After struggling early in the season on both ends of the court, Katie Lou Samuelson has improved tremendously as of late, shooting over 43 percent from the three-point line in her last four games heading into UConn’s matchup against Temple.
Starting in place of fellow freshman Napheesa Collier, Samuelson turned in her best performance yet as a Husky with a career-high 21 points in the Huskies’ 104-49 win over the Owls at Gampel Pavilion.
“Today was the best game she’s played since she’s been at Connecticut, not just because she shot the ball well,” head coach Geno Auriemma said of Samuelson. “She’s really comfortable right now.”
On top of her scoring outburst, Samuelson shined in setting up her teammates to score with a career-high six assists. It marked the third time Samuelson has recorded at least five assists in her last five games.
“I love assists,” Samuelson said. “My teammates did a really good job knocking down shots today and I’m just going to keep getting it to them when they’re open.”
The Huntington Beach, California native helped the Huskies (16-0, 6-0 the American) set the tone early in the first quarter, scoring eight points in UConn’s 24-0 run in the first quarter. Breanna Stewart chipped in five points of her own during the run, which spanned more than six minutes until a layup from Ugo Nwaigwe made it 29-7 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.
“The best thing we did well was disrupting what they wanted to do on offense,” Stewart said of the run. “We did that by getting our hand in the passing lane a lot of the time, and going for the steals. We were being aggressive on defense, and it lead to a lot of open threes and layups.”
Stewart and Samuelson continued to carry the Huskies in the second quarter, combining for 17 points to give UConn a 57-21 lead at halftime. The duo would play a portion of the third quarter, with Samuelson coming out last with 3:24 left in the third as the lead ballooned to 47 points.
Even without their two leading scorers, the Huskies continued to grow their lead to as much as 58 with 1:37 left to play before the Owls (11-6, 5-2 the American) outscored UConn 5-2 over the last 90 seconds.
Sophomore Alliya Butts led Temple with 12 points and six assists in 38 minutes. Khadijah Berger was the only other Owl in double figures with 11 points, shooting 3-4 from the three-point line. Temple’s 49 points were a season low for the team, and the loss snapped the Owl’s three-game winning streak.
Samuelson’s shooting touch was the key to one of the Huskies’ best shooting performances of the season. The freshman hit a career-high five three pointers as a part of UConn’s13 threes as a team, tying a season-high. The Huskies’ ability to connect from deep opened up plenty of lanes inside for Stewart, who shot 6-7 inside the arc.
“When we do shoot the ball like we shot it today, you really are out of answers for how to beat us,” Auriemma said.
Stewart would finish the night with 22 points and 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. Four other Huskies joined Samuelson and Stewart in double figures, including Natalie Butler, who matched her season highs with 11 points and eight rebounds in just 17 minutes.
“I think little by little, she’s starting to feel a lot more comfortable,” Auriemma said of Butler. “Whether its five minutes or 25 minutes, depending on the night, depending on the situation, she’s going to make the most out of it…She’s gotten a lot better defensively. She’s getting better every day.”