Katie Lou Samuelson does not go down without a fight.
The 6-foot-3 UConn women’s basketball senior dropped 29 points on Sunday afternoon’s 80-73 win against first-seeded Louisville to lead the Huskies to their 12th consecutive Final Four.
After the game, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said that he knew someone on his team was going to have to step up in order for the squad to pull out the win.
“At this time of year, in these big games, either one of their guys or one of our guys is going to be the difference, and tonight it happened to be Lou,” head coach Geno Auriemma said of Samuelson’s game.
Samuelson missed the conference tournament earlier in the season due to back spasms and in Friday’s regional semifinal game against UCLA, she scored only six points, making many fans wonder if she was at 100 percent health-wise.
“It really bothered her,” Auriemma said of Samuelson’s performance against UCLA. “She was not in a good place yesterday, physically or mentally.”
Fellow senior Napheesa Collier said that Samuelson’s back pain wasn’t something directly on the team’s mind going into Sunday’s game.
“While she is in pain, she’s proved multiple times that she can play through pain and this was her breakout night,” Collier said.
Samuelson’s first points of the night came off a fast-break 3-pointer that put the Huskies up 7-0 against the Cardinal’s. At the end of the first quarter, she led the team in points with five.
In the second quarter, Samuelson added two more treys to continue fueling the Huskies. At the end of the half UConn led 41-34.
It was more of the same in the third as Samuelson scored eight points, but was forced to sit with a little under three minutes left after picking up her fourth foul. Even being on the bench though she was able to make an impact by talking to her team in the huddle.
“I think this year, especially sitting out the games I did, I found ways to make an impact not being in the game,” Samuelson said. “I felt like, when I have something to say, they all listen, and they all kind of come through.”
Samuelson was put back into the game with a little over six minutes left and dropped 10 more points. She never picked up her fifth foul and as the clock ran down she pumped up the crowd and began to let the emotions of winning a hard-fought game in.
“We experienced a lot of ups and downs this year playing-wise, close games and close losses and for us to get to this point, to win and to win the way we have, and the way we’re playing right now as a team, we’re just so happy with where we are, and it’s just special,” Samuelson said. “This team is special. And every single one of these girls are my best friends, and I’m glad that I get this chance to go to the Final Four one last time.”
When the buzzer went off, junior Crystal Dangerfield ran straight to Samuelson and leapt onto her. She said she didn’t even think about her teammate’s sore back until after the fact.
“I had to give her the biggest hug,” Dangerfield said.
Auriemma doesn’t give out compliments a whole lot but when he says them dead-serious.
“She doesn’t look it, but she’s a tough kid,” he said of Samuelson game. “There’s a certain toughness about her and it’s not surprising.”
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.