Friday, December 8, 2017

No. 1 Connecticut 103, DePaul 69: Unselfish play rules the day for the Huskies

Photo Credit: David Banks- USA TODAY Sports                

CHICAGO— The top-ranked Connecticut Huskies (8-0) played the role of #DePaulBall to a tee as they converted 41 field goals off 34 assists, in a 103-69 route of the DePaul Blue Demons (6-3) at Wintrust Arena on Friday night.

Six players finished in double figures scoring, highlighted by Katie Lou Samuelson’s 20, on 8-of-16 shooting. Despite a lingering knee injury that kept her from playing in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame on Dec. 3, Samuelson finished with 30 minutes of action in the second complete game of the season.

"I was excited to get back out there and that kind of game [against DePaul] was really fast paced and shows you if you are in shape or not," Samuelson acknowledged. "I was not [in shape] at the beginning of the game, but I eventually got open looks and everything evened out."

Gabby Williams proved to be ultimate stat-stuffer with 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Williams started despite concerns over a migraine, which resulted in sitting out the second half of the Notre Dame game.

All of Crystal Dangerfield’s 18 points came off three-point makes as the Huskies shot 45.8 percent (11-of-24), to go along with a game-high nine assists, while Napheesa Collier finished with her third double-double of the season (17 points and 10 rebounds).

On top of the win, Auriemma stands one game away from his 1,000th win and would join Pat Summitt and Tara VanDerveer as the only coaches in women’s basketball to accomplish the feat.

"When you think of how many coaches who never got to this point puts it in perspective for me," Auriemma said. 

Auriemma relishes the coaching fraternity and the support he gets, but knows most fans will continue to view women's basketball as a niche sport.

"We [coaches] appreciate each other's accomplishments and whether anybody else does it or doesn't do it, we have come to expect that. I try not to lose any sleep over whether fans care or not," Auriemma said.

The Blue Demons' lack of size showed as they were out rebounded 53-27 by the Huskies and did not record a block in regulation.

Things looked out of sorts in the first few possessions as UConn's Kia Nurse and DePaul's Tanita Allen traded three-pointers to start the game, but saw both teams turn the ball over a combined four times in the stretch.

Up 8-6 in the early stages of the first quarter, Blue Demons coach Doug Bruno decided to tinker with the regular rotation as he subbed out all five of his starters for the bench, which did little to stop the Huskies’ upcoming series of runs.

DePaul kept things close until UConn converted timely jump shots to go on a 14-2 run to take a 29-14 lead, which would be the largest of the quarter as it led 33-20 after 10 minutes.

Connecticut’s ball movement looked flawless for most of the second quarter as Samuelson scored seven of the team’s first nine points as its lead grew to 43-27 at the 4:54 mark with 17 field goals on 14 assists.

The aerial display from long range went into effect as Dangerfield drained back-to-back triples to highlight a 14-3 run over 5:11 as the Huskies went into the halftime with a decisive 61-38 lead on the Blue Demons.

The Huskies’ dominance continued into the third quarter with a 14-4 run in the first 8:19 as they led by as many as 50 points and would not look back.

Game Notes:

- UConn’s moves to 15-1 all-time against DePaul and its dominance continues in the series as it has won the last 15 games.

- With Friday’s win, the Huskies’ streak of victories over unranked foes increased to 138 games.

Looking Ahead:

The Huskies will have an 11-day layoff for finals and return to action on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. as they play the Oklahoma Sooners in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Holiday Showcase at the Mohegan Sun Arena, while the Blue Demons travel north to Evanston to take on area rivals, the Northwestern Wildcats on Dec. 13 for a 7 p.m. tip.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.