Geno Auriemma decided to leave his All-American trio of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck on the bench when tonight's game against Cincinnati started. UConn still dominated the Cincinnati Bearcats, 88-34, but it wasn't a typical wire-to-wire beatdown.
"You have to be careful when you have three dominant players like we do," Geno Auriemma said after the game. "There's a tendency for kids to just defer all the time and say 'When I come in we'll already be up 25, so there's no pressure on me.'
"Plus I think we needed to boost our bench points," he joked. "We were starting to lag a bit...so I though we took care of that too."
With the stars on the bench, Katie Lou Samuelson showed the poise and confidence on the court needed in a star player. She finished with 10 points, three steals, and three assists. Fellow freshman phenom Napheesa Collier scored 11 points while adding eight rebounds, two steals and two assists.
The Huskies started the game understandably slow, and only led the Bearcats by six at the end of the first quarter. The usual starters did not enter the game until 3:26 left in the opening quarter, holding a slim 16-15 lead. The trio of seniors righted the ship; after allowing 19 points in the first quarter they held Cincinnati to just 15 points the remainder of the game.
UConn was able to put the game away with an absolutely dominant third quarter, starting the second half on an 18-0 run. They would only allow five points the entire quarter, three of which came on a half-court three as time expired.
Natalie Butler earned her first start for UConn since transferring from Georgetown. The former Big East Rookie of the Year dominated the undersized Bearcats frontcourt, notching a double-double with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting while leading the team with 10 rebounds.
"It's definitely been a struggle," said Butler on her season so far. "But I've learned through this whole process that my teammates are my biggest supporters and it took me a while to realize that."
Breanna Stewart only played 21 minutes off the bench, which tied her season-low. Despite not playing the entire fourth quarter, Stewart still led the team in scoring with 14 points, grabbing eight rebounds. She tied former Husky and current Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliot for 5th all-time in rebounds with 587.
Next the Huskies will travel to East Carolina on Saturday for an 8 p.m. tip in their final road game of the season.