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UConn loses guard but cruises into NCAA final

By Jeff Washburn, The Sports Xchange
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UConn loses guard but cruises into NCAA final
UConn Huskies' Moriah Jefferson (4) fights pressure from Oregon State's Gabriella Hanson (11) during the first half of play in their National Semifinal game of 2016 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 3, 2016. .Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

INDIANAPOLIS -- Geno Auriemma took one glance at the halftime box score Sunday night and realized just how good his top-ranked Connecticut Huskies are.

"(Breanna Stewart) had two points, had taken two shots, and we have a 21-point lead," the UConn coach said after his team extended its winning streak to 74 games and moved within one victory of its fourth consecutive national championship with an emphatic 80-51 victory against Oregon State.

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UConn (37-0) got 21 points from Morgan Tuck and 16 points and eight rebounds from National Player of the Year Stewart in advancing to play Syracuse in Tuesday night's title game.

The only downside for the Huskies was losing starting guard Katie Lou Samuelson to a broken left foot. The freshman, who averages 11.1 points per game, scored seven before exiting Sunday. Samuelson will miss the final game.

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The Huskies scored the first half's final eight points to lead 47-26 through 20 minutes.

"It would be hard not to be impressed with what Morgan Tuck did tonight," Auriemma said. "In the first half, everybody contributed. The bigger the game, the better she shoots."

UConn used consecutive 3-pointers from Stewart and Tuck to extend the margin to 57-32. A Kia Nurse 3-pointer with 4:33 to play in the fourth quarter gave the Huskies a 79-46 advantage.

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"Morgan stepped up and played the game she can play," said Stewart, who picked up two quick fouls. "Now, we are exactly in the position we wanted to be in."

At that point, UConn was shooting 60.7 percent from the field (34-for-56). The Huskies finished at 56.7 percent after missing their last four shots.

Point guard Moriah Jefferson added 10 points and seven assists for the Huskies. Tuck, Stewart and Jefferson were a collective 20-for-29 from the field.

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"Coach has been on me about taking and making 3-pointers," said Tuck, who was 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. "It was kind of weird being that wide open. I think tonight showed just how good we are."

Oregon State (32-5) got 13 points from Sydney Wiese and 10 points and 11 rebounds from Ruth Hamblin. The Beavers, who won the Dallas region as a No. 2 seed, shot only 33.3 percent (18-for-54).

"UConn played a phenomenal game, and they shot the ball extremely well," Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. "That is why they are who they are. They made us work for everything we got."

Despite getting only two points from National Player of the Year Stewart, UConn dominated the first half, leading by 21 points after 20 minutes. The Huskies received 16 points from Tuck and eight from Jefferson.

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The Huskies raced to an 8-2 lead and continued to impose their will throughout the remainder of the first two quarters, shooting 58.8 percent (20-for-34), including 5-for-11 from 3-point range.

"They can hit from everywhere," Oregon State guard Jamie Weisner said. "Then, they expose every weakness that you have."

Oregon State was guilty of 13 first-half turnovers, nine more than Connecticut. For the game, the Beavers gave the ball away 18 times to 10 for the Huskies.

Wiese led the Beavers with first-half eight points.

NOTES: Oregon State entered with an eight-game winning streak. ... The Beavers were making their eighth NCAA Tournament appearance and their third in a row. ... Before advancing to this year's Final Four, Oregon State's best NCAA showing was the Sweet Sixteen in 1983. ... The Beavers won their first Pac-12 tournament championship, defeating UCLA in the title game. ... UConn, which won its 23rd consecutive NCAA Tournament game, is aiming for a fourth consecutive national championship. ... UConn is 108-17 all-time in NCAA tournament games, an .864 winning percentage. ... The Huskies shot 71.4 percent (10-for-14) in their 26-point first quarter.

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