The No. 1 UConn women’s basketball team thrived in the underdog role against then No.1 Notre Dame Sunday afternoon. It is a role that most players on the Huskies have never been in during their collegiate careers.
“(Katie Lou Samuelson) probably hasn’t been in that situation since she’s been at Connecticut, you know,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said of the team being in the underdog role. “There probably hasn’t been a time when she’s gone into a game thinking that people expect the other team to win.”
Prior to the matchup, there was a concern that Notre Dame would out rebound the Huskies due to their height advantage. However, UConn hauled in 46 rebounds compared to Notre Dame’s 41, thanks to Napheesa Collier’s 15. Freshman Olivia Nelson-Ododa proved that she could provide meaningful minutes off the bench for the Huskies against a top opponent. In 16 minutes, she grabbed five rebounds and scored five points.
UConn (7-0) will look to ride this momentum into Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Saint Louis (4-4) in the Chaifetz Arena. The Billikens have faced two American Conference teams, Cincinnati and Tulsa, and dropped each game. Jordyn Frantz scored nearly half of the team’s 50 points, with 23 off the bench. They out rebounded the Bearcats 39-37, but they also turned the ball over 17 times.
Saint Louis is bigger than the Huskies. The tallest player for UConn is Nelson-Ododa who stands at 6-foot-5. The Billikens have two players that stand at 6-foot-5 and their starting center, Amber Lindfors, is listed at 6-foot-4. Just because they are taller, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the superior rebounders. Lindfors is averaging a mediocre 4.3 rebounds per game. On the other hand, for UConn, Collier leads the team with 10.6 rebounds per game.
Collier, who is a Missouri native, said that she will have plenty of family in the audience for the game Tuesday night. She will also be going to her alma mater as her jersey from high school is retired.
“It’s really cool,” Collier said. “I didn’t know it was happening. I didn’t even know it was an option because I don’t think they’ve ever done it before.”
Freshman standout Christyn Williams made the headlines following her superb game against Notre Dame. The starting guard said she was not nervous heading into the matchup and that was clear from the moment the two teams tipped off. Williams finished the contest with 28 points in 40 minutes. As a result, she was named The American Athletic Conference Player of the Week and espnW’s National Player of the Week.
Auriemma has said in the past that Williams’ game should reach a level where she is talked about as one of the top freshmen in both men’s and women’s basketball. Sunday afternoon was the first time when she was in front of a national audience and she looked like a superstar.
Her teammates, coaches and basketball pundits are not surprised by her breakout game, after all she was the No.1 recruit coming out of high school. Williams and company will look to continue to fine tune their game and their domination as the season progresses.
The game against Saint Louis can be heard on 97.9 ESPN radio and watched on the CBS Sports Network.
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.