UConn pummels Syracuse, wins fourth straight women’s title

Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) looks on from the court. (Photo Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)

Connecticut Huskies forward Breanna Stewart (30) looks on from the court. (Photo Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS–UConn won its fourth straight national title on Tuesday night, defeating Syracuse 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Only the UCLA men’s team had won four in a row in Division I, winning seven consecutive championships under John Wooden from 1967-73. With the Huskies victory, Geno Auriemma passed Wooden, winning his 11th national title.

Breanna Stewart scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Morgan Tuck had 19 points and Moriah Jefferson added 13.

“It was the perfect ending,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure what word you can use to describe it. We had a goal coming in as freshmen, and now as seniors we did that. We did what we wanted to do. And it was a lot of fun.”

Cornelia Fondren scored 16 points for the Orange. Brittney Sykes had 12 points and Alexia Peterson added 11.

“Not shocked by how good they are, not shocked by the things they did in the game. We were definitely prepared for it,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. “One of the things I told our kids is you have no reason to be scared when you’re prepared and we competed. We didn’t play scared.”

UConn finished the season at 38-0, the sixth unbeaten season in program history, and extended its winning streak to 75 games.

“It’s unbelievable,” Stewart said. “That was our goal coming in here once we were freshman and to carry it out and win like this as seniors is unbelievable.”

The Huskies dominated the Orange from the start. UConn began the game with a 9-0 run. Stewart had 10 points in the first six minutes and the Huskies built a 23-6 lead.

Every time Syracuse chipped away at the lead, UConn had a response. When the Orange to cut their deficit to 25-13, Jefferson hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to end the first-quarter.

Syracuse trailed 50-23 at the half but a 16-0 run to pull within 60-43 with 2:02 remaining in the third quarter sparked some life back into the Orange. However, the Huskies’ dominance was too much.

Back-to-back layups by Napheesa Collier put UConn back in front by 20 points.

The Connecticut Huskies players pose for a photo with their trophy after defeating the Syracuse Orange 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Photo Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

The Connecticut Huskies players pose for a photo with their trophy after defeating the Syracuse Orange 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Photo Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

“It’s tough being my last year playing, but we fought hard and did what a lot of people said we couldn’t do by making it to the Final Four and making program history, not just us but our men’s team too and we are just happy to have been here,” Syracuse guard Brianna Butler said.

The Orange forced 19 turnover, tying Memphis for the most forced turnovers against the Huskies this season.

UConn outrebounded Syracuse 43-27 and the Huskies dominate the Orange in the paint.

Syracuse shot 35.5 percent from the floor and made 2-of-19 from 3-point range.

The Huskies shot 51.9 percent from the field and connected on 6-of-19 from beyond the arc.

Stewart, Jefferson and Tuck have been with UConn for its four consecutive championships. The three checked out of the game with 1:46 left, hugging Auriemma one final time as they came off the court.

“There’s no such thing as a program without the people in it,” Auriemma said. “So during their four years here, they are the program in some ways, as the older players were before them that they played with. So without them, there is no opportunity to do stuff like this. It just wouldn’t happen.

“And now for me personally what they’ve meant is, you know, they’ve taught me a lot about trust. Like it’s hard to trust players in today’s day and age. It’s hard to trust people. And I’m a trusting guy. I trust everybody until the time when they can’t be trusted. But these three really taught me about — it’s almost like they never said it. We never had a team meeting or individual meeting they came up and said: Trust me, Coach. No. But they made me just trust them. So I had a tremendous amount of — there was no anxiety on my part that they wouldn’t live up to the expectations. They’ve taught me a lot in these last two years especially.”

The Orange won 99 games in four years, the most by any class in program history.

Butler made 18 3s during the NCAA tournament, which tied for fifth in NCAA history.

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