Stevens’ 19 leads No. 1 UConn to 95-35 rout over Houston
HOUSTON (AP) — UConn dominated Houston on the defensive end Saturday, leading to a dominant performance on the offensive end.
Azura Stevens had 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench to lead four players in double-figures scoring, and top-ranked UConn used that strong defensive effort to rout Houston 95-35.
Katie Lou Samuelson and Kia Nurse each scored 17 points and Crystal Dangerfield chipped in 11 for the Huskies (15-0, 5-0 American), which forced Houston (14-5, 3-2) into 28 turnovers. The Cougars shot a season-low 20 percent.
“Defensively, we were really active,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “The energy that we played with, it was difficult to find any easy openings against us. They are a team that likes to shoot a lot of three’s. They traditionally do and make a bunch. We were pretty spread and forced them into things they are not comfortable with.”
UConn, which has won 145 straight over unranked opponents, outscored Houston 23-4 in the first quarter en route to a 45-13 halftime lead.
“We were being really active, and I think our defense was talking a lot early on, so we were able to get those steals,” Dangerfield said. “Once one gets going, everyone wants a piece of it.”
The Huskies forced the Cougars into 16 turnovers and scored 23 points off the turnovers in the first half. Nurse had 11 points in the half, including six in the first, and Samuelson added 10 for the Huskies.
“We wanted to set the tempo on the defensive end,” UConn’s Gabby Williams, who had eight points, said. “We know offense will come, but even when it doesn’t, we can rely on our defense.”
The final margin of 60 matched the largest lead of the game for the Huskies. UConn shot 53 percent from the field and outrebounded the Cougars 48-39.
Jasmyne Harris led Houston with 15 points. Houston finished 4 of 26 from behind the arc.
“We just couldn’t get in rhythm,” Houston coach Ronald Hughley said. “Even in transition, they were back. We weren’t able to get them because they were measuring up to the ball and pushing us three or four feet behind the three-point line. I don’t have Steph Curry on the team.”
UConn: The Huskies won its 101st consecutive regular-season game and 86 straight American Athletic Conference game. UConn used its length to cause Houston problems throughout, setting a season-high with 21 steals.
Houston: The Cougars were in a logjam for second in the conference but struggled to get anything going against the Huskies. Houston, which lost consecutive games for the first time this season, was held under 50 points for the first time this season.
“I think we were a little shell-shocked in the beginning with their length,” Hughley said. “We couldn’t get into a rhythm.”
ON THE DEFENSIVE
The Huskies held a fifth straight opponent under 50 points scoring. Houston, which came in averaging 77.3 points per game, was held to single-digits in each of the first three quarters. The four first quarter points were a season-low.
HALL OF FAME FINALIST
UConn assistant coach Chris Dailey is a finalist for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The members to be inducted will be announced Feb. 12 with formal induction June 9.
“It’s just a great honor,” Dailey said. “Just to have your name in the conversation with the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame is an honor. It’s not something expected, but I have a lot respect for everyone that has ever been recognized and the other people who are up for induction this year.”
Houston, which is playing at Texas Southern’s H&PE Arena while construction continues on the on-campus Fertita Center, drew a season-high crowd of 2,150. It was the highest attendance since Feb. 27, 2004 against TCU when they drew 3,283 at Hofheinz Pavilion.
UConn: The Huskies travel to Austin to play No. 7 Texas Monday before returning to AAC play Thursday at home against Tulsa.
“I love games like this,” Auriemma said of playing the Longhorns. “I especially love them on the road, and I especially love them Monday after a Saturday game because when you get to the NCAA Tournament that’s exactly what you’re going to get.”
Houston: The Cougars continue conference play with games at Temple and East Carolina on Tuesday and Jan. 20, respectively.