Morgan Tuck is player of the week

Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.

Saturday's Connecticut-Notre Dame matchup in South Bend was the biggest of the weekend. The renewal of the rivalry very likely was the most noteworthy and most important game of the nonconference season.

Arguably the country's two best teams were featured and the game's top three players were involved. Surprisingly, each one -- UConn's Breanna Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd -- was outshined by someone who doesn't show up on any list. UConn's Morgan Tuck emerged from the shadows and helped the Huskies dominate the final 30 minutes, producing a 76-58 Huskies win.

On the heels of her 25-point, nine-rebound effort in the Saturday showcase that no one saw coming, Tuck is the espnW national player of the week.

Notre Dame, paced by Loyd's 31 points, led 28-18 midway through the first half. That's when Tuck's scoring and Kiah Stokes' rebounding (18 for the game) keyed a 22-4 run that turned around the game. Tuck's 25 points were easily a career high for the redshirt sophomore who has battled knee issues since her arrival in Storrs.

Tuck drove to the rim and posted up more aggressively than she ever has as a collegian and impacted the game the way her better-known teammates usually do. In fact, at times the offense actually flowed through the 6-foot-2 forward, who was making just her seventh career start. That might not have been the game plan, but it was exactly what the Huskies needed with Mosqueda-Lewis attempting just nine shots and Stewart hitting only 3-of-12 field goals. Tuck, who has started the past five games and reached double figures in all but one game this season, was also able to sprinkle in three assists, two blocks and two steals.

Tuck, who made it through her freshman season on bad knees, played only eight games before microfracture surgery ended her 2013-14 season. So the prospect of a healthy Tuck being this kind of threat on a regular basis exponentially increases UConn's chances of winning a third straight national championship. Geno Auremmia might now have a confident fourth option after Stewart, Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson, and not just an inconsistent role player.

The Huskies showed vulnerability in an early-season loss to Stanford when the Cardinal dared anyone other than Stewart to beat them and no one stepped forward. Tuck took that giant step on Saturday.

Also nominated: Nina Davis, Baylor; Olivia Jones, Middle Tennessee; Betnijah Laney, Rutgers

Previous players of the week: Nov. 24: Stanford's Lili Thompson | Dec. 1: Chattanooga's Gilbert