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uconn women’s basketball Dangerfield displaying newfound toughness

November 17, 2018

HARTFORD — No statistic can adequately define the leap Crystal Dangerfield has made since her freshman year. Neither can any singular shot, assist or steal — though, to be fair, there’s plenty that still register.

As much as anything, her coach says, Dangerfield’s growth these past two years boils down to her willingness to stay on the floor.

“She got knocked around pretty good today,” Geno Auriemma said of Dangerfield following UConn’s season-opening victory over Ohio State on Sunday. “She would’ve been out two weeks as a freshman. Anyone of those things happen, right to the training room. She would’ve been done.

“Now, you saw today, she’s not coming out of the lineup. She’s not coming off the court.”

Dangerfield took a few shots, none more painful than an inadvertent bump to the eye that left her dizzy and unable to see for a few moments. All told, despite a few scares, she stayed on the floor longer than any other Husky — 31 minutes.

“Everything was dizzy, but I want to be out there on the floor,” Dangerfield said. “I want to be able to help my teammates. We were kind of going through a rough patch offensively and defensively. So, I wanted to be out there and be a leader by showing some toughness.”

If it were still freshman year, Dangerfield agrees, she wouldn’t have lasted four quarters.

“Oh definitely, the first one that I caught to the eye, I would’ve come out of the game immediately,” she said. “It hurt so bad.”

“For the next couple games, she probably would’ve been out of commission,” added forward Napheesa Collier, jokingly.

Make no doubt about it, Dangerfield is older, wiser and, yes, tougher. Dangerfield carries herself differently this season because she must. She’s now an elder statesman in the locker room, one of the players whom Auriemma is counting on most to guide the Huskies to a 12th straight Final Four.

“You c an definitely see how she’s maturing,” Collier said, “and her level of toughness and how she pushes through things. I think that definitely comes with age. She’s coming into her own with that.”

The Huskies have their own Big Three, and it’s comprised of Collier, Dangerfield and Katie Lou Samuelson, a preseason AP All-American. The trio accounted for 54 of the Huskies’ 85 points against Ohio State. Dangerfield, a smooth, instinctual point guard, had 18 of those.

“Crystal’s just a different player,” Auriemma said. “She has so much confidence in herself. And it’s real confidence, not fake like she had freshman year. It’s real because she’s worked really hard at it. She knows she can make shots from a lot of different places. … All the things that you hope for a kid to become, I think it’s happened. I don’t know that there’s a lot of guards in the country that can take the ball and go where she goes whenever she wants to.”

For the most part, Ohio State couldn’t stop her. Next up on Saturday (6 p.m., Mohegan Sun Arena) is Vanderbilt, a program that is connected to Dangerfield in more ways than one. Dangerfield grew up in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the same town as Vanderbilt freshman forward Brinae Alexander. Dangerfield attended Blackman High and Alexander Riverdale High.

“It’s a home team,” Dangerfield said. “It’s a team that was on my list of finalists, so yeah, it’s going to be great.”

CONGRATS, CHAMP: The night of Oct. 28, Dangerfield sent a congratulatory text to the most recognizable athlete to come out of her high school. That would be Red Sox pitcher David Price, who was instrumental in leading Boston to another World Series title.

“He’s a great guy,” Dangerfield said. “He reached out to me, I don’t know if it was my freshman year or last year, and he just told me to keep doing what I’m doing.”

LET’S WAIT: Ossining High (N.Y.) guard Aubrey Griffin’s official signing has been pushed back to Tuesday due to the snow, her coach ann ounced on Twitter. Griffin remains the Huskies’ lone commit for 2019.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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