PHILADELPHIA - Saturdayâ€™s talk with coach Geno Auriemma turned into action Sunday for Megan Walker.
The UConn womenâ€™s basketball teamâ€™s freshman wing had season highs of 22 points and five assists along with six rebounds in a season-high 32 minutes Sunday as the top-ranked Huskies walloped Temple 113-57 in American Athletic Conference action at McGonigle Hall.
â€śTalking with coach was really important,â€ť Walker said. â€śWe talked about expecting more from ourselves, and how we needed to be more engaged. We needed someone to step up and rebound and hit more shots.â€ť
With All-American Katie Lou Samuelson out (left ankle), Walker was first off the bench and got the call from Auriemma midway through the first quarter.
She responded by going 7-for-11 from the floor and making all seven of her free throws. It was her first time scoring in double figures since Jan. 3 at East Carolina and her most playing time since getting 25 minutes at UCLA on Nov. 21.
The Chesterfield, Virginia, native had totaled just 30 minutes in the last four games, which includes a did-not-play at Texas.
â€śWhat I liked about what Megan got done is that Megan got things done,â€ť Auriemma said. â€śShe actually went in and contributed and felt a part of what I thought she should have been doing all along. We had a long talk yesterday, and hopefully today is the beginning of something that will continue. I didnâ€™t realize she scored as many points as she did. She has the ability to do that. All in all, I thought she did a great job.â€ť
Her day didnâ€™t start great as it began with a turnover and missed jumper. But she then got a defensive rebound, assisted on a Gabby Williams three-point play, and then got on the board with a layup.
She opened the second quarter with her own three-point play and remained a factor at both ends of the floor.
â€śIt felt really good for me to be out there with my teammates and knocking down shots,â€ť Walker said. â€śI got some rebounds. Actually I like the rebounds because I have a sneaky bounce and can jump real high.
â€śI thought I was more engaged. I was more focused, more locked in and ready to go.â€ť
There have been a couple of times this season that Walker appeared ready to make an impact on a consistent basis but then took a step back, whether it was due to illness or level of effort.
With the Huskies hurting and needing depth that can be trusted, Walker could be a key player with February approaching.
â€śThis is what weâ€™re hoping for,â€ť Walker said. â€śMe and coach had a conversation and itâ€™s going to be what you see going forward. I have to do the things that I know I can do and just play hard all the time and compete at everything. I have to want to get every rebound, get every steal I can, and not let anyone score on me. I have to have a competitive mindset.â€ť
Samuelson sat out after aggravating a left ankle injury against Tulsa on Thursday. Auriemma said he did not have a timetable for the junior guardâ€™s return to the lineup. The Huskies have an AAC matinee in Memphis on Wednesday.
â€śMy guess is that weâ€™ll go back and see how things look and then see how things look Tuesday and have to make a decision about whether or not she is going to go Wednesday or not,â€ť Auriemma said.
Samuelson missed four games in November with a left foot sprain and hurt the ankle against Notre Dame on Dec. 3.
â€śSheâ€™s had issues on that side for a long time dating back to high school,â€ť Auriemma said. â€śItâ€™s just something that weâ€™re going to have to manage the rest of the season. I hope it doesnâ€™t keep her out anymore, but there is never going to be a time this season when sheâ€™s going to be 100 percent.â€ť