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UConn Women’s Basketball Razes Ashland, 119-56

A look at what we’ve learned through the Huskies’ two exhibition games.

UConn’s Kia Nurse (11) drives for two of her 19 first half points vs Ashland.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

In their final exhibition game, the UConn women’s basketball team stomped the reigning Division II national champion Ashland Eagles by a final score of 119-56.

Offensively, the Huskies were powered by a perfect night from Kia Nurse: 21 points on seven-of-seven shooting and four-of-four from three. Both Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson finished with 19 points, while Gabby Williams notched a double-double with 11 points at 10 rebounds.

Roles Getting Defined

After Wednesday’s game against Fort Hays State, head coach Geno Auriemma noted how it’s difficult to build chemistry on offense with so many players entering the game.

While he used most of his bench against Fort Hays State, Auriemma was more selective today and gave a glimpse of which players will be in the rotation to start the season.

The starting five of Crystal Dangerfield, Nurse, Samuelson, Gabby Williams, and Collier, along with Azura Stevens and Megan Walker project to get the bulk of the minutes.

Just because they have more players on the bench than last season doesn’t mean the rotation will be any deeper.

“Having a full bench, for me that’s like having a full toolbox,” Auriemma said. “I don’t know how to use any of them. So it doesn’t matter if there’s one screwdriver or it’s full. It’s the same to me, I generally don’t open it.”

Megan Walker Settling In

With one game already under her belt, Megan Walker looked much better against Ashland in her first action at Gampel Pavilion. She scored 14 points on six-of-11 shooting and looked more comfortable on the court.

“I think it was jitters the first game,” Walker said. “Coach told us that the freshmen would be even more comfortable being out there the second night.”

As the top recruit in the country, Walker is used to having the ball in her hands and taking on the team’s scoring load. However, as a freshman on a team with three All-Americans, she’s embracing a different role.

“I kind of like it,” she said. “I haven’t been in this situation before where I’m not the main scorer on the team, so I like playing off the ball and filling in my spot and doing what the team needs.”

Throughout the years, there are countless examples of highly-rated freshmen that have struggled early in their careers. However, there are just as many freshmen who have come in and made an instant impact. Right now, Walker looks to fit into the latter category.

“Megan is really talented. She’s got a lot of different types of skills,” he said. “You saw glimpses of it today. I’m hoping with the way she looks right now, with her and [Azura Stevens], we’ve got two really good players to add to the five that started today.”

Lots of Dishin’, Even More Swishin’

In UConn’s first exhibition game, the Huskies scored just 82 points. Against Ashland, they had 82 after less than 30 seconds into the second half.

Much of the offensive improvement had to do with the Huskies exceptional passing, notching 36 assists on 51 baskets. Their quick ball movement also highlighted UConn’s balanced scoring attack, as they find the open player instead of trying to get it to the top scorer.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of great passing is Kia Nurse, who has quietly become deadly from behind the three-point line, shown in her perfect four-of-four performance from deep.

“When the ball is moving that quickly and cuts are being made, when screens are being made, it’s a fun way to play basketball and more shots go in because you’re more wide open,” Nurse said.

While getting open was always one of Nurse’s strength, it took some time for her shooting to follow suit.

“She spent a lot of time working on it,” Auriemma said about Nurse’s shooting. “I wouldn’t call her a really good shooter her freshman year. She was pretty good as a sophomore and it wasn’t until the latter part of last season that she became really comfortable with it.”

Next, UConn has a week before opening their season in Columbus on Nov. 12 against No. 10 Stanford in the Countdown to Columbus. Tip-off is set for 1:30 pm.