Women's Basketball: Nurse, Samuelson and Williams look to start season off with a win

Natalie Butler (51) reaches up for a basket during the Huskies 95-36 victory over Pace University at the XL Center on Nov. 6, 2016. (Zhelun Lan/The Daily Campus)

The No. 3 ranked UConn Huskies look to open up for the 21st season in a row this Monday when they travel to Tallahassee to play No. 12 Florida State (1-0). Riding a 73 game winning streak, the Huskies are 27-4 in season openers under head coach Geno Auriemma and are a perfect 8-0 all-time versus the Seminoles.

After winning their two exhibition games easily against IUP and Pace, the Huskies are eager to start regular season play, as most teams including Florida State, started their seasons last Friday. Having been off since the sixth, Auriemma said, “They are dying to play a game. They are tired of practice and they are anxious to play.”

All of the players mirrored these words as after two easy exhibition wins where they won by 72 and 63 points, the Huskies are ready to start their title defense against a ranked team on the road. After playing for team Canada in the summer Olympics and performing extremely well in the two exhibition games, junior guard Kia Nurse is ready for the season to start as she will a major key for the Huskies this season. When asked if she was ready for the season to start she quickly answered, “Absolutely!” She went on to add that, “the start of the season is always something that is overly exciting, not to play people who are not your practice players. I think we are ready to go.”

Florida State opened up their season Friday against Jacksonville State, as they won 73-62 at home. Junior Shakayla Thomas led the Seminoles with 16 points, followed by former Baylor transfer Imani Wright who added 13 points. Their best player and Spanish international Leticia Romero, missed the game and is questionable for Monday night’s matchup. In the Rio Olympics, Romero averaged 5.8 points in just 9.8 minutes as she averaged 11.6 points and shot 44.7 percent behind the arc in her junior year at FSU.

Having played and beaten Florida State last season, 73-49 at Mohegan Sun Arena, the Huskies are very familiar with the Seminoles style of play. Junior guard Gabby Williams talked about their physical style of play as she said, “They are a very athletic team, they are going to want to push the ball, offensive rebound and run the floor. We are going to have the match them, if not, out work them.”

For the Huskies this season, they will be relying on a new big three of Nurse, Williams and sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson. The 6-3 guard/forward, Samuelson is the team’s best three point shooter, and after an impressive freshman season where she garnered numerous awards including being named the 2016 National Freshman of the Year by ESPNw, she is ready to take an increased role for the team. Samuelson wants more responsibility and wants to be the go to person as she said, “I want to be that go to, where my team knows if we need a shot or a rebound I can be that person…I am willing to be that person that people kind of trust and know that they can get stuff out of me.”

The new trio, and the 2016-2017 Huskies season will start at 6 p.m. and will be televised on televised on ESPN2. This will be a great opening match to see what this season has in store for this new look team, as Nurse agreed when she said, “Anytime you can get out there and play a really good basketball team, is a good test for your team to see where you are at this point.”


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu