HARTFORD — UConn women’s basketball opened up the 2015-16 season with a 95-39 win over Division II Lubbock Christian University. Breanna Stewart led all scorers with 25 points, while Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse added 15 and 18 points respectively.
The game also marked an end to the Lady Chaps’ east coast exhibition trip. After defeating NAIA school Fisher College 119-40 on Halloween, the Huskies handed the Lady Chaps’ their first loss to a Division I program under head coach Steve Gomez. Prior to playing the Huskies, LCU was 3-0 against Division I programs, including an 80-73 exhibition win over Houston in 2013.
New rules, same game
The Huskies’ exhibition against the Lady Chaps marked their first game under new NCAA women’s basketball rules for 2015.
Instead of two 20-minute halves, the teams now play four 10-minute quarters with a timeout around the five-minute mark. Teams now reach the free-throw bonus with five fouls in a quarter, and the fouls reset to zero after each quarter except in the event of an overtime game.
Teams are also allowed to advance the ball up the court by calling a timeout immediately after a made basket with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter or overtime.
These changes were made in the hopes of improving the flow of the game and increasing excitement in the final minute of play. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma has strongly been in favor of more universal rules, and the Huskies will try more radical rule changes, such as a wider lane and farther three-point line, as well as a 24-second shot clock, in their exhibition against Vanguard Saturday afternoon at Gampel Pavilion.
“(College Coaches) are like dinosaurs, nobody wants to change anything. They want it to be the same forever. Once they find something they like and they’re comfortable with they don’t want any changes. I’m always trying to figure out to tweak things to make them a little bit better,” Auriemma said. “I think that’s what our goal should be all the time. How do we make it a little bit better?”
Two of the Huskies’ three freshmen saw action in their first collegiate game. Forward De’Janae Boykin sat out as she continued to recover from a wrist injury suffered during her senior season as well as a sore Achilles tendon. However, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson both saw significant action for the Huskies.
“We’re both freshmen, both were pretty nervous today, but it was good. It’s always good being out there with (Napheesa) because she’s one of my best friends and I know how good she is,” Samuelson said on playing with Collier. “We both kind of were just really nervous, we didn’t want to rely on each other too much because we both couldn’t really bring ourselves down, we were kind of at like a super-hyper pace.”
Collier went 1-7 from the field with five points in 23 minutes, while Samuelson started the game for the Huskies and finished with eight points in a team-high 34 minutes. Samuelson started the game by missing her first five three-point attempts but managed to drill her sixth attempt of the night for her first collegiate three-pointer.
“It definitely didn’t start off how I wanted to, missing shots, but you just have to move on from that game, sometimes they’re not going to fall,” Samuelson said. “It was nice to finally hit one in the third quarter, so I just kept shooting and saw how it went from there.”
A tale of two halves from three
In their first half of the post Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis era, the Huskies struggled to convert from behind the arc. UConn finished the half 2-11 from the three-point line, including five first-half misses from Samuelson.
“I think for (Katie) Lou, players that are great shooters eventually make enough shots, that’s not a problem,” Auriemma said. “She’s not going to stop shooting I don’t think, at least I hope not…so yeah I’m not worried about that aspect of her game.”
Stewart drained the Huskies first three-pointer of the game just over five minutes into the second half. The Huskies would finish the third quarter 5-6 from behind the arc and 42.9 percent for the second half. UConn wound up shooting 32 percent from the three-point line for the night after shooting 40.6 percent from three last season.