Women's basketball survives in New Orleans with 3 point victory over Tulane

Napheesa Collier (left) and her teammates react to a second-half foul call on South Carolina on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Gampel Pavilion. Collier scored a team-high 26 points in UConn's narrow win over Tulane. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

Napheesa Collier (left) and her teammates react to a second-half foul call on South Carolina on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Gampel Pavilion. Collier scored a team-high 26 points in UConn's narrow win over Tulane. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

UConn survived. Those are two words students and fans from Storrs are not used to hearing. The No. 1 ranked UConn Huskies (26-0, 13-0 the American) held on to defeat the Tulane Green Wave (16-11, 7-7 the American) by a score of 63-60 in what was the closest margin of victory ever for UConn against an AAC opponent.

Sophomore Napheesa Collier despite, playing the majority of the game in foul trouble, led the way with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

In the first few minutes of the previous game against South Carolina, junior Kia Nurse seemed to reinjure her right ankle, but was able to play 18 minutes in the 100th victory. Today, she was unavailable and was wearing a walking boot; she may be out for up to two weeks.

With Nurse out, the already shorthanded Huskies struggled on both sides of ball. Tulane was able to outscore UConn in the second half and limit the fifth ranked scoring team to only 63 points.

To start the game, it looked like the Huskies were going to blow out the Green Wave as UConn started up 10-0, with Collier leading the way with six points in the early stretch of the game. Kolby Morgan was able to score the first point for Tulane with 6:08 to go, and they hit their first field goal with 5:32 to go in the first quarter. The Green Wave were able to battle back and force the Huskies into tough shots and long possessions, finishing the first quarter only down 18-11.

In the second quarter, the Huskies were once again able to get off to a fast start, scoring the first seven straight points and holding Tulane scoreless until sophomore Tene Thompson was able to convert in the lane. Averaging less than five points per game, Thompson had a career-high 14 points and was an integral part for the Green Wave throughout the game.

The Huskies faded in the final seven minutes of the second quarter, hitting one field goal in that stretch, as Tulane closed out the half on a 7-0 run. In the first half, senior Saniya Chong, junior Gabby Williams and sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson were 1-for-5 from the field combined. Collier was the only Husky with multiple made field goals. At the end of two, UConn led 28-18, as Collier had 17 points on 5-for-6 shooting, but the team had 11 turnovers and shot 32.1 percent.

Once again, Collier opened up the scoring in the third quarter, as the Huskies opened up on a 5-0 run, but Morgan once again was able to answer. She finished with a team-high 19 points. Samuelson was able to stem the tide for UConn in the third, as she had made two three pointers and was able to convert from the charity stripe. The Green Wave went on a 9-0 run midway through the third and were able to cut the lead down to six, finishing the quarter down 48-42. Senior guard Leslie Vorpahl hit a three pointer at the buzzer to send the home fans into a frenzy, as part of her 16-point, six assist and five rebound performance.

In the final quarter, the Huskies looked frantic and inexperienced as the Tulane players were able to force defense stops and hit from behind the arc. The Green Wave were able to cut the lead down to two points several times, but were never able to tie the game up. UConn missed several free throws down the stretch, but freshman Crystal Dangerfield was able to make just enough to force the Green Wave to shoot a desperation three at the buzzer.

In the final few minutes, Samuelson had a big loose ball pickup and finish to put the Huskies up four points with a minute to go, narrowly escaping what would have been their 19th turnover of the game. Dangerfield hit a free throw to put UConn up three points with 13 seconds to go. Samuelson fouled a Tulane player with six seconds to go to, forcing them to shoot free throws instead of a 3-pointer.

Dangerfield was able to steal an inbound pass and got fouled but missed the pair. Tulane was unable to tie it up and the Huskies walked away from New Orleans with 101 straight victories in a row. For UConn, Samuelson finished with 17 points on 5-for-14 shooting, and Williams finished with nine points, five assists, three steals and a game-high 14 rebounds.

Up next, the Huskies will host the Temple Owls at the XL Center this Wednesday. Tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.

 


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.