Tampa, FL -- In the first semifinal of the 2015 NCAA Final Four, Notre Dame won despite going more than 7 minutes without scoring prior to the game-winning basket. In the second semifinal, UConn had no such problems, as the Huskies beat Maryland 81-58.
UConn has an abundance of talented players, and it is easy to point to the talent to explain their success. Beyond talent, however, the Huskies have talented players who can shoot, and they move the ball to find open shots for these shooters.
Whereas, South Carolina forced Notre Dame to take a number of tough shots, especially nearly all of Jewel Loyd's shots, and Notre Dame made things equally difficult on USC. UConn seemed to find open shots nearly every time down the court and shot 53.7% for the game.
UConn puts so much pressure on an opponent's defense because of its shooting. Its starting five features five three-point shooting threats. The Huskies made 8 three-pointers and shot 36.4% from the three-point line in a game where the NCAA all-time leader in three-point shots made, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (KML), shot 1 of 5 three-point shots. While KML struggled, the Huskies starting posts, Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart, made 2-for-4 and 2-for-6 respectively.
In addition to the three-point shooting, the threat of the three-pointer leads to wide open layups for UConn. In the 1st Half, UConn ran a simple X play run by numerous high school teams. KML passed to Stewart in the high post and cut toward the right block. Kiah Stokes set a down screen for KML who cut toward the three-point line. Both defenders went with KML, leaving Stokes to slip to the basket for an open layup.
Later, Stewart set an on-ball screen for Moriah Jefferson and received a flare screen from Tuck. Both defenders went with Stewart because of the threat of her shooting, and Tuck dove to the basket wide open. This is the problem that UConn presents: For the majority of the game, it has five shooters, whereas most of its competitors hope to have two or three shooters.
UConn is talented and well-prepared for each game. Their defense is phenomenal. They pressure the ball, and manage not to commit too many fouls, which keeps their opponents off the free-throw line: Maryland attempted only 6 free throws.
However, it is their shooting, and the threat of their shooting, that differentiates UConn from its opponents. Their shooting puts pressure on the opponent's defense, and they rarely have long stretches without scoring, which puts pressure on their opponent's offense to keep pace.