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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Dangerfield introduces herself to UConn Nation in a major way

The final statistics only told a part of the story in Crystal Dangerfield's unforgettable first regular season home game for UConn but the numbers were rather impressive.

Dating back to the 1994-95 season only Kia Nurse (22 points vs. Creighton in 2014), Maya Moore (21 points vs. Stony Brook in 2007), Breanna Stewart (21 points vs. Charleston in 2012) and Shea Ralph (20 points vs. Idaho State in 1996) had more points for a UConn player in its first home game than Dangerfield's 19.

No disrespect to those Creighton, Stony Brook, Charleston and Idaho State teams but there was not nearly the same amount of pressure to perform for the Huskies' latest freshman phenom than there was in last night's game against second-ranked Baylor.

It wasn't just that Dangerfield made 8 of 14 shots from the field but it is that she looked for her own shot which is something I did not see from her against Florida State or in either preseason game when it looked like she shot the ball because she thought she was supposed to. There were the two early 3-pointers, the floater over the outstretched arms of her former USA Basketball teammate Lauren Cox who is nearly a foot taller than Dangerfield and of course the jumper with 1:10 to play that pretty much iced the game that signaled the arrival of the first UConn player from the state of Tennessee in Geno Auriemma's Hall of Fame tenure.

"We don't expect our freshmen to do that," UConn junior forward Gabby Williams said. "We kind of think our (starters) we have expectations, our freshmen whatever we can get from them is amazing. The fact that she was looking for her shot, the only makes it hard for the other team. I think she has the expectations for herself now but anything that we can get from her is amazing."

I don't recall who the pass was to (and it did not result in one of her five assists) but one of the plays that stood out to me was when she dribbled towards the top of the key and blindly delivered a bounce pass to a teammate. Those were the kinds of plays I saw from her when I was out in Colorado watching Dangerfield during the junior national team trials back in 2014. There was another time when she pushed the ball up the floor resulting in an easy two points for Williams. She won't always be hitting her jumpers but she can always run the team with the same confidence she showed against Baylor.

"I just wanted to redeem myself from Monday night and show that my teammates can rely on me and not let them down especially in a big game like this," Dangerfield said.

"I have played in enough big games, played for USA Basketball and been on a national level with my high school team so it didn't faze me."

Geno Auriemma had plenty of things to say about Dangerfield's performance as well including proclaiming that Dangerfield is further along through two games than All-American Moriah Jefferson was at the same point. It wasn't that long ago that Dangerfield was the last of the three freshmen to enter the game when UConn hosted Indiana (Pa.) in its preseason opener. It was Auriemma's way to telling Dangerfield that there is plenty of work yet to be done. It appears as if she got the message.

"With Crystal, since day one it has been show me what you have, show me why you came to Connecticut." Auriemma said. "It took a while and we are still not there yet. We have a long way to go. I said when she was being recruited to Connecticut that we had a kid who I think can be as good as anybody playing right now. I don't want to say that she is as good as any point guard we have ever had, that is saying too much  too soon but I think any other freshman in the country right now, she is as good a guard as there is in the country coming in. Where she goes from here, I think it is going to be a lot of fun to watch."

In a perfect world I would have liked to have spoken to Baylor star Nina Davis about Dangerfield since she has been a mentor to her dating back to their time together with the powerhouse Tennessee Flight AAU program but deadlines made that quite impossible. I did, however, talk to somebody who has seen this from Crystal before.

"She has been working hard to get back on the floor," said Chris Dangerfield, Crystal's father. "I guess she had four months without playing basketball (due to hip surgery) and really has been working hard.

"All she wants to do is help the team in any way that she can. She loves to win. The crowd, she wanted to do her part of help the team going and not let them down. She is tough, she has been playing this game since she was 5 years old so that is what she loves to do. She has seen a lot of big lights in her life. I am surprised that it happened this soon but I happy it happened for the team. It was her dream to come do this and I am happy it is starting to happen."


Here's a look at how some of UConn's elite guards fared in their first regular-season home game at UConn

Jen Rizzotti (Fairfield 1992) 13 points
Nykesha Sales (Morgan State 1994) 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals
Shea Ralph (Idaho State 1996) 20 points
Sue Bird (Washington 1998) 2 points, 3 assists
Diana Taurasi (Georgia 2000) 8 points, 5 turnovers
Renee Montgomery (Marist 2005) 0 points, 3 assists
Bria Hartley (Holy Cross 2010) 18 points, 4 assists
Moriah Jefferson (Charleston 2012) 4 points, 5 assists
Kia Nurse (Creighton 2014) 22 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists

FUTURE HUSKIES' TEAMS MAKE THE GRADE
USA Today released its preseason top 25 poll (even though some teams have already started playing).

UConn signee Andra Espinoza-Hunter's Ossining (N.Y.) team comes in at No. 7 while Megan Walker's Monacan (Va.) squad is ranked 18th.

Paul VI out of Fairfax, Virginia is the No. 1 ranked team. According to Monacan's schedule, there is a scrimmage against Paul VI tomorrow. Too bad it's not a little closer and I didn't have something like the UConn/Boston College football game to cover because I am sure that would be one entertaining scrimmage.

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