UConn women roll over UCF
HARTFORD - It is a beautiful thing when it all comes together and the UConn Huskies were a beautiful thing Sunday afternoon. Maybe not to the University of Central Florida but certainly to the 12,139 on hand at the XL Center who witnessed a Husky smack down of the first order.
UCF entered the game with a 17-2 record and unblemished 6-0 mark in the AAC. The Knights were in first in the Conference in scoring defense, allowing only 52.7 points a game and were holding teams to 34 percent shooting second in the conference.
By the time day turned to night, the Knights had their first Conference loss and were on the short end of a 93-57 decision. If you needed reaffirmation about UConn’s dominance of the AAC, it was all on display here.
` This was a good team UConn dismantled. The difference between first and second place in the AAC? About from here to__________________________________________________________here.
And the knockout punch came early. The Huskies took just 3:39 seconds to land the haymaker roaring out to a 17-2 lead with Nepheesa Collier leading the way with nine points that included a three-point play.
And there was no comeback. If you got there late, well, hope you enjoyed a dog and a drink because the outcome was decided. Or just enjoyed the Huskies at the top of their game.
“We wanted to come out strong, this is a really tough opponent,” said Katie Lou Samuelson. “They are the second best team in the conference. So we wanted to make sure we came out with the right attitude and didn’t take them lightly.”
The Huskies’ defense was up to par with its offense, creating 10 UCF turnovers in the first quarter and 14 in the first half.
“If you execute the game plan and ball gets to where it needs to get at the time the ball needs to get there, you end up with a pretty good shot,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “The way we came out with energy and edginess was a big factor. When we play like that on the defensive end the offense tend s to be sharper. “
The Huskies came out firing and UCF had no answers – 11-16 in the first quarter which ended up in a 29-14 lead. There was no relief for UCF in the second quarter and by the half the advantage was 61-36 on 22-of-31 shooting.
By the half, the Huskies already had four players in double figures led by Sameuelson and Collier with 15 points while Dangerfield had 14 and Walker 10. Just for a little exclamation point, UConn ended the half with a mighty flair as Dangerfield inbounded the ball to Samuelson with 1.9 seconds to go and Sameulson just tipped it back to Dangerfield for a layup.
UConn attacked early and often and the honor roll was long. But maybe nobody was better on this day that Crystal Dangerfield. In what could be called a career performance she tossed in 17 points with nine assists (seven in the first quarter) and no turnovers. In the second quarter she buried 5-of-7 shots and scored 12 points.
“That might be the best game (Dangerfield) has ever played at Connecticut,” praised Auriemma. “The points, the assists are one thing but the way they came, the way she interacted with her teammates and how much she was connected with the rest of the team and running the operation, I thought she was right on point with everything she did That to me was like a perfect game.”
Dangerfield appreciated the praise.
“It was fair, it was rare but appreciated by him,” said Dangerfield. “This was a big game and I knew I wanted to set a tone and have my teammates backed me up. And I think we did a great job.”
Dangerfield shared the spotlight with Collier and Megan Walker. Collier finished with a game-high 23 points prompting Auriemma to note – “I don’t think there is any blood in Phase, it’s just wires. She is a machine. She just goes every single minute of every day of every practice. I tell Meg, just watch Phase.”
Walker must be watching if that’s the key because she posted a 21-point, 11 rebound gem that showed a maturing sophomore.
“Her talent level has never been in question and now we are ratching it up both offensively and defensively,” said Auriemma. “She has come a long way.”
Up next for the Huskies is Louisville Thursday night. With Notre Dame losing Sunday, the Huskies (18-1) will enter the game either No. 1 or 2 depending on what poll you like. Either way, they will be coming off one of their best performances.”