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UConn goes 38-0, captures 4th straight National Championship

The University of Connecticut topped Syracuse, 82-51, to claim the program's 11th championship.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis, IN -- It didn't matter, which team won, one of them was going to make history.

The bigger, stronger, faster and more fundamentally sound team got it done. The University of Connecticut extended its reign over NCAA women's basketball to a fourth consecutive season.

"It's unbelievable," Breanna Stewart said. "That was our goal coming in here when we were freshmen and to carry it out like this as senior is unbelievable."

In its 11th trip to the show, the Huskies bullied their way to an 82-51 championship victory over the Syracuse University Orange at Banker's Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

The Huskies entered the contest on a mission, focused on narrating their own story and etching their spot in history.

"It's just so improbable what they did," said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. "Obviously, it's never been done before, and they're just unique individuals. They each have their own characteristics. They're individuals, but I've never met a group so willing to share - share the limelight, share the ball, share all the attention that comes their way - and all year long, they've been unbelievable.

"There has not been one day when I had any doubt, whatsoever, that they would be here at this moment doing what they did."

The first quarter unfolded in similar fashion to the rest of UConn's conquests this season. Jumping out on a 9-0 run, the Huskies made a quick statement.

The Orange struggled to fight back into the game, being held scoreless until halfway through the period when Brittany Sykes finally put them on the board. They came within seven points at 13-6; however, UConn posted a 10-0 run to stretch their lead to 23-6 and create a 17-point separation with 2:20 remaining in the first period.

Over the first 10 minutes, UConn outrebounded Syracuse 18-5 as the Orange shot 4-of-16 from the field.

The Orange cut their deficit to 15 before the second stanza, but endured an equally brutal second quarter before halftime. At the break, they went into the locker room 27 points under as the Huskies held a comfortable 50-23 edge.

Stewart (14 points), Morgan Tuck (13 points) and Moriah Jefferson (11 points) all entered the intermission in double figures; while Cornelia Fondren led Syracuse in scoring, coming off the bench for six points.

With a significant separation before the second half even started, the game began to feel out of reach for Syracuse. UConn had yet to be challenged offensively, knocking down 16-of-31 shot attempts in the first half.

However, the Orange implemented a full-court press in the third period that generated an eventual 16-0 run to put themselves within 17 points with 2:02 remaining.

"I always told my kids we're a great basketball team, and you're great players," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. "I don't lie to them. They're a great basketball team and great players. I told them we're never going to be the victim. Don't ever be the victim. Because victims lay down."

UConn's advantage was daunting, but momentum shifted to Syracuse briefly. For just a moment, the Huskies lost some of their untouchable magic as the Orange fought.

Struggling to inbound the ball, Stewart called a timeout on UConn's behalf. Following the 30-second break, it was back to business for the Huskies. Napheesa Collier hit back-to-back shots to end their drought and stall the Orange.

From there, UConn cruised to its fourth consecutive championship without missing a beat. Its three seniors led the team in scoring as Stewart totaled 24 points, Tuck added 19 and Jefferson finished with 13. Its other starters Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams both finished with nine points apiece.

The Orange were led by Fondren with 16 points as she put together another solid performance, entering the game from the reserves. Sykes and Alexis Peterson also finished in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

"I think people see that we are a good team," Fondren said. "All year people didn't know if we were going to be a good team and now they have respect for us. When you come to a program, you want to change the program, and I think that is what our class has done and so has the junior class.

"These four years have been tough, but it was definitely worth it. I don't regret it, and I wouldn't change it."

While the Orange will be remembered as one of the best teams in school history in their first appearance in the NCAA National Championship game, the Huskies will go down as one of the greatest dynasties in college athletics history.

"That's very special," Tuck said. "Some of the best players to ever play the women's game came to UConn, and we have the best coach ever.  The other players paved the way and do so much for us, and it's great that we can be part of a great legacy."

Stewart also made history on an individual level as the only four-time most outstanding player on the all-tournament team.