Women's Basketball: Huskies get off to hot start in NCAA tournament

From left, Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck, Natalie Butler, Saniya Chong and Gabby Williams huddle during UConn's 101-49 victory over Robert Morris in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday March 19, 2016. (Bailey Wright/The Daily Campus)

The No. 1 UConn Huskies showed that the 12 days between playing the conference championship game and their opening round game of the NCAA tournament had no negative effect.

The Huskies defeated No. 16 seed Robert Morris of the Northeast Conference 101-49 behind a dazzling first quarter where they scored 41 points. The 41 points was the highest scoring quarter for UConn this season.  

“Those first 10 minutes, that’s about as good a way as you can start a game or start a tournament,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “Not having played in 12 days, you don’t know what you are going to get when you come out. This team is pretty locked in and pretty focused on what we are trying to do.”

Katie Lou Samuelson led all scorers with 22 points. Samuelson not only set a new career high, but she also set a UConn record for most points in a freshman’s first NCAA tournament game.

“I feel more confident and comfortable on the court,” Samuelson said. “I know that I can do a lot of things to help out my team and I’m going to have to do that. Now that it’s tournament time it is now or never so I’m just trying to keep building on what I’ve done and not let up.”

Breanna Stewart scored 18 points and finished with five rebounds and four assists. She also had a career-high eight steals on the day. Stewart’s three blocks were also enough to pass Rebecca Lobo and move into first place on UConn’s all-time blocks list.

Anna Nikki Stamolamprou was the leading scorer for Robert Morris with 11 points.

The Huskies got off to a blistering start and found themselves leading 41-4 after the first quarter.

The Huskies put on a clinic on both ends of the floor, turning the game into an up and down affair. UConn forced 13 turnovers in the opening quarter and scored 21 points off of those turnovers. UConn shot 14-22 from the field while holding Robert Morris to just 2 for 12 from the field.

“Obviously we wanted to come out and play hard right from the start,” Stewart said. “The entire team was excited. When it comes to NCAA tournament time, you don’t have to get anyone up for a game. Everyone was ready to play.”

Katie Lou Samuelson and Breanna Stewart each had 10 points for the Huskies in the quarter. Morgan Tuck also added nine points.

At the half, UConn led 64-15 as they continued to click. UConn shot 57 percent from the field as a team in the first half. They even took advantage of their opportunities from the free throw line, where they went 20-for-22 in the first half.

Robert Morris was able to shoot 53 percent from the field in the second half, including a 25 point fourth quarter, but the deficit was too much to overcome.

The Huskies had six players reach double figures in scoring when it was all said and done. Moriah Jefferson, Kia Nurse and Napheesa Collier each had 14 points and Tuck finished with 13 points.


Spencer Mayfield is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at spencer.mayfield@uconn.edu.