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Final: UConn Women’s Basketball Grinds Out Victory Over UCF, 78-56

The Huskies won their 106th consecutive game and advanced to their 4th straight AAC tournament final.

Gabby Williams puts up two of her 16 points in the win over UCF.
Ian Bethune for The UConn Blog

In the American Conference Tournament Semifinals, the UConn Women’s Basketball team earned a hard-fought, physical win over the UCF Knights, 78-56.

The Huskies jumped out to an 8-0 start and it seemed the game had the makings of a blowout. But UCF came back with a quick five-point spurt and made it to a three-point game. The Knights kept it close with their hard-nosed style of play, but UConn held them at arm’s length and would not relinquish the lead.

UCF held on early thanks to success on the offensive boards. The Knights aggressively attacked the glass on offense and overwhelmed the Huskies early on. In the first quarter, they held a 6-to-1 advantage in offensive rebounds.

But UConn adjusted, as UCF did not get another until late in the second quarter. The Huskies started pulling away, growing the lead to 12 at the half.

There were other signs the Knights’ competitive play would be temporary. In the first half, Zykira Lewis and Aliyah Gregory scored 19 of UCF’s 25 points. That volume of scoring from just two players is hardly sustainable against UConn and that was reflected in the second half.

The Huskies jumped out to a 12-2 run out of the break. Soon thereafter, they went on another run, this time 6-0, and suddenly the lead was 20.

Katie Lou Samuelson hit three threes in the game to reach 100 on the season. She becomes just the third player in program history to make more than 100 three-pointers in the season, joining Kaleen-Mosqueda Lewis, who did it twice, and Wendy Davis.

After playing just 15 minutes in Saturday’s quarterfinal, Kia Nurse played 21 minutes in this one. Geno Auriemma is wisely easing her back into action as to avoid aggravating her injury and make sure she’s ready for the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies offense came from the post, as Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams both scored a game-high 16 points. Both were strong on the glass, with Collier grabbing 12 rebounds and Williams getting nine.

Crystal Dangerfield put together one of her best performances of the season, dropping 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The freshman played the bulk minutes vacated by Nurse and has improved dramatically over that stretch. Since Nurse’s return, Dangerfield has been a sparkplug for the Huskies off the bench and allows them to play more transition ball.

Next, UConn advances to the tournament final on Monday. The Huskies will face the winner of USF vs. Temple at 7 p.m. with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.