Against Tulsa, Katie Lou Samuelson set a career-high with 34 points in just 29 minutes. In the UConn women’s basketball team’s matchup against Tulane, a similar performance from the sophomore star seemed unlikely at the end of the first quarter.
Samuelson did not score in the game’s opening period, missing all five of her shots as the Huskies held onto a 19-12 lead. It’s hard to keep a scorer as potent and well-rounded as Samuelson scoreless for long though, and with a quiet first quarter behind her, she figured things out rather quickly.
“I don’t think that the way the game started out, it didn’t look like she was having the kind of movement that I would’ve liked or that she would’ve liked,” Head coach Geno Auriemma said of Samuelson.
Samuelson echoed Auriemma’s disappointment in her first-quarter performance.
“I wasn’t really playing hard enough for myself,” Samuelson said of her first quarter slump. “I wasn’t really concerned about the misses or not having any points, I just felt like overall I wasn’t contributing to the team.”
The Huntington Beach, California native was nearly unstoppable in the second quarter, scoring 18 of the Huskies’ 31 second-quarter points on 6-8 shooting. Samuelson would tack on 14 points in the third quarter to finish with 32 points in only 29 minutes, becoming the first UConn player with back-to-back 30-point games since Tiffany Hayes did it in 2012.
“To start 0-5 and then finish 11-18, that’s pretty efficient,” Auriemma said of Samuelson. “We have a couple things that we run for her to get her moving and get her into different spots…She’s going to get the shots she wants instead of the ones they want her to take.”
Just has she has done her entire sophomore season, Samuelson torched the Green Wave defense inside and outside. She hit four of her seven 3-point attempt, shot a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line and was 7-11 inside the arc, missing just two shots in the second and third quarter combined. Samuelson’s all-around game has been prevalent this entire season, but no more than the last three games, where she has tied Maya Moore for the most points in a three-game span with 94.
“It’s harder for me to get taken out of games now, because I can do more things. I’ve really been working on expanding my game before the season and now everyday I kind of have been doing things after practice more so than I was before just trying to make sure I keep up with trying to get better,” Samuelson said.
It wasn’t just scoring that came easy for Samuelson against Tulane. She added four rebounds, three assists and a career-high seven steals to her stat line, and made her presence known on the defensive end as the Huskies forced 26 Green Wave turnovers, one shy of the UConn record.
“That’s not something that she generally does. We don’t look for Lou to get us five or six steals a night. That’s usually Gabby [William’s] territory or Kia [Nurse’s]. The fact that she got involved in a whole bunch of things is really good for her. It’s a couple games in a row now where she’s really been aggressive. She’s getting better as a basketball player,” Auriemma said.
Samuelson’s success on both sides of the ball this season can be attributed to more maturity and mental toughness. With a year of experience under her belt, Samuelson seems to be slowing down the game as she handles the ups and downs of the season in stride.
“I think I’m definitely a lot more confident, being able to score in different ways, and kind of not just relying on my 3-point shot, but getting to the basket and doing other things,” Samuelson said. “I know that I do need to kind of produce and be the person people can count on.”