UConn freshman Collier finding her game, confidence at the right time
While time will tell if Napheesa Collier will one day see her number up there among the program's greats, she could join Paige Sauer, Svetlana Abrosimova, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart with three straight double-digit scoring games in the NCAA tournament as a freshman.
Collier followed up a 14-point, 9-rebound performance against Robert Morris by contributing 11 points and five rebounds in a second-round win over Duquesne. She is playing and practicing with more of a sense of urgency than at any other time this season.
"It is really important so he (UConn coach Geno Auriemma) can trust me in game situations," Collier said. "I am happier than I was in the last couple of games.
"I think it is really important because we need contributions from everyone. The starting lineup can't play the whole 40 minutes so especially next year when the seniors are gone, we need the other players to step up. They are not going to be here next year so everybody has to prove that we are ready for life without them."
There are various attributes that Collier has brought to UConn and perhaps none have been more noticeable during her freshman season than her ability to snare offensive rebounds.
Collier currently had a team-high 79 offensive boards matching the total Gabby Williams had a season ago as a freshman. The last UConn freshman to have more than that in a season was the legendary Moore, who pulled down 104 during the 2007-08 season.
"I think I have always been a rebounder in high school so it has carried over," Collier said. "It has always just been something that I have done, I guess it is a good habit."
A HOT TICKETWhile UConn had to resort to offering free tickets to students to add to the number of fans who turned out in the second-round NCAA tournament game at Gampel Pavilion, there have been no much issues at Webster Bank Arena.
Saturday's regional semifinals are sold out with 8,898 fans expected for the UConn/Mississippi State and UCLA/Texas games.
Tournament officials said that fans of the top teams eliminated could return tickets so there is a chance for tickets to be available for Monday's regional final.