UConn women roll past Ohio State in opener
STORRS – The result all looked so familiar for the UConn women’s basketball team in its Sunday matinee season opener against Ohio State . Game over early, final margin major double digits to tune of 85-53.
Another season and the Huskie victory train speeds along. Yeah, despite some considerable losses in the forms of Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse and Azure Stephens, nobody is expecting the Huskies to become pedestrian. But, the road to the result will look a little different this season.
The Huskies got some nice balance with Katie Lou Samuelson’s 19 points leading the way followed by 18 points from Crystal Dangerfield, 17 from Nepheesa Collier and 15 from sophomore Megan Walker. But the biggest hint of good things to come came from Walker.
Walker added six rebounds to her point production and was particularly active in the first half with nine points in the first quarter and 13 in the half. It is the type of performance the Huskies will need this season and a far cry from a very uneven freshman season which saw her often looking at the action instead of being part of the action.
Walker had been called the most improved player in the preseason and did much to add credence to the conversation, pointing to now having that year of experience.
“Freshman year was a challenge for me. I feel like it is a learning experience and I feel like it was towards the end of last year I started figuring it out,” said Walker And you know keying in on what I needed to do and how I needed to compete every day in practice and games and shoot-arounds.”
Coach Geno Auriemma has also seen the same thing.
“”She’s got a lot of skills, a very talented kid who adds a lot to our team and where we want to be,” said Auriemma. “Today was a really good start. We put such a high premium on competing and you have to be a very, very competitive person to be successful here. Last year I thought from the very beginning there was this almost unawareness that I have to compete. Every time we thought we were getting some place it would disappear and this year’s she has been much more consistent.”
Auriemma also added a little more motivation to Walker’s evolution this season along with freshman Christyn Williams noting that both were basically handed starting positons due to graduations and still need to earn the positions.
“We definitely have to perform, to earn it,” said Walker.” Whether that is scoring, rebounding, making the open pass or just competing. I’m willing to do the job and prove that I deserve the spot.”
Dangerfield also showed a continually maturing game with several eye-opening spin moves for baskets and a toughness that Auriemma said wasn’t there two seasons ago. The junior guard got knocked to the floor at one point and got up gingerly but stayed in the game.
“She would have been out two weeks as a freshman,” said Auriemma. “Today she was not coming off the court.”
Williams struggled in her debut with a quiet seven points in 28 minutes of action.
“I think she was out there but I don’t know if she played,” said Auriemma. “But that’s okay, she’s a freshman but I want her to do more. She’s going to get better every game. She’s going to look back at this game and realize that this isn’t who she is.”
UConn lit it up early, jumping out to a 30-12 first quarter lead. The beleaguered Buckeyes who lost all five starters and top six scorers from a season ago, did not help their cause with eight turnovers and could not handle Walker who got loose inside for nine points and Samuelson who added seven.
By half the Huskies led, 49-19, and the focus was on execution not the final result.
The second half was not as pretty for the Huskies as the Buckeyes played them even for the most part, exposing some defensive weaknesses. Carly Santoro lead all scorers with 20 points for the Buckeyes and UConn was outrebounded, 40-34, with 15 coming at the offensive end for Ohio State.
“The defense is a work in progress, like the roads in Waterbury,” quipped Auriemma.
The Huskies did however hold Ohio State to 17-of-58 shooting and did help cause 21 turnovers.
A good start with room to get better.