BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Coming into this game, the discourse centered on UConn's dominance. Texas questioned that right away. Imani Boyette's presence in the lane proved to be disruptive early, even as she did little on the offensive end. Just by being on the floor, she demanded UConn's defensive attention, which allowed for the Longhorn guards to wreak havoc from beyond the arc.
Though Texas finished the first half just 3-of-9 from 3-point range, those three shots came in quick succession, which coupled with a strong performance from Ariel Atkins, kept them in the game early.
UConn is UConn, though, and by the end of the first half, the lead ballooned to 15. Despite the best efforts of the Longhorns in the second half, Connecticut kept the lead hovering around 20 points for the remainder of the game before settling on the 86-65 final.
It did not particularly feel like it, but the Huskies shot well from the floor, making 56.4 percent. Breanna Stewart capped her night by passing Brittney Griner on the all-time scoring list for the NCAA tournament, netting 21 points.
For its part, Texas certainly showed some moxie, while also exposing a couple of UConn's vulnerabilities. Teams can get plenty of 3-point shots off against the Huskies, and if a team is able to consistently hit that shot -- like Texas was able to in stretches -- it could give Connecticut problems.
The bottom line: Texas made Connecticut sweat for the first time this tournament in a significant way. The Longhorns hung with the Huskies and pushed them to execute. But as much as the Longhorns did right, it wasn't enough to unseat the defending champions.
Player of the game: Moriah Jefferson does a lot that never ends up in the stat sheet, and this game was no different. She has had better offensive performances, but Monday night, she showed grit in leading the Huskies through hustle, will and old-fashioned determination. She made good decisions all night, and her eight assists created circumstances for her teammates to score.
How it was won: The Huskies made a lot of the hustle plays for which they don't often get credit. They hustled after the ball, dove on the floor, crashed the boards and otherwise played hard. Yes, they knocked down shots when it counted, but it was the scrappy defense and off-the-ball play that created the circumstances for a patented run late in the first half.
Turning point: With 5:54 left in the second quarter, the Connecticut defense clamped down to force a shot clock violation. What followed was a string of defensive stops and a 3-pointer by Stewart, which carried the Huskies into the TV timeout. In the latter part of the second quarter, Connecticut turned it on to head into halftime with a 15-point lead. The shot clock violation changed the energy in the first half.
X-factor: The crowd cannot be overstated. This game was played just down the road from Storrs. The crowd at Webster Bank Arena undoubtedly skewed blue. Though there were some enthusiastic Longhorns fans in the mix, this crowd clearly loved its Huskies. The roar was deafening as the run started in the second quarter. That is hard to play through as an opposing team.
Stat of the day: Stewart missed five shots in the first half. She missed 13 shots in the first three games of the tournament combined.
What's next: The Huskies face the winner of the matchup between No 1. Baylor and No. 2 Oregon State. This marks UConn's ninth consecutive trip to the Final Four and the 17th in program history.