The Huskies took care of business at Gampel Pavilion Thursday night against Cincinnati, beating their conference rivals 80-50 behind a big night from Crystal Dangerfield.
No. 4 UConn’s (19-1) undefeated record against the American Athletic Conference was in question when they went into halftime leading by just four. But Dangerfield came out of the locker room doing a raindance, shooting 5-for-6 from beyond the arc to the tune of 16 points in the final 20 minutes.
“She just played a good game just overall, forget shooting the ball well,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “You need your seniors to do that. You’re a senior point guard, you know to gravitate towards those moments where we need you to make shots. She really stepped up tonight and made them.”
Dangerfield finished the game with 24 points total, adding five assists, three rebounds and a steal.
“It gave everybody the chance to take a deep breath and gave everybody a sigh of relief when the ball started going in because we sure missed a lot,” Auriemma continued.
Despite taking two shots to the face and losing a contact lense, Megan Walker scored 21 points shooting an efficient 8-for-13. She joined the 1,000 point-club in the first quarter of the game.
“I think I had five points, and I looked up and thought, ‘oh I need one more,’ but by then I was just in the flow of the game,” Walker said. “When it happened, I didn’t even realize it.”
Auriemma spoke to Walker’s toughness and will to get back out on the floor.
“She got poked in the same eye twice, and it’s pretty swollen. I had no intention of putting her back in,” Auriemma said. “I looked at her and said ‘what’s up?’ She shook her head yes and said ‘I’m good.’”
Auriemma, a Philadelphia guy through and through, joked he thought she was going to say “cut me Micky.”
Walker also led the game in rebounds with 11, and blocked two shots.
“I wanted to get back out there and contribute, even if I had just one eye,” Walker said.
Antoinette Miller led the way for Cincinnati (13-7), scoring 19 points. After starting the game 6-for-10, she finished 7-for-22. She wade two of Cincinnati’s three total 3-pointers, and led the team in rebounds with eight.
The highlight of the night for the Bearcats was a 22-point second quarter, in which they held UConn to just nine points. In every quarter except the second, however, the Huskies outscored Cincinnati 71-28.
“In the first quarter, the ball was moving, and we were cutting pretty well. Our defense was pretty good,” Auriemma said.
Counting the exhibition against Team USA, this was UConn’s fourth game in seven days.
“Maybe in the second quarter it just caught up to us. It’s a tiring stretch that we’re in, it’s pretty grueling,” Auriemma said. “Maybe it just caught up to us a little bit and we needed to get our second wind at halftime.”
That second wind did indeed come in time for the second half. UConn will have the weekend to rest and recover before perhaps their most challenging game yet.
The Huskies will take on No. 3 Oregon Monday night at Gampel Pavilion. That game will tip off at 7 p.m.