Morgan Tuck steps up, leads UConn to title game

Connecticut cruises to title game (1:33)

Breanna Stewart only scores two points in the first half, but it does not matter as Morgan Tuck scores 21 to help Connecticut past Oregon State 80-51 to earn a spot in the NCAA women's title game. (1:33)

INDIANAPOLIS -- If we're running out of superlatives for UConn's women's basketball program -- and we are, of course -- that's just fine with Morgan Tuck. She seems to prefer that the spectacular things her Huskies are doing are pretty much considered ordinary. No need to make a big, ol' fuss about being in the championship game. Again.

In UConn's 80-51 destruction of Oregon State in the national semifinals Sunday, Tuck had 21 points, three rebounds and three assists. She made 8 of 13 shots, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range. The four treys, by the way, was her career high. She guarded players as diverse as 6-foot-6 center Ruth Hamblin and 5-10 guard Jamie Weisner.

So here we go: UConn has advanced to an 11th NCAA final, and the Huskies are 10-0 in the previous trips to the title game. They are going for their fourth consecutive national championship, have won 74 games in a row, and even with what passed for "adversity" on Sunday, they were unstoppable.

The tough things the Huskies dealt with were Breanna Stewart having a slow first half, with just two points, and Katie Lou Samuelson suffering a broken bone in her foot. But with the way Tuck played, there was nothing to worry about.

Tuck is to "unflappable" what IHOP is to flapjacks. Whatever tiny percent of a chance there was that the Huskies might have a slow start, that tiny percent shriveled up and died in Tuck's eyes at tipoff.

"We have to make sure we don't underestimate a team," Tuck said of her readiness for Oregon State, which came in holding teams to 51.2 points and 31.7 percent shooting, numbers that blew up against UConn. "You have to come out and try to punch them first."

OK, obviously not literally, yet the way the Huskies hit teams with their relentlessness on offense (they shot 56.7 percent from the field) and defense (they held the Beavers to 33.3 percent), playing them feels like getting punched. Like going 15 rounds with no 10-second count, even when you're practically out cold. You just have to get back up and keep taking it.

That's what the Beavers, appearing in their first Women's Final Four, went through against UConn, playing in this event for the 17th time. Tuck has been around for four of those, but she's so mature in word and deed, it can seem like she's someone far older who just happens to still be playing in college.

"When I first met her, I called her 'Grandma,'" said guard Moriah Jefferson, who had her own big night with 10 points and seven assists, putting her ahead of Diana Taurasi as UConn's all-time assists leader with 654. "But I got around her a little bit more, and she's crazy. She's always doing fun things."

Uh, yeah, that would be the Tuck that her teammates, coaches, friends and family see. But when she puts on the uniform, or even her practice jersey, it's as though she's donning a business suit. Don't go looking for any fun, crazy stuff then. She's all about closing the deal every time she takes the court.

"She loves the big stage," teammate Kia Nurse said of Tuck, and there's no denying that. But even when there's no stage, when it's Tuck at a shoot-around in January against a team everyone knows the Huskies will beat by 50, she's got a commitment to doing things right.

"Tuck was mature beyond her years when she came here," UConn assistant coach Chris Dailey said. "She knows the game, she understands how to play. Because of that, we were able to count on her from a basketball standpoint, knowing that she would be solid. She's able to help other people get where they need to be; she understands everything you're talking about. She's always been like that."

And in a program that has established a mentality of older players setting the standard for younger players, Tuck is the gold standard. She is able to instruct and give advice to her teammates in a way that they appreciate.

"What is super-special about Morgan, if she asks you to do something, she's already done it and showed you," Nurse said. "She's a leader by her actions and her words."

When it was all said and done Sunday, Stewart had still had a good game -- 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds -- and the UConn bench had done its job, too.

Yet the game that Tuck played, even in that Husky-blue sea of excellence, stood out. Oregon State knew it had to give up something to even attempt to guard UConn, and what the Beavers surrendered was Tuck being open on the outside. As powerful a player as the 6-foot-2 Tuck can be in the paint, she also can hurt teams from behind the arc.

"Going into today's game, I wasn't thinking about how Tuck has been shooting the ball," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I just know when we play big games, they go in."

Add that to what she does on defense, and you have a player even Auriemma struggles to criticize. Tuck just does so much right.

"Morgan's versatility has been the thing that has separated our team the last two years, especially," Dailey said. "Because with that, you add in Stewie's versatility, too. I call them post players, but whatever you want to call them, that creates a lot of mismatch issues for other teams, and it gives us a lot of flexibility.

"Morgan's not our fastest or most athletic. She can't really jump. But she understands position, and she's willing to sacrifice her body. Her understanding of how to do things, where to be and how to get there gives her an edge."

Tuck had to sit out most of the 2013-14 season after knee surgery, and she got a medical redshirt. So she has another season of eligibility. Back in December, it appeared Tuck might stay around for a "drive for five" and try to win another championship with UConn.

"My plan is to stay, definitely," Tuck said in early December. "I know basketball isn't going to last forever, and I could get my master's in a year by being on scholarship. And that's looking really appealing. It allows me to be in that leadership role for another year, and get my game where I really want it to be."

However, the wear and tear on her knees, which caused her to miss four games at the end of January, seems to have convinced her that it's time to go pro now. She went through senior-day ceremonies at UConn and while she hasn't said officially she is leaving, it seems rather certain.

And if that's the case, she is poised to go out at her most Morgan Tuck-ish. Asked how she played, Tuck said, "I think I did well."

Then, she offered the qualifiers, as expected.

"I definitely can do better," she said. "I can rebound better. I didn't get many of those."

Save something for Tuesday, Morgan.