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women’s basketball Winning without Geno, dominating the AAC

February 26, 2019

TULSA, Okla. — No Geno, no problem.

With Geno Auriemma stuck back in Connecticut with an illness, Chris Dailey stepped in and coached UConn to a 68-49 victory over Tulsa Sunday at the Reynolds Center.

The Huskies (25-2, 13-0 AAC) locked up a share of the American Athletic Conference regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in next month’s conference tournament.

Here’s five takeaways on the win:

Some things never change: Even on an off-day, Napheesa Collier found ways to contribute. Collier finished with 12 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks, notching her 16th double-double of the season.

“That’s what she does,” forward Megan Walker said. “She’s a double-double machine.”

Collier’s efficiency dipped as Tulsa threw constant double-teams her way. She had her worst shooting day of the season, going just 5-of-16 from the floor.

Sensing that Collier was growing frustrated, associate head coach Chris Dailey said she considered giving her a breather early. Collier instead was given a chance to work through her struggles, not hitting the bench until 2:27 left in the third quarter.

‘Walk’ this way: A beneficiary of the constant attention paid toward Collier in the paint, Walker was instant offense for the Huskies. The sophomore scored 21 points (11 in the first quarter) on 8-of-13 shooting, helping the Huskies push through their early malaise.

Walker showed her versatility, scoring in a variety of ways. She was effective in the paint (eight points on 4-of-6 shooting) and also sank a pair of 3-pointers.

Dishing out some help: Christyn Williams’ confidence continues to rise. That’s evident, Collier said, not just in how Williams shoots, but also in how she passes.

Playing in front of family members who made the four-hour drive from Little Rock, Ark., Williams tallied 12 points and five assists. It was the freshman’s second-highest assist total of the season (six against East Carolina).

“Passing’s really about your confidence in your teammates, really — just putting the ball out there and knowing that they’re going to go get it,” Collier said. “I think she’s finally starting to realize that.”

For what it’s worth: There are few things more certain in life than UConn winning the American Athletic Conference. The Huskies — winners of 114 straight AAC games, including 13 this season — locked up a share of the regular-season title Sunday. (They’ll win it outright after likely breezing past Wichita State Tuesday.)

While this accomplishment may seem like small potatoes, there is something to be said for bringing it night in and night out for six straight seasons.

Balancing act: Give Tulsa credit for this much: They made UConn break a sweat.

The Huskies, who had won their first eight games against the Golden Hurricane by an average of 45 points, trailed by seven midway through the first quarter. Of course, they responded by closing the quarter on a 15-0 run.

“(UConn) just became more urgent,” Tulsa coach Matilda Mossman said. “It’s kind of like, ‘We’re not playing Baylor, we’re not playing Louisville, so we can kind of coast.’ I think that was kind of a wake-up call for them.”

Of the bench players, only Olivia Nelson-Ododa (14 minutes) and Mikayla Coombs (nine) played more than a minute.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour