Women’s Basketball: Huskies begin 2017 with conference opener against UCF


Gabby Williams drives in for a layup in UConn's 80-43 win over Chattanooga on Nov. 29, 2016 at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Gabby Williams drives in for a layup in UConn’s 80-43 win over Chattanooga on Nov. 29, 2016 at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Fresh off a decisive 87-81 road win over No. 4 Maryland, the No. 1 ranked UConn women’s basketball teams kicks off 2017 on the road to open up American Athletic Conference play against UCF.

The Huskies’ victory over Maryland extended their current win streak to 87 games, the second longest in program history and the third longest in NCAA basketball history. A win over the Knights on New Year’s Day will give UConn 88 straight wins, tying them for second-longest streak all-time with the UCLA men’s streak spanning from 1968-71. The Huskies hold the NCAA record with 90 straight wins from 2008-11.

After entering the season predicted to finish eighth in the American, the Knights are currently 10-3 heading into conference play. UCF is led by senior guard preseason second team all-conference player Zykira Lewis, who is averaging 16.5 points on 43.5 percent shooting from the field. Lewis serves as the Knights’ only willing 3-point shooter, taking 90 of the team’s 146 attempts and shooting 30 percent from deep.

Much like the Huskies, UCF lacks significant size, with with no frontcourt players taller than 6-foot-1 other than the 6-foot-5 Kayla Thomas, who has only appeared in four games this season and has played just 13 minutes overall.

Following a 23-point performance in the win over the Terrapins while battling a stomach bug, UConn sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson looks to build on one of the gutsiest performances in program history. Samuelson hit eight of 17 shots and added two assists and three rebounds in the road victory. She is now averaging 20.8 points per game on the season while shooting 46 percent from the 3-point line.

While Samuelson excelled despite her illness, teammate Napheesa Collier was mired with foul trouble, snapping her double-double streak at two games with a 12-point, five-rebound performance in just 27 minutes.

Senior guard Saniya Chong, who once again came up clutch against Maryland with a late 3-pointer, has been solid since returning from a two-game absence due to concussion-like symptoms, averaging nine points and 4.5 assists in her first two games back.

Chong’s return has taken some of the pressure off of star freshman Crystal Dangerfield, who has scored just six points in 11 minutes against Nebraska and Maryland combined. With conference play set to begin, Dangerfield should see an increase in minutes as the Huskies to get more contributions from their bench.

UConn and UCF will square off at 1 p.m. in Orlando, Florida. The game will be broadcast on SNY.

Dan Madigan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering football and women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.

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