March 18, 2016

(AP) - UConn's recruiting class in 2012 came to Storrs with very high expectations.

The trio of Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson already have exceeded most of those and on Saturday began the NCAA Tournament against Robert Morris hoping do something no other college players have ever done - play on four straight national championship teams.

UCLA's men won seven straight from 1967 to 1973, but back then, freshmen could not play.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma jokes that when the trio first arrived on campus, he wasn't sure they should play as freshmen either.

He said Stewart had unbelievable talent but was often lackadaisical because things were too easy for her, Jefferson had no grasp of running an offense and Tuck was the best of the three in practice but that didn't always translate to games.

Little by little, he said, they began to jell.

''Obviously they got close,'' Auriemma said. ''Each and every one of them got a little bit better and they started to kind of read each other, play off each other, encourage each other and they just have this tremendous self-confidence right now in themselves and in each other as a group.''

Their numbers have been unmatched. They have combined for 5,194 points, 2,015 rebounds, 1,283 assists, 633 steals and 228 blocked shots.

They have lost five times in four years and have won 69 straight games, all by double digits. They also have won 18 in a row in the NCAA Tournament. If they go on to win a fourth straight national championship, they will break the record for wins by any single class at any Division I women's program with 151. Maya Moore's UConn class, which graduated in 2011, had 150 wins.

''To come in with those two guys and do what we've done is amazing,'' Jefferson said. ''We just want to keep it going on Saturday and every game after that.''

It helps, Stewart said, that Tuck and Jefferson have never been jealous over the attention she has received as a two-time national player of the year.

They would like to go out together on top, but there is a caveat.

Tuck could win a fifth title. She was granted an extra year of eligibility after missing all but eight games during her sophomore season with a knee injury. But, she's also projected to be a top five pick in the WNBA draft. She has said she will make a decision on whether to turn pro when the season ends.

''The three of us came here for a reason,'' Stewart said. ''We could have gone to some other school. But we came here because we wanted to become great and we wanted to win and to win national championships.''

First up for the Huskies (32-0), who have been a No. 1 seed for 10 straight years, is 16th-seeded Robert Morris (20-12). The Colonials won the Northeast Conference championship game to earn their second NCAA bid in three seasons.

Coach Sal Buscaglia will have one last chance to get a first NCAA Tournament victory. He announced before the season that he would be retiring when the year was over. Buscaglia has spent 38 years on the bench, including the last 13 at Robert Morris.

He's won 706 games at four schools and has 437 Division I victories but is winless in four NCAA appearances.

"We're really happy for the opportunity and the challenge," he said. "This is an exciting moment in these young women's lives no matter what happens in the game."

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