The UConn women’s basketball team wrapped up their exhibition schedule and commemorated their 10th national championship with a 98-18 win over Vanguard at Gampel Pavilion Sunday afternoon.
Prior to tip-off, members of 2014-15 national championship team received their national championship rings, and the program’s 10th national championship banner was also unveiled.
“It was good to do it today, it’s kind of the end of the season for last season and we can move on,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “It’s a good problem to have, but we got it out of the way and it was good. We got the rings, we got the banner, it was a good day all around.”
The exhibition game featured experimental rules, including a 24-second shot clock, 8-second backcourt violation and the use of a men’s basketball. Changes were made to the court as well, as the lane was extended to 16 feet and the three-point was extended to the international distance off 22 feet and one inch.
“The only effect that I saw was that you can move the ball up and down the floor a little bit quicker,” Auriemma said of the experimental rules. “I’m just trying to challenge our kids and help the game grow a little bit. I don’t know if we accomplished anything today, but at least everyone got the chance to see the game go like this a little more.”
Though some of the rules were changed, it was still much of the same for the Huskies who got out to an early lead over the Lions and never looked back. After Melissa Norman hit a jumper to make it 14-4 UConn with 4:43 left in the first quarter, the Huskies went on a 30-0 run that ended just over three and a half minutes into the second quarter on a jump shot from Vanguard’s Alyssa Durr to make it 44-6 UConn. The Huskies would head into halftime up 53-6.
UConn’s only blemish in the first half came from the three-point line. The Huskies went just 1-11 from beyond the arc and missed their first seven attempts of the game before Katie Lou Samuelson hit one 54 seconds into the second quarter. The Huskies would recover in the second half, going 6-13 from the the three-point line to finish the day shooting 29.2 percent on three-point attempts.
“The last couple days, we shot it great in practice. Maybe it was a combination of the line and the ball, or maybe we just had a bad shooting night, I don’t know, because in the second half we looked a little more comfortable with it,” Auriemma said of the Huskies’ first-half shooting woes.
After only scoring six total points in the first two quarters, Vanguard’s leading scorer Samantha Doucette scored all seven of her points in the third quarter, including the Lions’ lone made three-pointer of the the night. The Huskies would go on to score 21 points in the third quarter, including five from Moriah Jefferson. Jefferson would finish the day with a game-high 20 points.
UConn would go on outscore the Lions 24-5 in the fourth quarter to cruise to their second exhibition win. Six Huskies finished in double figures and freshman Napheesa Collier recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“She’s sneaky good, and she makes a lot of things happen, and that’s who she is,” Auriemma said of Collier. “She makes a lot of different kinds of plays, but in a different way than Gabby [Williams] does."
Gabby Williams also turned in an impressive performance, getting the start and scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds in just 21 minutes. The sophomore demonstrated an ability to score in a variety of ways in the paint, terrorizing a small Vanguard lineup with her speed, size and athleticism.
“I don’t know that we’ve had somebody like her in our program,” Auriemma said of Williams. “There’s not a lot plays she can’t make around the ball…Gabby was great. She was great. She really played well.”
Samuelson was the only other freshman to see action with De’Janae Boykin recovering from an Achilles injury. Samuelson finished the day with nine points on 3-11 shooting and seven rebounds.
While the Collier and Samuelson continue to adjust to basketball at the collegiate level, Auriemma was pleased with her their performance and development as they get ready to start their regular season Nov. 16 against Ohio State.
“This is the worst they’re ever going to look while they’re at Connecticut, and they look pretty good. That’s the way I look at it,” Auriemma said of Collier and Samuelson. “They’re never going to look this bad, and they look good. Because they’re only going to get better each day and each game.”