Crystal Dangerfield isn’t one to shy away from a challenge.
The 5-foot-5-inch junior from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was one of the most highly-recruited point guards coming out of high school and had big shoes to fill as a freshman with the graduation of two-time Nancy Lieberman Award winner Moriah Jefferson.
“You kind of put a lot of pressure on yourself,” Dangerfield said. “You want to live up to that and Moriah did a great job here and those are big shoes to fill, but at the same time I’m a different player and I want to be able to do my own thing here.”
In Sunday’s matchup against UCF, Dangerfield very much proved that she has made herself into a standout player.
Dangerfield scored 17 points, dished out nine assists and grabbed five rebounds with zero turnovers in 35 minutes of play.
“That might be the best game she’s ever played at Connecticut,” head coach Geno Auriemma said after the matchup.
Auriemma detailed how, as a freshman, Dangerfield struggled to find her footing in the Huskies program.
“Crystal had to find herself,” Auriemma said. “Crystal came and was pretty good and was like okay we’re being pretty good and didn’t understand what really really good was and what it took to get there.”
In the game against UCF, Dangerfield attacked the rim and drew fouls, many times being banged up in the process.
“It was really interesting to see when she was a freshman, every little thing set her back,” Auriemma said. “So, we just kept our fingers crossed that nothing happened because then it’s a two-week project. And now she won’t come off the court, no matter what.”
One of the highlights of the game came at the end of the first half when Dangerfield made a layup buzzer-beater off a nifty pass from Katie Lou Samuelson.
“At first she was just going to lob it up to me and then… as soon as she went to take the ball I saw that there wasn’t anyone on her and she just said to me, ‘right back’ and I knew that meant hitting her right away,” Samuelson said.
The shot earned a standing ovation from the crowd.
Samuelson also said that the team plays better as a whole when Dangerfield finds her groove.
“I think she’s kind of that puzzle piece that just fits everything together ‘cause all of us can play how we feed off each other… but with Crystal adding that in, she’s the person that distributes the ball, she’s the person that kind of just tells us where to go on the court and so when she’s locked in… it seems like everything’s exactly where it needs to be,” Samuelson said.
After the game, Dangerfield said that coach Auriemma motivating her helps her with her aggressiveness.
“He wants to see who’s going to go out there and make the tough plays and it’s kind of just a feel for the game like what’s going on and if that’s the type of play our team needs at the moment that’s what I’m trying to do,” Dangerfield said.
As a junior, Dangerfield still has plenty of time to cement her legacy at UConn and, according to Auriemma, that legacy will be a good one.
“She’s found herself and when really talented kids do that the sky’s the limit,” Auriemma said.
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.