HARTFORD – A rough start for the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team saw the 11-time national champions up just 12-11 over the Cincinnati Bearcats heading into the first media timeout on a Super Bowl Sunday afternoon at the XL Center.
What came after that was an offensive outburst that people have come to expect out of UConn over the years. After that came another outburst. And then came another. The Huskies’ offense went on run after run after run to propel their way to a convincing 106-65 win over Cincinnati.
UConn’s first huge run of the afternoon came with 5:12 remaining in the first quarter, down 11-9. The run started with a 3-pointer from Kia Nurse, and culminated with a pair of Katie Lou Samuelson threes to put the Huskies up 30-11 after the 21-0 explosion. Their defense was suffocating in that span, but the offense was just as ruthless.
With a few other big runs in the game, notably a 10-0 run in the second quarter and a 15-2 run in the third quarter, UConn locked up the victory in the same fashion as usual.
“I don’t know if I said anything that made any sense (to the players),” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “We just needed other people to make some plays besides (Nurse) and (Samuelson) and … we got a lot of people involved.”
Still, Auriemma echoed a statement from a previous game, indicating he said nothing to motivate his players to go on momentous runs for long stretches of play.
“It wasn’t anything I said, trust me,” Auriemma said. “I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t.”
Nurse lights up the scoreboard, hits 1,500 point milestone
Kia Nurse has been a force on both ends of the court this season, but she has been especially prolific on offense. The Hamilton, Ontario native is a knockdown shooter from beyond the arc, leading the nation in 3-point shooting percentage with an outstanding 50.4 percent. Add in Nurse’s outstanding ability to fill space on the fastbreak and you have one incredible scorer.
Sunday afternoon was no different for Nurse, who dropped 23 points on 7-12 shooting from the field, and 4-9 from 3-point range in 32 minutes of action. Nurse kept scoring despite playing the point in the absence of Crystal Dangerfield, who was out with shin splints.
The senior guard’s energy on defense and ability in transition were on display as well, as she finished with three steals and four assists in addition to her excellent scoring effort. Nurse made several key defensive stops that got the team and the crowd going.
“The play that (Nurse) made. … She ran back on defense and got a stop,” Auriemma said, “It was like a 3-on-1 … and she deflected it and we got a steal and she outran everybody and got a layup. I thought that pretty much typifies Connecticut basketball right there. I think some of our younger guys would do well to emulate that. That was about as good a play as I’ve seen in a long, long time and that’s how she’s been since the day she walked on campus.”
Aside from an excellent individual game performance, Nurse hit a career milestone today by scoring her 1,500th career point on a 3-pointer with 5:12 remaining in the first quarter to spark the Huskies’ first big run of the game. Nurse is just the 24th Husky to reach the milestone, joining an elite list of some of the greatest players to walk the halls of UConn.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity and how much I’ve been able to grow since I’ve gotten here, thanks to the help of all my coaches and my teammates who came before me,” Nurse said.
While Nurse was grateful to those who have helped her achieve the 1,500 points milestone, her coach attributed the milestone to her work ethic and competitive nature.
“She’s a great competitor, and I’m not surprised she’s scored 1,500 points or however many assists she has or anything else,” Auriemma said. “I’m not surprised one bit, she is just that hard of a worker.”
Next up, Nurse and the Huskies will take on the University of Central Florida on the road Wednesday night for their second matchup of the year.