UConn's Nurse rediscovers her shooting touch
In her final three games at the Olympics she 5 for 34 from the field. It didn't get much better once UConn's season started as she missed her first eight shots and only twice in the first five games did she make consecutive shots from the field.
She made three straight shots in a Nov. 20 win against LSU and had two 3-pointers in a span of 25 seconds in the fourth quarter against Dayton when the Huskies were already up 24. Nurse came into the season with a 46.4 career field-goal percentage at UConn including a 38.8 mark from 3-point range but she was at 30.2 and 32.0 respectively before her breakout game.
Things were difficult enough that after missing all five of her field-goal attempts in a season-opening win at Florida State that Nurse initiated a face to face meeting with UConn coach Geno Auriemma because the pressure of her expanded role was much more trying that she anticipated.
Auriemma predicted that with a week between the Dayton and Chattanooga games that Nurse would return to her confident, shot-making self against the Mocs. That didn't happen and even in the shootaround earlier today, Auriemma watched as Nurse missed shot after shot after shot.
So to see Nurse make her first nine shots of the game and already top her previous career scoring high by halftime was not something Auriemma was expecting when UConn hosted No. 15 DePaul.
"She has been trying to hard to put points on the board that she has been fighting herself more than anything else," Auriemma said after the 91-46 victory. "She got very comfortable and a lot of times that is all it takes is to get comfortable.
"I didn't see it coming, I didn't see the score coming, I didn't see what Kia did today coming. At shootaround she missed five, six, seven in a row, I don't know what it was. I had a great coaching moment I told her you have two choices either make them or stop shooting and then she started making all of them."
Nurse got off and running hitting three fast-break layups in a span of 41 seconds early in the first quarter. By the end of the quarter the Huskies were leading 37-6 and Nurse already had 19 points. If she didn't take another shot, it would have been the third-best scoring total as a Husky. She would end with a career-high 33 points and also hit a career best with six 3-pointers.
"There wasn't a whole lot of thinking in terms of shots or scoring, it was more of what can you do on the defensive end, what can you do to affect the game other ways," Nurse said.
Nurse, who earlier today was the only UConn player named to the Wade Trophy watch list, is known to put plenty of pressure on herself. It has made her into the leading scorer on the Canadian national team at the major competitions in the last couple of years but at times she can be her own worst enemy when things aren't going her way. The latter was true earlier this season leading to her seeking out Auriemma for advice.
"I am stepping into a role that I haven't had to be in for a very long time because of the national team I have been kind of young too so it kind of relieved a little bit of that pressure," Nurse said. "It was a great thing for me but it was still a challenge for get better in the leadership roles."
So what was the best advice Auriemma gave her in her meeting?
"You don't have to be good all the time but there are specific times when you need to be really good," Nurse said.
Nurse wasn't the only UConn player with career best performances. Gabby Williams never had a game at UConn with more than five assists but she finished with 10 against DePaul while Katie Lou Samuelson matched her career high with seven assists.
"It is not about who scores the most now and different people are stepping up every night," Nurse said. "I think for Gabby and Lou to have that many assists between the two of them is awesome. It makes it extremely difficult and that is something that gives us an advantage to have such a large amount of offensive weapons."
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