For the entirety of this season, the UConn women’s basketball team has relied on four constants to remain undefeated; Napheesa Collier, Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson and Gabby Williams. In the first 21 games of this season, the play from these four has been more than enough to stretch the win streak to 96 games.
Win No. 97 was a little different.
With Williams and Samuelson struggling early on, Saniya Chong put together one of the most complete performances of her career to help the Huskies (22-0, 10-0 the American) to a 96-50 win over Tulsa at Gampel Pavilion.
“I thought Saniya’s game today was probably the best of anybody else out there,” head coach Geno Auriemma said of Chong. “She’s already had an incredible year, in assist-to-turnover –another one today, seven and zero- and looks so comfortable out there and in charge of her own emotions and game.”
Chong scored 17 points and added seven rebounds, two steals and seven assists without any turnovers in the win over the Golden Hurricane. With her seven-assist, zero-turnover performance, Chong’s No. 1-ranked assist-to-turnover ratio has risen to 4.26.
The Ossining, New York native teamed up with Collier to keep the Huskies afloat in the first half, combining for 26 points while Williams played just seven minutes and Samuelson shot 3-14 from the floor.
“She’s just not feeling right right now. You can see it. It’s been like that the last couple days, a week maybe,” Auriemma said of Williams. “She’s just a little bit out of sorts right now and I could see it in the first half…She’s just frustrated, you can see it all over. She’s just really frustrated. I hate to see guys out there on the court like that.”
Samuelson got her fair share of good looks in the opening minutes against Tulsa, but couldn’t get any shots to fall. She finished the day with 16 on 8-20 shooting, including 0-7 from the 3-point line. The 0-7 performance from deep marked the first time Samuelson did not hit a 3-pointer in a game since Feb. 14, 2016 against Temple, a streak of 35 games.
“Every time Lou misses a shot, [assistant coach Shea Ralph] loses her mind because it’s unthinkable,” Auriemma said of Samuelson. “We’ll try to talk her off the ledge after this performance.”
While Collier was as consistent as ever with 24 points and nine rebounds on 10-13 shooting, Chong’s all-around performance was the latest installment in a strong senior season after struggling with injuries and inconsistencies during her first three years in Storrs.
“I was just trying to go out there and play my hardest. Things didn’t go so well in the first half, but as long as we’re all working hard and I’m doing what I can do and helping out my teammates in some type of way, it really helps,” Chong said. “Because I’m a senior and I know I can’t get the past years back, this year I’m just trying to really work hard and be consistent.”
This season, Chong averaging more points (7.6), rebounds (2.45) and steals (1.25) per game this season than at any other point in her career while playing a career-best 27.2 minutes per game. She’s also shooting a career-high 49 percent from the field and 43 percent from the 3-point line. Not to mention, she’s improved as a defender and a leader on a young team, becoming a primary distributor and integral part of the Huskies’ offense.
“Everything seems to be exactly where she wants it to be on both ends of the floor,” Auriemma said of Chong. “She’s having the kind of senior year you want to have.”