It took all 40 minutes but the UConn women’s basketball team staved off an upset bid from the Oklahoma Sooners to win 72-63.
Despite struggling for much of the game, the Huskies’ defense clamped down in crunch time, holding Oklahoma to just one point in the final 5:10. UConn closed the game on a 13-1 run.
Napheesa Collier carried the team on her back, finishing with 23 points and 17 rebounds. She had a 7-0 run by herself in the fourth quarter that gave the Huskies the lead for good. Katie Lou Samuelson also notched a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
UConn jumped out to an early 8-2 lead and it appeared they’d run away with the game from the start. But Oklahoma responded with a 10-0 run of their own to go ahead 12-8. From there, the two teams went back and forth on the scoreboard as neither team could find an edge.
The Huskies struggled shooting the ball in the first quarter, hitting just 6-16 shots (34 percent). They trailed after the first 10 minutes for just the second time all season.
In the second quarter, the Sooners held the pressure on. Collier opened the period with a layup to tie the game but Oklahoma came back with a 7-0 run that put UConn up against the largest deficit of their season.
The Huskies got within a point with just over three minutes left in the half, but the Sooners continued to cling the lead and used a late push to go into the break up 37-31.
Head coach Geno Auriemma didn’t mince words during his halftime interview with FS1.
“We’re a little out of sorts. We’ve gotten a lot of great looks, I haven’t seen Lou miss this many open shots in a long time,” Auriemma said. “Our young guys (Megan Walker and Christyn Williams), we aren’t getting anything out of them. Right now, we’re trying to play three on five and it’s not going to work.”
While it was far from Samuelson’s best shooting night, her and Collier kept the offense afloat with 21 of the team’s 31 points on 9-21 from the field. The non-seniors hit just 3-12 shots in the first half.
Halftime didn’t do much to cure UConn’s woes as Oklahoma doubled their lead to 12 points. Just when things began to look dire for the Huskies, Williams sparked an 8-0 run to get UConn back within four. But as was the case for the first three quarter, the Huskies couldn’t close the gap to take the lead and went into the final quarter trailing 52-48.
UConn got within a single point, but the Sooners responded each time to preserve their lead. But once the Huskies re-took the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter, they would not give it up again.
Williams made plays when it mattered, scoring 14 points while Crystal Dangerfield contributed 11 points. Megan Walker struggled in her return, hitting just 2-9 from the floor for four points but did grab seven rebounds.
UConn’s 3-point shooting never materialized as they hit just 2-17 from beyond the arc, a 12 percent mark. On the other end of the court, Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson couldn’t miss from three at times, finishing with 23 points while hitting 6-12 from deep.
With the win, UConn remains undefeated at 10-0. They will look to put in a better performance in their final game before Christmas break at No. 14 Cal on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.