Walker scores 25 as No. 6 UConn women beat Cincinnati 105-58
CINCINNATI (AP) — Three players scored at least 20 points, one of them breaking out of a deep slump. UConn put up 100 points for the first time this season.
All along, the sixth-ranked Huskies have envisioned themselves doing it more often.
Megan Walker scored 25 points, freshman Anna Makurat added 20, and UConn dominated a match-up of the American Athletic Conference’s top two teams in every way, beating Cincinnati 105-58 Wednesday night.
“Scoring 100 is always good for you,” said Walker, who went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. “It could be a spark for us to continue in the right direction.”
The Huskies (24-3, 14-0) had already clinched their seventh AAC regular season title. After a sluggish start, they pulled away from Cincinnati (18-9, 9-5), which was in second place alone heading into the game.
“Once we got into some kind of a flow and people saw the ball going into the basket, everybody kind of loosened up,” coach Geno Auriemma said. “We worked really hard defensively. At both ends, it was about as well as we could have played.
“Coming into the game, you say this is what we wanted to do. We pretty much got everything accomplished.”
The Bearcats had won 12 straight home games, one shy of the school record from 2002-03. Their hopes for a big upset evaporated in the second quarter as UConn surged ahead by 28 points.
“This was definitely, definitely not who we are,” coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “We gave up tons of 3s, we gave up points in transition. When you play a great program and a great team, you can’t let that happen. This group, we’re better than this.”
Christyn Williams matched her season high with 26 points, emerging from a four-game slump during which she shot only 25% from the field. The Huskies made 16 3s overall.
“Everybody was on today and it was fun,” said Williams, who was 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. “Pass the ball, and somebody makes a 3. It was good to see the shots going in for everybody.”
Auriemma noticed Williams change once she hit a few shots.
“You just see it’s like a big fog was lifted,” Auriemma said. “She just looked more relaxed once a couple of them went in. Instead of being tentative, she became very sure of herself.”
UConn also got another encouraging performance from Makurat, who has scored 18, 17 and 20 points in the last three games. Her best scoring stretch has added depth to a lineup dependent upon its top four returning players from last season.
Antoinette Miller scored 17 for Cincinnati, which trailed by as many as 51 points.
UConn opened the game 1-for-6 from the field with three turnovers, but started creating distance late in the first quarter. Makurat and Walker had three-point plays off drives to the basket in the final 66 seconds for a 19-11 lead.
Cincinnati was only 4 of 17 from the field in the first quarter, and the Bearcats’ poor shooting continued into the next one. Walker and Williams hit back-to-back 3s that built the lead to 34-15.
UConn led 46-18 at halftime behind Walker, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. Cincinnati shot only 17.5% in the half and got outrebounded 30-15.
UConn: The Huskies are trying to finish off another perfect season in the AAC. They’ve won all seven of its regular season titles and conference tournament titles, going 134-0. UConn rejoins the Big East next season, so the Huskies will be going to Xavier on their next visit to Cincinnati.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats came in at the top of their game, trying for what would have been one of the most notable victories in program history. Instead, the Bearcats fell apart in the second quarter and fell to 0-23 all-time against the Huskies. They also lost 80-50 on Jan. 30 at Gampel Pavilion.
UNDER THE WEATHER
UConn’s Olivia Nelson-Ododa played only 11 minutes as she recovers from the flu.
ON THE TUBE
FOX Sports reached a multi-year agreement to keep UConn women’s basketball on regional TV network SNY, the Huskies’ home for the past eight seasons. SNY will televise up to 18 regular season games per season. The Big East is in the seventh year of its deal with FOX Sports.
“We’re ecstatic that it happened,” Auriemma said. “SNY has become an integral part of our program.”
UConn plays at Houston on Saturday. The Huskies won their game at Gampel Pavilion 91-51 on Jan. 11.
Cincinnati plays at Wichita State on Saturday.