Women’s Basketball: UConn defeats Cincinnati in Part II of rivalry weekend

 The UConn women's basketball team came out victorious against rival Cincinnati on Sunday. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The UConn women's basketball team came out victorious against rival Cincinnati on Sunday. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The UConn women’s basketball team did what the men’s side couldn’t do this weekend, defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats 106-65 Sunday afternoon at the XL Center. The Huskies gave up their greatest number of points in conference play and fifth-most all season, but what UConn lacked defensively was more than made up for offensively.

A hot start by Cincinnati (13-10, 5-5 the American) led to an 11-9 lead four minutes into the game. The Bearcats made three of their five 3-point attempts early on and senior forward Shanice Johnson scored eight points to keep her team in the game against the No. 1 Huskies.

UConn (22-0, 10-0 the American) then flexed its muscle, going on a 21-0 run before taking a 32-13 lead into the first break.

“We had stretches where we played really, really well and we had stretches where we didn’t play well at all,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “Some kids from Cincinnati made a lot of shots that they don’t normally make.”

Cincinnati kept things close in the second quarter, responding to a UConn 10-0 run with an 8-0 run of its own. The Bearcats were nearly even with the Huskies for the quarter, scoring 17 points and giving up 20.

UConn starting point guard Crystal Dangerfield sat out Sunday’s game due to a shin injury. In her absence, the Huskies’ forwards stepped up. Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier recorded seven, seven and five assists, respectively. UConn assisted on 32 of its 39 field goals in the game, the second-most assists in a game this season.

“Without a guard like (Dangerfield), we’re kind of forced to move the ball around a little bit more,” Williams said. Williams recorded her 400th career assist in the Huskies’ win.

The Huskies excelled once again in the third quarter, shooting 13-16 (81.3 percent) and outscoring Cincinnati 34-12. Williams recorded six of her seven assists in the third and UConn scored all of its points without a made 3-pointer in the quarter.

Collier, Kia Nurse and Azurá Stevens led the Huskies with 25, 23 and 20 points, respectively. Nurse, a senior stepping into the point guard role Sunday, scored her 1,500th point of her UConn career Sunday, becoming the 24th Husky to reach the milestone.

“(Nurse) is a great competitor and I’m not surprised that she’s scored 1,500 points… or anything else,” Auriemma said. “I’m not surprised one bit, she’s just that hard of a worker.”

Cincinnati outscored the Huskies 36-7 in bench points, but sophomore forward Kyla Irwin made a big impact for the Huskies off the bench. Irwin scored five of UConn’s seven bench points and also added five rebounds and five assists in 18 minutes of play.

“Kyla was great,” Auriemma said. “She came in and gave us some great minutes.”

Cincinnati was powered by Johnson and Antoinette Miller, who scored 37 of the Bearcats’ 65 points. Despite her early scoring, Johnson had seven turnovers in the game on her way to 17 points. Miller added 20 points off the bench on 5-8 shooting from the 3-point line.

UConn will head south for its next matchup, taking on UCF Wednesday night. The Knights are tied for second in the American and will be looking to avenge their 80-44 loss in Storrs earlier this season.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.