When push came to shove, UConn was willing to do both
When it became clear that the veteran officiating crew was going to let much of the physical stuff go, the UConn players simply looked at each other and said "game on."
"There was a lot of physicality at the beginning of the game and after that first time out, obviously we knew it was going to be an extremely physical game," UConn sophomore guard Kia Nurse said. "We knew they were going to come out and give us their best shot so for us, it was a matter of us playing to how the game was being called, the physicality of (Duquesne) and enforcing our own will on them."
In the early stages Morgan Tuck was the only UConn player doing that but once Breanna Stewart starting rolling, it was time to turn out the lights.
"A lot of teams aren't as physical but when we see that teams are being physical, I think that is when we raise our physicality," Tuck said. "I think it took us that first quarter to get used to that."
That one stretch where Stewart blocked three shots in a span of 14 seconds early in the second quarter set the tone as did the aggressive manner in which Stewart grabbed many of her career high tying 16 rebounds.
"That was a huge possession for us," Stewart said.
The way Stewart, Tuck, Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier were going after rebounds, it was more likely that they would be called for a foul due to the swinging of a wayward elbow than being tied up by a Duquesne player while going after a rebound.
"Any team down the stretch, you know they are going to be physical and especially with me, they are going to do whatever they can to make me feel uncomfortable," Stewart said. "Part of it is realizing 'OK, that is how they are going to play, just flip the switch and get into that mode.'"
I did some checking and this was the third time that three UConn players had 20 points in the same NCAA tournament game. The first game came in 2009 against Florida when Renee Montgomery had 25 points while Tina Charles and Maya Moore had 22 points each. The other game happened so long ago, it is no wonder it slipped my mind as it came in last year's Elite Eight game against Dayton when Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 27 points while Tuck and Stewart contributed 23 each.
Next up for UConn is Mississippi State at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at Webster Bank Arena followed by the UCLA/Texas game. The winners will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.