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UConn pulls away for sloppy win over USF

January 13, 2019

STORRS — Geno Auriemma was not happy.

He made that clear around five minutes into Sunday’s game against South Florida, ordering all five of his starters to the bench. It was a bold move, one that caught the Gampel Pavilion crowd by surprise. The Huskies had been largely lethargic and unproductive to that point, falling behind against a cast of relative unknowns.

The Huskies heard his message, though it took them some time to respond.

UConn, the No. 3 team in the country, closed the first half strong and pulled away for a sloppy 63-46 win over USF.

Senior Katie Lou Samuelson scored 19 points, including the 2,000th of her career, to pace the Huskies. The senior hit the milestone with two minutes and 14 seconds left in the third quarter, when Christyn Williams hit her on a breakaway layup. She’s just the 10th player in program history to reach that feat.

Napheesa Collier added 12 points and seven rebounds for UConn. Tamara Henshaw led USF with 12 points.

UConn found its footing after a sleepy start, ending the first half on an 8-2 run to go up 26-20. The Huskies had trailed by as many as eight early while their starters were on the bench.

A layup by forward Megan Walker (14 points) put UConn up 20-18 late in the second quarter — the team’s first lead since 2-0.

The win moved the Huskies to 14-1 (3-0) on the season and 104-0 all-time in American Athletic Conference play. USF, playing with only eight healthy scholarship players, dropped to 10-7 (1-2).

With UConn trailing 6-4 with 5:23 left in the first quarter, Auriemma benched his five starters. In came Molly Bent, Mikayla Coombs, Kyla Irwin, Batouly Camara and Olivia Nelson-Ododa. And they stayed in for the rest of the quarter and into the second, giving Auriemma enough time to get his point across.

Bent, a junior, saw the most time of any of the reserves, playing 21 minutes and scoring six points. Most of her action came in place of Williams, who attempted just two shots and went scoreless.

The Huskies will return to the road Wednesday when the visit Tulane for an 8 p.m. start.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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