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Samuelson explodes for 40, powers UConn to AAC tourney title - By William S. Paxton

POSTED March 08, 2017
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By William S. Paxton

UNCASVILLE – The only thing that could stop the record-breaking Katie Lou Samuelson Show on Monday night was the halftime break, or maybe coach Geno Auriemma.

The UConn sophomore blew up the record books on the way to a career-high 40 points in a 100-44 victory over No. 3 South Florida in the American Athletic Conference championship.

After breaking the single-game and tournament records (71) for points, Samuelson left to a huge roar from the Mohegan Sun Arena crowd as Auriemma pulled her with 2:19 left in the third quarter.

In addition to setting point highs, Samuelson’s 10-for-10 on 3-pointers (12-for-14 overall) was not only a single-game high in the AAC, but broke the NCAA record for most consecutive 3s made – the previous high was nine straight (1989).

“I think that helped me out was I wasn’t really focusing on 3s,” said Samuelson, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. “I just kind of focused on playing. … I kept shooting it, I felt good and I was getting open shots, so my teammates kept giving me the ball. So, I’m going to keep shooting until, actually I was just going to keep shooting.”

She also tied Maya Moore for most 3-pointers in a game (against Syracuse in 2009) at UConn and finished with a tournament record 17 3-pointers.  

“There’s not much you can say when you see something like that,” Auriemma said. “The way it transpired there’s really no way to adequately describe it because it’s just a feeling.

“We had something going on that’s really hard to capture, and we were able to capture it and hold on to it for a long, long time.”

And by the way, the Huskies (32-0) won their 107th consecutive game and improved to 82-0 all-time in conference play on the way to a fourth straight tournament title. UConn, which now have a week off before beginning its chase for a fifth straight national championship, tied a tournament record for total points with 283 (UConn 2015).

The Huskies shot 68.8 percent from the field, with an 80-percent mark in the second half. UConn led 30-11 after 10 minutes.

“To be honest with you it was more them than us,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “They shot the ball so well. I mean we took three timeouts in the first quarter.”

Napheesa Collier added 15 points, Gabby Williams with 12, Saniya Chong 11, and Natalie Butler had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Nagy led USF (24-8) with 15.

“(Napheesa) didn’t get many shots tonight because Lou shot it every time she got it,” Auriemma said. “Sometime that happens.”

Samuelson, who shared conference player of the year with Collier, almost broke the tournament record for points in a game in the first half with 29, including 7-for-7 on 3-pointers as UConn led 62-23.

“I actually didn’t even know I made all my 3s today,” she said. “I swear I missed one, actually I’m sure I missed one. There haven’t been many games where I’ve gone 10-for-10 before.”

The first 3-pointer came after Samuelson stole the ball from Maria Jespersen around midcourt, then dribbled down and fired away. UConn finished with 11 steals and scored 30 points off the Bulls’ 23 turnovers.

“We made hardly any mistakes at all defensively and that got everything going down at the other end,” Auriemma said. “For the most part this season when Lou gets it going early and makes some shots early, it just changes everything for our team because she just has the ability to blow games wide open. The confidence we get from that just spills over into everybody else.”

At 7:55 of the third quarter Samuelson eclipsed the single-game tournament mark (30 by Temple’s Feyonda Fitzgerald) with her eighth consecutive 3-pointer to give her 32 points.

“I’m not really surprise, but I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner because Lou’s such a great shooter,” Collier said of her teammate’s big shooting night. “We all know Lou is a great player, so the fact she came out and played so well tonight, I’m really happy for her.”

It took the Bulls until the 3:14 mark of the fourth quarter to outscore Samuelson, with Dorottya Nagy making a layup to cut UConn’s lead to 100-42.

The all-championship team consisted of Fitzgerald, USF’s Jesperson and Kitija Laksa, and UConn’s Collier, Williams and Samuelson.

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