With 17 seconds left on the clock and a six-point lead on the scoreboard, Christyn Williams leaped into the air and stole the attempted inbounds pass from Louisville. Ultimately, that steal would be the play that secured the Huskies’ ticket to Tampa for the Final Four.
“I saw it coming, and I stole the ball,” said the freshman, with a big smile on her face, following the game. “This entire season, I’ve struggled defensively. So that was a huge stop for me, or for the team really.”
The steal was just one of a string of big plays in the final quarter by Williams, all of which were an integral part of UConn reaching a 12th consecutive Final Four. She had seven points in the final ten minutes of Sunday’s game, scoring nearly a third of UConn’s fourth-quarter points and finishing with 16 for the game.
The seven points in the final quarter showcased something we have seen consistently from Williams in the past couple of weeks — an ability to step up on offense when the Huskies need to score. It was on full display in Friday’s game against UCLA as well, where she had 14 points and gave UConn an option other than Collier on offense when her teammates’ shots weren’t falling.
After not being able to consistently make an impact through much of the season, Williams seems to have settled into her role at just the right time.
“Christyn, you know, when you come from high school and you’re the best player in the country supposedly, and you have the ball all the time, and then you come here, and you’re going to have it some of the time, it’s a foreign, foreign world that you’re entering,” said Auriemma of his freshman on Sunday afternoon.
“It takes a while to get used to that, to find your place, you know, where you fit in. I think, as the season wore on, she did. She found her place, and she’s starting to play now like the player I saw in high school”.
While finding her place and putting the ball through the net in the second half was important for the Huskies on Sunday, it was Williams’ presence on the glass that really made a difference. The freshman has not been a particularly strong rebounder all season long, averaging just 3.2 boards per game. On Sunday she tied her prior career high with seven, and set a new career high on the offensive glass with four offensive rebounds.
Three of those offensive boards came in the final quarter of the game, in which Williams collected a third of UConn’s missed shots to secure a second chance at the basket. Two of those second chances connected — one by Williams herself at the rim and another passed back out for an eventual Samuelson three — to provide the Huskies with five second chance points.
With nothing but elite teams remaining, UConn will need Williams to continue the level of play she had in the last quarter on Sunday in Tampa. If she does, UConn may be the last team standing.