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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Gabby Williams puts on a show in UConn's win over South Carolina

The best way to describe the opening few minutes was that Gabby Williams was doing Gabby Williams. Call it going to Gabby mode or it being Gabby time but for a player known to open eyes with her incredible athleticism but even by her standards, what she did was spectacular. I may be showing my age and people raised in the age of CD players and ipods might not understand this but it was almost like Williams was playing the game at 78 RPMs while the South Carolina players were stuck at 33 RPMs as she was tipping balls and defending so many different players.

She started the game on All-American A'ja Wilson, who is six inches taller but it wasn't loing before she was out on top pressuring the ball, she would also make it out to make life difficult for the Gamecocks' wing players.

"My man to man matchup was Wilson but whenever we were in zone, I like to get up and pressure and it is just how we run things," Williams said.

I'm sure even when the UConn coaches were drawing up the defensive game plan, there's no way to fully anticipate the impact Williams would have. She had season highs with six offensive rebounds and 14 total rebounds. I'd say there were five or six of those rebounds that made my jaw drop. It wasn't just that Williams was soaring to get rebounds, I've seen that before but it was the way she was just ripping the ball away from the taller South Carolina players in better position to secure the rebound. More than once I thought to myself, 'how did she come down with that one." That played a major role in UConn having 16 fast-break points with just five steals which is no easy task.

The timing was ironic because a few hours before the game, the most recent WNBA mock draft compiled by Associated Press national women's basketball writer Doug Feinberrg with input from the league's coaches and general managers was released. Williams was slotted in as the No. 4 pick even though she is 5-foot-11 who scores the majority of her points within a shadow of the basket. Her world class jumping ability (she finished fifth in the U.S. Olympic trials in the high jump as a 15-year-old) allows her to thrive even though she typically gives up inches to the players she guards and fights for rebounds against. She needs nine rebounds to move by Swin Cash and into 10th place on UConn's career list. She's already in eighth place on the career steals list. Maya Moore is the only Husky to rank in the top 10 in both categories.

Williams has made her name by not just being more athletic than her competition but also making the hustle plays.

"At that point, the talent level is almost the same so it comes down to those hustle plays, it comes down to who is tougher, who is mentally stronger and physically stronger," Williams said.

"We don't want to rely on our talent because that can only get you so far, you saw what happened last year. We have to be a team that has edge, gets every 50-50 ball, gets every tough rebound, is boxing out because those are the things that win games."

Knowing how competitive Williams is, I'm fairly confident that she worked overtime to add range on her jump shot. However, she hasn't made nearly as many deep jumpers as I thought she would. She had a couple of those on Thursday including what I estimated to be an 18 footer which is certainly something she'll need at the next level.

"It's a mental thing and realize that in big games we need it," Williams said. "It was wide open, I was that open and I had to shoot it."


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