Women's Basketball: Seniors survive slow start to beat Tulane

Guard Moriah Jefferson goes up for a layup during UConn's 80-40 victory over Tulane at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday Feb. 27, 2016. Jefferson, along with Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, and Briana Pulido, was honored pregame during a Senior Day celebration. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Over the last four years, the UConn women’s basketball team has been as dominant as ever, especially at home at Gampel Pavilion, where the Huskies are 31-1 since the 2012-13 season.

The senior class of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck and Briana Pulido picked up win No. 32 at Gampel on their Senior Day with an 80-40 victory over Tulane, but not without making it interesting.

“There was a lot going on today,” Stewart said. “Coming out, celebrating Senior Day, that kind of stuff, then the Huskies of Honor and we did come out really slow. We were missing a lot of shots that we normally make. It was good for us to figure it out and have to get the momentum back in other ways than just scoring.”

UConn shot just 6.3 percent from the field in the first quarter, with a breakaway layup from Moriah Jefferson serving as the only made shot from the floor on 16 attempts. The Green Wave (19-10, 10-7 the American) led by as much as 11 with 2:27 left in the first quarter, the Huskies’ largest deficit of the season. UConn (28-0, 17-0 the American) would end the first quarter down 13-8, thanks to six points on four free throws from Stewart and two from Gabby Williams.

“You’re just used to making every shot, so when they don’t go in it’s like a shock to your system,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “To be honest I have not seen that in a long time.”

Tulane would hold onto its lead for another 3:05 into the second quarter until a three-pointer from Katie Lou Samuelson put the Huskies up 17-16, ending the Green Wave’s lead after 12:11, the longest a team has led the Huskies this season.

Samuelson put together yet another solid performance, finishing the day matching her career-high of 21 points for the second-straight game. Samuelson scored 13 of her game-high 21 in the second quarter, including a buzzer-beater at the end of the first half to help the Huskies outscore the Green Wave 28-7 in the second and take a 36-20 lead into halftime.

“The fact that she made shots is one thing, but if you noticed she made a couple shots to get us going when no one else was going to make them, and that’s even more important than the fact that you can make them. It’s when, and she kind of has a knack for that,” Auriemma said of Samuelson.

Williams aided Samuelson in getting the Huskies going, scoring eight points on 2-2 shooting from the field and four free throws and adding three rebounds in 17 minutes. Williams’ energy on both ends of the floor disrupted Tulane’s rhythm and snapped UConn back into form.

“Took four shots. Dominated the game,” Auriemma said of Williams. “The minute she stepped on the floor, and we scored and she picked up, right from that point on, the game was over, and she’s the main reason for it.”

The Huskies locked down the Green Wave once again in the third quarter, holding Tulane to just four points. Samuelson and Stewart scored the first 10 points of the second half for the Huskies, and UConn would finish the quarter on a 13-0 run over the last 5:32 to cruise to their 65th-straight victory.

Kolby Morgan led the Green Wave with 19 points on 8-16 shooting, and was the only Tulane player in double figures. Stewart led the way for UConn’s seniors with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Jefferson added six points and six assists, reaching the 600-assist mark for her career. Tuck contributed two points and six rebounds and Pulido did not score.

Stewart and Jefferson were inducted into the Huskies of Honor as part of their Senior Day celebration and were joined by associate head coach Chris Dailey, who has been a part of Auriemma’s coaching staff for his entire tenure at UConn and was intentionally kept unaware of her induction among UConn’s greats until just before the unveiling.

“You can’t even describe it because I wasn’t expecting it,” Dailey said. “To see your name up there, it’s emotional because I know my parents would be really really proud...You think about a lot of different things, and that certainly was on my mind, my family, and just all the players that I’ve had a role in…You just think about a lot of things. It’s difficult to put into words.”


Dan Madigan is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.