This year’s senior night could not have been any different from last years, as seniors Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor are not going to be the No. 1, 2 or 3 pick in the draft, but they seem to be okay with that.
Although the stat line does not show it, both players are important members to the 2016-17 UConn squad as Chong is the team’s point guard, while Lawlor is the bench captain and the voice the players can turn to on the sideline. Chong in her final game at Gampel was able to score 14 points and dish out seven assists in the Huskies 43 point win over Memphis.
“It was really a thrill, I think, for Saniya and Tierney to play in front of that kind of crowd on senior night,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “It was the kind of senior night you want to see and want to have. Those are the things that are supposed to happen on senior night, you get to celebrate and you get to play well.”
In the first quarter, Lawlor provided the first assist of the game as sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson was able to drain a three while being fouled. She played the first two minutes and 50 seconds of the game, as she would come back with 7:07 left in the fourth.
“It was exciting to have all the support and it was exciting to be recognized” Lawlor said. “It was kind of nerve-racking to start but it was a lot of fun. We had a good fan base today too.”
The Huskies went on a 16-0 run in the first half, as Chong was an integral part to UConn’s early success knocking down a wide open three and providing timely assists to the bigs inside. In the first 10 minutes Chong had five points, an assist and a steal with her lone blemish being that she fouled a 3-point shooter at the buzzer.
Following Lawlor’s footsteps from the first, Chong had the opening assist of the second quarter as she was able to find junior Gabby Williams inside for an easy bucket. She able to provide a few steals and assists in the second, as she finished the first half with five points, four assists, two steals and two turnovers. Although she did not have a big stat line in the first, she was able to find Samuelson behind the arc and sophomore Napheesa Collier in the paint.
“It means a lot” Chong said about being a big part of her senior night. “Knowing that throughout the year my teammates trusted me and I’ve been working a lot towards that. I just went out there and tried to have some fun.”
After leading by 31 at the end of the half, Chong and Lawlor were poised to play big minutes in the second half, as Chong was 3-4 from the field with three assists and 12 points in 17 minutes of play. In the third quarter she was at the receiving end of a long outlet pass by Samuelson for an easy bucket, giving the Huskies a 40 point lead. Later in the third she was able to hit a three to push UConn over 70 points for the game and followed up a missed free throw with another deep three giving her 14 for the game.
Chong’s 14 points against Memphis were the fourth most points she scored this season. With her 14 points and seven assists, Chong now has amassed 200 total points and 100 assists on the season , as she joins Williams as the only players to accomplish that for the Huskies this year. The senior passed junior Kia Nurse for second on the team in assists per game as she is now averaging 3.75 per game.
With 2:51 to go in the fourth, Chong was taken out and she received a standing ovation from the Gampel crowd in her final regular season game in Storrs.
Earlier in the fourth, Lawlor entered with 7:07 left in the fourth as she was close on two three pointers but finished the day 0-4 from the field. She finished with two rebounds, two assists and a steal in 10 minutes of play.
“I gave them a couple blocks; I padded their stats a little bit,” Lawlor said jokingly.
For two seniors who are not big household names as seniors in the past, the Gampel crowd did not seem to care as they all came to support two players who have gone 145-1 so far in their UConn careers.
“I know senior night is big at every school but there is something about senior night here at UConn that is pretty special” Auriemma said.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.