STORRS - Katie Lou Samuelson’s foot injury was the only damper on a great night for the UConn women’s basketball program. On “Lobo Night,” a night honoring Rebecca Lobo’s induction to the Hall of Fame, the No. 1 Huskies dominated No. 20 Cal 82-47 in their home opener at Gampel Pavilion.
UConn (2-0) played an impressive first quarter, putting on pressure defensively to force Cal into 11 turnovers in the opening frame. The Huskies had 13 points off turnovers in the quarter, holding the Bears to 11 points as UConn jumped out to a 30-11 lead.
“We want to establish that as our identity. That we feed off of our defense, we create turnovers, we get out in transition, we’re hard to play against on the move,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “That’s who we are and that’s who we want to be even more so.”
Samuelson came down awkwardly in the second quarter and was ruled out for the game. Auriemma said after the game that she was diagnosed with a midfoot sprain and will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Samuelson scored 12 points and recorded three steals in 15 minutes before the injury.
The Huskies didn’t miss a beat without one of their leading scorers, outscoring Cal 22-3 in the third quarter.
“We’re not as good a team without (Samuelson), no question about it,” Auriemma said. “I thought we responded pretty well.”
Three UConn players tied for the team lead in scoring, as Crystal Dangerfield, Napheesa Collier and Kia Nurse each scored 14 points. Gabby Williams wasn’t far behind with a line of 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists. It was the second consecutive game that Dangerfield led the Huskies in scoring, and she’ll be asked to do even more if Samuelson misses any time.
“(Dangerfield) just has a level of confidence right now…” Auriemma said. “Right now, she’s playing with this sense of ‘I can do whatever I want on the basketball court.’”
UConn managed to hold Cal’s star center, Kristine Anigwe, to 14 points. Anigwe averaged 21 points per game last season and much of the Cal offense is run through her. Several Huskies harassed her in the paint, led by impressive efforts from seniors Nurse and Williams.
“The best way to keep a really good player from getting a lot of points is to not let them catch the ball,” Nurse said of UConn’s game plan to stop Anigwe.
The Huskies are in the midst of a stretch of three games in five days, as they will host No. 15 Maryland on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the XL Center. UConn will also be playing Maryland in field hockey on Sunday for the National Championship.
The basketball matchup between the Huskies and the Terrapins will be a rematch of one of UConn’s closest games last season. The Huskies defeated Maryland 87-81 on the road and will have to be on their game Sunday, especially if Samuelson has to sit out.
“This isn’t something I would do on a regular basis, it just kind of evolved,” Auriemma said of the three games in five days. “I like the fact that we’re going to be tested… I wanna see how we handle it.”
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.