounding did not hurt the Huskies as they only allowed 11 second chance points to Florida State despite giving up 14 offensive rebounds.

The Huskies knew that they were in for a tough battle against a team that prides itself on rebounding and defense.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be run up and down and try to score 100,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “They are going to make you play defense for the whole shot clock at times and then they are going to make you work for whatever shot you get.”

The Huskies fully embraced the challenge and found a way to shoot 56 percent from the field in the game, which was right around their season average heading into the game. UConn’s defense however held Florida State to just 38 percent shooting from the field.

“We played really good defense I think the whole game,” Tuck said. “That is something that has been a really big focus in practice and over the last few games. For us to do it today shows that we can be a really tough defensive team.”