Analysis: Samuelson makes history in American Tournament Title Game

UConn sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson drives to the hoop against USF's Maria Jespersen during Monday night's AAC title game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Samuelson scored 40 points, including perfect 10-for-10 shooting from 3 point range, to lead the Huskies to a 100-44 victory over the Bulls. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

UNCASVILLE — The UConn women’s basketball team is no stranger to perfection. After all, this is a program with six perfect seasons, four-straight national championships and a 107-game win streak on top of a 32-0 record this season. While it seems elusive and unattainable at other places, perfection is possible at UConn.

On Monday night, Katie Lou Samuelson took this concept to a new level.

The sophomore forward set a new NCAA record with a perfect 10-10 shooting performance from behind the 3-point line as part of a career-high 40-point night in the Huskies’ 100-44 blowout of USF for UConn’s fourth American Athletic Conference Tournament championship in a row.

“I’ve seen her when she gets like that; it is a thing to watch man,” Head Coach Geno Auriemma said of Samuelson. “She probably could have got 50 at least tonight, by the time the first quarter ended, you knew it was going to be a different kind of night for Lou.”

Samuelson’s 10-10 3-point performance had never been done before in the history of women’s college basketball, and it tied her with Maya Moore for the most 3-pointers in a single-game by a UConn player.

“It’s just one of those nights where things were working out perfectly,” Samuelson said. “I was getting a lot of good shots and a lot of open shots and I was trying to knock them down when my teammates passed me the ball.”

The Huntington Beach, California native also joined Moore and Nykesha Sales as the only Huskies with 40 or more points in a game, and her 40-point night was the most scored by a UConn player in a postseason game.

As part of the 40-point performance, Samuelson broke Feyonda Ftizgerald’s American Athletic Conference Tournament record for points in a game (30) and former USF player Courtney Williams’ 67 total points in the tournament with 71. She also set the tournament record for most 3-pointers made in an American tournament game (10) and for the tournament (17), breaking Tia Gibbs’ record of 60 percent for 3-point percentage in the tournament, with a new mark of 63 percent.

After the game, Samuelson became the fourth-straight Huskies player to win the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.

Samuelson’s career night comes exactly a week after teammate and conference Co-Player of the Year Napheesa Collier scored a career-high 39 points in the Huskies’ regular season finale, which also happened to be against USF.

“Both Lou and Pheesa have unique skills, they’re not necessarily just good basketball players, they have a unique ability to score points,” Auriemma said. “So the number of points that they score, the number of baskets that they make never really surprises me.”

Samuelson didn’t waste any time getting things started against the Bulls, hitting the first of three first-quarter 3-pointers just under two minutes into the game. She’d finish the opening period with 11 points, tacking on four more 3-pointers and 18 points points in the second quarter to finish with 29 on 7-7 3-point shooting at the end of the first half.

“She was just in the zone. She got good looks and was knocking them down,” USF Head Coach Jose Fernandez said of Samuelson. “We haven’t seen anything like that this year.”

Following halftime, Samuelson would hit three more 3-pointers for 11 points in just eight minutes. Her 10th and final 3-pointer of the night came with 4:21 left in the third to put her at 38 points, and she sank a pair of free throws to hit the 40-point mark.

She was just in the zone. She got good looks and was knocking them down. We haven’t seen anything like that this year.
— USF Head Coach Jose Fernandez, on Samuelson

In comparison, it would take USF nearly an extra eight minutes to reach 40 points, with the Bulls tying Samuelson with 4:12 left to play in the game on a layup and free-throw from Dorottya Nagy.

After struggling with her shot at times this season, Samuelson’s outburst comes as the Huskies prepare for a chance at their fifth-straight national championship. When a shooter like Samuelson gets hot, nothing is going to stop her. Seems like perfect timing for a perfect night from beyond the arc.

“I kept shooting it good, and I was getting open shots,” Samuelson said. “My teammates kept giving me the ball so I was going to keep shooting until - actually I was going to keep shooting.”


Dan Madigan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.