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women’s basketball UConn takeaways: Huskies, down to No. 3, ready to roll through AAC

January 8, 2019

HOUSTON — UConn’s stay at No. 1 is over — at least for now.

The Huskies dropped to third in the Associated Press poll after a 68-57 loss to Baylor on Thursday, which snapped a 126-game regular season winning streak.

Notre Dame, which lost 89-71 to UConn last month, returned to the top spot Monday after receiving 12 first-place votes. Louisville jumped to second after topping 10 ballots, while Baylor rose to fourth. Both the Huskies (three) and Lady Bears (five) also received first-place votes.

While their quest for perfection is over, the Huskies remain in an enviable position. They’re 12-1 after coasting past Houston 81-61 Sunday in their American Athletic Conference opener.

Five players scored in double-figures, as the Huskies rebounded from a long, frustrating night in Waco, Texas, to shoot 55 percent. Guard Katie Lou Samuelson led the way with 19 points.

Here’s five takeaways on UConn’s resounding start to conference play:

That’s more like it: UConn hasn’t lost back-to-back games since the end of the 1992-93 season. That wasn’t going to change this weekend.

The Huskies simply don’t lose in the AAC. They’re 102-0 in conference play since the start of the 2013-14 campaign. Incredibly, all but one of those wins have been by at least 10 points.

With USF riddled by injuries, the AAC is possibly as weak as it’s ever been. Sure, UCF (12-2) received one vote in the latest AP poll, but the Knights are nowhere near ready to challenge the Huskies.

Sunday served as a reminder of how seamless these next two months should be for the 11-time national champions — minus, of course, games against Louisville (Jan. 31) and South Carolina (Feb. 11).

Back to being aggressive: Baylor invited forward Megan Walker to shoot from long range, leaving the sophomore open repeatedly on the perimeter. The result: 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-5 from 3.

Coach Geno Auriemma said the Huskies weren’t aggressive enough. They had, in a sense, become gun-shy. They needed to shoot more, not less.

Walker listened. The sophomore delivered 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting (1-of-4 from 3). Ten of those points came in the paint, as Walker was more aggressive in taking the ball to the rim.

A few too many mistakes: The Huskies were better offensively. They were far from perfect, though.

They committed a whopping 18 turnovers (seven in the first half). Napheesa Collier had a team-high six, while Crystal Dangerfield and Mikayla Coombs had three apiece.

Some of those miscues, Auriemma said, were a result of the Huskies trying to do too much. Some didn’t come with an explanation.

The Huskies weren’t at their best — they also shot only 5-of-19 from 3 and 10-of-16 from the free-throw line — but it didn’t matter against Houston.

More of the same: Auriemma made a concerted effort to get Coombs involved. Though she didn’t come off the bench until the third quarter, the sophomore ended up playing 13 minutes. Her final line: zero points on 0-of-2 shooting, four rebounds and three turnovers.

Coombs’ development bears watching. The Huskies could use a safety net in the backcourt for Crystal Dangerfield and Christyn Williams, but they’ve yet to find one.

Kudos, Houston: It’s hard to find anything to complain about with the Fertitta Center. Houston’s home arena, which underwent $60 million in renovations following the 2016-17 season and seats 7,100, is beautiful.

The Cougars, who are only 1-5 at home, just need to start winning there.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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