It was a win the Huskies had to grind out.
The No. 2 UConn women’s basketball team closed out their regular season slate on Monday night, defeating conference foe USF, 57-47.
Despite the Bulls losing key scorers to season-ending injuries earlier in the season, the Huskies struggled to put up points in the first half. The offensive struggles may have been due to senior Katie Lou Samuelson sitting out the matchup as she was suffering from back spasms resulting from an injury she sustained on Saturday afternoon when the Huskies took on Houston. Samuelson averages 18.9 points per game for UConn (28-2, 16-0 The American).
“We knew going in without Lou that it was going to be hard getting anything done in the lane,” head coach Geno Auriemma told Hartford Courant reporter Kelli Stacy.
Freshman Olivia Nelson-Ododa got her first career start for UConn as she replaced Samuelson in the starting lineup.
In the first quarter, USF (16-14, 7-9 The American) ran down the clock on their possessions, forcing the Huskies to play strong defense for long stretches. The Bulls held UConn to their lowest first quarter point total this season with 11 points. At the half, the Huskies trailed 25-29.
The Huskies entered the second half with zero fast-break points. However, they were able to rev up their offense and went on a 15-4 run coming out of halftime. Defensively, UConn forced eight Bulls turnovers in 10 possessions. USF hung in and with a little over nine minutes remaining in the game, the score was tied 45-45. Freshman Christyn Williams contributed seven points in the fourth and helped the Huskies amass their largest lead of the night. With two minutes left, UConn had pushed the lead to 10.
Junior Crystal Dangerfield led the way for the Huskies with 17 points, three rebounds and nine assists. Nelson-Ododa proved her worth in the second half by being a much-needed defensive force for the team. In the first half, Auriemma subbed out Nelson-Ododa four minutes into the matchup. When she returned in the second half she had clearly received her coach’s message and filled up the stat sheet. The freshman ended the night with six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and four steals.
“I thought for the most part our entire second half effort was really, really good,” Auriemma told Stacy of the team’s comeback efforts.
The win pushes UConn’s overall record to 28-2 and its conference record to 16-0. The Huskies are 102-0 in regular season games in the American Athletic Conference. They are this season’s regular season conference champions and will enter the conference tournament this upcoming weekend as the No. 1 seed.
In addition, Samuelson and fellow senior Napheesa Collier were named two of the 10 semifinalists for the 2019 Citizen Women’s Naismith Trophy on Monday. UConn is the only program in the country with multiple semifinalists. UConn has 10 Naismith winners all-time, the most of any program. The Naismith Trophy winner will be announced on April 6.
The Huskies will not be back in action until Saturday afternoon when they will head to Mohegan Sun to play in the conference tournament. The tournament begins on Friday but as the No. 1 seed UConn receives a bye and will head straight to the quarter-finals. The matchup is slated to begin at 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.