INDIANAPOLIS — Something about the national semifinals brings out the best in Morgan Tuck.
The senior forward led top-ranked Connecticut to its fourth straight national championship game Sunday night, scoring 21 points as the Huskies rolled to an 80-51 win over Oregon State at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Connecticut (37-0) will go for its fourth consecutive national championship and 11th overall against the winner of Sunday night’s Syracuse-Washington semifinal at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The Beavers did everything right in the first half against Breanna Stewart, who on Saturday won her third straight Associated Press Player of the Year award. She finished with 16 points, shooting 7-for-10, and eight rebounds, but in the first two quarters, the 6-4 forward had two points and three rebounds in 18 minutes.
But Tuck, who scored 24 points against Maryland in an NCAA semifinal last year, filled the void more than capably. In a span of 3:18 early in the game, she scored 10 straight points on a jumper, a three-pointer, a driving layup that led to a three-point play and another layup. That helped the Huskies open a 15-6 lead, and Oregon State (32-5) never threatened after that.
Jamie Weisner’s three-pointer made it 32-24 with 5:34 left in the half, but UConn closed it on a 15-2 run for a 47-26 lead.
“It was hard not to be impressed by the things that Morgan Tuck did in that first half,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “That’s what stood out the most, it seemed like. But in reality, that was a team performance in that first half. Usually, when we run out to a 20-something lead, Stewie had a bunch. But that didn’t happen. That first half really set us up well for the second half. Everybody contributed and they felt great coming into the second half.”
The 29-point margin was a semifinal record and second best in Final Four history.
“With a team like that, you’ve got to kind of pick your poison,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. “If I went back and looked at the shots that they took, there are probably only four of them that I didn’t like. They made them.”
The Huskies shot 57 percent from the floor and 53 percent on three-pointers (9-for-17).
In the first half, Tuck — who entered averaging 13.3 points — had 16 points and shot 3-for-7 from outside the arc, where she repeatedly was left open. She finished with a career-high four three-pointers and was one point from tying her season high.
“It’s kind of weird being that wide open, because you’re not used to it,” Tuck said.
Moriah Jefferson added 10 points and seven assists for Connecticut.
Sydney Wiese had 13 points and Ruth Hamblin added 10 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots for Oregon State. Weisner had nine points but shot only 4-for-15.
Up next for the Huskies: a chance to add to their historic run. They’re 10-0 in title games.
Said Stewart, “We’re in the exact position we want to be in.”