women’s basketball UConn routs SCSU
HARTFORD — One game into their regular-season schedule, the UConn women took a quick detour on Thursday to play an exhibition against in-state foe Southern Connecticut State.
While the last few weeks of practices have given Geno Auriemma a pretty firm idea about where his team currently stands, this was another opportunity for him to evaluate the roster before a busy week.
Unsurprisingly, the result was never in doubt. The second-ranked Huskies overwhelmed their Division-II opponent 99-45 at the XL Center.
Most of the night confirmed what the Huskies already knew: Katie Lou Samuelson is really, really good. The All-American poured in 26 points in 22 minutes, including 20 of the team’s first 39. And then there was Napheesa Collier, who came close to notching a triple-double — 13 points, nine rebounds and nine assists — over 24 minutes.
More than anything, though, this night was about the Huskies finding out what they might have in a few bench players — names like Olivia Nelson-Ododa, a highly touted yet raw freshman forward, and Molly Bent, a seldom-used guard.
Nelson-Ododa figures to play a prominent role for the Huskies if, of course, she can overcome the steep learning curve that forwards face. And, for really the first time in this young season, Nelson-Ododa — the No. 5 player in the Class of 2018 — gave the Huskies a reason to be optimistic. She was active in her most extended work to date, collecting 16 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes.
Auriemma, who said following his team’s 85-53 victory over Ohio State on Sunday that the Huskies’ bench was “getting better,” also saw positives from Bent. The junior picked up three steals and four rebounds.
The rest of the night provided few surprises. The Huskies dominated the action from the start, jumping out to leads of 28-15 after one quarter and 32-8 at halftime. They out-muscled the Owls (3-0) in the paint and out-finessed them in the open court, shooting 54 percent.
UConn will return to regular-season play on Saturday for a non-conference showdown against Vanderbilt at Mohegan Sun Arena (6 p.m.).