The UConn women’s basketball team had their best offensive performance of the season as they took on the Dayton Flyers on Tuesday night. Although the Huskies didn’t have the strongest start, they ended up with 98 points on the evening on the back of great performances by sophomores Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier for a 98-65 victory.
Early in the first quarter, the UConn offense struggled to put up points and Dayton made the most of the opportunity, taking a 10-5 lead with 5:34 left in the first. However, Samuelson scored seven consecutive points following the TV timeout and gave the Huskies a 15-10 lead.
Complementing her outside game with improved post play, Samuelson’s buckets began a 15-0 run for the Huskies to end the first quarter with a 22-13 lead after the rough start. Samuelson would end up with a career-high 29 points, along with six boards and six assists on the night to lead the Huskies to victory.
“Sometimes when I rely on the three, I kind of just stand out there,” Samuelson said. “[Coach] trying to get me in the post sparked me to go in there and get a layup or an offensive rebound. I think once I go inside-out, I have an overall better game, whether it’s getting the ball to my teammates or getting back on defense, I get more engaged rather than just standing out on the three-point line.”
Freshman sensation Crystal Dangerfield made a difference early in the second quarter as she forced a turnover on defense before feeding Kia Nurse with a no-look pass for the easy bucket, giving the Huskies a 31-15 lead. She continued to dish the ball out beautifully throughout the game, finishing with nine assists on the day.
“You could coach some guards until they’re 25 and they still wouldn’t be able to see some of the things that [Dangerfield] sees,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “You’re born with that stuff. She sees everything and the key is throwing the right pass at the right time. And she does that, and that’s not from coaching. That’s from an innate ability she has.”
Gabby Williams had a great first half of her own with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists, putting her on pace for a triple-double. Williams continued to dominate in the post in the second half on her way to a 19 point, 11 rebound double-double for the day. She also added five assists to the scoresheet in what was a complete performance for the junior.
"It just comes with playing smarter,” Williams said. “I try not to get caught up with the other team’s game. I think that’s what I’ve been doing the last few games, playing at their pace. I just played my game and it helped me stay out of foul trouble and contribute to the team.”
Junior guard Kia Nurse, who had a rough first three quarters offensively, hasn’t had the best start to the season. However, she got the Huskies going in a big way in the fourth quarter with back-to-back threes. Nurse ultimately finished with ten points on the day, joining Samuelson, Collier and Williams in double digits.
“When kids start missing shots, they start to think about that rather than what else they need to do to help themselves or help their team,” Auriemma said. “I know [Nurse] was really struggling with it and I know she was putting a lot of pressure on herself to make some shots. But sometimes all it takes it one or two of them to get you back in the groove. When we come back next Tuesday, she’ll be back to her old self again.”
Saniya Chong and Natalie Butler got in on the action in the fourth quarter as well, scoring a few buckets apiece as the Huskies closed out the Flyers with a score of 98-65, the first time UConn has scored at least 90 points in a game since a 98-38 win over Mississippi State in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament on March 26, 2016.
Next up, the Huskies will take a week off before heading over to Hartford to take on Chattanooga at the XL Center in the first game in a stretch of three games in six days, coming a week after a four-game stretch in eight days.
"It’s really important for us to kind of rejuvenate back to where we were before this eight-day stretch, but we can’t take it too relaxed,” Samuelson said. “We have days off, but we still have a game next Tuesday and a lot of stuff coming up so we’re just going to have be ready for that.”