If there's been on constant in the early portion of this season it is that neither Napheesa Collier nor Gabby Williams miss when they get the ball within the shadow of the basket. So when Collier misfired on an easy shot in the lane in the early stages of the Chattanooga game it took me by surprise.
Collier certainly made up for her early game miss as she made her final 11 shots to finish with a game-high 23 points. If she had made the aforementioned shot in the paint, she would have broken Rebecca Lobo's program record for most consecutive shots in a game without a miss.
Lobo was 11 for 11 in a win over Iona on Dec. 23, 1994. Breanna Stewart threatened the mark when she went 10 for 10 against Creighton two years ago as did Williams (9 for 9 against Temple just nine months ago) and current assistant coach Shea Ralph was also 9 for 9 in a 1999 contest against Old Dominion.
"Let me fix it," Collier said was her initial reaction after her early miss. "It is frustrating especially when it is a shot you usually make so I just tried to adjust. I just feel good so I kept taking it in.
"I think everybody should have that mentality that when they get the ball that they are going to score."
Collier certainly has that belief with three 20-point games in the first five games of the season.
"She is unorthodox in a lot of ways," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She is able to create space for herself that a lot of other people can't. When she gets the ball anywhere around the basket, she knows where the basket and she has a knack for (scoring). Some players they got it 10 times and five times she will turn the wrong way. She is going to do exactly what she has to do to get the ball up on the rim and score and that is why her shooting percentage is so high when she touches the ball. She has a great feel and it is not anything we've taught her."
UConn finished with 21 assists in the game and 10 of them came on baskets by Collier. All four of Williams' assists came on Collier's baskets while four of Saniya Chong's five assists set up baskets by Collier. Kia Nurse also had two of her four assists resulting in baskets by Collier.
Williams had one assist to Collier that I mentioned to her was Moriah Jefferson like as Williams grabbed an offensive rebound and instead of going up for the basket, she hit a cutting Collier for a basket.
Williams had another strong game with 11 points, 10 rebounds, four steals, four assists, no turnovers and one foul meaning that Williams has committed one foul in the last two games after being whistled for 10 in the first three games of the season.
It wasn't all about stat stuffing. Chattanooga was 4 for 22 points en route to scoring a total of 39 points in a loss to Maine on Sunday. The Mocs had five 3-pointers and 31 points by halftime leading UConn coach Geno Auriemma to question his team's toughness and focus.
"You have to acquire it," Auriemma said. "A lot of times it comes from inside and you just have it and it needs to come out or somebody needs to whack you in the back of your head like my mother used to do and you find out hat you have that in you. Our guys on our team, forget getting whacked on the back of their head by their mothers, by the way you can't do that anymore. All you know is you show up, when is the game, there is food after, go back to our dorms or our apartments, living large and when is the parade? They don't know any different so they live in a fantasy world and after a while you have to face reality. People forget that Stewie's freshman year that they faced reality a lot, they got their butts kicked and they got tougher, by the time we got to March those guys were tough because they got their butts kicked along the way, they didn't like it. Maybe I am being picky."
There will be more on the toughness issue as well as the string of tough games in my advance for Thursday's DePaul game.
UConn played without freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield because of concussion-like symptoms. Auriemma is hopeful that she can play against DePaul.
"I don't know the ins and outs of how all of that stuff works, I just know that there are four different steps that you've got to go through, she went through two of them today which is really good, one tomorrow and she is good to go and one on Thursday at shootaround and she will be good to go on Thursday night," Auriemma said. "If she gets a thumbs up on Thursday she can play Thursday night, if one of them is a no-go, then she is a no go."
I also noticed that Williams ran off the court, consulted with a trainer and has spent time riding a stationary bike on different occasions. She downplayed any issues she was having.
"We are not quite sure what is going on, just getting a little tightness and cramping but I should be fine," Williams said.
It should be noted she quickly returned the game after experiencing the issue in tonight's game.
Labels: Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier