Indianapolis, IN -- The University of Connecticut Huskies bared their teeth and mauled the Oregon State University Beavers in their first-ever Final Four appearance.
Sure, the Beavers put together a record season in terms of wins with 32 and made a good enough run in the NCAA tournament to earn the school's historic semifinal berth. However, even with the mounting accomplishments, the developing program couldn't hold off the UConn.
Experience can focus a team, and that was certainly the case for the Huskies as they completely overpowered the Beavers from the opening tip and rolled to an eventual 80-51 win at Banker's Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana on Sunday night.
"Everything that's on the stat sheet," University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma said. "Everything that played out in the game is exactly what these players have been doing for the last five, six months."
Jumping out on a 5-0 run, UConn (37-0) took control early and paced a comfortable margin of victory. The Beavers (32-4) fought to get back in the game, cutting within three points, but the game spiraled out of reach over what remained in the first period.
The Huskies posted a 10-0 run over four minutes that created a 14-point cushion. Morgan Tuck hit two three's during the spurt and finished the period with 13 points to lead the advance.
" Well, I mean, it's hard to not be impressed by the things that Morgan Tuck did in that first-half run that we had," Auriemma said. "That's what stood out the most; it seemed like, you know? But in reality, we talked about it after the game, that was a team performance that first half. Usually if we run out to a 20-something-point lead, a big deal of that is because Stewy got a bunch. And that didn't happen in the first half."
Oregon State cut the score within double-digits for the last time as Sydney Wiese drew a foul at the buzzer and was sent to the charity stripe. Her perfect 3-for-3 effort cut the quarter score to 26-17; however, from there OSU's deficit only grew.
By halftime, UConn carried a 19-point advantage, leading 47-26, behind Tuck (16 points), Moriah Jefferson (eight points), Katie Lou Samuelson (seven points) and a smothering defensive attack.
Although it looked like the Huskies' aggression might hurt them as Breanna Stewart got called for her second foul with 7:55 remaining in the first period, it paid off in dividends. Stewart was left in the game, didn't commit another foul before halftime and UConn's defense dominated the Beavers.
"It was really tricky because you want to stay, and you want to be aggressive, but you have to be smart and still be aggressive," Stewart said. "It was tough, but I'm proud of myself."
Holding OSU to 9-of-25 over the first 20 minutes, the Huskies took nine more shots and made 20-of-34 attempts. With 71.4 percent efficiency in the first period and 50 percent in the second, they shot even better than their 52.8 season average with a 58.8 shooting percentage at halftime.
UConn's defensive presence also forced six turnovers in the first period for a nine-point gain and seven in the second period for six more. Meanwhile, it only committed four total before the intermission, which allowed OSU three points off of turnovers.
The last component of the Huskies' defense was locking down the paint. They gave up only 10 points inside, while scoring 22 at the other end.
The trends that began before halftime only became more pronounced as the UConn's lead became even more gaudy.
The Huskies pushed ahead by as many as 34 points. They outscored OSU 32-22 on points in the paint and 21-8 on points off turnovers. They also managed to maintain a 56.7 percent efficiency, making 34-of-60 attempts from the field; while the Beavers shot 33.3 percent on an 18-of-54 performance.
"Hats off to UConn," Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. "They played a phenomenal game tonight. I thought they obviously shot the ball extremely well. With a team like that, you've got to kind of pick your poison. And that team made us pay, no matter what we did. And that's why they are who they are.
"You know, offensively they really made us work and kept us off balance. And credit them."
Tuck ended the contest as the high scorer with 21 points, while Stewart came alive in the second half to finish the game with 16 points. Jefferson also reached double figures with 10 points.
Overall, the Huskies put together a well-balanced effort.
"I think it shows how good our team is and that Stewy is the best player in the country, but she has a great supporting cast, and we're able to step up and make plays," Tuck said. "And even when our subs are coming off the bench, they're contributing right away."
The Beavers were led by Wiese with 13 points and Ruth Hamblin with a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double. Their dominant scorer, Jamie Weisner, was held to nine points.
"They can hit from everywhere," Weisner said. "People come in off the bench, and there's no lag. They expose every weakness and make you pay for it, force you into things you don't want to do. And then offensively, I mean, they have weapons everywhere, every position."