Brilliant first half powers UConn to record victory
The Huskies would misfire on a some 3-pointers, the only other shot they would miss from inside the 3-point line in the first half came with 1:15 remaining in the second quarter on a missed jumper by reserve Natalie Butler.
Yes, UConn was 10 of 11 from inside the 3-point line in the first quarter and 9 of 10 in the second quarter as the Huskies took a 52-18 lead on a solid, veteran Temple team.
"I thought the way we started the game on the defensive end, I thought they way we approached every switch, every rotation and everything we wanted to do to keep them off balance, we got it done," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "What that did was it led to some real goof stuff down at the other end. We wanted to attack them off the dribble because we knew the defensive pressure they want to put on you on the perimeter and then I thought we were very efficient. We got great shots, we didn't rush anything, we got the right people hitting the right shots at the right time. I can't think of one thing when we went into halftime that 'we've got to do a better job.' That was about as good of a first half as we have played."
Auriemma clarified the remark to include a Jan. 10 win over South Florida. Oh by the way, Temple was picked second and USF third in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll.
"They recognized that both Temple and South Florida are good teams, both NCAA tournament teams," Auriemma said. "Teams in our league that are going to be a big factor in the race and in the tournament for sure. Most of them were here the last couple of years when we didn't play that great (at Temple)."
Sophomores Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson led the way with 25 and 24 points respectively. Collier missed both of her 3-point attempts but was 12 for 12 from inside the 3-point line. She also had 10 rebounds, three steals and four blocked shots. Gabby Williams had 14 points, six assists and four blocked shot while Saniya Chong added 12 points and six assists.
That remarkable performance guaranteed that UConn's NCAA all-division record winning streak would be extended to 96 games. It was also the 35th consecutive road win breaking the NCAA Division I women's basketball record set by the Huskies from 2001-04.
Temple showed something by coming out hard in the second half outscoring UConn 29-22 in the third quarter and 51-45 in the second half.
"What we saw from our team in the second half was completely different because we started believing in ourselves, we got stops and are making shots," Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. "Why didn't we do this in the first half?"
New Haven's Tanaya Atkinson led the way scoring 15 of her team-high 20 points in the second half. She is the first Connecticut native to score at least 20 points on UConn since St. John's Da'Shena Stevens (of Stamford and sister of current Husky Azura' Stevens) dropped 27 against the Huskies on Feb. 11, 2009.
Atkinson said a halftime speech from Cardoza got the attention of the entire team.
"She said one thing we had to do was compete," Atkinson said. "She felt like that first half we were shying away from we are good at so I think we had a different mindset. We definitely got a lot of good stops, a lot of transition points and that is our game plan.
"I think Gabby (Williams) blocked my shot a couple of times and she is a great athlete an that is what she does. One thing I had to do was be physical and it is like Coach said today in shootaround, if you are going to go in there, go get And 1s, don't shy away from contact and that is what did in the first half. In the second half I didn't care, I went in there."
It is also worth mentioning that UConn freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield played 18 minutes in her first game since Jan. 10. She was shut down for two weeks because of a stress reaction in her left foot. She finished with six points, one rebound, one assist and one steal.