Huskies roll Houston behind Williams
HARTFORD – Every once in a while UConn needs a lift, a little shot in the arm. Yep, even the Huskies whose last loss was about the time Lincoln was making theatre plans or something like that with the margin of victory along the way rivaling the Connecticut state debt.
But, there are those cranky days when the constant pursuit of perfection only reaches good or dare we say mediocre. Saturday was one of those days. The Huskies noon-time matinee with Houston in front of 12,316 at the XL Center was not vintage.
The outcome wasn’t in doubt despite the 91-42 bludgeoning of the Cougars which stretched the win streak to 95 straight. But, the start wasn’t exactly high on the scintillation meter.
Gabby Williams was, however. While the Huskies were kicking it around a bit, particularly in the early going, shooting 6-for-20 from the floor in the first quarter Williams was doing what Williams does lately, hitting the opposition in all areas.
A 19-point performance on 8-for-14 shooting, 10 rebounds and five assists for good measure. That was all in 30 minutes, since she got view proceedings from the bench for the final quarter.
Nobody’s star is rising higher and faster these days than Williams’. The 5-11 junior bundle of athleticism is getting shout outs from all corners for a well-rounded game fueled by a pair of springy, high octane legs that make her a force at both ends of the court and in all areas of the game.
Highly respected ESPN analyst Jay Bilas called Williams a `stud’ and “the most complete player in college basketball this past week. Coach Geno Auriemma is also somewhat mesmerized about what Williams brings to the hoop table.
“Today (Williams’ performance) was exactly what we needed,” said Auriemma. “Sometimes we throw the ball to Gabby and stand there and watch her play Because she‘s able to leap tall building with a single bound and all the other stuff she does and we get fascinated by watching her and everybody just stands. The first quarter seemed to be Gabby against them and that’s not normally what we do but she’s …. It was another 19-10-5 (points, rebounds, assists).
Auriemma didn’t let Williams get off totally scot free – “But it was a lousy day all around. She got no steals so why even show up.”
No write-ins guys and girls. He was kidding.
With Katie Lou Samuelson (16 points) and Napheesa Collier (10 points) a combined 1-for-6 with four points in the first quarter and both quiet by their standards during the game. Williams was prompted to pick up the slack
“Today was just kind of tough and we can’t allow ourselves to start like that in the first place. We have to come out from the jump,” said Williams. “Katie Lou) is never going to have an entire game where she’s off, ever. She’s going to find her shot eventually. I’m just trying to get the offensive rebound and kick it out to her and get the rhythm going,”
The early woes were UConn woes. Translation, it didn’t matter much as far as the outcome was concerned. The Cougars (8-13) were no match. They did lead briefly at 6-4, the first time the Huskies had trailed in a game since Dec. 11 against Kansas State, and then UConn ripped off a 21-point run for a 25-6 edge. It was 9:31 in between points for Houston which settled their day.
Williams’ extreme athleticism was on display in the post where with spin moves and some might hop, snaring seven rebounds and finished the first half with 14 points as the Huskies built their lead to 43-18.
The second half was matter of finishing out the time as the lead continued to balloon. With the result never in doubt Williams and Huskies looked at the execution and weren’t quite satisfied.
Williams expressed a disappointment with the team’s performance in general feeling the fans didn’t get to see the Huskies play to their capability and admits among other things that is a driving force for her.
“One of the things we hate hearing the most is that we beat a team because we are more talented. For me that’s my least favorite thing to hear from (Auriemma),” said Williams. “ I’d rather beat a team because we played our best game. Because we outworked and outhustled them. We just don’t want to look like we don’t care and for me that’s what I take most personally.”
That’s called the best getting better.