The last time the UConn women and Tulane Green Wave faced off, emotions were running high on Senior Day as UConn honored some of the greatest players in program history. The Huskies needed 10 minutes to make just two baskets, and ended up trailing after the first quarter.
There would be not slow start today. The Huskies opened the game like a team on a mission, going on a 12-0 run on 9-of-9 shooting from the floor. They only allowed five points the entire quarter and held the Green Wave scoreless over the last 4:10 of the period.
In a twist, it wasn't the big guns leading the charge today, but instead sophomore Kia Nurse and freshman Katie Lou Samuelson. While both have struggled at times this season, they combined to score the Huskies' first 14 points of the game. Nurse finished with 12 points while Samuelson scored 17.
Samuelson has started to fill the shooter role left vacant by fellow Mater Dei alum Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. She finished the game shooting 6-of-7 from the floor, and 3-of-4 from deep. She wasn't just a spot shooter either. In recent games, she's shown the ability to make contested jumpers and shoot off the dribble.
Samuelson's increased scoring has helped take the load off point guard Moriah Jefferson as well. While Jefferson's point totals have been down, she still has been the primary facilitator of the Husky offense. When the Huskies grab an offensive rebound, they instantly look for Jefferson and she leads the fast break up the court. Jefferson's tenacious perimeter defense also forces bad passes into the post that often become turnovers.
Speaking of defense, UConn pitched arguably their best defensive performance of the season Sunday night. They held Tulane to just 32 points, and only allowed three baskets in the final 8:21 of the game. Tulane did not shoot a free throw the entire game, and only shot 31% from the field.
Breanna Stewart scored just nine points to go with two blocks and three steals. Gabby Williams had another strong game off the bench, scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds.
With the win, the Huskies will play tomorrow night in the American Conference Championship against the winner of USF and Temple.