UConn's defense steals the show in No. 1 vs. No. 2 showcase
With starting forwards Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams giving up two and three inches to Notre Dame's Brianna Turner and Kathryn Westbeld, UConn actually outrebounded the Fighting Irish, had more points in the paint (42-30), more second-chance points (15-14). Most impressive of all, the Huskies attempted 20 free throws to just eight for the Fighting Irish (would love to know the last time that happened in a Notre Dame home court).
The result was a 72-61 UConn victory, the Huskies' 83rd in a row.
"What we needed were guys who were going to be physical, guys who were going to work hard and that is going to be our identity," Williams said. "We are going to beat teams by being smarter, being tougher and making those hustle plays."
UConn won even without Collier for the final 11:24 of the first half after she was whistled for two fouls. Still, Collier finished with a team-high 20 points, Williams had 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, five steals and two blocked shots (I'm going to have a project with some time out this way before Sunday's Kansas State game researching the last time UConn had a player lead the team in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in the same game). Auriemma not known for dispersing of compliments in his player's direction called Williams' performance "magnificent." Katie Lou Samuelson had 18 points with many of them around the basket instead of simply firing away from the perimeter. Kia Nurse had eight points and four assists but her greatest role came in holding Marina Mabrey scoreless until the final 11 seconds.
"I know this is December 7 and I know there is a long way to go between now and then but we purposely tried to put together a schedule this year that going into March there would no doubt to what we can and can not do," Auriemma said after the Huskies won their 83rd game in a row. "I think up to this point we have passed every test, I don't know that we got 100 on every test but we passed every test and the tests are going to keep coming, they are not done yet but if weren't undefeated, if we hadn't won this game, it wouldn't make me feel any different about our team but the fact that we are we are, I am kind of surprised."
Word is that talented Notre Dame freshman Jackie Young suffered an ankle injury so her prognosis is better than what I thought I would be hearing after she needed to be helped off the court late in the game.
Brianna Turner now has two double-doubles in two games against UConn (injuries forced her to miss the regular-season meetings during her freshman and sophomore seasons) as she finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Turner was 2 for 8 from the field after three quarters and had eight points in the final quarter after UConn was comfortably in control of the game.