UConn opened up conference play Sunday afternoon with an 83-54 blowout win against Temple that will strike fear into the rest of The American.
The Huskies opened the season as the No. 5 team in the country; their lowest preseason ranking since the 2006-07 season. They then opened the season 2-0, but in narrow-margined games against weaker opponents.
Sunday against Temple, the Huskies bared their teeth.
The core four shouldered the scoring load like they have all season, Christyn Williams scoring 19, Megan Walker and Olivia Nelson-Ododa with 15 apiece and Crystal Dangerfield scoring 14. Nelson-Ododa also blocked five shots and had 10 rebounds to record her third double-double in just as many games this season.
That totals to 63 points from UConn’s (3-0) best four players. In the first two games this season, they scored 60 against Vanderbilt and 70 against California. Who made the difference for the Huskies against Temple (3-2) was everybody else.
Freshman Aubrey Griffin made a big impact on the game in her 17 minutes of action off of the bench. She was close to her first career double-double with nine points and eight rebounds, while also bringing her endless motor to the defensive end to get two steals.
“Defense is important,” Griffin said. “Coach always says to get in the passing lanes and to keep our hands up, and we do a good job.”
Head coach Geno Auriemma had a lot of great things to say about the impact freshman.
“She’s really, really good at what she’s good at, which is playing pretty good defense, in transition she’s really good, offensive rebounding she’s really good,” Auriemma said. “I say this a lot about freshmen, whatever you see today is the worst they’re going to look. They’re only going to get better, hopefully. She has a huge upside, I’m really excited about her. I enjoy coaching her.”
Anna Makurat got her second straight start and made her first field goal as a Husky after starting the season 0-6, though she’s now 0-10 from behind the arc. Makurat found other ways to contribute besides scoring, totalling seven assists to just two turnovers and snatching four rebounds in her 25 minutes of action.
“She [Makurat] knows what she’s doing,” Auriemma said. “We desperately need another guard out there that can make shots, handle the ball and make plays for other people.”
Kyla Irwin even made a big impact on the game in just five minutes of time on the court. The senior forward shot a lights out 3-3 with one coming from downtown on her way to a seven-point effort.
“Kyla knows what we’re doing out there. She’s going to make a good pass, set a good screen and be a complementary player,” Auriemma said.
As good as Williams, Walker, Nelson-Ododa and Dangerfield are, this team will have to go at least five or six players deep to be at their best and compete against the likes of other top teams in the country. Getting an all-around effort from everyone is what separates the Huskies from “very good” and “great.”
For their next game, UConn will be returning home to the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut to play against the University of Virginia. That game will be Tuesday night at 7 p.m.