No. 4 UConn uses late run to pull away from Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — It was a rare uncomfortable night in a conference game for UConn.
Crystal Dangerfield scored 24 and the fourth-ranked Huskies needed a late run to pull away from Memphis in a 68-56 win Tuesday night. UConn (14-1, 5-0 American Athletic Conference) escaped in the final quarter to remain undefeated in league play. They have not lost a conference game since joining AAC in the 2013-14 season and are 11-0 all-time against Memphis.
“It’s good and bad, I guess, that we’re not in a position to have to prove ourselves that much in these games,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “They’ve been kind of one-sided a lot of times. Sometimes you don’t realize that maybe we have some guys on our team that can make plays when we have to.”
Prior to Tuesday, the closest game between Memphis and UConn was an 83-49 Huskies win on Jan. 22, 2014.
“I don’t think it’s a moral victory,” Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin said. “I think it tells our kids how good we can be. It should tell our team how good we can be when we play our tails off.”
Megan Walker added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Huskies and Christyn Williams scored 16 points.
Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu led the Tigers (9-8, 0-4) with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Madison Griggs scored 12.
But Dangerfield was a step quicker than everyone else. The senior guard has scored 10 or more points in each of her last nine games.
“(Dangerfield) was tremendous the whole game, not just at the end of the game,” Auriemma said. “… I wish we could get her some help. Unfortunately, tonight we couldn’t.”
Memphis, which had never scored more than 49 points in a game against UConn, got out to a strong start, using an 11-0 run to claim an early 21-15 lead.
It took the Huskies fewer than three minutes to tie the game at 23 in the second quarter, but UConn finished the first half with just a two-point advantage.
The Huskies would not claim a double-digit lead until under one minute remained in the third quarter, but that advantage wouldn’t last long. The Tigers quickly went on an 8-0 run over the next five minutes to cut the lead to just three before UConn finally pulled away.
“If they play like that against anybody else, they are going to win, obviously,” Auriemma said. “So, congrats to them, but we made the plays that we had to make.”
UConn converted on four of its last five field goal attempts and finished shooting 46% from the floor. The Tigers were held to 33% shooting and went scoreless in the final two minutes.
“Honestly, if we had four fewer turnovers late in the game, it would have been a great game to the end,” McFerrin said. “Those four turnovers really cost us.”
UConn: The Huskies have two more conference games before they host No. 24 Tennessee next Thursday. Following that, Auriemma is unsure if the basketball series between the Huskies and Volunteers will continue because it does not have the same appeal it once did.
“Everything is like a Broadway show,” Auriemma said. “It has its run, and then it has to end. It ended, and I don’t know that you are going to get that back. I think college basketball is doing pretty damn good without it.”
Over the next month UConn will also face the U.S. National Team in an exhibition, No. 6 Oregon and No. 1 South Carolina.
Memphis: After going a perfect 5-0 in have December, the Tigers have dropped four games in a row in league play.
UConn: The Huskies play at Central Florida on Thursday.
Memphis: The Tigers have a week off before facing SMU at home next Tuesday.