Women's Basketball: UConn avoids injury scares, begins March with convincing quarterfinal win

Katie Lou Samuelson puts up a reverse layup in the Huskies win against Tulane (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

UNCASVILLE – The UConn women’s basketball program is judged not from its regular season performance, but from its results in March. The Huskies got their postseason off with a successful start Sunday night, claiming an 82-56 victory over the Tulane Green Wave.

UConn (30-0) found itself with a narrow 10-9 lead four minutes into the game due to an early trio of 3-pointers from Tulane. But a subsequent 10-0 UConn run over 1:14 of game time forced a Tulane timeout. The Huskies eventually turned that run into 21 consecutive points, holding the Green Wave scoreless over eight minutes.

“Playing in the first-round games, it’s always pretty much the same script,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “You’re playing a team for the third time and you know that it’s not going to be anything like the first two and it’s a brand-new game. So you gotta go out and you gotta grind it out one possession at a time. And then we went on a run there, like we’ve been doing for so many times.”

The 21-0 run is just the latest edition of the Huskies’ ability to completely blow games open with huge runs. Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton pointed to UConn’s defense as the spark for those dominant stretches.

“It’s a matter of just getting your kids to have composure and not doing things like turning the ball over or taking bad shots,” Stockton said.

The Huskies forced the Green Wave into 14 first-half turnovers, while only committing two of their own.

UConn point guard Crystal Dangerfield scored 14 points in the first half on 5-5 from the field and 4-4 from the 3-point line. Dangerfield also had four of the Huskies’ eight steals in the opening half.

Playing in the first-round games, it’s always pretty much the same script
— Head Coach Geno Auriemma

The second half was a different story for the Huskies. Gabby Williams tweaked her hip late in the second quarter, forcing the senior forward to miss the rest of the game. Dangerfield also injured her ankle and sat on the bench for the game’s remaining 15 minutes. Both Williams and Dangerfield said their injuries were not serious and they are not expected to miss significant time.

“My ankle just got landed on, it’s fine,” Dangerfield said. “And with Gabby, she’ll be fine too.”

With two starters missing time, UConn was outscored 34-30 in the second half. The Green Wave had just three turnovers in the second half and senior Kolby Morgan scored 14 points while shooting 3-4 from the 3-point line.

Morgan tied for a game-high 21 points in the final game of her illustrious collegiate career. Morgan averaged 19.5 points per game in her senior season and is seventh among active players in career scoring.

Katie Lou Samuelson scored 21 points over 28 minutes to lead the Huskies. Napheesa Collier added 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Azurá Stevens scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds off the bench.

The Huskies will turn their attention to Monday night’s semifinal against Cincinnati. UConn won both of its meetings with the Bearcats this season.

“We’ve seen them before, we kind of already know what to get going,” Williams said. “I think keeping them out of the lane is definitely a big thing for us. And keeping their bigs off the boards, because their bigs are really aggressive all year.”

“Tulsa would be interesting to see how we bounce back from that,” Williams said. “It reminded me a lot of the Tulane game last year, how we weren’t so happy with ourselves so much there. I think Tulsa, looking for kind of a hunger with that game.”

The semifinal game between the Huskies and Bearcats will tip off at 7 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena.

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