It is expected senior Katie Lou Samuelson will hit 3-pointers, which she did against DePaul, scoring 23 points. However, the guard/forward combo was also able to make her presence known underneath the hoop with eight rebounds.
Samuelson said No. 2 UConn (6-0) head coach Geno Auriemma gave her extra motivation to battle down low this week during practice.
“I just tried to get some rebounds,” Samuelson said. “I’ve been trying to do that more in practice. Coach (Auriemma) makes fun of me because he says I never jump. Actually, for the first time he gave me a compliment and said, ‘For someone who can jump, you never jump.’ So, I decided to jump a little today and get some rebounds.”
Samuelson flashed some toughness midway through the third quarter, when she was hit in the face after battling for a rebound, but no foul was called. This not only drew loud jeers from the crowd, but from Auriemma, who was charged with a technical foul. Samuelson came right back and knocked down her 19th point of the night. The senior said despite taking the big hit, she is fine.
Prior to the game against No.16 DePaul (4-3), Samuelson averaged 5.8 rebounds per game, but she passed that mark in the second quarter when she hauled in her seventh board. Fellow senior Napheesa Collier led the team in rebounds averaging 9.8 prior to the game and she led it again with 10 rebounds Wednesday night in the team’s 99-63 win. However, she has stressed the need for another teammate to help her battle for the boards.
“She’s taking it to heart when I say, ‘Look, Pheesa’s going to get a double-double every night,’ and (Collier) got another one tonight,” Auriemma said. “But she can’t do it by herself. So, we need (Samuelson) to get in there and do (her) part and she has been.”
As a team the Huskies were averaging 38 rebounds per game – and so were the Demons. Samuelson was able to use her 6-foot-4 frame and lengthy wingspan to bully DePaul underneath the basket.
Chante Stonewall was DePaul’s led the team in rebounds per game (7.7) heading into the matchup. The 6-foot-1 forward was constantly boxed out by Samuelson, Collier and company to limit her to two rebounds in the first half and only four total.
“The biggest key was when they shoot those shots, make sure we get the rebound,” Samuelson said. “Because they send a bunch of people for the boards. When you get that rebound, you can score really quick on offense.”
The Huskies were able to play a fast pace because of out rebounding DePaul 46-25. Thus, they were able to score 21 fast-break points in the first half.
Samuelson worked on her versatility during the offseason, including her defense and rebounding. Against DePaul, Samuelson was able to flash her dominance by knocking down all four of her 3-pointers in the first half and helping to hold the DePaul offense to 25 points in the first half and 63 total points, which is under their 86 points per game average.
Auriemma has noticed Samuelson’s focus on versatility this season.
“She’s gotten more stuff done in the lane, probably, than she has in the last three years,” Auriemma said. “If you add that to how well she shoots the ball, you’d be hard pressed to find anybody that has as much skill in as many areas as Lou does.”
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.