UConn overcomes ugly opening quarter to win 95th straight
There will be those who read my game story off a 49-point victory over Houston and see the focus on UConn coach Geno Auriemma and his players' unhappiness with the effort and wonder "how many points do they need to win by." That is not and has never been the point. Margin of victory is not nearly as important to the Huskies as quality of play. The reality is that the quality of UConn's play in the first eight minutes is not up to the Huskies' standards.
Thirteen times in the first 19 games UConn shot better than 50 percent in the first quarter and as a result, UConn did not trail in its last 10 games.
UConn shot 6 for 20 in the first quarter and two of those basketball came immediately after offensive rebounds. It was the worst opening-quarter shooting display since a Nov. 20 game at LSU.
Part of the problem is that sophomores Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier (who by game's end would combine for more points through 20 games than any other teammates in program history) were a combined 1 for 6 from the field with some of the misses truly defying explanation. They have been so good and so consistent that it did not make for an attractive brand of basketball.
"You start to think that is guaranteed that is going to happen every game and that is not always the
case," Auriemma said. "Sometimes you have to figure out a different way to do it. I was not particularly thrilled about how our ball movement was in the first quarter and that was probably why it was so different. We just didn't get the kid of ball movement and people movement that we wanted to get and that was a big reason why it looked like it looked. It wasn't pretty as all, there was a lot of standing around in that first quarter."
UConn obviously got things going after that shooting 58 percent in the second quarter, 55 percent in the third quarter and 53 percent in the fourth quarter to extend the longest NCAA basketball winning streak to 95 games.
There was still plenty of positives to come out of the game.
UConn's 29 assists is tied for the second most this season and this was the fourth time this season UConn had at least 20 bench points.
Kia Nurse had an impressive 8-assist, 0-turnover performance, Gabby Williams had another impressive all-around game . If not for Williams' eight points and six rebounds in the opening quarter, I can't imagine what the opening 10 minutes would have looked like.
It was encouraging before the game seeing how aggressively Crystal Dangerfield was moving and cutting. A casual observer might have thought she was going to play but UConn stayed on schedule and plans to have Dangerfield play a limited number of minutes on Wednesday at Temple.
"She is anxious to play and I think she is probably a little disappointed that it has taken this
long. she is probably disappointed that there is going to be a limit on her minutes Wednesday night
but that is where it is right now," Auriemma said.
As regular readers of this blog know, I've been doing lots of research this week on the best individual 20-game starts in program history (or at least during the Auriemma era).
Samuelson and Collier have combined for 807 points, the most by any pair of teammates through 20 games of the season topping the mark of 788 set by Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes during the 2010-11 season.
Samuelson also matched the mark for most 3-pointers through game No. 20 with 72 which was also accomplished by Wendy Davis during the 1991-92 season. Samuelson also reached the 150 mark for 3-pointers in 57 games matching a program record. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who happened to come from the same Mater Dei (Calif.) High program that Samuelson spent her final three seasons at, also got to 150 3-pointers in 57 games.
Maya Moore (66 games), Diana Taurasi (67 games), Mel Thomas (84 games), Ann Strother (85 games) are next on the list while Sue Bird and Jen Rizzotti each accomplished the feat in 88 games.
I will have more on this in my second-day story off the game but Samuelson is the youngest of three daughters born to Karen and Jon Samuelson. Not only have all three of them have played or play Division I basketball but all have at least 150 career 3-pointers. I reached out to the NCAA to see if they have records of players with at least 150 treys to see if other sister combinations have accomplished that feat but was told that before 2002 3-point records are somewhat incomplete.
Another 20 games in stat of note, Williams has 107 assists and the only players in UConn to have more in the first 20 games are Sue Bird (134 in the 2001-02 season), Jen Rizzotti (129 in the 1995-96 campaign) and Renee Montgomery (109 in '08-09).
Here's the updated list of most points by UConn players through 20 games since Auriemma has been at the helm. Note: I'm missing a game from 1985-86 season so Peggy Walsh's point total includes 19 of the 20 games
POINTSMoore 2010-11 477
Sales 1997-98 439
Samuelson 2016-17 431
Bascom 1988-89 401 (19 games)
Moore 2008-09 397
Bascom 1989-90 388
Lobo 1993-94 384
Walsh 1985-86 379 (missing one game)
Bascom 1990-91 376
Collier 2016-17 376
Moore 2009-10 372
Stewart 2015-16 371 (19 games)
Stewart 2013-14 364
Wolters 1995-96 355
Taurasi 2003-04 353
Abrosimova 1998-99 352
Najarian 1987-88 350