Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies accomplished exactly what Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, and Moriah Jefferson set out to do when they arrived in Storrs, beating Syracuse Tuesday night, 82-51, in the national championship game to capture the school's fourth title in a row, 11th overall.
The Huskies end their season with a 38-0 record, the sixth undefeated season in UConn history.
It was the Huskies' big three who made it happen tonight. Stewart, Tuck, and Jefferson combined to score 56 points and received an uproarious ovation from the crowd upon their exit from the game with 1:46 left in the fourth quarter and UConn, as usual, up big.
The Huskies started piling on the points early and often, and clamping down defensively as well, with Syracuse scoring its first points at the 6:04 mark in the first quarter as UConn jumped out to a 9-0 lead.
When it looked like Syracuse might be getting into a rhythm UConn answered right back, mounting a 10-0 run later in the opening frame. A focused Stewart had 10 points after that first quarter, which ended with Moriah Jefferson putting a dagger through the Orange's hearts with a buzzer-beating three.
Syracuse didn't fare much better in the second quarter, as the Huskies got off to a 10-2 run in the first three minutes and forced Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillman to call a time out. It didn't help.
UConn took a 50-23 lead into the halftime break and never looked back. The Orange, a team which relies on hitting threes, were held to just two made three-pointers in the first half and hit none in the second, finishing 2-of-19 (10.5%) from long range.
It was not a good night to be an Orange.
Let's check in with Otto the Orange... pic.twitter.com/kYgC1WrO61— Dan Madigan (@dmad1433) April 6, 2016
UConn did have a 4+ minute scoring drought in the third quarter during a 16-0 Syracuse run. The press which the Orange were using all game was finally starting to give the Huskies fits and, for a brief period, shots weren't falling as frequently as they usually do. Fortunately, that run only cut the lead down to 17.
The press continued to give UConn trouble in the fourth quarter but the Huskies fought through and were still doing a good enough job defensively to maintain their lead. Syracuse showed great spirit to continue competing as the game started to slip away. Chopping the lead down and fighting though the end was admirable, but nobody was taking down the Huskies this year.
Stewie finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in her final college game. Jefferson scored 13 while also pulling down three rebounds and dishing five assists. Two of those points came in absolutely stunning fashion, captured here by our friends @UConnGIFs.
Damn. https://t.co/Sd6QMO9ikf— UConnGIFs (@UConnGIFs) April 6, 2016
Morgan Tuck, the rock of the team, finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. She has yet to officially announce her intentions for next year.
Gabby Williams (9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists), Kia Nurse (9 points, 5 rebounds), and Napheesa Collier (6 points, 5 rebounds) all stepped up in a big way, exactly as the Huskies needed with Katie Lou Samuelson out injured.
It is an incredible run for the four UConn seniors, who end their careers with a 151-5 record, best in program history. The lasting legacy of these players' accomplishments will live in our hearts and minds forever. For as great as UConn has been, no class of players has soared this high.
Those who didn't want to watch, whatever their reason, missed out on true greatness, the kind which we will probably never see again.