After a subpar first quarter where the Huskies finished with only seven points, the No. 1 UConn Huskies (18-0, 6-0 the American) pulled away in the second and third quarter and defeated the Tulane Green Wave (12-7, 3-3 the American) by a score of 100-56. Sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson, after starting 0-5 from the field, erupted for 18 points in the second quarter alone and finished with a game-high 32 points, despite not playing in the fourth quarter.
Both teams struggled early on from the field, as the Green Wave had trouble defending and the Huskies had trouble scoring. UConn started the game 2-6 from the field, as sophomore Napheesa Collier and junior Gabby Williams were able to score in the paint to give the Huskies much needed early buckets.
In the first quarter, junior Kia Nurse was a big factor on the offensive side of the ball as she was able to hit two threes in back to back trips to help UConn start to feel it from the offensive end.
“She is in a good place right now, she is not trying to do too much and she is not trying to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders,” head coach Geno Auriemma said about Nurse’s game. “She is just playing and having fun.”
The Huskies finished the first quarter up 19-12, as the Green Wave was able to hang around despite seven turnovers and many missed jumpers. Despite the two early fouls, Collier was 4-6 from the field, with eight points and five rebounds, finishing the game with a quiet 17 points and seven rebounds on a blistering 8-11 shooting.
“I bet she has the highest shooting percentage on the team,” Auriemma noted as he went on to say, “she is very, very efficient, and today was no different.”
UConn seemed different at the start of the second quarter as Samuelson came out firing and hit five straight shots, and six of the next seven. From behind the three point line and in transition, the Huskies were able to confuse the Green Wave on offense and defense, as they finished the quarter on a 10-0 and held Tulane scoreless for the final two minutes.
At the end of the first half, UConn forced Tulane into 14 turnovers and led 50-29, as they outscored them 22-8 in the paint, 11-0 on the fast break. On the Green Wave side, star player Kolby Morgan had 14 points in the first half as she was very impressive throughout, finishing with 22 points on 9-18 shooting.
Tulane’s number two player Leslie Vorpahl struggled as she had four points and three assists while committing 11 turnovers, which was four more than UConn committed the whole game. Coming into the game, Vorpahl averaged 12.3 points per game and 6.9 assists.
In continuing from the hot second quarter, UConn distanced themselves in the third quarter as they outscored the wave 32-14. Midway through the third quarter after a Williams’s basket, Williams, Nurse, Samuelson and Collier were all in double digits, as UConn was able to get offensive production from seemingly every position.
The Huskies, just like they did in the second quarter, were able to go on a run at the end of the third, finishing the quarter on a 9-0 run and extended 14-2 run as they held Tulane scoreless for the final three minutes. In the third quarter, UConn shot 11-16 from field and 3-3 from behind the arc.
In the fourth quarter, UConn outscored Tulane 18-13 as they were able to rest most of their starters and get some great production from the second unit. Leading the way was redshirt junior Natalie Butler, who finished with eight points, eight rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes of play.
As a team, UConn had 20 steals and scored 31 points off of 26 Tulane turnovers. The Huskies behind Collier, Williams and Butler were just too much inside as they outscored the Green Wave 44-22 in the paint.
One of the big takeaways from the mid-afternoon Sunday game was the raucous Gampel Pavilion Crowd as there was not an empty seat to be found.
“It was nice to see; it felt like the old days, when you get that many people in” Auriemma said. “It does not even matter who the opponent is on weekends, we are able to get a big turnout, and the fans were great.”
Nurse and Collier shared the same sentiments as Auriemma as Nurse added, “It is always nice to play at Gampel and play at home, we love it here. The energy in the gym is incredible; it is always great to play in front of our fans.”
Collier agreed in saying. “The energy is crazy and especially at a home game with our fans it is just really fun, great atmosphere.”
The Huskies will go back on the road this Tuesday as they will have their rematch with the East Carolina Pirates in Greenville at 7 p.m.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.