Women’s Basketball: Huskies ace their toughest American test

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma gestures during the fourth quarter of the team's NCAA college basketball game against South Florida on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. UConn won 100-49. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma gestures during the fourth quarter of the team's NCAA college basketball game against South Florida on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. UConn won 100-49. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

If there is one team in the American Athletic Conference that could challenge the UConn women’s basketball team, it’s USF. The Bulls are regularly ranked in the Top 25 in recent years, but they haven’t had any success against the Huskies.

Last season, the two teams met three times, resulting in three wins for the Huskies with an average margin of victory of 49.7 points.

It was more of the same in the first meeting this year, as UConn (13-0, 3-0 the American) continued its dominance over the American with a 100-49 victory over USF Saturday night in Tampa, Florida.

UConn jumped out to a 17-8 lead to start the game before going on a 16-0 run near the end of the first quarter to take a 33-11 lead into the break. The Huskies had similar results in the second quarter and led 51-20 heading into halftime before eventually claiming their third 50-point win of the season.

Junior forward Napheesa Collier starred in the victory, scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in her fourth double-double of the season. Collier, who led UConn in scoring last season with 20.4 points, is scoring “only” 15.8 points per game this season. After going 12-15 from the field Saturday, Collier proved that she is still as potent as ever offensively.

Katie Lou Samuelson shot 4-7 from the 3-point line and is now ahead of Kia Nurse for the best 3-point percentage on the team. Samuelson and Nurse are two of five Division I players shooting at least 50 percent from long range, at 50.9 and 50.0 percent, respectively.

Sophomores Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin made unexpected contributions from the 3-point line in Saturday’s win, each going a perfect 2-2 from behind the arc in their 17 combined minutes. As a team, the Huskies shot 43.3 percent (13-30) from the 3-point line and 53.6 percent (37-69) from the field.

USF (12-4, 2-1 the American) was thrown off its game all night as the UConn defense impressed. The Bulls shot just 27.8 percent (20-72) from the field, including 22.6 percent from the 3-point line. On the season, USF shoots 45 percent and averages 77.6 points per game.

The Bulls’ three leading scorers for the year, Kitija Laksa, Maria Jespersen and Laura Ferreira, combined to shoot an abysmal 10 percent (4-40) from the field. Laksa came into the game averaging 21.5 points, but the Huskies’ defense held her to 0-11 from the field, including 0-8 from the 3-point line.

UConn’s dominant performance gave USF its first loss in conference play, leaving the Huskies tied for first place with two teams at 3-0. UConn will get a chance to knock off one of those undefeated conference foes when UCF comes to Storrs on Tuesday, Jan. 9.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.