SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After a rare early season loss, Geno Auriemma knew his team needed other players to step up offensively for UConn to reach its potential.
Facing rival Notre Dame, the Hall of Fame coach got it from Morgan Tuck and Kiah Stokes.
Tuck scored a career-high 25 points and Stokes added 18 rebounds to help No. 3 UConn beat second-ranked Notre Dame 76-58 on Saturday in the Jimmy V Classic.
“We played well today, we won in a place that’s hard to win against a team that’s really hard to beat,” Auriemma said. “Our players feel really good about that.”
In the loss to Stanford a few weeks ago, All-America star Breanna Stewart got little help on offense.
“I think the most significant outcome is people stepped up since the Stanford game, Kiah and Morgan’s performance. They are capable of doing this every single night,” said Stewart, who had 15 points and nine rebounds. “That’s what we need as a team and we’ll use that going forward.”
This was the first meeting since the two teams played last April in the national championship game, the Huskies came away with a 79-58 victory.
Both teams were unbeaten at that point setting up the first matchup of undefeated teams in NCAA championship history.
Tuck didn’t play in that game as she was recovering from microfracture surgery in her right knee last January. She made her presence felt Saturday.
UConn (6-1) trailed 28-18 midway through the first half before Tuck and Stokes took over, keying a 22-4 run over the next 10 minutes and giving the Huskies control of the game.
Jewell Loyd scored 31 points to lead Notre Dame (8-1), which had won its first eight by an average of 43 points.
Loyd got the Irish going early, hitting her first five shots to give Notre Dame a 28-18 lead on a 3-pointer with 10:13 left in the first half. Then UConn took over.
After a timeout by Auriemma, the Huskies scored the next 16 points quieting the sellout crowd.
“Great coaching,” Auriemma said laughing. “It was a timeout of this is what we said we were going to do. Let’s go back and say what we were going to do and we outscored them by 30 from that point on. That’s pretty good.”
Stokes was a huge part of the surge. The senior had 12 rebounds in the first half and helped the Huskies to a 52-34 edge on the boards.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ layup with 4:15 left in the half made it 34-28. After Taya Reimer’s basket ended a 6-plus minute drought for the Irish and cut it to four, the Huskies closed the half scoring six of the final eight to make it 40-32.
It didn’t get much better in the second half for the Irish. Tuck scored six points during a 10-2 run to open the second half.
Loyd tried to keep the Irish in it. She caught an acrobatic alley-oop and was fouled to get Notre Dame within 14, but she had little help. The rest of the Irish starters combined for 20.
“I thought Jewell was the best player on the court,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We didn’t give her any help at all.”
This was the 17th meeting between the schools since Jan. 16, 2010. UConn has won 10 of them, but the Irish won seven of eight in the series from 2011-2013. The two former Big East rivals didn’t meet during the regular season last year after Notre Dame left for the ACC. The two teams will play again next year in the Jimmy V Classic in Connecticut.
Notre Dame: The loss snapped a 34-game home winning streak for the Irish. It was the longest active streak in the country. The last defeat at home came against Brittney Griner and Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012. Saturday’s loss also snapped a 66-game regular-season winning streak for the Irish dating back to that same game.
UConn: Stokes’ brother Darius was in the crowd along with the rest of her family sitting right behind the UConn bench. He plays for Fairleigh Dickinson, which was playing the Irish’s men’s team Saturday night.
UConn: hosts No. 25 DePaul in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Dec. 19.
Notre Dame: visits DePaul on Wednesday.
The V Foundation and ESPN announced a $100,000 grant to fund pediatric brain cancer research in honor of Lauren Hill. Hill, the Mount St. Joseph University women’s basketball player, has shared her fight against cancer and inspired a national audience when scoring the first and last baskets of her team’s season-opening win.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press