Seven months and 12 days after suffering a buzzer beating loss to Mississippi State in the Final Four, the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team was back in action Sunday afternoon to open the 2017-18 season. The Huskies didn’t seem to miss a beat, as they came out on top of the Stanford Cardinal by a score of 78-53 in a game at neutral site Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
The Huskies (1-0) raced out of the gates in this one, going on a 17-4 run in the first five minutes forcing Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer to take a timeout to stop the bleeding. Immediately, it was sophomore point guard Crystal Dangerfield who stood out, taking over the game from the get-go.
Dangerfield, who had worked hard all offseason to improve her poise and maturity on the court, looked very much like the offensive floor general UConn lacked last season. Dangerfield also made her presence felt on the defensive end throughout the afternoon, displaying tons of hustle as she finished with six rebounds, the third-most amongst UConn players, and a game-high four steals.
Dangerfield led the Huskies with 24 points (another game-high) on 9-16 from the floor, but was particularly impressive from three-point range. She nailed six of her seven shots from beyond the arc, showing off her improving range.
Dangerfield was also outstanding as the team’s primary ball handler, running the point for most of the game. While she ended up with just three assists, Dangerfield made sure the UConn offense ran smoothly, while keeping turnovers to a minimum. The Huskies finished the game with just seven turnovers to Stanford’s 22, and Dangerfield herself had none.
While it would be a stretch to compare Dangerfield to former Husky Moriah Jefferson right this second, her effort Sunday surely was reminiscent of several fantastic Jefferson performances over the years.
Joining Dangerfield with an impressive day was junior guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson, who scored 21 points on 50 percent shooting (6-12 from the field, 2-4 from three), as the Huskies exploded to a 49-14 halftime lead. It was a particularly special game for Samuelson, since both of her sisters, Bonnie and Karlie, had played for Stanford, although they never played against Katie Lou and had since graduated.
Head coach Geno Auriemma primarily played just seven players, his five starters along with Duke transfer Azura Stevens and freshman Megan Walker, in a rotation through the first three quarters, before giving the end of the bench a look as the game was well in hand.
The Cardinal, who are now 0-2 to start the year after losing to No. 5 Ohio State on Friday, took advantage of the lesser experienced Huskies in the fourth quarter, making a dent into UConn’s sizable lead. Ultimately, however, the Huskies’ dominance shined right from the start and was too difficult to overcome.
Next up, the Huskies will head home and take on No. 20 California Friday night at Gampel Pavilion, in what will be one of many ranked non-conference matchups this season.