Katie Lou Samuelson wasn’t even a lock to play Saturday at Gampel Pavilion. The sophomore standout has been feeling under the weather for the past few weeks, and it started to take its toll on Samuelson. After missing Thursday and Friday’s practice, Samuelson felt well enough to lace her shoes up against American Athletic Conference foe SMU.
“A little bit of rest was needed for me,” Samuelson said. “You don’t get much as the season goes on so everyone is feeling tired here and there.”
Despite the illness, it was business as usual for Samuelson and Huskies Saturday afternoon. Samuelson led all scorers with a game-high 22 points in 25 minutes and chipped in four rebounds, two assists and three steals in an 83-41 win over SMU for UConn’s 99th-straight win.
With a big-time matchup against No. 6 South Carolina looming, Samuelson wanted to prove to herself, her coaches and her teammates that she could be relied on no matter what.
“We all kind of have little things here or there as the season goes on. You don’t want your teammates to worry,” Samuelson said. “I want to show them that no matter what’s going on I’m still going to be able to be out there and give 100 percent and do something to contribute to the team.”
Playing sick isn’t new to Samuelson. She’s already done that once this season in the Huskies, literally getting sick on the sideline while helping UConn to an 87-81 win at Maryland with a 23-point performance.
Against the Mustangs, Samuelson was equally as effective, shooting 7-9 from the field in the first half for 19 of the Huskies’ 44 first half points. The effort wasn’t just on the offensive end, either. Samuelson showcased her growth as a passer with perfect outlet pass over the top of Kia Nurse’s head that led to an easy layup for Nurse towards the end of the second quarter. A few plays later, Samuelson slid into the lane on defense and drew a charge to halt an SMU positon with 40 seconds left in the first half.
“It’s just mentally being tough enough,” Samuelson said of her success while playing sick. “The other game I was sick in, I had no choice to go out there and play well. Today, I had to show my team that they could count on me no matter what… You have to gut it out and show my teammates that they can still count on me.”
While Samuelson’s growth as a scorer has been obvious this season, other parts of her game have improved as well. Samuelson is averaging more rebounds (3.9), assists (2.6) and steals (1.4) per game this season than she did in her freshman campaign.
“She’s way better at the things that don’t just come naturally to her. She has, to a certain extent, worked pretty hard on that,” head coach Geno Auriemma said.
Despite the improvements, Auriemma has some things in mind that are still a work in progress for his team’s leading scorer.
“How many games in a row have we won, 99? I think that’s 99 games in a row where she’s gotten zero offensive rebounds. She’s on a streak of her own, dating back to like seventh grade I think.”
Williams' season puts her alongside UConn legends
With her 11-point, nine-rebound and four-assist performance in the win over the Mustangs, junior Gabby Williams joined elite company Saturday. Williams joined Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart as just the third player in program history 200 rebounds, 100 assists, 50 steals and 25 blocks in a season.
Moore was in attendance for Huskies’ win over the Mustangs Saturday afternoon and reflected on Williams’ ability to stuff the stat sheet.
“It’s super hard, I think she makes it look easy,” Moore said of Williams. “Part of that is her personality on the court. She’s pretty calm, cool and collected on the outside. What she’s doing is extremely hard. To be that active and that involved in so many different parts of the game, it’s easy to underappreciate her but if you actually watch the game, and you can understand all the ways she’s impacting it, it’s mind-blowing to see it night after night after night.”