UConn escapes with two-point win
I wouldn't describe UConn's 78-76 win over Florida State as an artistic masterpiece but it's been a while since another team had two shots to beat UConn in the final 10 seconds of a game.
In the end UConn made just enough plays to return home with a two-point win, its 76th in a row. It was also the 21st season in a row that UConn won its season opener. The smallest margin of victory in openers during that span was 11 points against Holy Cross in 1997 and Georgia Tech in 2008.
Geno Auriemma mentioned that the final 2 1/2 minutes when Florida State came back from an eight-point deficit to nearly pull off the upset heard around the women's basketball world reminded him of the Huskies' most recent loss. In the 88-86 overtime loss to Stanford (which will come two years to the day of UConn's next game against No. 2 Baylor), Moriah Jefferson gambled on defense to leave Amber Orrange open for the game-tying 3-pointer. Key players Morgan Tuck and Kia Nurse fouled out and Stanford pulled off the shocker. On this night it was Nurse fouling Brittany Brown while shooting a 3-pointer as UConn led by three in the final 15 seconds. It was an uncharacteristic play for somebody who knows better.
In the end the most pivotal play of the game was probably Napheesa Collier's block on Shakayla Thomas' shot as the Seminoles attempted to take the lead in the closing seconds.
"There is Disney World, Disney Land and there is UConn fantasy land," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the Huskies won their 76th game in a row. "We live in a fantasy world and now we are down to earth a little bit which I think is a good thing.
"There are a lot of angry basketball players, a lot of angry coaches in America and a lot of them are on our schedule. There are a lot of happy coaches in America watching tonight's game saying you came out of here with this one but your time is coming."
Collier doubled her previous career high with 28 points in addition to her huge defensive play. She was the only UConn player who was consistently effective for all four quarters.
"All we need to win the game so I was trying to give it my all and thankfully came out with the
block," said Collier, who had four blocks and eight rebounds in the game.
Auriemma gave Florida State plenty of praise in the post-game press conference for making the Huskies do things they aren't used to doing. But he also admitted that some of the issues for UConn were of the self-inflicted variety.
"I have to be patient with them,. They are going to do some ridiculously dumb stuff you haven't seen at Connecticut in a long time," Auriemma said. "Every coach deals with that all the time. I have been fortunate that we haven't had to deal with much of it. i guess it is my turn, we have been very fortunate. I am not going to complain about it. it is what it is. We have to figure it out just like every other coach does, just like every other team does. We are living the normal life of a college team right now."
Auriemma admitted that the Huskies were lucky to be within four points at halftime for as poorly as they played. The offense was stagnant and the last sequence of the first half illustrated how the game was going as twice FSU outhustled UConn players to a loose ball but ultimately could not turn the added opportunities into points. The Seminoles had nine offensive rebounds in the first half but only had seven second-chance points.
A real bright spot for UConn was the fourth quarter that senior guard Saniya Chong enjoyed. Chong had 12 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter. There will be much more on Chong tomorrow as she will be the focus of my second-day story off the game. Meanwhile Katie Lou Samuelson had five key points late in the third quarter after picking up her fourth foul. It was a tough day for Nurse which was surprising since she usually saves her best for the biggest stages. Last season Nurse averaged 10.8 points while shooting 47.5 percent in 13 games against ranked opponents. Her numbers dropped to 8.5 points and 42.6 percent against ranked teams. She was 0 for 5 from the field and finished with four points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and four turnovers.
Florida State (1-1), playing without injured senior guard Leticia Romero, was led by Wright's 25 points. Brown had 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals while Thomas and Ivey Slaughter combined for 26 points.
In last year's game FSU owned a 12-3 edge in offensive rebounds and on Monday it was 16-8 in Florida State's favor. Five of those eight were team rebounds so it was actually more lopsided than 16-8 in that department. I did some checking and the last game when UConn was minus eight in offensive rebounds and turnovers committed was on Mar. 6, 2011 against Georgetown. Still, the Huskies came away with the win.