Connecticut guard Moriah Jefferson, left, sprints down court against Kentucky guard Bria Goss (13) in the first half of a women's NCAA regional final basketball game in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday, April 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
If games were 15 minutes instead of 40, Monday's Elite 8 matchup against Kentucky could have very well ended in defeat for the Huskies. Instead, they weathered the Wildcats' full-court press and up-tempo offense to go on a 26-3 run over the final nine minutes of the first half to take a 48-26 lead.
By the time it was over, UConn skated to a 83-53 victory and advance to its sixth-straight Final Four. We'll know Tuesday night whether the Huskies will face Notre Dame or Duke in New Orleans.
UConn's previous two seasons ended in the Final Four at the hands of the Fighting Irish, which also happens to be the same team that beat the Huskies three times in 2013 and have been winners in seven of the previous eight matchups. This is all a long-winded way of saying: there are very few programs in the country that have owned UConn like the Irish have. But should these two programs clash one more time before Notre Dame relocates to the ACC, UConn will be ready.
Freshman Breanna Stewart, who got off to a hot start before hitting a rough patch during the middle of the season, now looks every bit like the former high school player of the year. Stewart scored 21 points against Kentucky and led the team with three blocks. Then there's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who preceded Stewart as the national player of the year. She is UConn's best shooter, the behind-the arc equalizer for when opponents go to zone defenses to slow Stewart and Stefanie Dolson.
But perhaps the player that has come on most of late is freshman point guard Moriah Jefferson. Kentucky, like Notre Dame, likes to pressure the ball, something that Caroline Doty and Bria Hartley struggled with at times this season. The smaller, quicker Jefferson had no such trouble, dribbling her way out of trouble and to the basket. A sure-handed point guard was the missing piece to UConn's championship puzzle, and coach Geno Auriemma may have found one in Jefferson.
She's still a freshman, and prone to freshman mistakes, but athleticism can sometimes overcome inexperience. And whomever the Huskies face -- either Notre Dame or Duke -- Jefferson will be integral to their success.