No. 1 UConn won its third-straight regular season American Athletic Conference title with a 88-41 win over SMU.
The Huskies (27-0), who are unbeaten in the three-year existence of the American, also extended their overall winning streak to 64 games in the win against the Mustangs (12-15). This was the 22nd conference title in UConn’s history. Although the Huskies have larger aspirations, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma does not think this accomplishment should be overlooked.
“There are things along the way that I think need to be celebrated,” Auriemma said. “I don’t think you can skip over things and brush it under the rug. I try to make sure I let them know that all the time.”
Freshman sharpshooter Katie Lou Samuelson led all scorers with 21 points, which tied her career high. Samuelson went five-for-10 from 3-point range and also grabbed rebounds.
In the first quarter UConn was able to build a lead by getting the ball into the post. Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart combined for 12 points in the paint in the first quarter as the Huskies jumped out to a 19-8 lead.
The Huskies took over the game with a 31-point second quarter explosion thanks to some hot shooting from Samuelson. The freshman caught fire from long range, nailing three 3-pointers in the quarter. Samuelson, who scored 16 of her points in the first half, looked very comfortable on the court.
“I think that my confidence is up more than it was at the beginning of the season,” Samuelson said. “I just feel more comfortable out there to make plays and help out. I’m pretty comfortable and excited about moving forward.”
UConn ended the half on a 27-5 run and carried a 50-17 lead into the break. As a team, UConn shot 55 percent from the field in the first half while holding SMU to just 30 percent.
With senior day approaching, this conference championship holds special meaning to Stewart.
“It’s our last conference championship,” Stewart said. “As sophomores and juniors we probably didn’t think about it but now we are kind of savoring every moment.”
Stewart finished with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 23 minutes.
Moriah Jefferson scored 10 points and moved into 24th place on UConn’s all-time scoring list with 1,418 career points. Jefferson passed Chris Gedney and Peggy Walsh as she made the leap from 26th place.
Gabrielle Wilkins and McKenzie Adams each had 10 points for SMU but the duo shot just nine for 28 from the field due to UConn’s defense.
The Huskies’ 47-point victory will improve their scoring margin that already leads the nation. UConn entered the game outscoring opponents by 40.3 points per game
Samuelson, whose 21-point performance followed up a 19-point performance against East Carolina, has the look of a player who is figuring things out at the right time.
“She just has a different kind of presence about her,” Auriemma said. “Given where she was in December and where she is today, she’s made a tremendous amount of progress and every day in practice she gets a little bit better.”