While the rest of UConn was enjoying Thanksgiving break last week, the women’s basketball team flew to the Virgin Islands to compete in the Paradise Jam. The Huskies won all three games in the tournament.
On Thursday the Huskies took on Ole Miss in their first game of the Tournament, defeating them 90-50. It was the first all-time meeting between the teams.
The win was a solid one for UConn as six Huskies scored in double-digits with senior Katie Lou Samuelson leading all scorers with 22 points in 32 minutes. Samuelson scored her 300th career three-pointer in the game, the fourth Husky in program history to reach that mark. Fellow senior Napheesa Collier notched her second-straight double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Head coach Geno Auriemma told Hartford Courant reporter Kelli Stacy what makes Collier stand out.
“She’s really, really hard to handle one-on-one,” Auriemma said. “We’re undersized in the post. Just about every team we’ve played so far has had someone bigger, but our lack of size is an advantage down at the other end, so she’s good at using that to her advantage.”
The Huskies finished the first quarter on a 10-0 run and led 42-17 going into halftime.
Freshman Christyn Williams scored 13 points and secured seven total rebounds in the first game. Auriemma told the Courant that Williams is a great rebounder for her position.
“We’ve been saying that we need help on the boards and she’s a great rebounder for her size,” Auriemma said. “She gets a lot of rebounds, and she’s not afraid to stick her nose in there. She’s physical. She’s a physical player, and I think you’re going to see her be one of the best rebounding guards in the country.”
In the third quarter the Huskies outscored the Rebels 27-10, but once the starters sat down UConn was outscored 23-21 in the fourth.
Ole Miss has a 3-3 overall record so far this season.
The next day, the Huskies took on St. John’s in what proved to be a more difficult challenge.
“Not every game is going to be us scoring 100 and the other team scores 50 and we all live happily ever after,” Auriemma said after the game. “Some games are going to be a struggle.”
The Huskies defeated the Red Storm 65-55 but St. John’s gave UConn a good fight.
In the first quarter St. John’s led by as many as six points while the second half brought five lead changes and four ties.
The Huskies dug deep in the fourth quarter and closed the game out with a 18-4 run ignited by 3-pointers from Crystal Dangerfield and Samuelson with a little over seven minutes left in the game.
Samuelson led all scorers with 19 points while Collier scored 17 and posted nine rebounds.
"...if you're going to be a championship kind of team, you've got to win all kinds of games,” Auriemma said. “We just as easily could've lost that game as won that game, but we made some big, big, big plays the last five minutes. That was the difference in the game."
St. John’s has now lost three straight games against UConn, but the last time the Huskies lost to an unranked opponent was in 2012 when the Red Storm handed them a 57-56 loss.
St. John’s is now 4-1 on the season.
On the final day of play the Huskies defeated Purdue 86-40.
Samuelson scored 22 points in the game while Collier posted her third double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
By the end of the first quarter UConn led Purdue 28-8.
Auriemma spoke to Stacy after the game about what he hopes will stay consistent in his team.
“I say this all the time: There are a couple of things about our team that I hope become constants,” Auriemma said. “1. Lou’s going to make a lot of 3s, and when they start going in and they go in early, we play with a lot of confidence. 2. If Napheesa doesn’t get a double-double, I think there’s something wrong with her, and I ask our doctor if she’s fine because if Napheesa’s not getting a double-double, then I feel like something’s not right with the world, because that’s how hard she works. That’s how relentless she is.”
Purdue is now 5-2 on their season while the Huskies remain undefeated at 5-0.
On Wednesday, UConn will play DePaul at the XL Center in Hartford. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.