FIRST HALF RECAP: UConn leads Maryland, 44-33
Maryland admirably tried to keep up with UConn at the start of this game, trying to match the Huskies pace and managing to keep things close early on. The score was tied 10-10 at the first TV time out, but then UConn started to pull away.
The Huskies scored 6 straight points and it began to look like they had started the game-breaking run we were so accustomed to seeing. The Terrapins fought admirably, but the closest they would get across the rest of the half was when it was 20-16 at the 12:24 mark. UConn would answer with a 14-5 run over the next six minutes and kept their foot on the gas to close out the half with an 11-point lead.
Breanna Stewart, fresh off another player of the year award, has 10 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists at the break. Stewie's gunning for her third consecutive Final Four MOP but is facing some serious competition from her teammates.
Moriah Jefferson has been an absolute dynamo for the Huskies, going 4-5 from the field for 11 points, while hustling one awesome rebound, doling out 4 assists, and making 2 steals. Her defense and general tenacity set the tone. The relatively unheralded Morgan Tuck has 13 points and 6 rebounds-- both game-highs.
Maryland is playing quite well, shooting 48% from the field and finding ways to score in the paint, but 8 turnovers and allowing UConn to shoot 56% from the field isn't going to cut it. They are going to need some serious miracles to avoid seeing UConn put this one away.
UConn's dynasty is bad for women's basketball. The Huskies win all the awards. Geno Auriemma is a women's basketball coach, why is he calling the men's game a joke.
It has been an interesting week with a whole lot of nonsense. But now it is time for the games to be played.
The last time the Huskies were in Tampa for the Final Four, they lost to Stanford in 2008. UConn has a history of righting wrongs in locations of defeat.
Back in 1991, the Huskies lost in the Final Four in New Orleans, but on a return visit in 2004, they won their fifth national title. The same can be said for a 2000 trip to St. Louis and nine years later, they won another championship.
Standing between the Huskies and another title is the No. 4 Maryland Terrapins in the national semifinals. Maryland coach Brenda Frese was telling the media on Saturday that the nation is rooting for her team. However, the pundits are picking the Huskies and the sportsbooks have UConn as a 20+ point favorite.
We all know that UConn has been destroying opponents all season. They have won 35 straight games and lead the nation in scoring offense, defense, and margin of victory among many other categories.
But in a one-and-done tournament, anything can happen. Just ask the Kentucky men's basketball team.
UConn is coming off a bit of a challenge in their Elite 8 matchup against Dayton. The Flyers had a 44-43 halftime lead before cooling off shooting the ball in the second half and succombing to the Huskies by a final score of 91-70.
However, it is going to take more than a good half of great shooting to beat UConn. The Huskies are going to have to have an off game and there is no way Auriemma will allow that to happen tonight.
Despite Geno's best efforts, a lot of attention has been focused on Breanna Stewart this week. She won all the major national player of the year awards and was named MVP of the Albany Region. She is averaging 19.8 points so far in the NCAA Tournament, including a career high 31 points against Texas in the Sweet 16.
Stewart will be a matchup nightmare for the Terps. In three career games against Maryland, she has averaged 18.7 points, including 26 during a game on November 15, 2013 in which Morgan Tuck and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis did not play.
Mosqueda-Lewis (15.5 points) is coming off a 31-point performance on Monday night, where she broke the NCAA career record for 3-pointers made. She was named to several All-America teams (including the WBCA and AP) along with Stewart and Moriah Jefferson.
However, there has been very little talk about Morgan Tuck, who has been the catalyst and floor leader for the Huskies all season. She is tied with Stewart in points, averaging 19.8, to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 5 assists in this tournament run. Tuck was an All-American honorable mention.
Jefferson (14.8 points, 5.5 assists) and Kia Nurse (9.8 points) have been a pretty dynamic backcourt. Jefferson has been the floor general and has played calm and collected.
Auriemma has used little of his bench during the key parts of the games for the past few weeks. Kiah Stokes has been a force on the defensive end all season with rebounds and block shots. Gabby Williams and Soniya Chong can help provide some quality minutes off the bench if there is foul trouble or the starters need a break, but Auriemma will stick with his starters for the majority of the game.
The winner of this game will play the winner of the first game between Notre Dame and South Carolina for the National Championship.