INDIANAPOLIS– What seemed to be a lofty objective four years ago when Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck arrived in Storrs is now on the verge of reality.
Playing in the Final Four for the ninth straight time, the No. 1 seed UConn Huskies defeated No. 2 seed Oregon State 80-51 and now are one win away from a fourth straight championship.
“I think it sunk in when we were going to the locker room, getting back to the locker room, we were all excited,” Stewart said. “We know that we have one game left. We’re exactly in the position that we want to be in. And now it’s practice tomorrow, National Championship game Tuesday.”
Tuck led all scorers with 21 points, including a season high four made three-pointers.
Sydney Wiese was the leading scorer for Oregon State with 13 points.
Things did not start out perfectly for the Huskies as Stewart picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter. While Stewart remained in the game, she was not in the flow offensively. Instead, it was Tuck who got things going scoring 10 of UConn’s first 15 points as they jumped out to a 15-6 lead.
Tuck was able to punish Oregon State for their strategy of conceding outside shots to her.
“It’s kind of weird sometimes being that wide open when you catch the ball because you’re not used to it,” Tuck said. “But literally the beginning of the game [Ruth Hamblin] was standing in the lane. So I knew I would have to knock in some shots so it would open the lane up so we could get more than just outside shots.”
UConn was able to extend the lead to 20-6 before Oregon State went on a run to end the quarter. Oregon State got going from behind the arc as Wiese and Katie McWilliams each nailed three pointers to cut into the lead. Wiese was fouled on a three pointer with one second left in the quarter and hit all three free throws to make it 26-17 after the first quarter.
Tuck finished the quarter with 13 points while shooting five-for-eight from the field.
The Huskies were able to build on their lead while playing stingy defense in the second quarter. Oregon State continued to struggle as they were held to just 33 percent shooting from the field on the day.
UConn was able to take over the game in the second quarter. The Huskies ended the half on a 15-2 run as they entered the break with a 47-26 lead, despite Stewart having just two points in the first half.
“I think it shows how good our team is and that (Stewart) 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. “I think that’s what makes us a really, really great team. We don’t have to go rely on one person to get it done.”
UConn’s supporting cast did step up. Gabby Williams scored eight points off the bench and Kia Nurse added nine points as well as five assists.
Jefferson had 10 points and seven assists. Jefferson, who now has 654 career assists, moved into first place on UConn’s all-time assist list, passing Diana Taurasi (648 assists).
After scoring just two points in the first half and taking just two shots, Stewart was able to get things going as UConn put the game away in the second half.
Stewart scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half while going six-for-eight from the field in the half.
UConn’s 80 points was the most allowed in a game this year by Oregon State. Oregon State entered the game holding opponents to 31.7 percent shooting from the field, the lowest in the nation. UConn shot 56.7 percent from the field in the game.
Things were not all great for the Huskies however, as freshman Katie Lou Samuelson had to exit play after the first half with a broken bone in her left foot.
UConn will be without Samuelson when they play Syracuse in the National Championship on Tuesday.
Spencer Mayfield is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.