DALLAS (AP) There was one lead change in top-ranked UConn’s victory at SMU on Saturday night.
And what a lead change it was.
The Huskies shook a 12-6 deficit with a 43-0 run to rout SMU 80-36 and wrap up their fifth consecutive American Athletic Conference regular-season championship.
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”We don’t even know it’s going on when it’s happening,” said Katie Lou Samuelson, who led the Huskies (28-0, 15-0) with 23 points. ”We’re just trying to play.”
Nepheesa Collier added 16 points, Azura Stevens had 14 and Kia Nurse 13 for the Huskies.
UConn uncharacteristically didn’t grab its first lead until 1:21 remained in the first quarter at 13-12 on a three-point play by Collier. The Huskies scored the next 43 points for a 49-12 lead.
”You don’t anticipate going on that kind of run,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ”We turned every mistake of theirs into offense.”
SMU coach Travis Mays saw Auriemma make early adjustments, primarily increasing the Huskies’ defensive pressure. ”Then they became the UConn that we know,” Mays said.
UConn set a program record for fewest points allowed in a quarter, the quarter format in its third NCAA season, by outscoring SMU 32-1 in the second period to lead 51-13.
SMU (10-18, 4-11) went from 4:13 remaining in the first quarter to 46 seconds into the third quarter without a field goal. The Mustangs were 0-for-15 from the floor during the run and committed 11 turnovers. The scoring drought ended when Mikayla Reese made the second of two free throws.
”If Mikayla doesn’t drive in the final seconds of the second quarter and get that second free throw, that’s a doughnut for the entire quarter,” Mays said.
McKenzie Adams led SMU with 10 points. The Mustangs shot 26.9 percent and committed 24 turnovers.
Samuelson went into the game hitting 48.5 percent on 3-pointers and shot 5 for 8 behind the line. She played 22 minutes through third periods, sitting out the fourth.
The Huskies are 9-0 against the Mustangs in five seasons of AAC play. Their largest margin of victory in the series is 61 points, their smallest 33.
BASKETBALL OR BASEBALL?
Auriemma turned to his bench during the fourth quarter, and the Huskies were outscored 8-7. ”I think the error hurt us, and then the guy hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth,” he said.
IT’S ALMOST MARCH
Nurse said she likes the way the Huskies are playing as they approach tournament time. ”I think we made a lot of strides defensively, especially in the last two games,” she said. UConn beat Temple 106-45 and Tulane 91-47 going into Saturday’s game. ”That’s something we can obviously benefit from.”
TAKING IT SLOWLY
UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield, recovering from shin splints that sidelined her in early February, played 26 minutes and missed all three of her field-goal attempts. Auriemma said he might have played Dangerfield more if UConn wasn’t playing again in two days.
UConn: With one game remaining in the regular season, the Huskies seek their fifth national championship in the last six seasons and their 12th overall. They are 97-0 in AAC play and have won 118 consecutive true road games.
SMU: Mays altered his starting lineup by starting all five Mustangs seniors, who were honored before their final home game. Said the second-year coach: ”They didn’t sign up to play for me. It’s a real delicate way you have to treat them. They gave me effort.”
UConn will finish the regular season at home Monday night against. South Florida. It will be the final regular-season home game for Nurse and fellow senior Gabby Williams, though the Huskies are virtually assured to open NCAA tournament play.
SMU will close the regular season Monday night at Tulane.