The No. 3 UConn women’s basketball team traveled to an unfamiliar place without its head coach Geno Auriemma. Instead, longtime associate head coach Chris Dailey stepped in for Auriemma, who is dealing with an illness, according to the team.
Auriemma previously missed one regular season game and three BIG EAST Tournament games in 1989 while serving a suspension due to a scheduling snafu. He missed three games in the 1997 BIG EAST Tournament following the death of his father. Dailey led the team on both occasions to a 7-0 total record.
UConn is now 99-0 in the American Athletic Conference regular season play since joining the league before the 2013-14 season.
The Huskies have only played at Tulsa three times, with the last time coming on Jan. 17, 2017. The Huskies won 78-60, but Auriemma said at the time that it was one of the most “disgraceful” efforts he had seen in Connecticut. While the game Sunday wasn’t a thing of beauty, the effort was certainly there.
On the court, Tulsa got off to a hot start in the first quarter, jumping out to an early 9-2 lead thanks to three 3-pointers from Morgan Brady. But the Huskies were able to claim the lead by a Megan Walker layup and UConn would never give it back, ending the quarter on a 15-0 run.
Tulsa (11-15, 5-8 The American) was able to make UConn pay from beyond the arc, but that was about it. The Golden Hurricane shot over 40 percent from 3-point land, but only 32 percent from inside the arc. The UConn defense was able to force bad shots and create 19 turnovers. Napheesa Collier said prior to the game that the team has continued to focus on the defensive side of the game.
UConn (25-2, 13-0 The American) was propelled by strong games from Walker and Christyn Williams, who had family in attendance, Dailey said post game. Collier, who has been on an absolute tear for the past month and a half, scored her least amount of points (12) since Jan. 13 against USF. However, Walker’s fourth career double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds was enough to guide the Huskies to a 68-49 win against Tulsa.
“Those are all things that we need building up, heading into the end of the regular season and heading into the tournament and into March,” Dailey said. “We need to have consistent contributions from those players and certainly when Lou and Napheesa are struggling a little bit on the offensive end.”
Katie Lou Samuelson finished the game with 10 points, shooting 4-for-15 to go with eight rebounds and six assists. While she did not score in bunches as she did against Memphis, she was able to pass the ball extremely well while fighting for rebounds.
“I do think that running the floor harder and getting out in transition and having people run and out run people, builds confidence in (passing),” Dailey said after practice on Friday. “In our half-court offense, yeah, I think there is a trust factor. There’s also a better sense of who needs the ball when, and where do they need it. We’re not making passes to people who can’t do anything with it. We’re giving the ball to people in positions where they can score and I think that’s when we’re most effective.”
While the Huskies did not necessarily put on a clinic, the team was able to finish with 21 assists. UConn scored 17 points off turnovers and 26 points in the paint, while holding Tulsa to 14 points in the paint and six points off turnovers.
Dailey said that Mikayla Coombs has begun to carve out a useful defensive role for UConn. In nine minutes against Tulsa, she had two steals.
“(Coombs has) gotten a sense of how to be a good defensive player for us and that could be her niche,” Dailey said Friday. “We are looking for someone to fill that role and she’s been, the last week, really active on the defensive end and that’s helped us.”
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.