As the dynamic trio of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck left UConn with their fourth national championship, so did most of the Huskies’ scoring. The three seniors accounted for nearly 52 percent of UConn’s points last season, creating a massive void for the Huskies on the offensive end.
In the 111-39 exhibition win over Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Katie Lou Samuelson seems more than ready to step up and lead the Huskies’ offensive attack. The sophomore picked up right where she left off at the end of her standout freshman season, scoring 24 points on 10-19 shooting.
“Over time I know that I need to do a lot more things for this team and a lot of us do have to play different roles, so I’ve been trying to expand mine,” Samuelson said. “I think that I’m going to take the shots that I’m given…Whoever is hot we get the ball to and we kind of try to go more to them.”
Samuelson wasted no time getting on the board, taking the opening tip right to hoop just three seconds in to put UConn up 2-0. She’d tack on 11 more points over the next 9:57 as the Huskies put up 33 points on the Crimson Hawks in the opening quarter.
In her short time in Storrs, Samuelson’s game has already evolved. After entering her freshman season as primarily a spot shooter, Samuelson showed more confidence and aggressiveness, routinely taking her defender to the rim and finishing layups with either hand in the paint. The added variety in her game gives her options to fall back on when her normally-superb three-point shot is off like it was tonight, where she was just 2-7 from deep.
“I’ve definitely worked on it,” Samuelson said on expanding her skillset. “It’s a comfort thing now since I was working on it and I got more comfortable with it. In practices I’ve been trying to do more than just stay on the three-point line.”
Irwin, Bent stand out in first collegiate game
The freshmen class made its much-anticipated debut in the win over IUP, with Kyla Irwin, Molly Bent and Crystal Dangerfield all seeing time for the Huskies. Bent was the first freshman off the bench for UConn, entering late in first quarter. She finished the night with two points, one rebound and one assist in 18 minutes and looked comfortable within the offense.
“She works really hard, she’s got a pretty good understanding of what’s going on,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said of Bent. “She gets better everyday. She’s very tough physically, she’s in great shape and she has some skills…She hasn’t disappointed me one bit.”
Dangerfield played the least of the three freshman, scoring two points on two free throws in 12 minutes of play. She wasted little time making an impact once she got on the floor with a no-look pass to Napheesa Collier with less than two minutes left in the first half. The highly-touted freshman finished the night with three assists and two rebounds and missed her only two shots from the field.
Irwin led all freshman with 12 points on 4-5 shooting from the field. The 6-foot-2-inch Irwin had a knack for finishing in traffic against a smaller IUP team and did her part on the glass with four rebounds. Auriemma praised Irwin’s ability to hit shots from all over the floor following Monday’s practice, and her all-around talents could prove useful to the Huskies off the bench this season.
“[Kyla] does a lot of little things pretty well. She’s very comfortable with the ball in her hands,” Auriemma said. “Right now, she’s exactly what I thought she’d be.”
Irwin’s success in her debut shows she’s working toward adjusting to the struggles that come with being a freshman at a program like UConn.
“Everything is just so fast. Here at Connecticut, everything is just 100 miles per hour and you just have to go hard,” Irwin said. “You don’t get a break, but it’s good.”