UConn’s Samuelson to miss American tourney with back injury

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              Connecticut's Katie Lou Samuelson, top and Houston's Julia Blackshell-Fair fall to the court chasing a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Storrs, Conn. Samuelson left the game injured after the play. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
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STORRS, Conn. (AP) — UConn All-American Katie Lou Samuelson will not play in the American Athletic Conference tournament this weekend because of a back injury suffered last Saturday against Houston.

The 6-foot-3 senior, who was voted to the conference’s first team on Friday, is averaging 18.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Samuelson was hurt in the first half of the 83-61 home victory over Houston in a collision while diving for a loose ball. She also missed UConn’s 57-47 win at South Florida on Monday night.

Coach Geno Auriemma said Samuelson is still suffering back spasms and the medical staff determined it would be best for her to rest before the NCAA Tournament.

“When it’s your back, I don’t want to screw around with it,” he said. “I want to make sure we get it right. She’ll be fine.”

The second-ranked Huskies (28-2) who have never lost an AAC game, are the top seed in the tournament and will face East Carolina (16-14) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 2 p.m. The eighth-seeded Pirates beat SMU 50-48 in overtime on Friday.

“Fortunately for us, it’s not the Final Four,” Auriemma said. “It’s a conference tournament and we’re going to go in there and try to win that and we’ll have Lou back and 100 percent for the NCAA Tournament.”

With his top 3-point threat out, Auriemma expects teams to collapse inside and focus on stopping Napheesa Collier (20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds per game), the conference’s player of the year. He told his team that means everyone else will have to step up.

“He just said, ‘You get one more steal here. You get one more rebound and put-back here. You do just a little bit more,'” said Collier. “If everyone does just a little bit more, then we can make up for it.”