UNCASVILLE— The game was tied for all of 19 seconds as the UConn Huskies (30-0) set a season-high in points scored in their 105-57 rout in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (10-21). American Co-Player of the year, Napheesa Collier led all scorers with 24 points on 7-9 shooting from the field and 9-9 from the line, tying the record for free throw percentage in a tournament game.
With the win, the Huskies have now won 30 games or more in 20 of the last 22 seasons and are 80-0 all-time in the American.
UConn was able to blow the Golden Hurricane away with a late first quarter run, shooting over 66 percent in the first quarter as they held Tulsa scoreless for the final three minutes. The Huskies were able to score at will in the opening ten minutes as junior Gabby Williams was 4-4 from the field, giving her team a 25-12 lead.
“They were pretty big so Napheesa and I tried to use our quickness inside,” Williams said. “Our guys did a good job getting us the ball, I think we did a good job finding each other and we got a lot in transition today so that helped.”
In the second quarter, the Huskies dropped 33 points on Tulsa to blow the game open as the Golden Hurricane were held to 31.3 percent shooting and 12 points. UConn started the quarter 5-5 from the field as each Husky who appeared in the first half made a field goal.
Behind a 21-4 extended run, UConn was able to build a 30 point plus lead, as Collier finished the first half with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists. Her fellow Co-Player of Year, sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson, almost outscored Tulsa by herself in the second as she had 11 points in the second after having only two points in the first quarter.
“I think the pressure that teams face when they play us if you have to keep making them,” head coach Geno Auriemma said in reference to made field goals. “We aren’t going to stop making them.”
As a team, the Huskies were 11-11 from the line in the quarter as they finished a perfect 20-20 from the charity stripe, as Tulsa finished 4-4. With the 100 percent accuracy from the line, the Huskies broke their own tournament record for free percentage in a game, besting their 16-17 performance against Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the 2014 tournament.
“Free throws have been something we have been working on so I’m glad we were able to go 20-20,” said Collier.
Samuelson remained hot in the third as she opened up the second half with back to back made three pointers, as she finished the game with 19 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes of play. Tulsa enjoyed their best quarter in the third, scoring 17 points on 53.3 percent shooting but were unable to stop Collier and Williams inside. On the day, the Huskies outscored Tulsa 54-24 in the paint, as that was only four points shy of their season high of 58 points.
“I think one of the difficulties they have is that we are both pretty versatile players,” Collier said about her and Samuelson. “We have grown a lot from last year, we can go inside a lot more and clearly she has hit outside shots and I have been trying to expand my outside game. The fact that we can both do a little bit us both it what makes us hard to guard.”
The starting five besides senior Saniya Chong, all did not play in the fourth quarter as Williams finished the game with 17 points on 8-10 shooting while dishing out six assists and junior Kia Nurse had two points on 1-5 shooting in her first game back since her injury against South Carolina on Feb. 13.
In the final two quarters, redshirt junior Natalie Butler and freshman Crystal Dangerfield provided the bulk of the scoring for the Huskies. Butler finished with 13 points and nine rebounds in 13 minutes of action while Dangerfield in 29 minutes of play had 11 points and seven assists, as they were two of the six Huskies who scored in double digits.
The Golden Hurricane’s lone double-digit scorer was Erika Wakefield who had 15 points on 7-12 shooting. As a team, Tulsa had 13 turnovers and 10 assists, as UConn had five turnovers and a tournament-record 27 assists. Tulsa had a tough end to each quarter as they remained scoreless for the final two minutes of the third and final 3:24 of the fourth.
“When you combine how many assist we get with our few turnovers, that’s a tough combination for a team playing against us,” Auriemma said.
With the win, the Huskies will now square off with UCF on March 5 at 5 p.m. on ESPN 2 in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
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.