Despite a valiant effort, UConn women’s basketball fell to the US national team, 79-64, in an exhibition game at the XL Center Monday night.
Early on, it looked like it would be a long night for the Huskies. Team USA opened on a 7-0 run while UConn couldn’t do anything right on the floor. Crystal Dangerfield broke the ice with a 3-pointer before the national team responded with another seven unanswered points.
UConn struggled mightily to get its offense into gear and the Huskies looked like they were going to get run out of its own building by halftime, trailing by 14 early in the second quarter. But they finally settled in and put together a 7-0 run to cut the lead in half.
The national team responded with a layup before Anna Makurat and Megan Walker hit three threes to got the Huskies within one and force Team USA to take a timeout.
With a lineup of Evelyn Adebayo, Molly Bent, Dangerfield, Makurat and Walker on the floor, UConn took its first lead of the game off a layup from Adebayo of all people. The Huskies went into the half knotted up at 31 with the national team.
After the break, it initially looked like Team USA made the changes it needed to in the locker room, settled down and went on a 9-2 run to start the third quarter. UConn responded with a 10-0 run of its own to grab the lead back.
But UConn went cold in the fourth quarter, going over five minutes without a bucket at one point while shooting just 4-11 over the final ten minutes. Kelsey Plum went on an 8-0 run by herself that gave the national team the lead for good.
Megan Walker was unstoppable at times, putting up 22 points on 9-16 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds. Anna Makurat continued her ascent with 10 points. At times, the freshman looked like she was the most comfortable player on the floor for the Huskies. Olivia Nelson-Ododa held her own as well with 10 points and six rebounds.
For Team USA, three former Huskies got the start, including Breanna Stewart, who played 17 minutes and made her first shot attempt, a 3-point attempt that hit nothing but net. Sue Bird scored nine points while dishing out three assists while Tina Charles had six points, nine rebounds, and five assists. The national team only had a day to practice before this game, and looked out of sorts at times even though they had a noticeable edge in size, talent, and athleticism.
Katie Lou Samuelson came off the bench to score two points. Geno Auriemma joked that he would tell any of his players to take her on one-on-one if they were matched up with her defensively. Diana Taurasi was a late scratch due to back soreness.
The game featured multiple tributes to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who passed away tragically in a helicopter crash on Sunday. The UConn bench had a seat with a No. 2 jersey and flowers in honor of Gianna, who had stated a desire to play for UConn. During the telecast, Holly Rowe said that it was very likely they would have been in attendance at this game.
Before the game started, there was a video tribute to Kobe, one of the greatest NBA players of all-time and a big supporter of women’s basketball. At the start of the game, Team USA won the tip-off and committed an 8-second violation, and then UConn committed a 24-second shot clock violation, in honor of Bryant’s two jersey numbers, 8 and 24.