The Sweet Sixteen did not start great for Crystal Dangerfield.
At halftime in the matchup against UCLA, the 5-foot-5 UConn women’s basketball point guard had not scored a single point for the Huskies. Dangerfield averages 13.8 points per game for the squad along with six assists, so her lack of contribution was hurting her team that was playing a tough and physical opponent in the Bruins.
Dangerfield said the message she and senior Katie Lou Samuelson-who also did not score in the first half-got from UConn head coach Geno Auriemma at halftime was a pointed one.
“Coach definitely pointed out that Lou and myself hadn’t scored and after that he challenged Christyn [Williams] and myself to go get in the paint and go make some plays for ourselves and go make plays for others,” Dangerfield said of Auriemma’s message.
Dangerfield also mentioned that it was important for her to never lose confidence in herself or her shot despite being 0-for-6 from the field at the half.
“Coach is always saying in those moments you can’t be scared to miss,” Dangerfield said. “You still have to have confidence in yourself even you’ve gone 0-for-10 even.”
In the third period Dangerfield started to come alive a bit more. She only scored four points off of a trip to the line and a fast-break layup, but she also handed out two assists and grabbed a steal. However, the Huskies had fallen behind and were down 49-50 against UCLA at the end of the quarter.
It was in the fourth though that Dangerfield began to dial in and become clutch for UConn. Less than a minute into the quarter, after a Napheesa Collier layup, she hit a jump shot to put the Huskies up 53-50. Later, she weaved into the paint for a layup and grabbed a steal immediately out of a timeout. A 3-pointer with over seven minutes left in the game was a real dagger that put the Huskies up 58-52. They never looked back and ended the game with a 69-61 win over the Bruins. Dangerfield finished the game with 15 points, four assists and two steals. Eleven of her points came in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Dangerfield said it was a relief for her to hit a shot after a dismal first half.
“The first one was like ‘thank god it just finally went in,” Dangerfield said.
Once she began hitting more shots however, Dangerfield realized that she was becoming the play maker that her team needed in order to win the game.
“We didn’t really know where it was going to come from but we knew it was going to happen,” Dangerfield said of someone on the team having to step up. “We knew we were going to win the game tonight.”
Auriemma said that the biggest change Dangerfield has undergone since coming to UConn is taking up more responsibility-something that she didn’t necessarily do in past seasons.
“…I think Crystal’s biggest adjustment or biggest growth has come from taking on more personal accountability, more responsibility,” Auriemma said. “I think as you grow in our program, you start to see that at some point it’s going to be all on you. Her freshman year and her sophomore year, she had a lot of people around her that if she didn’t play well or something didn’t go right, they could bail her out. And now she’s in a situation where she looks around and says, it’s all on me.”
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.