AUSTIN, Texas - Katie Lou Samuelson looked like she had lost the battle, but at least she won the war.
The UConn women’s basketball team’s junior All-American finished with a game high 19 points and a swollen left eye as the top-ranked Huskies held off No. 9 Texas 75-71 before a partisan announced crowd of 11,877 at the Frank Erwin Center Monday night.
“I just got a nice elbow,” Samuelson said. “It got more swollen throughout the game. It’s good right now. I think it looks pretty with all the colors.”
Samuelson was trying to post up Texas’ Ariel Atkins when she took an inadvertent elbow to the face from the Longhorns’ Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau four minutes into the game. Samuelson staggered out toward the 3-point line and took a couple steps back on defense after Texas rebounded a Crystal Dangerfield miss before play was stopped.
Referee Beverly Roberts had the best look at the play on the wing but didn’t make a call. Referee Dee Kantner under the basket did not make a call either.
“They said they didn’t see it,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who had some words with the officials before the start of the third quarter after he reviewed a replay at halftime.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, really physical,” Samuelson said.
Samuelson did finish 7-for-12 from the floor and 3-for-6 from 3-point land. But with 15.8 seconds left and the Huskies holding a three-point lead, Samuelson - an 83 percent career foul shooter on 218 attempts - missed two free throws. It was only the second time in her career that Samuelson has missed both ends of a two-shot foul. She joked that she would blame it on the swollen eye.
The Huntington Beach, California, native also picked up a black left eye after being hit in the face during a game at East Carolina last season.
There is some irony that it was Caron-Goudreau who delivered the shot Monday night. Caron-Goudreau started her career at Vanderbilt and was a freshman when the Huskies faced the Commodores in the semifinals of the Gulf Coast Showcase on Nov. 29, 2014. Midway through the first half, Caron-Goudreau was accidentally poked in the left eye by UConn’s Breanna Stewart and fell to the floor screaming in pain. She would not return as the eye swelled shut, but did play the next day in Vanderbilt’s consolation game loss to Arizona State.
Samuelson was out for just over three minutes Monday night and when she came back she played the rest of the way. She also came up with a key rebound of a Lashann Hicks miss with 24.7 seconds left.
“Teams are going to play as tough as they can and play as hard as they can against us,” Samuelson said. “So we need to be ready to fight back for any punch that’s thrown at us.”
Samuelson, who missed four games in November with a sprained left foot, has now played 75 percent of the Huskies’ game which allows her to be included among the American Athletic Conference leaders. She is tied for sixth in scoring (18.0), 11th in field-goal percentage (52.5), 10th in free-throw percentage (77.3), first in 3-point shooting percentage (49.3), 10th in assists (3.5) and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.2).