Women’s Basketball: UConn fights to ‘disgraceful’ 18-point win

Napheesa Collier fights off a Tulsa defender during the Huskies 78-60 win over the Golden Hurricane on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 at Gampel Pavilion. Collier put up 19 points, the second highest on the team. (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

In basketball, very rarely can an 18-point win be the source of team-wide disappointment. But the UConn women’s basketball program holds itself to different standards.

The No. 1 Huskies (17-0, 6-0 the American) came home after a nail-biting four-point win at Texas and struggled to beat a below-average Tulsa team at Gampel Pavilion Thursday night. UConn eventually won the game 78-60, but the postgame feelings from the team were anything but positive.

“If I could have it my way, we would give every person that came tonight their money back,” head coach Geno Auriemma said of the Huskies’ performance. “That was the most disgraceful effort I’ve seen from Connecticut in the 32 years I’ve been here.”

After a back-and-forth start to the game, UConn went on a 20-2 run to end the first quarter and take a 26-11 lead into the break. Ten first-quarter points from Napheesa Collier gave the Huskies enough of a lead to try something new. UConn has been heavily reliant on a six-man rotation this season, but the Huskies turned to the bench for the beginning of the second quarter in a rare decision by Auriemma.

Nearly the entire second quarter was played by bench players, and some sloppy play resulted in the Huskies tying the Golden Hurricane 16-16. It was the first time the Huskies did not win a quarter against a conference opponent this season, ending a span of 21 consecutive quarters won.

“The guys they don’t play much, there’s a reason they don’t play much,” Auriemma said.

A closely-contested second half saw Tulsa come to within 10 points of UConn with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Azurá Stevens then scored the game’s final eight points to secure the win for the Huskies.

Tulsa (8-11, 2-4 the American) shot 11-24 (46 percent) from the 3-point line, the second-most threes UConn has given up this season. The Golden Hurricane were led by 17 points from Shug Dickson and 13 from Erika Wakefield, but the team had 24 turnovers in the game.

“Give Tulsa all the credit in the world, they made shots, they were able to take the ball where they wanted to take it,” Auriemma said. “We won because we have All-Americans and they don’t, that’s the bottom line.”

UConn’s leading scorers for the game were Stevens (22), Collier (19) and Kia Nurse (17). Nurse shot 5-7 from the 3-point line, but the senior echoed Auriemma’s negative thoughts.

“Obviously that wasn’t the game that we wanted to display today,” Nurse said. “We have a lot of things that we have to clean up right now.”

The Huskies will get a chance to redeem themselves Sunday when they travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple. Auriemma said the team may be without Katie Lou Samuelson, who turned her ankle in Thursday’s win.

“We’ll know more tomorrow, but it doesn’t look good right now,” Auriemma said of Samuelson’s injury.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.