Collier steals the show in bounce back UConn win

The UConn women’s basketball team defeated Temple 90-45 Wednesday night at the XL Center in Hartford behind 31 points and 13 rebound from Napheesa Collier. With the win, their 102nd in a row, the Huskies clinched the American Athletic Conference regular season title. They return to action on Saturday at Gampel Pavilion against Memphis. (Jackson Haigis/ The Daily Campus)

Hartford--- Sophomore Napheesa Collier put in another vintage performance against the Temple Owls, as she notched her 11th double-double of the season, scoring a career high 31 points on 13-14 shooting from the field while also grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. The young forward put together one of, if not the best, game of her early career, as she shot 2-2 from behind the arc and was able to dish out four assists and add three blocks.

“You would be hard pressed to find anybody who has had a better 27 games than Napheesa Collier,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “It is amazing, the consistency that she plays with.”

Along with the career night for Collier, the Huskies were able to rack up an impressive 18 steals, three shy of their all-time record, as each player logging ten or more minutes had a steal. Sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson had a game-high six steals for the Huskies, and freshman Crystal Dangerfield added a career high three steals. Senior Saniya Chong and redshirt junior Natalie Butler both finished with three steals as well.

The Huskies started off the game on a 6-0 run. Collier was able to provide the Huskies with an inside presence that the Temple Owls (21-6, 11-3 the American) could not match. The scoring did not stop for the sophomore in the first as she hit her first six before missing a jumper in the final minute of the first quarter.

“I tried to come out really strong, we all did coming off that game with Tulane,” Collier said. “I think we were all really focused coming in.”

 

Collier and UConn dominated the Owls early and down low, outscoring them 16-2 in the paint, helping them get off to an early 13 point first quarter lead. Things were quieter in the second for Collier as she had five points in the quarter, and both teams struggled in the scoring department, scoring 26 points collectively.

At halftime, Collier was sitting at 18 points and eight rebounds on 7-8 shooting, paying all 20 minutes and only accumulating one foul. As a team, the Huskies (27-0, 14-0 the American) racked up nine steals, compared to only one for the Owls. UConn’s ability to steal the ball led to easy transition points and threw the Owls off their game.

“I felt good, my team did a good job giving me the ball, so I tried to reward them,” Collier commented about her career performance.

Leaving right where she left off, Collier had the opening bucket of the second half, as her eighth bucket of the game, which gave her 20 points. She leads the team this season with 15 games scoring 20 or more points, and this was her 28th game in double figures. With 7:34 to go in the third she grabbed her 10th rebound, notching the double-double. At the end of the third Collier had 26 points. After playing all 30 minutes and being up by 30 points, would she play at all in the fourth?

Collier ended up playing three minutes in the fourth, but that was all she needed, going 1-1 from behind the arc and hitting a long jumper, giving her five points and a new career-high. With the 31 point performance, Collier joined junior Kia Nurse and Samuelson as the only current Huskies with career games of 30 or more points.

“She just does things without getting tired and without stopping. She is a relentless basketball player and she gets a lot of opportunities that most players would not even think about getting and that leads to nights like tonight,” Auriemma remarked. “I don’t know where we would be without her.”

Collier also tied her personal record with two three pointers made, which was set on Dec. 4 against Texas. She broke her record for defensive rebounds with 12.

“When she starts knocking down those threes, and she is a really good three point shooter, really, really good,” Auriemma noted about Collier, “I do not know how you guard her.”

Collier has been lights out against Temple this season. She had a then career high 12 made field goals and 25 points in the first meeting on Feb. 1 and a new career high this time around at the XL center with 13.


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.