Stewart leads No. 1 UConn to a 91-81 win over No. 3 Irish
STORRS, CONN. >> Morgan Tuck has been a big part of UConn's success the past few seasons.
She had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to help the No. 1 Huskies beat third-ranked Notre Dame 91-81 on Saturday night in the Jimmy V Classic.
"Morgan's just somebody we can count on every day, every night," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She's nothing flashy, nothing spectacular, just does all the little things that help you win games. That's the best way to describe Morgan. It's been like that since her first year here. Not great anything, but good at everything and she's really good at winning games."
This was the latest chapter in the top rivalry in women's basketball. These two teams have played for the national championship or in the Final Four in the past five seasons, including last season's title game that Connecticut won.
"It's Notre Dame, anytime we play them we always want to play our best," said Breanna Stewart, who led UConn with 28 points. "Even when we were coming out in warmups you could tell how excited the student section was, you could tell this would be a big game."
The Huskies (6-0) have won 43 consecutive games.
For the second straight game, the Huskies only held a one-possession lead at the half. They led 58-54 midway through the third quarter before Tuck started a 20-2 run over the next 7 minutes. She had eight points during the spurt.
The lead grew to 78-56 early in the fourth quarter before Notre Dame scored 13 of the next 15 points to close within 11 with 4:46 left, but couldn't get much closer.
Freshman Marina Mabrey scored a career-best 23 to lead Notre Dame (7-1).
"I'm proud of the way we battled," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "Marina was outstanding in the first half. I thought we lost the game in the third quarter. So many little things we can't afford to make those kinds of mistakes. The margin of error for us with this team right now is very small. Twenty turnovers I thought that was the difference in the game."
UConn had won its first five games by an average of 38 points. Despite missing Brianna Turner and Taya Reimer with injuries, the Irish were able to hang around.
Without its two posts, UConn made a conscious effort to go inside. The Huskies' first 10 points came in the paint as they jumped out to a 10-2 lead. They extended their lead to 10 on a spectacular tip-in by Stewart off a miss where she was fouled. The senior star converted the free throw to make it 20-10.
Then sisters Marina and Michaela Mabrey rallied the Irish. They scored 17 of the team's next 20 points to get Notre Dame to 31-30. A layup with 5:15 left in the second quarter by Kristina Nelson gave the Irish their first lead of the game. The two teams traded baskets over the rest of the half as Madison Cable scored nine straight points for Notre Dame. UConn led 45-43 at the break.
Marina Mabrey finished the half with 21 points.
"We got down 10-2 and then regrouped," McGraw said. "That was good, proud of the effort as it showed a lot of character, lot of perseverance."
Notre Dame: The Irish shot a blistering 65 percent (13 for 20) from behind the arc. ... McGraw celebrated her 60th birthday and Auriemma gave her a small gift before the game. Notre Dame is 5-3 when playing on her birthday.
UConn: The Huskies have won 26 of their last 34 games against teams ranked in the top five. Six of the eight losses have come against Notre Dame, including the last two in 2013. ... This is the fifth straight year that UConn has played in the Jimmy V game, which honors the former N.C. State coach who died of cancer in 1993.
INJURY BUG: Turner's missed the past four games after injuring her right shoulder in practice last week. She will be out at least a couple of weeks as she tries to avoid season-ending surgery through rehab. Turner was on the bench with her arm in a sling. The Irish also were missing Reimer, who has been dealing with a sore Achilles. She's day-to-day, but didn't travel with the team to Connecticut.
This was the 19th meeting between the schools since Jan. 16, 2010. UConn has won 12 of them, but the Irish won seven of eight in the series from 2011-2013. After taking a year off when the Irish left the Big East, the two teams played in last season's Jimmy V Classic as well as the national championship game.
Notre Dame: vs No. 23 DePaul on Wednesday night.
UConn: at Colgate on Wednesday night.
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