When a star player goes down, most teams would struggle in their first game without them. However, the UConn women's basketball team is not like most teams. Despite playing without one of the best players in the country, the Huskies took care of business at home, destroying the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 95-35.
After Moriah Jefferson went down with a strained hamstring in practice, Geno Auriemma decided to start Saniya Chong in her place. The junior guard had seen decent playing time throughout the season, but struggled with consistency and was only averaging 5.0 points per game. She was also dealing with an injury of her own.
Tonight, it all came together for Chong as she scored a team-high 18 points. She helped soften the loss of Jefferson even further by getting four assists and four rebounds.
The first quarter was all Morgan Tuck. Tulsa had no way of stopping her down low and was outscored 12-6 by the junior forward in the first stanza. When the Huskies weren't going through Tuck, their best offense came when they were able to force turnovers and get out and run. With four minutes left, the Golden Hurricane tried switching to a halfcourt press to slow the Huskies offense. Instead, the Huskies scored ten points and held Tulsa scoreless for the remainder of the quarter.
The Huskies opened the second quarter in a full-court trap, and after allowing two quick buckets, tightened up their defense and forced back-to-back Tulsa turnovers, causing the Golden Hurricane to use a timeout. Georgetown transfer Natalie Butler made her home debut as a Husky in the second quarter. The former Big East Rookie of the Year missed the start of the season after undergoing thumb surgery in October but was still effective down low in limited minutes and showed a nice shooting touch as well.
UConn started the third quarter with a 13-0 run, as if there was not already any doubt about the final outcome of the game with the Huskies holding a 31-point lead at the halftime break. UConn was able to keep Tulsa off the free throw line, which kept the game moving and led to more turnovers and fast breaks. The Huskies forced 19 Tulsa turnovers in the game.
The Huskies were a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line and enjoyed 34 points from their bench.
Katie Lou Samuelson played her best game in a Husky uniform, scoring 14 points and shooting 5-8 from the field including 4-6 from deep. While scoring has never been much of a problem for Samuelson, Auriemma noted after the game that she played well in other facets of the game. Samuelson and Gabby Williams tied for the team lead with five assists.
Though she dealt with some foul trouble, freshman Napheesa Collier had a great performance as well. She finished with 11 points and eight rebounds in her fifth career start.
Tuck tied Saniya Chong for the Husky scoring lead with 18 points, adding five rebounds. Breanna Stewart finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds. It was a relatively quiet game for the reigning national player of the week.
The Huskies will begin a three-game road trip in their next game at Houston on Friday. After that, they will play No. 22 South Florida in Tampa on Sunday. The road trip will conclude at Memphis on Wednesday, January 13.