Katie Lou Samuelson sure loves Gampel Pavilion.
Coming off a 19-point performance in the UConn women’s basketball team’s 84-41 road win over East Carolina on Feb. 20, the freshman put up another solid performance, matching her career-high of 21 points in the Huskies’ 88-41 win over SMU at Gampel.
“She’s had a really, really good last 10 days, two weeks maybe. She just has a different kind of presence about her,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said of Samuelson.
The Huntington Beach, California native first reached her career-high of 21 points against Temple at Gampel on Jan. 16, where she shot 5 of 8 from beyond the arc to help the Huskies to a 104-49 win. The five three-pointers were the most made by a UConn player in a game this season.
Samuelson matched that achievement against the Mustangs, shooting five-for-10 from 3-point range, four of which came in the first half. Her third three-pointer of the game marked Samuelson’s 50th of the season, becoming just the eighth freshman in UConn history to reach that mark.
“I definitely feel comfortable out there. Ready to go, ready to keep playing and moving forward,” Samuelson said. “My confidence is more than it was at the beginning of the season and I just I feel more comfortable out there to make plays and help out.”
While Samuelson has improved her shooting overall since the start of the season, she’s been considerably better at the friendly confines of Gampel Pavilion, shooting 48.5 percent from the three-point line in Storrs compared to 32 percent everywhere else.
“I definitely feel more comfortable in this gym, and just because you’re home and it’s great to play in front of this kind of crowd where everyone is here to support us. I definitely like playing in Gampel more, and I think just that level of how much comfort I have is probably the reason I am shooting better here,” Samuelson said. “I shoot more here [at Gampel] than I do anywhere else.”
Samuelson’s hot shooting at Gampel bodes well for the Huskies, who will finish out the regular season with two more games at Gampel, as well as two games in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. However, it’s her improvement overall as a player that will impact UConn the most in the long haul.
Since her 21-point game against Temple, Samuelson has scored double figures in eight of her last 11 games, recorded five or more rebounds four times and raised her scoring average from nine points per game to 10. While the Huskies have a solid trio of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, Samuelson’s improvement can help balance the scoring load and make UConn even more dangerous come March, and performances like tonight show that the freshman is just scratching the surface of her immense talent.
“Given where she was in December and given where she is today, she’s made a tremendous amount of progress,” Auriemma said. “When you get somebody that’s a really good player and they’re talented, eventually that’s going to come out. ... There’s still another month in the season, and she’s got to make a lot of progress in this next month for us to get where we want to go.”