Perhaps it was a bit premature to count out UConn.
After an eventful week, one littered with questions and concerns about sustainability of the powerhouse program following a series of recruiting misses, the Huskies went on the road and made a statement. And it was heard across women’s college basketball: No. 2 UConn 89, No. 1 Notre Dame 71.
The Huskies’ 122nd straight regular-season win was marked by a career night from freshman guard Christyn Williams, who dropped 28 points, including 16 in the first quarter.
Here are five takeaways on UConn’s big win, as the Huskies jumped to No. 1 in the latest Associated Press poll Monday.
A STAR IS BORN: Where would UConn have been without Christyn Williams? The fearless freshman toyed with the top team in the country early, scoring 11 of the Huskies’ first 13 points and 16 for the first quarter. The timing was perfect considering that two of the Huskies’ biggest stars, Katie Lou Samuelson and Crystal Dangerfield (combined 1-of-7 for three points in the first quarter), took longer than usual to heat up. The Huskies ended the opening quarter in front, 27-22, and Notre Dame never got closer than two points the rest of the way.
Perhaps next time, Williams’ teammates should take Geno Auriemma’s advice and give her the ball even more when she’s on that kind of a run. Williams attempted only two shots in the second quarter before finishing with a career-high 28 points.
KATIE LOU ANSWERS: It was a peculiar and particularly maddening start for Samuelson, who delivered a goose egg on the scoreboard in the first half. The All-American took seven shots during that stretch, missing all of them. She also was hit with two fouls and saw UConn’s lead whittled to 44-41.
Though she never went on one of her patented shooting streaks, Samuelson (15 points, six assists, five rebounds) eventually found ways to put her stamp on the game. She made several key plays down the stretch, including a shot over Brianna Turner that drew a foul and helped put the Huskies up 74-64.
BIG MINUTES FROM ODO: As the season goes on, expect to see a whole lot more of Olivia Nelson-Ododa. Auriemma said as much after the 6-foot-4 forward delivered 16 solid minutes (five points and five rebounds and one authoritative block of Marina Mabrey) off the bench.
Nelson-Ododa gave the Huskies an interior presence when things could’ve gone haywire with Napheesa Collier on the bench in foul trouble.
While much was made of the skill of Notre Dame’s frontcourt, the Huskies ended up with the edge in rebounds (46-41) and points in the paint (42-38).
WINNING THE MENTAL GAME: UConn kept its composure. Notre Dame did not.
Arike Ogunbowale, the author of two buzzer-beaters at last year’s Final Four, was a central figure in the Fighting Irish’s fourth-quarter meltdown. With 4:25 left and UConn in front, 77-66, Ogunbowale was hit with a technical for yelling at Auriemma. Then, with 1:43 remaining, she received an unsportsmanlike foul for shoving Dangerfield to the floor in the open court.Read Full Article
KEY MOMENT: Collier scored 16 points — perhaps none bigger than the off-balance jumper she banked in over Mabrey to keep the Huskies in front, 57-53, with 3:58 left in the third quarter. It was a swift response to a 3 by Mabrey, which had pulled Notre Dame within two and brought sold-out Purcell Pavilion to its feet.