CHICAGO (AP) The 11 NCAA championships and 18 trips to the Final Four really weren’t part of Geno Auriemma’s plan when he became UConn’s coach in 1985.
Nor were 1,000 wins. But he’s about to get that, too.
Katie Lou Samuelson scored 20 points, Crystal Dangerfield had 18 and No. 1 UConn gave Auriemma his 999th victory with a 103-69 rout of DePaul on Friday night.
Auriemma is on the verge of joining fellow Hall of Famers Pat Summitt and Tara VanDerveer as the only Division I women’s basketball coaches to reach the 1,000-win mark after the Huskies (8-0) had their way with the Blue Demons (6-3).
The program sure has come a long way since he took over. Back then, he just wanted to be able to beat Providence and Villanova and finish among the top four in the Big East.
”Believe me, where we’re sitting right now wasn’t part of the plan by any stretch of the imagination,” Auriemma said.
Samuelson led six players in double figures, and UConn set a season high for points. The Huskies shot 59.4 percent and hit 11 of 24 3-point attempts, with Dangerfield nailing 6 of 7. She also had nine assists.
Napheesa Collier had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Azura Stevens scored 16 points, Kia Nurse added 13, and Gabby Williams scored 11 to go with 10 rebounds, seven assists and seven turnovers.
Amarah Coleman scored 16 points for DePaul.
”We basically got beat badly tonight, and at the same, I know that we’re better for it,” coach Doug Bruno said. ”I wouldn’t continue to play these kinds of games if I didn’t know that our team is better for it. It doesn’t feel good right now. It doesn’t feel good for our players right now. … They will be better for having gone through this game.”
All but one of UConn’s victories has been by 18 points or more. The Huskies rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter to beat No. 3 Notre Dame by nine on Sunday. But they put this one away in the early going, overwhelming DePaul with their athleticism. And in the end, Auriemma closed in on a major milestone.
”It’s something else that shows how much (the coaches have) dedicated their lives to this, and they’ve done it in a way that excellence is the only thing that they’ll accept,” Samuelson said. ”When they recruit you to come here, you know that you want to live up to all the players that have come before you.”
UConn led 61-38 at halftime after shooting 60 percent. Samuelson scored 14 through the first two quarters, and Dangerfield nailed four 3s in a 12-point half. Stevens (12), Collier (11) and Nurse (10) also reached double digits.
Whether they were hitting from the perimeter or going hard at the rim, the Huskies had their way against DePaul’s zone.
UConn went on a 14-2 run in the first quarter to break open a three-point game and never looked back. Dangerfield nailed back-to-back 3-pointers during that stretch. Dangerfield scored on a put-back to make it 29-14, finishing the run. That basically finished DePaul, too.
”There may not be anyone more critical right now to what we’re trying to do than Crystal is right now. She makes shots. … She sees so much. She sees things and she has a great feel for the game. Her instincts are good so when the floor opens up like that, she can have a lot of open space to work with. She’s pretty dangerous. She played great tonight. She was really, really good tonight.” – Auriemma on Dangerfield.
UConn: F Batouly Camara made her first appearance for UConn after missing the first seven games with a knee injury and sitting out last season because she transferred from Kentucky. … UConn outrebounded DePaul 53-27. … The Huskies committed 24 turnovers.
DePaul: The Blue Demons trail the all-time series 15-1. … DePaul shot just 30.3 percent from the field.
UConn: Hosts Oklahoma on Dec. 19.
DePaul: Visits Northwestern on Dec. 13.
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