UConn women’s basketball Life without Katie Lou, another AAC win
TAMPA, Fla. — Katie Lou Samuelson’s absence was felt as second-ranked UConn slogged its way to a 57-47 victory over South Florida Monday at the Yuengling Center.
The Huskies rallied from four points down at halftime to keep their perfect record in American Athletic Conference play (16-0 this season and 117-0 all-time) intact.
With the regular season now complete, the Huskies (28-2) will turn their attention to the conference tournament, where they’ll meet either ECU or SMU in the quarterfinals on Saturday (2 p.m.) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville.
Here’s five takeaways from the win:
Take the good with the bad: Olivia Nelson-Ododa’s first career start was a Jekyll and Hyde act. Like the rest of her team, she struggled early, but picked up steam as the game went on.
The 6-foot-4 freshman forward made her biggest contribution on defense, recording five rebounds, four steals and two blocks in the second half.
“You saw the Olivia of the last 10 minutes, maybe the whole second half. You see that part and you see the other part, and it’s like a 180,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
Nelson-Ododa has shown flashes of the player she can be, but far too often they still get the player they saw in the first half.
“That’s the part that, I guess, that’s what freshmen are,” Auriemma said.
Hurry back, Lou: The Huskies got a glimpse of life without Samuelson.
It wasn’t encouraging.
Without a consistent threat from the perimeter, the Huskies’ offense was a jumbled mess.
“She’s our best 3-point shooter. They were able to pack it in even more (on defense),” forward Napheesa Collier said. “When that happens, we need to have people hit outside shots.”
The Huskies shot only 32 percent in the first half and scored a season-low 25 points.
Rising to the occasion: Christyn Williams’ final stats — 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting, along with five rebounds — were relatively unassuming.
The numbers don’t tell the whole story, though.
Williams helped play the unlikely role of closer. She scored eight of the Huskies’ 12 points in the fourth quarter, none bigger than her 3-pointer that snapped a 45-45 tie with 7:49 remaining.
Better late than never: South Florida committed 17 turnovers, including 13 in the second half as the Huskies dialed up the heat defensively.
The Huskies’ full-court press — which Auriemma was reluctant to use early in the game — was too much for USF’s young guards to handle.
“If you use that (pressure) at the beginning of the game and it doesn’t work,” Auriemma said, “then what are you going to do? Now you’ve got to keep doing it the rest of the game. Every time you do it, you’re more tired than the time before.”
Far from the norm: USF’s 29-25 halftime lead was noteworthy. It marked only the fourth time this season that the Huskies trailed after two quarters (Oklahoma, Baylor, Louisville).