Top-ranked UConn routs Tulane 82-56 for season’s 30th win.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — With two key players injured and on the bench, top-ranked UConn was outscored by Tulane in the second half on Sunday night.
But with a 30-point cushion, it didn’t really matter.
Katie Lou Samuelson scored 21 points to lead the Huskies to an 82-56 win in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
Napheesa Collier added 19 points and Azura Stevens chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds for Connecticut (30-0), which has won 30 games for the 13th straight season and 23rd overall.
Crystal Dangerfield scored 14 points before going down with a right ankle injury in the third quarter. All-American Gabby Williams aggravated a hip injury that has been bothering her most of the season and left the game before halftime.
Dangerfield said her injury was not serious and Auriemma said Williams also could have returned.
“There’s no point in aggravating it a little bit more,” Auriemma said. “Tomorrow, I’m sure she’ll be a little bit sore. But, we’ll know tomorrow in shootaround and I’m guessing everything will be fine.”
Kolby Morgan had 21 points to lead Tulane, which finishes its season at 14-17.
Tulane made three early 3-pointers and trailed just 10-9, before the Huskies went on one of their game-changing runs. The Huskies scored the last 18 points of the first quarter, keyed by Kia Nurse who had two steals and seven points during that stretch.
The Huskies kept it going in the second quarter, getting a 3-pointer from Dangerfield, before a fall-away jumper by Meredith Schulte ended the Green Wave drought.
The Huskies forced 14 of Tulane’s 17 turnovers before intermission, scoring 17 points off those giveaways.
“Once we got in those passing lanes and got some more ball pressure, things started coming to us offensively,” said Williams, who refused to talk about her injury.
UConn outscored Tulane 34-14 in the paint and made 11 of 12 foul shots.
The Huskies went into halftime leading 52-22, before being outscored 34-30 in the second half.
“When somebody does go down, we have to step up and be ready,” said Samuelson. “I don’t think we necessarily did play the right way when we did lose a couple people or when we just had to sit some people and rest them.”
Tulane, which beat Memphis in the opening round, is 4-4 in American Athletic Conference Tournament play, but falls to 0-10 all-time against UConn.
Coach Lisa Stockton said just winning the second half was a big accomplishment for her program. At halftime, she told her team to focus on winning each quarter and not worry about the final score.
“Maybe that kept our focus instead of looking at the scoreboard and feeling like we’ve got to make eight 3-pointers or something like that,” said.
They were outscored 19-18 in the third, but put up 16 fourth quarter points, while holding UConn’s reserves to 11.
UConn, which won its fifth straight regular-season conference title, also is seeking its fifth straight tournament crown. The Huskies are 99-0 against AAC opponents since the formation of the conference, 86-0 in regular-season games and 13-0 in the conference tournaments.
Morgan finishes her Tulane career with 2,240 points and more points in AAC games than any other active player.
“It definitely was the way I wanted to go out,” she said. “I did want to go out with a bang. Of course, I didn’t want to settle and just be content with my career being over, so I definitely wanted to put up a fight at the end and I think I definitely did that.”
Auriemma was less than happy with the play of his bench, other than Stevens. The other six reserves combined to go 0 for 7 from the floor with five turnovers.
“As this season goes on and I keep watching our second halves or our fourth quarters, I start to treasure the 30-win seasons, because their coming to an end,” Auriemma said.
Tulane: The Green Wave end the season at 14-17
UConn: The Huskies play in the semifinals on Monday night