Uncasville, CT — The 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-off at Mohegan Sun Arena featured top-25 Michigan, 2017 Final Four participant South Carolina, three All-Conference men’s players, but the UConn women were the ones showcased as the main event. They did not disappoint.
The Huskies came out on top 80 – 42 in a balanced effort on offense and defense. UConn got out to an early 18-3 run before Vanderbilt called their first timeout, then went on another 13-0 run later in the half, and it was lights out.
The Commodores were out of sorts in the first quarter, throwing up wild desperation shots and it would not improve throughout the game. UConn held them to 25 percent shooting on the day, 22 percent from 3 in an improved defensive effort from last Sunday against Ohio State.
“I think we were better [tonight] than we were last Sunday,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “We have a chance to be a good defensive team.”
Crystal Dangerfield had her best night of the season offensively with 19 points on 7-9 shooting, including 5-7 from 3-point range while leading the Huskies with seven assists.
“She’s like a quarterback,” Auriemma said. “It’s really shown itself these first couple games, she’s terrific and I have an awful lot of confidence in her.”
Forward Napheesa Collier filled up the box score with 16 points and 15 rebounds, her second double-double of the year.
“I’m just thinking about staying aggressive,” Collier said. “One of the things that coach has been emphasizing is going to get the ball and boxing out, so I go out and get the rebounds.”
Collier showcased her great hands defensively early and often, tallying two blocks and a steal in the contest. The rangy front court duo of her and Samuelson presented real problems for Vanderbilt’s offense, forcing multiple turnovers and poor shots.
“I keep thinking every night Pheesa’s getting a double-double. If every player worked as hard as Pheesa on the floor, we’d be in good shape,” Auriemma said.
UConn’s other starters got in on the fun early and often: forwards Katie-Lou Samuelson had 15 points while guard Meghan Walker had 14 points on an efficient 7-10 shooting.
The first half was a balanced offensive effort for the Huskies, as all five starters had eight or more points at halftime, but the bench once again had its struggles, scoring a combined nine points to the starters’ 71.
Freshman Olivia Nelson-Ododa had UConn’s strongest showing off the bench, scoring five points while grabbing two rebounds and an assist.
“Trying to project the next couple months out, we need Olivia to get really good so the more minutes she sees on the court, the more she gets involved, the better we’re gonna be down the road. She gives us a dimension that we just don’t have,” Auriemma said.
The Huskies will return to action in the Paradise Jam at the U.S. Virgin Islands, where they will take on Ole Miss, St. Johns and Purdue on Thanksgiving Weekend.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.