GREENVILLE, N.C. - Katie Lou Samuelsonâ€™s first career double-double with the UConn womenâ€™s basketball team remained elusive Wednesday, but the junior All-American is finding more ways to make the chase interesting.
After missing a double-double by one rebound Sunday against Memphis, Samuelson came up one assist short Wednesday, finishing with 19 points and nine assists along with five rebounds and three steals in No. 1 UConnâ€™s 96-35 American Athletic Conference rout of East Carolina at Minges Coliseum.
â€śI feel comfortable that I can impact the game in all kinds of different aspects,â€ť Samuelson said. â€śI donâ€™t need to every single game because of how versatile our team is. Today I had the ball in my hands a lot and was trying to get it up the floor as quickly as I could and find my teammates. They were finishing well so that added up in assists.
â€śSince Iâ€™ve been here Iâ€™ve developed so many things in my game that I never had at all.â€ť
Samuelson recorded her ninth assist on a Kia Nurse hoop with 6:13 remaining in the third quarter. Though she played another 4:14, no shot was taken that would have added to her assist total. She came out to a hand slap from coach Geno Auriemma.
â€śOne of the first things one of the coaches said when we got into the locker room was that Lou played a great game and she did,â€ť Auriemma said. â€śWe made a point to talk about how people assume if you shot the ball great, you played great. Thatâ€™s not the case at all. Lou has worked really, really hard to be more than just a kid who makes shots and sheâ€™s become a much better basketball player. Itâ€™s hard for us to run offense sometimes when Louâ€™s not on the floor because she makes the most shots and sheâ€™s our best passer.â€ť
After missing four games in November with a left foot sprain, Samuelson has been putting together another All-America-type season. She is averaging 19.3 points - shooting 53.6 percent from the floor, 50.0 percent from 3-point land, and 79.4 percent from the foul line, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in 28.1 minutes per game.
Because the Huntington Beach, California, native, has not played in 75 percent of UConnâ€™s games, she is not listed in the AAC statistical leaders but would be in the top 10 in scoring and all three shooting percentage, as well as assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, where sheâ€™d be second.
â€śI trust myself to make the right pass,â€ť Samuelson said when asked if her passing game was under-appreciated. â€śAs long as my teammates and coaches trust me to do that, thatâ€™s what matters.â€ť
Her nine assists Wednesday matched her career best set against Albany in the 2016 NCAA Tournament first round.
Let it snow
The decision Tuesday by East Carolina officials to move the tip off of Wednesdayâ€™s game up by five hours to 2 p.m. proved to be the right one. The snow and wintry mix hit the area around 6 p.m., about an hour after the Huskies left Minges Coliseum and two after the final buzzer. The only downside is that it may have cut into the crowd, which was announced at 1,823.
â€śGo on the side of safety, always,â€ť East Carolina coach Heather Macy said.
â€śWe have a lot of fans transplanted down here that make the drive to come see us play,â€ť Auriemma said. â€śBut I wouldnâ€™t expect them to drive here and get home through the weather. It was a last-minute call, but I was glad we were able to move the game up and play. It gives us a chance to get out of here at a decent time. But the fans that were here got to see a pretty good game by us.â€ť
Auriemma chuckled when asked about how people in the South react to any kind of snowstorm, recalling his days as an assistant at the University of Virginia.
â€śI spent four years in Charlottesville and I remember that it would snow on a Wednesday and schools would be closed Monday through Friday,â€ť Auriemma said with a laugh. â€śIt seems to be everywhere now, though. The people up north know how to handle it better. But if you listen to news and watch the weather, youâ€™d think every snowstorm is the next great blizzard and people hype it up. Even in Connecticut, they call for snow and everyone runs to the store and loads up on everything like weâ€™ll be house-bound for two weeks.
â€śOnce when I was at Virginia, we went from Clemson to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech and it snowed. When we got there, it looked like a science fiction movie. People just pulled their cars off of the road and left. There were miles of abandoned cars and you look down and thereâ€™s a couple inches of snow. But that was 35 years ago.â€ť
UConn leads the series with East Carolina 9-0, but that doesnâ€™t begin to describe the Huskiesâ€™ domination.
When freshman Ariyana Williams hit a trey in the gameâ€™s first minute to give East Carolina a 3-2 edge, it marked the third time in the nine games the Pirates had a lead. East Carolina, though, has never had a lead and possession against UConn, and that continued Wednesday as Samuelson hit a jumper to put UConn ahead to stay 18 seconds later.
Out of 360 minutes, the Pirates have led the Huskies for 43 seconds - or 0.20 percent of the time played. The latest in a game East Carolina has led is with 1:26 gone of the March 5, 2016, contest.
Gabby Williams made her first six shots Wednesday to push her streak to 16 makes in a row before missing a jumper at the first-quarter buzzer. The NCAA record is 28 straight conversions by Southern Utahâ€™s Myndee Kay Larsen against four opponents in 1998. â€śI donâ€™t think about that stuff,â€ť the senior All-American said. ... Howâ€™s this for a coincidence? On Dec. 26, 2016, Samuelson was named the AAC Player of the Week. On Jan. 2, 2017, Williams was the leagueâ€™s Player of the Week. Who did the AAC give its weekly honor to on Dec. 26, 2017? Samuelson. Who got it on Jan. 2, 2018 (Tuesday)? Williams ... UConnâ€™s next three games - at South Florida on Saturday, versus Central Florida at Gampel Pavilion on Tuesday, and at Houston on Jan. 13 - are against the only other teams unbeaten in conference play at 2-0. The Huskiesâ€™ game against the Bulls is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Sun Dome in Tampa.