The UConn women’s basketball team defeated No. 1 Notre Dame 89-71 Sunday in the highly-anticipated rematch against the reigning national champions.
The last time these two teams squared off, the Irish defeated UConn 91-89 in overtime to advance to the 2018 National Championship game.
This season the Huskies wrote a new story with freshman Christyn Williams as the headline.
The 5-11 guard from Little Rock, Arkansas scored a career high 28 points and played all 40 minutes of the game. Williams was ranked the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2018 by ESPN.
“She’s one of those rare individuals that come along,” Auriemma told Kelli Stacy of the Hartford Courant. “She made a statement last summer that we’re going to win a national championship in her freshman season and she felt bad about it but she believed it… some people just know what they’re meant for.”
Before heading to Indiana, Williams said she wasn’t fazed by the big stage of the matchup against the Irish.
“I’m just treating it like a regular game,” Williams told the Courant.
The game was played at Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion which was packed to the brim with fans in green. The Irish won the tip and started the game with a jumper from Jessica Shepard.
Williams made the first bucket for UConn and demonstrated her athleticism and competitiveness early on. By the end of the first quarter she racked up 16 points including nine points in under four minutes.
The Huskies led most of the fourth but the Irish stayed on their tale with the first quarter coming to a close with the score at 27-22.
The next quarter the two teams battled it out even more with the Irish’s Arike Ogunbowale proving her game-winning shot against UConn last season wasn’t a fluke. Ogunbowale hit near impossible shots with ease.
A big story for the Huskies in the first half was the scoring absence of senior Katie Lou Samuelson, who has averaged 20 points per game so far this season. She remained scoreless for the entire first half.
Despite Samuelson’s quiet first half, the Huskies were able to head into the locker room with a three point lead.
Auriemma noted it was a good thing the Huskies were able to persevere without Samuelson scoring.
“To be up whatever we were up at halftime without Lou making a bucket is a good sign,” Auriemma told the Courant.
In the second half the Huskies struck first, as senior Napheesa Collier made a stepback jumper. Collier earned her fifth double-double of the season in the third.
Samuelson ended her dry spell in the third and freshman Olivia Nelson-Adoda had a massive block with a little more than a minute to go in the quarter that shifted the momentum toward the Huskies.
Auriemma said he was impressed with Nelson-Adoda’s play. She was the only sub that came in for the Huskies.
Collier got into foul trouble in the third and sat for most of the second half after picking up her fourth foul.
The third ended with the Huskies up 65-59.
In the fourth quarter the Huskies began to pull away from the Irish as the their lead blossomed.
With 4:25 left in the game, the Irish’s Ogunbowale received a technical foul. The foul was given while she was close to both the UConn bench and Auriemma. Ogunbowale appeared to say something that caused her to receive the technical.
With a little under five minutes left in the game the Huskies were up 77-66. From there, the Huskies never looked back as they grew the lead to a final 18 points.
At the end of the game all five UConn starters were in double figures.
“We found a way to answer everything,” Auriemma told the Courant. “There wasn’t anything that went down that we didn’t have an answer for. There were a couple times where we looked a little bit disheveled out there but I thought for the most part we were going to get our buckets and people took turns.”
Despite the team play it was apparent that Williams made her mark. When asked about what the difference between this year’s defeat of Notre Dame versus last year’s loss to them was, Auriemma said it was all Williams.
“We threw the ball to Christyn Williams, but she was in high school,” Auriemma told the Courant.
The Huskies are now 7-0 so far this season while Notre Dame drops to 7-1.
Next up, the Huskies will play Saint Louis on Tuesday for Collier’s senior homecoming game.
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.