In a rematch of last year’s American Athletic Conference tournament championship, No. 1 UConn defeated No. 21 South Florida in a decisive 77-51 win.
The Huskies won their third conference championship in as many seasons.
Breanna Stewart was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring 22 points in the championship game.
Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck and Katie Lou Samuelson were named to the all-tournament team. South Florida’s Shalethia Stringfield and Courtney Williams rounded out the all-tournament team.
Corralling Courtney Williams
Shutting down South Florida guard Courtney Williams is no easy task. Williams entered the championship game averaging 22.2 points per game this season.
She set an American tournament record with 29 points in a 73-60 win over SMU in the quarterfinals. She followed that up with 22 points against Temple, with 20 of those points coming in the second half, to reach the finals.
Against the Huskies, Williams finished with 16 points, but she needed 18 shots to get that number. UConn held Williams to 7-for-18 from the field.
UConn used a variety of looks when it came to defending Williams, but one of the most effective methods was using Jefferson to face guard Williams. Jefferson’s efforts did a good job at disturbing Williams’s rhythm, especially in the first half where she was held to just two points.
“I think just staying active,” Williams said. “She is a very active defender. She doesn’t ever let you get comfortable.”
The Huskies used Jefferson’s quickness to contain the shifty Williams, but they made sure that the senior guard was not left alone on an island defensively.
“The hard part for Moriah guarding Courtney Williams is Courtney Williams just jumps over her and shoots it,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “Moriah is as quick as Courtney is but when Courtney elevates there is nothing Mo can do about it. So when we are able to take her and combat her towards where Gabby [Williams] is or where Stewie is, then it makes it really difficult for her to get the shots that she wants.”
When Jefferson was not guarding Williams, they placed the 5-foot-11 Gabby Williams on the 5-foot-8 Courtney Williams. Gabby’s size advantage added a completely different element.
“She’s got somebody guarding her that’s as athletic as she is but way bigger and way stronger,” Auriemma said. “Gabby is the kind of kid that can guard everybody on the floor and she is exactly what we need.”
For an UConn team that leads the nation in scoring, averaging 88 points per game, it would be easy for them to run into another high scoring team and just try to outscore their opponent.
Instead the Huskies take pride in being stellar on both ends of the court. Facing a South Florida team that averages 75.3 points per game, which is good enough for second in the American and 24th in the NCAA, the Huskies made that point.
South Florida’s 51 points was their second lowest point total this season as they were held to 38 percent shooting from the field. The Bulls also turned the ball over 18 times.
“We take a lot of pride in playing defense,” Stewart said. “We know that we can score points. Defensively we want to make sure that we frustrate teams and don’t let them get the shots that they want to get.”
Spencer Mayfield is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.