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No. 1 UConn Women’s Basketball Fends Off Late Comeback From No. 14 Cal, 76-66

The Huskies end 2018 with a hard-earned victory out west.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball closed out 2018 with a hard-fought 76-66 win over the No. 14 Cal Golden Bears. The Huskies held control with a double-digit lead for most of the second half before a late Cal comeback bid got UConn’s lead down to six. However, UConn held strong and came away with the victory.

Katie Lou Samuelson played well in the only game of her collegiate career in her home state of California. She recovered well from a rough shooting outing against Oklahoma to hit 5-6 shots in the first half and 9-14 total. Samuelson also earned her third-straight double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Cal’s gameplan for the game was to shoot a lot of 3-pointers. It worked early on as they landed the first punch and took a quick 6-2 lead.

From there, the rest of the quarter was a game of runs. UConn scored seven-straight to re-take the lead before the Golden Bears roared back with three-straight treys from Asha Thomas. The Huskies would get the final say of the quarter, though. They bounced back with a 7-0 run again and closed the quarter with a 3-point lead.

UConn stayed hot into the second quarter, scoring three straight buckets to take a 10-point lead. However, the Huskies got sloppy and turned the ball over six times in the second period compared to just once in the first, allowing Cal to stay in the game.

Neither team could get an edge over the other for the rest of the quarter, though. In the final five minutes, the two teams traded buckets, with UConn’s lead never getting higher than six points but never lower than four.

UConn came out fast in the second half, scoring six in a row to extend their lead to 10. From there, they slowly built their lead more and more, pushing it out to 15 points by the end of the third quarter. The Huskies’ lead remained comfortable for much of the fourth quarter before Cal came alive in the final two minutes.

The Golden Bears got the deficit down to just 10 points before the UConn bench (read: Geno Auriemma) was hit with a technical, giving Cal two free throws. The Bears hit both to cut the Huskies’ lead to just eight.

UConn couldn’t find the basket on the ensuing possession and Cal responded with a bucket of their own to get it within six points. However, that would be as close as it would get. The Huskies again failed to convert on offense but the Bears missed a big 3-pointer that would’ve made it a one-possession game.

From there, Cal had to foul and Crystal Dangerfield iced the game by making all the free throws. The Golden Bears didn’t score again as UConn earned a hard-fought 76-66 victory.

Four of the Huskies’ five starters went wire-to-wire, playing all 40 minutes. Olivia Nelson-Ododa was the only player to come off the bench, spelling Megan Walker for two minutes. All five starters hit double-digits in the score column for UConn and every one grabbed at least three rebounds and dished at least two assists.

Now, UConn will get 10 days off for the holiday break before returning in 2019 at No. 6 Baylor on Jan. 3.