UConn defeats Texas 86-65 to move on to ninth straight Final Four
— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) March 29, 2016
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – It certainly was not boring, and it definitely was not bad for women’s basketball. In the end, it was still UConn though, as the top-seeded Huskies pulled away from No. 2 Texas to win 86-65 in the Bridgeport regional final of the NCAA tournament and advance to their ninth straight Final Four.
Even with a large margin of victory, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma did not feel that the victory came easy for his team.
“I would just say the same thing that I said to our team going into the game and then coming out of the game, and even during one of the huddles, that this game is the most difficult game I think to win,” he said. “I say that every time we’re in this game, and it’s true, and it showed tonight. You’re playing against a really good team that really tested us at both ends of the floor and it forced our best players to play great. That’s exactly what you need at this time in the tournament. You don’t want to be going to the Final Four thinking that games are easy. And in spite of the score today, this was by no means easy at all.”
Overlooked in the media firestorm caused by the criticism of UConn’s success and margins of victory, the Longhorns were ready for this game, and came out with confidence and aggression. After UConn jumped out to a 17-6 lead midway through the first period, Texas roared back behind Ariel Atkins’ three-point shooting to cut the lead to 22-17 by the end of the period.
Seniors Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck did the heavy lifting early, putting in ten points apiece in first half, but it was freshman Napheesa Collier who came up big, scoring seven points and pulling down four rebounds in only six minutes to close the half with a 46-31 Huskies lead.
Still, Texas was ready in the second half, as Atkins and freshman Lashann Higgs led the offense, as UConn’s defense neutralized honorable mention All-American center Imani Boyette, holding her to four points and five turnovers through three quarters. After three, UConn had extended the lead to 66-47, and not much remained except the anticipated final outcome.
“I felt like that we tried to give them as many looks defensively as we could,” said Texas head coach Karen Aston. “but they have an answer for just about everything that you give them.”
Tuck led UConn with 22 points and added six assists, while Stewart had 21 points and 13 rebounds, five assists and three steals. The third member of the big three seniors for UConn, Moriah Jefferson finished with 11 points and nine assists.
For her efforts, Stewart earned Most Outstanding Player in the Regional honors. Tuck, Jefferson, Atkins, and Higgs joined her on the All-Regional team.
Texas sophomores Atkins and Brooke McCarty scored 19 and 15 points respectively, and freshman Higgs scored 19. The future is certainly bright for the Longhorns.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our basketball team,” said Aston. “It’s a tough night for us, lots of seniors, lots of tears, lots of people that didn’t want this to end. It’s a significantly different looking team and different locker room than it was last year, when we played our last game.”
“I think it’s a team that understands that they have moved to a different competitive level,” she continued. “And when you sacrifice everything that you have, it doesn’t feel good and it hurts. And it’s a team that didn’t want this to end. But, I’m extremely proud of how we competed.”
UConn advances to play Oregon State in the first game national semifinals in Indianapolis on April 3 at 6 p.m. EDT.