Women's Basketball: Williams to replace Samuelson in starting 5

Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson looks on in disbelief during UConn's 80-51 victory over Oregon State in the national semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday April 3, 2016. Samuelson broke a bone in her left foot during the game, had to leave and will not play in the national championship game on Tuesday. (Bailey Wright/The Daily Campus)

INDIANAPOLIS—As the UConn women’s basketball team takes on Syracuse for their fourth-straight nation championship Tuesday night, the Huskies will be without starter and freshman standout Katie Lou Samuelson. Samuelson suffered a broken bone in her left foot on the first play of UConn’s Final Four matchup against Oregon State.

“I went up for that first layup and heard a pop in my foot,” Samuelson said. “It just got worse as the game went on...I’ve been working so hard this season it’s kind of a bummer it has to end this way.”

The severity of the injury is unknown at the time. Samuelson told reporters that she would be reevaluated back at UConn following the National Championship game.

“I don’t think it’s surgery,” Samuelson said of what’s required to heal her foot. “We’re really going to focus on that after everything is done when we get back to campus. Right now we’re just focusing on this next game.”

I’m sure it will be difficult when we go to practice and tomorrow when she shows up at the arena and she’s not playing. It’s going to be difficult when this is all you think about when you’re in high school, winning a national championship in college, and now here your team is and you can’t play
— Geno Auriemma on Samuelson's injury

Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier will likely be called upon to fill in for Samuelson’s absence. While neither will be able to stretch the defense like Samuelson does with her ability to hit 3-pointers, both should be able to contribute in other ways offensively and bring strong perimeter defense on the other end.

Williams filled in for Samuelson to start the second half against the Beavers, finishing with eight points and five rebounds in 15 minutes. Collier chipped in six points, two rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 14 minutes.

“I am just going to have to be ready. I think the entire team will have to contribute a little more,” Williams said of filling in for Samuelson. “No one can do the things she does, so we will all have to do a little bit more of what we are good at.”

Neither Williams nor Collier has started a game for the Huskies in over six weeks. Williams has started 11 games for UConn and will likely get the nod to take Samuelson’s spot in the starting five. Collier has started nine games.

“I know that [Williams] and Napheesa are ready to go and I think they played great last game and I know that both of them are going to step up and Gabby is going to be ready to go and fill in that spot,” Samuelson said.

With Samuelson’s season over, she will be one of the team’s biggest cheerleaders as the Huskies go for their fourth-straight National Championship. While she will not be able to compete in the game she played such an important role in helping UConn get to, head coach Geno Auriemma made sure to keep her spirits high and mind set on the future.

“Lou is a pretty sensitive kid, kind of an emotional kid. And as the game went on, she became more -- obviously more aware of this is what it is. And today I'm sure it will be difficult when we go to practice and tomorrow when she shows up at the arena and she's not playing. It's going to be difficult when this is all you think about when you're in high school, winning a national championship in college, and now here your team is and you can't play,” Auriemma said. “One thing I did say to her last night was while this will make you work even harder to make sure you get back so that you'll get a chance to have your time, but right now, it's not your time; it's somebody else's time.”


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.