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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Collier delivers again for UConn

The whistle blew and the news was not good for Napheesa Collier.

On a night when her team could not afford to have the sophomore forward on the bench, Collier was expecting to be take a seat after she picked up her second foul with 3:51 left in the second quarter. However, UConn coach Geno Auriemma never went to his bench except to give the hobbled Kia Nurse a break with 2:09 remaining in the first half.

Collier not only didn't pick up her third foul but scored all the points in a 7-0 run to end the half. No play was bigger than a steal and layup just before the second quarter came to an end. Instead of South Carolina hitting a basket so it could be a one-possession once again, she stepped in front of a Bianca Cuevas-Moore pass and went coast to coast for the layup.

"It was such a momentum changer going into halftime ending with a steal and a layup," Collier said.

The third foul came just 2:46 into the third quarter and once again she remained on the court. Collier delivered again with one of her most memorable plays of the season.  Collier had just scored to push the lead to nine points late in the third quarter. On the next possession she grabbed a rebound after a missed jumper by Kaela Davis. Two South Carolina players attempted to tie her up but she aggressively protected the ball and started up the court. Collier was rewarded with a pass from Saniya Chong en route to a three-point play with 3 seconds  left in the third qiuarter to give UConn a 12-point lead.

"It is just about hustle plays and that is what I try to do," Collier said.

Collier's issues with fouls did not end in the third quarter. She picked up foul No. 4 with 7:21 left. Classmate Katie Lou Samuelson also had four fouls and UConn's top two scorers this season went to the bench with the Huskies holding a 13-point lead.

When they came back in with 3:16 to play UConn's lead was pushed to 16 points. Collier wouldn't finish the game on the court as she was called for an offensive foul trying to score in transition just 15 seconds later.

"A lot of my fouls, I shouldn't have (committed) especially my fourth one I shouldn't have  pushed her from behind," Collier said. "I think what I should have done was let that go. I think I need to play a little smarter."

Collier finished with 18 points and nine rebounds despite playing less than three minutes in the fourth quarter as UConn extended its NCAA basketball all-division record for consecutive wins to 100 games.

Although the 6-foot-1 Collier and 5-foot-11 Gabby Williams gave up a total of nine inches to the South Carolina duo of Alaina Coates and A'ja Wilson, they combined to outscore them 44-27 and outrebound them 23-20.

"There were some adjustments that we made and we tried to keep it out of the high post, we did a good  job with it," Collier said. :In the first half they got a couple of layups on us but I think we tried to adjust with our guards to trap, I think we made the right adjustments."

Collier also credited the energetic student section for making it an electric environment.

"Today was crazy," Collier said. "The student section was amazing. I don't think we've had that many students before since I have been here so having them all come out and support us and how great the environment was, I think that really helped us."

Seeing a UConn team open the season with 25 straight wins is hardly a new phenomenon as it is something that has happened nine times since the 1994-95 season including five times in the last nine campaigns.

However, a quick look at the national standings provides an indication of how impressive of a run it has been for this UConn team.

UConn owns wins against the leaders and/or co-leaders in the ACC (Florida State and Notre Dame), Atlantic 10 (Dayton), Big 12 (Texas), Big 10 (Maryland), SEC (South Carolina, although UConn has not played co-leader Mississippi State) and Southern (Chattanooga). So UConn has beaten the first-place team in five of the top seven conferences in the latest RPI. One of those conferences the Huskies don't own a win over the No. 1 team is the American Athletic Conference since the Huskies can't beat themselves while there were no games scheduled against the Pac-12, the conference with the top RPI.

ESPN announced that top-ranked UConn’s 66-55 milestone 100th-consecutive victory over No. 6 South Carolina on Monday delivered a 0.9 overnight rating, marking the highest-rated college basketball game on ESPN2 this season among men’s and women’s telecasts, and the highest-rated women’s college basketball regular season game since 2010.

Online, the game also attracted 69,000 unique viewers with a total of 1,700,000 minutes watched, which makes this matchup the most streamed women’s college basketball regular-season game to date televised by ESPN. The Big Monday matchup ties Tennessee vs. Duke (Jan. 23, 2006) as the fourth-highest regular-season women’s college basketball game across all ESPN networks.

Local markets: Hartford/New Haven, the No. 1 local market, earned a 14.3 local rating, making this the highest-rated women’s college basketball game in market across all ESPN networks since 2010. Greenville was second with 2.3 rating, followed by Knoxville (2.0), Charlotte (1.7) and Cincinnati (1.6).


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