Samuelson, Collier lead No. 3 UConn women past SMU 79-39
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — No. 3 UConn has been working in practice on its pressure defense, hoping to force a few more turnovers and get a few more baskets in transition.
That practice paid off Wednesday night.
Napheesa Collier scored 22 points and Katie Lou Samuelson added 21 to lead the Huskies to a 79-39 rout of SMU, the team’s 107th straight victory over an American Athletic Conference opponent.
UConn had 16 steals and scored 26 points off 24 SMU turnovers. The Huskies had 21 points on the fast break and outscored SMU 38-22 in the paint.
“I think the basketball world, if you’re not careful, is stand around and wait to shoot a 3,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “If you watch, that’s kind of what basketball has become. I think there’s got to be something else to the game.”
Christyn Williams had 12 points and Megan Walker chipped in with 11 for the Huskies (17-1, 6-0). UConn has won every AAC game in both the regular season and conference tournament since the league was formed in 2013.
Alicia Froling had 13 points and Johnasia Cash scored 12 for SMU (7-12, 1-5), which has lost seven of eight.
UConn put on a clinic in ball sharing, with 26 assists on 31 baskets. Point guard Crystal Dangerfield had eight assists, and would have had a couple more if Collier hadn’t missed a layup on a beautiful behind-the-back feed and Samuelson and been able to convert a no-look pass.
“I think we now have to make every shot we get from Crystal for the next few games,” Samuelson joked. “We were joking around in the locker room that whenever Crystal gets in the lane, I could be on the opposite end of the court and there’s a chance it’s coming to me. I have to be ready.”
SMU started strong and led 7-6 before layups by Collier and Samuelson triggered a 12-0 UConn run.
That coincided with the Huskies’ switch to a full-court press on defense. UConn led 24-10 after one quarter and was in control the rest of the game. The Huskies had 11 of their 16 steals in the first half and SMU turned the ball over 16 times before the break.
The Mustangs scored just six points in the second quarter and UConn led 46-16 after a 3-pointer from Walker just before the halftime buzzer.
The Huskies turned down the pressure in the second half, but SMU was unable to close the gap.
“UConn really punched them and they didn’t respond to the punch,” said SMU coach Travis Mays. “That’s lack of experience, youth, immaturity. I think it’s just going to take time for them to understand to be able to play at the pace that UConn plays at and the competitive level that they play at consistently for 40 minutes.”
SMU: The roster includes seven freshmen who accounted for just nine points, led by Marie Olson’s five.
UConn: Collier is approaching some big career milestones. The senior needs 11 rebounds to reach 1,000 and 60 points to get to 2,000.
SMU outrebounded UConn 48-37 and Collier, who had eight boards, said the Huskies know that’s a weak spot this season.
“Our team is a lot smaller than UConn’s been in the past,” she said. “We have to learn that we have to box out in order to get rebounds. We can’t just go get the ball like they might have done before.”
SMU sophomore Johnasia Cash is a cousin of former UConn and WNBA star Swin Cash, who scored more than 1,500 points in college and helped the Huskies to two of their 11 NCAA titles. Auriemma said he sees a bit of Swin in her cousin.
“She’s fearless and that’s exactly how Swin was,” Auriemma said. “I think she’s bigger and stronger than Swin. Swin’s built differently and, skill-wise, I don’t think she’s Swin. But, very few people are.”
SMU: The Mustangs return home to face South Florida on Saturday
UConn: The Huskies host UCF at the XL Center in Hartford on Sunday.