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Morgan Tuck evolving into Breanna Stewart-like threat

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After battling injuries in her first two seasons, Morgan Tuck is emerging as a strong, versatile star for the Huskies.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Three years ago, when Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson walked onto the UConn campus as freshman, they were heralded as an impressively strong recruiting class.

Since then, Stewart has won two Final Four Most Outstanding Player awards. Jefferson, playing at point guard, has masterfully steered the ship.

And then there's Tuck.

Though the 6-foot-2 forward had a respectable freshman year, averaging 6.4 points and 15.8 minutes, her sophomore year was cut short after just eight games due to knee issues. Simply put, her first two years in Storrs didn't match the glitz and glam of her counterparts.

But now, as a redshirt sophomore, Tuck is making sure to change that.

Through 13 games this season, Tuck has started 11. She's also averaged 14.3 points and 26.2 minutes, including a career-high 25 points against No. 2 Notre Dame and 23 points on Sunday against St. John's - a significant step up from a player coming off an injury.

And the upswing is only expected to continue.

"I think Morgan is not even anywhere near, right now, where she's going to end up being in a month or so," coach Geno Auriemma said, "because she's making up for a lot of lost time."

When she reaches that peak, however, she's more than capable of being as dangerous as anyone on the court.

Like Stewart, Tuck is able to hit the outside shot. Like Stewart, Tuck is able to put the ball on the floor a bit. Like Stewart, Tuck is able to mix it up inside, get in the paint and use her body to score points and grab rebounds. In fact, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said she would give Tuck the edge on Stewart when it comes to post play.

As a duo, they're lethal

"They can't necessarily guard us in one way," Tuck said. "We can both shoot, we can both post up, we can both play the wing. We're interchangeable, so the other team has to play us a little more honestly, and they can't play off to try and double Stewie or something like that."

"There's so many things that Morgan does well," Auriemma said. "She's the kind of player that, when she's on the floor - with her and Stewie together, it's not like you have two players, it's like you have four players out there...I don't know that anybody in the [American Athletic Conference] has had, from what I've seen, any better of a year than what she's having right now."

The fact that Tuck has been able to stay in the lineup consistently, which has been a struggle over the years due to multiple knee problems, has only bettered her on the court.

"Pretty much since halfway through freshman year, I've been in-and-out with my knee," Tuck said. "It was a long injury, kind of like a nagging one. So I think now I actually feel better than before I had my surgery, so it's going really well."

And if it keeps going this well - or even better, as Auriemma suspects - then Tuck makes this UConn squad that much tougher to beat.

"She's extremely important," Stewart said. "She adds so much for us on the court."