UNCASVILLE – The UConn women’s basketball team traveled to Mohegan Sun Arena to take on Tulane Green Wave in the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals and won handily 82-56 to advance to the next day, but not without a few bumps and bruises along the way.
No. 1-ranked UConn (30-0) stars Crystal Dangerfield and Gabby Williams both were taken out of the game early Sunday night with injuries that left their status in question for Monday’s semifinal matchup.
Dangerfield, the Huskies’ sophomore point guard, was one of the best players on the floor when she was playing and helped provide a spark to offense in the first half, before being taken off midway through the third quarter after a collision going for a loose ball.
“My ankle, it just got landed on,” Dangerfield said. “It’s fine.”
Dangerfield finished with 14 points on 5-7 shooting, with a perfect 4-4 from 3-point range. Although she didn’t end up with any assists on the night, Dangerfield was still a constant threat on offense in her 24 minutes on the floor. The Murfreesboro, Tenn. native also added an impressive four steals on the night, making for a constant thorn in Tulane’s side.
“I think [my performance] came from just listening to Coach [Geno Auriemma] and taking what the defense is giving us on offense,” Dangerfield said.
Williams struggled to get going offensively, finishing with just two points on 1-4 shooting, along with five rebounds and four assists in 16 minutes on the court. Williams was taken out with 2:46 left in the first half, but it’s unclear what the reason for her injury was.
Although Williams said she had no comment on exactly what happened on the play that put her out of the game, Auriemma provided a little insight on what was bothering the senior forward.
“Her hip has been bothering her, obviously, for a long time,” Auriemma said. “She just tweaked it a little bit on the one defensive possession…She could’ve played if we didn’t have another game for a week maybe, but there’s no point in aggravating a little bit more. Tomorrow, I’m sure she’ll be a little bit sore, but we’ll know tomorrow in shoot around and I’m guessing everything will be fine.”
Williams had a simple response regarding her status for tomorrow’s semifinal, to be played against the Cincinnati Bearcats, who defeated the Tulane Green Wave in the quarterfinal after UConn’s game.
“Good to go tomorrow,” Williams said after the game with confidence.
Under Pressure and Under the Sun
UConn’s full-court pressure in the first half at Mohegan Sun was stellar, forcing Tulane into 14 of its 17 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
With the likes of Williams, Dangerfield and American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year Kia Nurse pressing the Green Wave’s ball handlers, the Huskies got themselves in a groove to force the tempo and score a ton of points in transition.
Nurse, in particular, showed off why she was named the best defensive player in the conference and was praised by her coach afterwards for wanting to always improve on that end of the floor.
“Most good defensive players, it starts with they wanna be,” Auriemma said. “Anybody who’s a really bad defender, just they wanna be. They want to be a bad defender so they are. Someone who’s a really good defender has made the decision at some point in time they wanna be… and that’s what Kia does…She’s certainly as good as anybody we’ve had.”
As to be expected with Dangerfield and Williams sitting out for the later stages of the game, the full court pressure wasn’t as effective in the second half. Auriemma attributed that to a few too many substitutions.
“A lot of the stuff that happens, with our first group especially, stems from what we do defensively,” Auriemma said. “It’s not a coincidence that when we start subbing and sub a little too much that our defense breaks down and we don’t get as many opportunities on the other end.”
Next up, the Huskies will take on the Bearcats in the American Athletic Conference semifinals. The game will be played at the Mohegan Sun Arena at 7 p.m.