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UConn women’s basketball Takeaways from Paradise Jam: Huskies respond, still lack depth

November 27, 2018

The trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands was a successful one for the UConn women, who concluded their stint at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas with a trio of victories.

Unsurprisingly, the Huskies — now 5-0 and ranked No. 2 in the AP poll — had little trouble with Mississippi and Purdue, beating the two schools 90-50 and 86-40, respectively. They were, however, challenged by St. John’s before coming out on top, 65-55.

Here are a few takeaways from the tournament.

Finishing with authority: UConn’s first test came early, maybe earlier than expected. And that’s not necessarily bad news for the Huskies, who will see the schedule ramp up in strength this week with a pair of matchups against No. 16 DePaul and No. 1 Notre Dame.

After winning their first three games by an average of 36.6 points, the Huskies were pushed to the limit by St. John’s. (Coincidentally, St. John’s was the last unranked opponent to beat Geno Auriemma’s team, doing so 57-56 in 2012 on a last-second 3 by Shanika Smith). The Huskies didn’t shoot particularly well nor did they play great defense, but they did have something that their opponent lacked: finishers.

Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield stepped up when it mattered most. After St. John’s grabbed a 51-47 lead with 9:18 left, the trio sparked an 8-0 run, hitting three shots in succession to vault UConn back in front for good. The Huskies scored 18 of the game’s final 22 points.

Camara contributes: What Batouly Camara lacks on the offensive end she makes up for with her energy and effort on defense. At least, that was the reputation of the 6-foot-2 forward coming into the season.

Though her numbers may not reflect it (one point, one rebound and one steal in five minutes), Camara was a factor in the second half against St. John’s. She helped the Huskies — who had been out-rebounded 19-13 in the first half — ratchet up the intensity on both ends of the floor as they made their comeback.

Williams shines: Freshman Christyn Williams’ evolution as a two-way player is worth watching. Williams displayed her shooting touch, going 8-of-12 from 3-point range in the Huskies’ three wins (she had been 0-for-4 previously). Oh, and Auriemma said she has the potential to become “one of the best rebounding guards in the country.” No pressure.

Not much in reserve: This trip was seen as a prime chance for the Huskies’ bench to show its worth. However, outside of a couple performances — notably Olivia Nelson-Ododa scoring 11 points in 12 minutes against Ole Miss — the reserves did little to distinguish themselves. At least right now, the depth on this team just isn’t there.

Tired? Who, us?: Auriemma certainly didn’t anticipate needing to push his starters full throttle against St. John’s, especially not amid a stretch of three games in three days. To recap: Samuelson, Dangerfield and Williams each played 40 minutes. Collier played 39 minutes.

If they were tired the next night, they certainly didn’t show it. The Huskies dismantled Purdue 86-40 behind a nearly perfect first quarter (28-8).

dbonjour@ctpost.com

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