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Addition of Samuelson Means More Room For Stewart. By Rich Elliott.

POSTED January 20, 2016
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UConn Women’s Basketball Notebook

OPENING UP – UConn coach Geno Auriemma was looking for a means to open the floor and provide more space for All-American Breanna Stewart to operate offensively. He has seemingly found the answer by inserting 6-foot-4 freshman sharpshooter Katie Lou Samuelson into the starting lineup.

Not only did Samuelson produce career-highs of 21 points, five made 3-pointers and six assists in Saturday’s 104-49 win over Temple, but because of her shooting range the Owls were forced to defend her at the 3-point line, which created space in the middle for Stewart.

Samuelson also assisted on three of Stewart’s nine field goals.

“You could definitely notice a difference,” said Stewart, who scored 10 of her game-high 22 points in the paint. ``I’ve been starting on the perimeter I think the entire season besides this game, and defenses had to go out on Lou. So then there were openings inside as well.’’

With Samuelson moving into the starting lineup, the Huskies are looking to Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier to provide an impact off the bench. They both had 10 points, four rebounds and two assists against Temple, with Collier logging 22 minutes and Williams 21.

Williams, who started the first seven games, is averaging 9.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 20.1 minutes off the bench over the past nine games. Collier, who had started the previous eight games before being replaced by Samuelson Saturday, is averaging 6.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals in 19.1 minutes in a reserve role this season.

``It seems like everything Gabby does results in a bucket whether it’s a rebound, it’s a steal, it’s something in transition or something,’’ Auriemma said. ``So we feel as a coaching staff that when Gabby gets in the game things do change. I don’t think we’re as a good a team because when you take (Morgan) Tuck out let’s say and you put Gabby in we’re not as good a team. But we’re different and that’s all I want. Just us to be different. And when Napheesa comes in if it’s for Stewie or somebody we’re not as good, but we’re a little bit different in our look and what we do. So that’s basically all you want. They’re good at what they’re good at and that’s what I want them to do… be good at what you’re good at.’’

MORE OF THE SAME – Temple coach Tonya Cardoza served as an assistant coach at UConn from 1994-2008. The Huskies were a combined 465-41, winning five national championships and making eight Final Four appearances during her tenure.

Cardoza undoubtedly witnessed her share of great teams. And this collection of players, led by All-American Moriah Jefferson, Stewart and soon-to-be All-American Tuck, is the latest on that list.

Heading into Wednesday’s game against Central Florida at the XL Center (7 p.m.; SNY), the top-ranked Huskies lead the nation in scoring (88.8), field goal shooting percentage (.518) and margin of victory (37.3) and are second in assists (21.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.83).

``They're really talented. They're shooting the ball really well,’’ Cardoza said. ``When you have the best player in the world in (Breanna) Stewart that makes it easy. Tuck is having an unbelievable year. I think she is the unsung hero. And Moriah is the engine that gets it going. Then you have a bunch of guys that come in and know how to play their role and they do a really good job at it.’’

-- RICH ELLIOTT

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