Gabby Williams continues reaching higher and higher. Huskies down Kanas State, 97-57.
HARTFORD: At some points on Monday night, it seemed safer for every other University of Connecticut women’s basketball player to stay away from the defensive or offensive glass if Gabby Williams was in the area.
Williams has become that kind of force on both sides of the court as witnessed by one of the fastest double-doubles you will see until, perhaps, the next time Williams takes the floor.
In the Huskies' 97-57 yawn of a win over Kansas State on Monday night in front of 8,369 at the XL Center, the sophomore forward reached that level late in the second quarter on her way to a 16-point, 12-rebound effort against a team that ran mostly a zone against the Huskies.
The pace of play was sluggish for most of the first quarter until the second year player stepped in.
“When you play teams that are just committed to playing zone,” head coach Geno Auriemma said, “they make you stand still if you’re not careful. You end up doing exactly what they want you to do. We got to be a little standing still. She (Williams) just changed the game. On the defensive end and on the offensive boards.”
Since starting the second exhibition game this season, Williams has remained with the first unit and shown the consistency, day in and day out, that the UConn coaches have been looking for, and saw hints of during her freshman year.
This year, though, the turnaround has been 180 degrees and the head coach, who won his 919th game on the 30 year anniversary of his first one, is having a hard time remembering a player that brings the things Williams does to the table and considering the pedigree at UConn, that’s saying a great deal.
“I’m not sure we can compare her to anybody,” Auriemma said. “We haven’t had anybody like that in a long time. Maybe Tamika Williams, but that’s a long time ago and Gabby’s even different than Tamika Williams. Maybe Lawrence Taylor, I mean she’s everywhere.”
His reference to the legendary New York Giants linebacker who changed how the position was viewed in the NFL is some kind of compliment.
Williams, who stand just 5’11”, is a former track stand out who could jump out of most gyms.
“I’m definitely small for a forward” Williams said. “I use that to my advantage because people look at me and don’t think I can jump that high.”
On a night that her teammate, Breanna Stewart scored her 2,000th point with a 25-point, eight-rebound effort, it was Williams that most wanted to talk about.
“Sometimes you sit there and find yourself watching her,” Moriah Jefferson (14 points, seven assists) said. “She’s jumping up and snatching rebounds down with just one hand and then going back up. I guess people forget that she was a track star, that’s what she did. She jumps. She brings that to the floor here and she’s killing it on the offensive rebounds. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
The consistency of attacking the glass was something that took Williams some time, as one would expect when you get to the UConn level of excellence.
“It’s definitely been a confidence builder this past year,” Williams said. “Last year was hard because I was learning a lot of things. There’s a level of aggression and work ethic that you have to have and now that I picked that up, things are starting to come.”
When asked what it was like to play with the other two players in the interview room, Stewart and Jefferson, Williams beamed.
“Honestly, it’s just so fun to play with them,” Williams said. “I don’t think there’s a better word for it because the things that they can do and the talent and work ethic that they have the things that follow are amazing. Hopefully we can help make it fun for them to.”
If Stewart and Jefferson bring the wow factor with their offensive play, Williams is right there when it comes to soaring above both her opponents and if they are not careful, her own teammates.