Williams, Dangerfield lead Huskies past Wichita State
HARTFORD – The outcome was never really in doubt but it wasn’t as easy as the final score might suggest either.
No. 1 UConn’s 104th consecutive American Athletic Conference victory, an 83-55 dismantling of Wichita State at XL Center Thursday night, had all the erratic earmarks of a game after a 10-day Christmas break – periods of elegance and power mixed with the rust of inaction and a shortage in efficiency.
The Huskies (11-0) started off missing their first seven shots and trailed, 10-1. They regrouped to reel off runs of 27-2 in the first half and 20-2 to end the game. There was a 24-point lead, 60-36, that dwindled to, 63-53, before a ferocious finish. It was a little bit of everything for the crowd and coach Geno Auriemma returning to the bench after surgery forced him to miss the Huskies last game against Oklahoma on Dec. 22.
But if you’re looking to take something out of this game beyond the inconsistency from inaction, then look no further than Christyn Williams and Crystal Dangerfield. Both were brilliant as Huskies begin the conference schedule and have a meeting with No. 2 Baylor at the XL Center next Thursday (Jan. 9).
Dangerfield led all scorers with 22 points while dishing out five assists while Williams exhibited the widening scope of her game with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
“(Christyn) and Crystal were just amazing the entire night,” said Auriemma. “I have to give both of them a lot of credit for this game tonight and how it went.”
Williams overcame a cold shooting start resulting in a 1-for-7, three-point first half and was the lift the Huskies needed in the second half. She scored 10 of her 16 second-half points in the fourth quarter taking the game over after Megan Walker fouled out with 6:20 to go.
The Shockers had gone on a 17-3 run to turn a rout into a bit of anxiety for the Huskies cutting the deficit to, 63-53 with 6:20 to go. Williams then calmed the twitchy XL Center nerves. Finding her way to the rim and to the offensive boards, she hit three free throws and a driving bucket for five points in a little over a minute. She added another driving basket for a 70-55 UConn lead with 4:26 to go.
It all caught Auriemma’s eye.
“I thought this was one of (Christyn’s) best games that she played not just this year but since she’s been at UConn,” said Auriemma. “It involved a whole bunch of other stuff than just the ball goes in the basket. Some of the rebounds she got didn’t come to her, she had to go get them and she made some really good plays for other people. I thought she was terrific.”
Williams didn’t argue with her coach.
“The game was getting closer and I figured I probably needed to get more aggressive and my layups started to fall so that’s great,” said Williams. “Feel like (impacting the game all-around) has been my focus since the beginning of the season. My shot really hasn’t been falling; offensively I’ve been struggling a little bit so I’ve been trying to focus on doing other things such as rebounding and finding my teammates for assists.
“People say my Notre Dame game (28 points last season) was my best game. I don’t agree with that. You look at the stat sheet that game I literally just had 28, nothing else. No rebounds, no assists. So I feel like it’s important to be great overall so that is what I’m working on right now. “
Dangerfield fired up the Huskies with a 14-point second quarter gem where she hit five of six shots, including a pair of thee pointers to spark the Huskies to a 45-26 halftime lead.
“Coach said to look for the shot and the pass will create itself because if you are looking for the pass every single time the pass isn’t going to be there,” said Dangerfield.
“Crystal’s best games are when she is trying to score points, when she’s trying to be aggressive and looks to shoot the ball,” said Auriemma. “That’s when plays for other people develop. She’s not as good when she’s passing up shots, going in the lane looking for people all the time. That doesn’t work for her. I told her that when you get the ball you have to try to score.”
Along with Dangerfield, Walker carried the Huskies in the first half with 13 points in the first quarter and 15 in the half. She finished with 21 points