Last season, the UConn women’s basketball team faced a surprising scare in New Orleans. The Huskies survived an upset bid by Tulane and narrowly beat the Green Wave 63-60.
In this year’s edition of the American Athletic Conference matchup, No. 1 UConn made sure to bury Tulane before the game ever got close. The Huskies shot efficiently all night, including 92.9 percent from the field in the third quarter, and cruised to an impressive 98-45 victory Saturday afternoon in Gampel Pavilion.
“[Last year’s close game] is always there for us, it’s not something that we ever forget about or want to forget about,” UConn senior Gabby Williams said.
UConn (20-0, 9-0 the American) jumped to a 26-5 lead to start the game this time, led by juniors Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier with 10 and seven points during that stretch, respectively. The Huskies led 29-11 after the first quarter as they shot 68.8 percent from the field and forced Tulane into eight turnovers.
The Huskies carried that hot first quarter for the duration of the game, ending the contest with an incredible 72.2 field goal percentage and shooting 55 percent from the 3-point line.
“We’ve just been taking shots that we’ve all been practicing,” Samuelson said. “I don’t think anyone really took a bad shot today, which is good that we’re getting people in the right spots and the right positions and it can kind of be any one of us that can step up and hit the shot.”
Gabby Williams was all over the floor for the Huskies and nearly recorded a triple-double in just 20 minutes of play. Despite playing with a sore hip, the senior scored 13 points, dished out nine assists and grabbed seven rebounds.
“When [Williams] graduates, we’re going to certainly miss all the things that she does,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “When she’s passing the ball the way she was passing it today, it just makes everyone on the team that much more dangerous… I love watching Gabby play. I enjoy watching her because of how many different things she’s capable of doing.”
Williams and fellow senior Kia Nurse also played a crucial role defensively, holding Tulane’s star guard Kolby Morgan to just two points. Morgan averages 20.4 points per game this season, but the UConn defense held her to 1-10 shooting.
“We really did do a great job on [Morgan] today,” Auriemma said. “We forced her into going places where she’s not comfortable to get her shots and both Kia and Gabby… I thought we had the game plan and we followed it to a T.”
Samuelson led UConn in scoring with 19 points, followed by five other teammates in double figures. Megan Walker and Azurá Stevens both made significant contributions off the bench, scoring 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Perhaps the only downside of UConn’s dominant performance was the fourth quarter, as the bench unit struggled once again and was outscored by Tulane 17-14 in the final frame. With the Huskies up big, Auriemma turned to his second string to start the quarter and it responded with seven fouls and five turnovers. Tulane (11-10, 3-5 the American) scored as many points in the fourth quarter (17) as it did in the second and third quarters combined.
“Between [Stevens] and [Walker], we’re getting pretty settled in with those seven players,” Auriemma said. “And then beyond that… When those other guys got in there, they had a pretty good stretch for a couple minutes. And then things started to happen, so I won’t focus on those… I wanna enjoy the rest of my day.”
UConn clearly stayed focused on the Green Wave despite a looming marquee matchup against defending national champion South Carolina. The Huskies will head south this week to take on the Gamecocks Thursday evening on ESPN.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.