No. 1 UConn women stay perfect, rout ECU, 96-35
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Good things happened for top-ranked Connecticut when the ball left Katie Lou Samuelson’s hands.
When she wasn’t making shots, she passed to teammates who did.
Samuelson scored 19 points and had a season-best nine of the Huskies’ 31 assists in their 96-35 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday.
“It’s hard for us sometimes to run offense without (Samuelson) on the floor because she makes the most shots, and she’s our best passer,” coach Geno Auriemma said.
Gabby Williams added 18 points, Napheesa Collier had 14 points and Azura Stevens matched a season high with 16 rebounds for the Huskies (12-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference).
They shot 53 percent, had a 52-38 edge on the boards, and scored 31 points off the Pirates’ 20 turnovers while extending their Division I-record road winning streak to 42 and winning their 142nd in a row against unranked opponents.
“UConn dominated every facet of the game tonight,” ECU coach Heather Macy said.
Williams — who had the program’s fifth triple-double in her previous visit to ECU last January — had 12 points in the first quarter, and she and her teammates had an easy time finding lanes to the rim and attacking. UConn finished with 54 points in the paint, and 27 of its 40 field goals were layups.
Alex Frazier and Destiny Campbell had eight points apiece to lead East Carolina (8-7, 0-2), which fell to 0-9 in the series and has never kept it closer than 41 points.
Megan Walker and Crystal Dangerfield each had 10 points for UConn.
UConn: Maybe someday, some team from the American will challenge the Huskies, who improved to 85-0 in regular-season and tournament games within the conference. Until then, they’ll have to be content with nitpicking the flaws that pop up in their blowouts — such as missing 13 of 14 shots late in the second quarter — and making sure they’re sharp for their annual run through the NCAA Tournament.
East Carolina: Macy’s bid for school history will have to wait a few more days. She entered tied with her predecessor Sharon Baldwin-Tener for the most coaching victories in program history. Nobody expected win No. 127 to come against the mighty Huskies.
Tip-off time was moved up five hours to 2 p.m. in an attempt to finish the game before a winter storm was expected to dump snow, sleet and freezing rain on the Southeast seaboard.
An announced crowd of 1,823 — the smallest to watch the Huskies this season — showed up for the makeshift midweek matinee.
Auriemma appreciated the change because “that gives us a chance to get out of here at a decent time” but added that “the people that were here, I think they got to see a pretty good game by us.”
When this game was its closest, UConn took away what the Pirates do best. ECU entered leading the league with an average of 16.3 offensive rebounds. UConn allowed the Pirates just one offensive rebound in the first half, when the Huskies pushed their lead well into the 20s. The 6-foot-6 Stevens — the tallest player for either team by at least 3 inches — finished with a game-high nine defensive rebounds.
This was as close to a homecoming as Stevens will have. The UConn forward grew up in Raleigh, attended high school in the suburb of Cary and was an all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection during two seasons at Duke before transferring following a disappointing 2015-16 season with the Blue Devils.
“She’s so much different than anybody else we have on our team,” Auriemma said. “She’s got a dimension that’s hard to find anywhere in the country, actually, someone with that length that has those kinds of skills.”
UConn: Plays at South Florida on Saturday night.
East Carolina: Travels to Memphis for a Saturday game.