Collier and Samuelson combine for 53 in Huskies win over Ohio State, 82-63.
HARTFORD: Ohio State had Kelsey Mitchell.
UConn had Naphessa Collier and Katie Louie Samuelson and a freshman defender who stopped the offensive machine that was Mitchell after the demonstrative guard had a brilliant first half.
There you go.
Once the Huskies figured out a way to stop the junior from Cincinnati, Ohio in the final 20-minutes, UConn was finally able to push away from the Buckeyes, thanks to a 30-point third quarter and as a result, won their 85th straight game with an 82-63 win.
Collier scored 27 and Samuelson 26 and the Huskies improved to 10-0, a remarkable number, not because they have never done it before but because they have taken and beaten all comers so far this year.
When you watch each game as the stat sheet fills up with contributions from a limited but worthy cast of five players who on Monday played at least 34 minutes apiece, you just shake your head.
As does their head coach who isn’t completely enamored with this group yet but understands that at times they are spectacular.
“That third quarter,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “If you tell me we are going to play like that three out of every four quarters for the rest of the year, I’d say we’re going to be pretty good.”
It was a quarter that sent you back to the last four years when these stretches occurred on a regular basis, like clockwork.
The fact that they are where they are at this point of the year has been surprising in a good way and while the team and the fan base is excited about it, the head coach is still warming to the idea.
“I hope somebody gives me happy pills for Christmas,” Auriemma said. “Because I have to start enjoying this team like everybody else seems to be enjoying them. I’m not exactly enamored with some of the stuff that we do. It gets a little hairy out there at times. What I like that we do, is we go on these stretches where everything we do is really, really good and we capitalize on maybe six or seven things in a row. That’s just enough to get some separation between us and the other team. I don’t think this team can put together 30-minutes of great play were we are going to get 90 (points). We’re not built like that this year but we have stretches were we look like we did in the past. I’m just a little fixated on the other stretches sometimes.”
Coming in, top ranked UConn knew they had their hands full with a team that loved to run and run some more while pilling up the points but it was the home team that ran out to the quick lead at 10-2 and stretched it to 19-7 late in the first quarter.
Ohio State though, had an answer and it came from their junior guard.
Mitchell supercharged a 9-0 run by the Buckeyes to cut a 12-point lead down to three at 19-16 with nine points during the run including a long range three-pointer from just over midcourt as time expired.
The run by the visitors was extended to 11 as Ohio State came all the way back to within one at 21-20 but a key offensive rebound by Natalie Butler led to a three-pointer by Samuelson that extended the lead back to four at 24-20.
UConn managed to push the visitors back behind eight points in the second quarter by Samuelson to take their biggest lead at 40-26 but Mitchell, who finished the half with 19 points on 7 for 14 shooting, went on her own 8-0 run to bring her team back to within six at the half at 40-34.
Who could stop the explosive and dynamic guard who was simply scoring at will most of the half?
That honor went to the newest Huskie, Crystal Dangerfield who greeted Mitchell when she left the locker room and wouldn’t let her breath.
Mitchell didn’t score her first second half points until the 4:10 mark of the mark of the third quarter and scored just two points in the frame while the Huskies poured in 30 during the quarter to stretch the lead to 70-48 after three. Mitchell finished with 23, just four in the second half.
Dangerfield and her mates seemed to take it the Mitchell first half performance personally and made the necessary adjustments at the half.
“Oh yeah we did,” Dangerfield said. “I heard that and thought it must have been a joke. We were just trying to limit her touches because when that happens, they kind of fall off.
Collier and Samuelson dominated the third period for UConn, scoring 25 of the 30 points in the frame as the top ranked team in the country ran out to that big lead as the quarter came to a close as did the Buckeyes chances of breaking the streak.
They continue to win behind the two big scorers in Samuelson and Collier while getting tremendous defense from Gabby Williams (12 rebounds, seven points, seven assists) and enough from Kia Nurse (11 points) and Dangerfield (eight points, five assists) and a little more than a month in, the head coach is somewhat pleased.
“We are maximizing what we have,” Auriemma said. “November 14 to December 19, a month and five days. We’re 10-0. We have beaten some pretty good teams and taken advantage of what we have and we’re hiding some of the things we don’t have. So far, so good.”
Holding a team to nearly 30 points less than their average will make a coach happy.
That and maybe a timely present from old Saint Nick.
NOTES: The Buckeyes came in averaging over 90 points per game this year, placing five players in double figures, led by Mitchell at 22.7 ppg.
On Monday, Shala Cooper scored 15 while Stephanie Mavunga added 13 to go along with 15 rebounds.
UConn shot a sizzling 61.1 percent in the third quarter.
The lack of depth on the UConn bench was evident in the first half and the long length of the Buckeyes bench was just as glaring. Ohio State went 10 deep, the Huskies just six.
Nurse and Samuelson each logged 39 minutes while Collier was on the floor 38, Williams and Dangerfield played 34 each.