UConn's Nurse hitting her stride
Well, I'm not sure if she is 100 percent or not but she certainly looked as healthy as she has been since she injured her right ankle against South Carolina on February 13.
The first indication I had that she was feeling better came when Saniya Chong was the first starter subbed out instead of Nurse. Nurse may have played the entire first quarter had she not picked up her second foul with 1:40 left in the quarter. By that point she already had 10 points (making all three of her shots, both of her 3-pointers and both of her foul shots). She would finish with 24 points going 6 for 7 from 3-point range in just 24 minutes.
"Having Kia back puts out rotation back in place so everybody feels comfortable for where they are," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It allows the other players to know that we are going to be the right offense, we are going to be getting the ball to the right places as the right time. Saniya (Chong) and Crystal (Dangerfield) have been great but they have never been in these kinds of games and played in these kinds of games. One of them was in high school and the other one really didn't play much last year. Kia gives them confidence, she gives the entire team confidence but she especially gives Crystal and Saniya a tremendous amount of confidence.
"If you put Kia out there with the other four starters and you are one of the other teams that are playing against us, you start looking at your scouting report and who do we want shooting the ball? She is probably somebody who is going to be open more times than not. You saw today that when Kia gets is going from the perimeter, she makes everything."
While both Auriemma and Nurse had their game faces on thee was a light moment after Nurse made a layup early in the third quarter but it was a bit of an awkward looking shot.
"She shoots layups the Canadian way, they taught her how to shoot layups over there," Auriemma said. "She doesn't know if she should shoot it backhand or slap shot so I was trying to show her yesterday how to shoot it the American way and when she (nearly)missed, I was just shaking my head and she started laughing because she knows what I am talking about. She goes so hard to the basket she forgets to shoot it. That is why I am a great coach, I am taking the starting point guard n the Canadian national team trying to show her how to shoot a layup, who's better than me."
Nurse was told to stay off her ankle and not take part in any basketball activities, not even shooting drills for a couple of weeks. Only recently has she been able to get back in the gym putting in the extra work she is known for.
"I was getting in the gym this weekend getting some shots up trying to get that feel back, that helped," Nurse said. "The Wednesday that I came back ,that was the first time I was able to shoot, everything else was wait for it to heal, bike work.
"I was shooting decently (in practices leading into the game). I think individual (workouts) s in the gym all alone, that was when I was shooting better but in practice it was coming back."
A few notes from the game.
Katie Lou Samuelson and Crystal Dangerfield both recorded their 100th assist of the season giving the Huskies five players with 100 assists the season matching the program record.
The 34 assists are the most for UConn in an NCAA tournament game and the third most in NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament history as Stanford had 37 against Arkansas in 1990 and 35 versus Howard in 1997.
Dating back to the 1994-95 season, it is the most in a game for UConn as the Huskies have 34 against Western Michigan on Nov. 23, 2003 and against Quinnipiac on Dec. 27, 1998.
It was the eighth time UConn scored at least 100 points in a first-round game, the most in NCAA Division I women's tournament history.
Perhaps the most frightening stat of all, since 1995 UConn's margin of victory in first round games is 48.4 points and the opposing teams have averaging 46.5 points per game.
This was the 60th NCAA tournament game played at Gampel Pavilion only Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena and Stanford's Maples Pavilion.
When UConn and Syracuse play on Monday, it will be the sixth time the teams which played in the NCAA title game will meet the next year in the tournament but the first time such a game has taken place before the Final Four.
REIGNING NATIONAL CHAMPION IN ALL CAPS
1984: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BEAT Louisiana Tech in national semifinals 62-57
1988: Louisiana Tech defeated TENNESSEE in national semifinals 68-59
1989: Auburn defeated LOUISIANA TECH 76-71 in national semifinals
1996: Tennessee defeated UCONN 88-83 (OT) in national semifinals
2004: UCONN defeated Tennessee 70-61 in national championship
2015: UCONN defeated Notre Dame 63-53 in national championship