On Sunday against LSU, Katie Lou Samuelson exploded for a career-high 28 points to help the Huskies past the Lady Tigers on the road.
Tuesday night, she did one better, scoring 29 points on 10-17 shooting from all over the floor for a new career-high as the Huskies (4-0) rolled to a 98-65 win at Gampel Pavilion.
Samuelson picked up right where she left off against the Tigers, scoring 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting, including two 3-pointers, in the first quarter as the Huskies got out to a 22-13 lead. She finished the half with 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field on shots inside and outside of the 3-point line.
“We just ran a couple of sets for her that were going to force her to go into the lane where we were going to throw it to her and get something down low,” head coach Geno Auriemma said on getting Samuelson going early. “I thought it was the most aggressive that I have seen her, a combination of inside and outside, in these first four games.”
While Samuelson has always been known for scoring beyond the arc, she found her groove in the paint against the Flyers, shooting 6-for-9 inside the 3-point line for 12 of her 24 points from the field.
As Samuelson’s inside game continues to grow, she becomes even more of an offensive weapon. Give her too much space and she can easily knock down the 3-pointer. Get up close, and she can get by a defender and finish in traffic. If she can continue to have success inside, Samuelson should be a more consistent scoring option even when her shots from deep aren’t falling. Not to mention, going inside leads to easy looks for her teammates, best exemplified by her six assists today.
“I know I got a lot of threes against LSU. I’m not going to get that every game, so I tried to do more than just stand on the 3-point line,” Samuelson said. “I think once I go inside-out I have an overall better game… I get more engaged rather than just hanging out at the 3-point line.”
After a shaky opening to the second half, Samuelson tacked on nine points in the final 20 minutes, hitting a 3-pointer 80 seconds into the fourth quarter to match her career-high of 28 points. Just over a minute later, Samuelson made one out of two free throws before leaving the game with 29 points, falling a point short of the Huskies’ first 30-point performance since Breanna Stewart did so against Texas two seasons ago.
In her last two games, Samuelson has scored 57 points and has shot 18-for-32 (56 percent) from the field, including 11-for-19 (58 percent) from beyond the arc. While Samuelson certainly hadn’t struggled prior to her scoring outburst against LSU and Dayton, she’s certainly never shot better in a UConn uniform than she has in these last two games.
“I feel like I’m in a good rhythm, my shot has felt really good for the past week,” Samuelson aid. “I’m just trying to shoot it when I can, but I think today was even better for me being able to get inside and do different things, and I think I need to focus on doing that more.”
Samuelson wasn’t the only Husky with a career day, as junior Gabby Williams tied her career-high with 19 points, set a new personal best with five assists and added 11 rebounds for her 10th-career double-double.
Much like Samuelson, Williams’ skillset has grown as well. After struggling with mid-range shots early in her career, Williams has improved her jump shot to keep defenders honest, and has added a devastating pump-fake that allows her to blow by defenders for easy buckets.
“Certainly Gabby played to her strengths today. She did all the things that she knows she’s good at, and it was really good to see her get involved in so many different ways,” Auriemma said. “She’s just getting so much more versatile offensively than just the previous two years…she’s got a lot of variety in her offensive game.”
Williams’ continued growth will be needed in order for the Huskies to maintain their success. With UConn greatly undersized compared to previous years, Williams’ will be relied upon for rebounding and low-post scoring.
In order to make that happen, Williams has to stay out of foul trouble. After averaging just six first-half minutes a game in UConn’s first three contest due to foul trouble, Williams showed improvement against Dayton, playing 26 total minutes with no fouls at all.
“The last few games I was playing at their pace, playing how they wanted me to play,” Williams said. “I just played my game [today] and it helped me stay out of foul trouble.”