On Sunday, UConn moved to 7-0 on the season with an impressive 89-71 win over top ranked Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. With the win, the Huskies reclaimed the No.1 spot in this week’s AP Poll.
Our takeaways from the win:
Allow Me to Introduce Myself
Megan Gauer: In just her seventh game as a Husky, Williams had a standout game on a big stage. She posted a career-high 28 points on 69 percent shooting from the floor. Including when fouled, she scored 1.56 points per scoring attempt. Williams’ 28 points against the top level of competition prove that she is another elite offensive option in UConn’s lineup and her scoring efficiency is also among the best in the nation. Yesterday’s 1.56 points per attempt moved her up to 1.32 points per play on the season, which ranks 17th in the country.
Williams also did a fantastic job of taking care of the ball against Notre Dame. She did not have a single turnover, despite play all 40 minutes for the Huskies.
Daniel Connolly: Christyn Williams is going to be one of the best players to ever play at UConn and if Notre Dame was any indication, that time may come sooner than later. Williams 28 points were the third-most by a UConn player in a 1 vs. 2 matchup. The other two? Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi, who did so in their senior and junior years, respective. Williams did it before her first semester of college was even over.
Williams gave us a glimpse of who she would be when she predicted UConn would win the national championship this season in her first interview. Geno said to her earlier this season: “Man, there’s a lot of freshmen getting a lot of time on TV, everybody’s talking about them. That should be you. That’s the way they should be talking about you, like you’re one of the best players in America.’”
Williams accomplished that on Sunday. The most terrifying part (for the rest of the nation)? She’s just getting started.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa Steps Up
Megan: Nelson-Ododa was the first, and only, player to come in off the bench for UConn yesterday. With Collier and Samuelson in foul trouble, she had a productive 16 minutes on the floor. Her 5 rebounds tied her career high (she also had five against Purdue). Three of those were offensive, which helped the Huskies to a 17-10 advantage in second chance points. Consistent with past performances, Nelson-Ododa picked up fouls quickly, totaling 4 yesterday. She will need to work on defending without fouling to be able to give UConn more productive bench minutes.
Connolly: In UConn’s close win over St. John’s in the Paradise Jam, Nelson-Ododa was only trusted to play 3 minutes. When Megan Walker dealt with foul trouble late, head coach Geno Auriemma went to Batouly Camara off the bench over Nelson-Ododa.
Now contrast that with the win over Notre Dame, where Nelson-Ododa was the sole player to come off the bench (although Camara is injured). She was given the big task of filling in for Napheesa Collier when the senior went out with foul trouble and Nelson-Ododa delivered for the Huskies with 5 points and 5 rebounds. She also showed off her length with a thunderous block of Marina Mabrey.
Fouls continue to be an issue for the freshman but overall, Sunday’s performance was a big step in Nelson-Ododa’s development. Now she needs to continue to build on it.
Stars Struggle, But Others Step Up
Megan: Despite Katie Lou Samuelson being held scoreless in the first half and Crystal Dangerfield struggling from the floor throughout the game, the Huskies stayed on top. Williams’ 28 points help ease the veterans’ offensive struggles as well. Additionally, 13 offensive rebounds, including 5 from Napheesa Collier, allowed the Huskies to score 17 points on second chance attempts.
Connolly: Neither Katie Lou Samuelson nor Crystal Dangerfield played their “A” game. Napheesa Collier missed a big chunk of the second half in foul trouble. And UConn still won by 18 points.
Won on the Boards
Megan: The Huskies attacked Notre Dame’s game plan with poise and confidence in the win. The Irish’s offense relies on their offensive rebounding to produce second chance scoring opportunities. UConn, who heading into the game collecting only 69 percent of defensive rebounding opportunities, had 33 defensive boards against Notre Dame. They allowed the Irish to collect only 25 percent of their own misses, which is well below their season average of 41 percent.
UConn Landed the First Punch
Connolly: In UConn’s last two losses, the opposing team threw the Huskies off by hitting them in the mouth first. Against Mississippi State, the Bulldogs jumped off to a 29-13 lead. This past Final Four versus Notre Dame, UConn trailed 24-11 in the first quarter. It forced the Huskies to play from behind, something they weren’t used to.
But on Sunday, it was UConn who struck first. They didn’t jump out to as big of a lead as the ones mentioned above, once the Huskies took the lead with 6:36 left in the first quarter, they never gave it up. The Fighting Irish were forced to place from behind and for every rally they had to close the gap, UConn had an answer.
As the clock wound closer to zero in the final quarter, the Huskies were calm and composed while Notre Dame fell apart. It was quite the change from the last two Final Fours where UConn looked nervous and made backbreaking mistakes in crucial moments.
Put It in the Past
Connolly: The win over Notre Dame was huge and will certain boost the Huskies’ confidence going forward. But it’s also still early December. Who knows how Christyn Williams or Olivia Nelson-Ododa will look by the end of the season. Who knows how Notre Dame will look in six months. There’s a lot that can happen the rest of the season and as we learned last season, an early regular season meeting won’t mean too much if the two teams meet again in March.