Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wrapping up an eventful trip to Memphis

The first thing I can say about today's 93-36 win over Memphis is how much I love 1 p.m. games especially road games.  There's no need to check to time to make sure I can make all of my deadlines and with UConn with a schedule to catch a flight home, I found myself back in my hotel room by 4:30 p.m. local time. I understand an early afternoon mid-week game is hardly wonderful for people who work for a living and I'm sure quite a few people who normally tune into the game simply could not do so today. If I had a regret it is that I had a chance to book an early evening flight home and I simply couldn't take that risk.

As for the game, when I arrived at Roane Fieldhouse the UConn team on the court stretching and among those getting ready for the game was Katie Lou Samuelson. She had missed the last game due to her troublesome left ankle but it was clear that as pre-game drills continued that Samuelson would be back in action.

She was off target on some 3-pointers, shots that she normally would make but she moved well up and down the floor and had a pretty solid 17-point effort.

"We just took it day by day and I expected to play after taking a couple of days off, I practiced some yesterday and I was ready to go," Samuelson said. "I wanted to play as hard as I can and I feel pretty good. It usually takes something to irritate it or do something to it."

It's been quite the season already for Samuelson. She missed four games earlier in the season because of an ankle injury and when she hurt her ankle again in a game against Tulsa, hearing UConn coach Geno Auriemma say that the injury did not look good was a cause for concern.

All the talk after the game wasn't limited to Samuelson's ankle. She is still showing the impact of the elbow to her left eye against Texas. It looks like a blood vessel burst as well as her eye was blood red. That led to a hilarious quote from Samuelson when I asked her what the reaction on campus is to her walking around with a black eye.

"People were staring a lot and I decided to wear sunglasses for a while, people were staring at me when I was wearing sunglasses in 20 degree weather with clouds everywhere so I don't know what is the better situation," Samuelson said. "I don't know which is better because the first day of classes my eye was actually swollen shut and I had to stand up in front of the class and talk to them and it was like, 'hey guys' and everybody was laughing."

Speaking of comical moments, the local media had an interest in speaking to Tennessee native Crystal  Dangerfield. When the questions turned to the shin splints she is dealing with, she seemed kind of bummed when stating that she hasn't been able to practice. I said that I would think not having to endure Auriemma's challenging practices might not be the worst thing in the world. Dangerfield chuckled and said, "I actually like practice."

As for the painful shin splits, Dangerfield said, "It is starting to feel better and I will keep working with Janelle (Francisco, UConn's athletic trainer) to figure out what the next step is."

Dangerfield said the treatments and rest has been working and the pain is beginning to subside.

Auriemma said he will continue to look to limit the minutes for senior Gabby Williams who is dealing with an issue with her hip and today was one of those days. Auriemma also said he liked what he saw from freshman Megan Walker. Walker did not score until the fourth quarter but even if Walker didn't make a shot in the fourth quarter when all five starters sat on the bench with the Huskies up 75-22, Auriemma would have been encouraged by what Walker accomplished.

"She didn't shoot the ball as well as she did Sunday but I try to tell players don't ever confuse shooting the ball well with playing well," Auriemma said. "I hear that all the time that somebody made a lot of shots that they played a great game.They just made a lot of shots so to me playing well ... She is starting to understand what playing well constitutes at Connecticut. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how many points you score. I like the look she has right now for the first time in a long time, she looks like she has things where she wants them, she is not searching as much."

One aspect that didn't get much attention in the press conference is Kia Nurse's defense on Memphis senior guard Brea Elmore. Elmore was left open for an early 3-pointer and that seemed to catch Nurse's attention as she turned up the intensity. Watching Nurse's off the ball defense when she makes it a real chore just for the player she is guarding to touch the ball is something to behold.

Things are tough for Elmore and the Tigers who are down to six healthy players and after a solid start, things got away from them.

My coverage did not begin with today's game. Yesterday I made the drive from Memphis to Little Rock, Arkansas to see UConn signee Christyn Williams in action. The game was not exactly a barn burner. I didn't keep a running tabulation but I believe Williams' Central Arkansas Christian team ripped off 46 straight points en route to the 55-14 victory.

I had Williams for 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting, four rebounds, one assist, five steals and a blocked shot in just 14:54 as she did not play in the fourth quarter and was taken out early in the second and third quarter.

My favorite play from Williams came when she had a chance to take an open 3-pointer in the third quarter but passed to a teammate. When the shot went up, Williams was en route to the basket and in one motion grabbed the rebound and scored.

More is coming in my interview with Williams but after the game I asked Geno Auriemma for his thoughts on the No. 1 rated recruit in this year's senior class.

"She is good with the ball in her hands, she just has fun playing basketball, enjoys the game," Auriemma said. "Ever since the first time I saw her play, I liked the presence she has on the court. She's one of those players that when you see her and you are around her, you go, 'now I can see what everybody is talking about.'"

One of the things Williams said is that this CAC team is the best one she's been a part of so I asked Auriemma how important it was to Williams to end her senior season with a state title.

"They lost last year and I know she wasn't too happy about," Auriemma said. "I think they might have lost on a missed block out on a free throw so she's make it a priority to finish her career to get back to the state championship game and I think she's been great for her team. She is a great leader, really unselfish and a great teammate. It is easy to see why everybody loves her."


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