ORLANDO, Fla. - Central Florida made the UConn womenâ€™s basketball team feel a bit uncomfortable during their American Athletic Conference contest at CFE Arena Wednesday night.
While it wasnâ€™t easy for the top-ranked Huskies to go through it as it happened during their grind-it-out 55-37 win, the benefits could come in the postseason when a win is just a win.
â€śLike we said in the locker room before the game,â€ť UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, â€śone of the reasons you play in the regular season is to try to experience and see as many different styles of play as you can so when the tournament comes in March, youâ€™ve pretty much dealt with a variety of things.
â€śPlaying a team like UCF, you get something a little bit different. Theyâ€™re not going to play man-to-man, theyâ€™re just going to sit in that zone and sit there and sit there and it doesnâ€™t matter what the score is, theyâ€™re not going to change. They want to make the game in the 50s.
â€śWe were on our way to getting 80 and something happened along the way. You have to be able to experience every type of game that you can.â€ť
UConn (23-0 overall, 11-0 AAC) led 21-4 after one quarter, 37-12 at halftime, and 48-20 going to the fourth before UCF (16-8, 8-3) closed on a 13-2 run in the final six minutes. The Huskies had just two fast-break points and were outscored 19-16 in points off of turnovers, a category that they dominate when they are at their best.
With point guard Crystal Dangerfield sitting out for a second straight game due to shin splints in her left leg, guards Kia Nurse and Katie Lou Samuelson saw extended minutes. Samuelson did not come out until 2:12 remained while Nurse was removed for the first and only time with 1:43 to go.
â€śI think we got a little bit tired,â€ť Auriemma said. â€śUCF makes the game where you have to guard them for a long time. They hold the ball and theyâ€™re really patient. Thereâ€™s not going to be a lot of possessions.
â€śI thought our defense was great in the first three quarters. We did a lot of really good things. But without Crystal weâ€™re not the same offensive team. Weâ€™ve got one less guard and we couldnâ€™t give them the breather they needed. We got a little tired. Theyâ€™re not going to stop playing, to their credit. They played hard.â€ť
Samuelson finished with 19 points, six rebounds, and five assists and the All-American was the only player in the game to make a 3-pointer, going 4-for-9 from behind the arc. Nurse, the nationâ€™s leader in 3-point percentage, was 0-for-3 while UCF finished 0-for-11.
UConn shot 57.1 percent (8-for-14) from the floor in the first quarter but was just 32.3 percent (10-for-31) the rest of the way.
â€śWhen youâ€™re playing a team like UCF you have to be able to make a lot of perimeter jump shots,â€ť Auriemma said. â€śOtherwise, you wonâ€™t be able to get them away from the lane as much as youâ€™d like to. Without Crystal, that was one less shooter out there. So they were able to pack it in a little more.â€ť
The Huskies, who clinched a first-round bye as a top-four seed for next monthâ€™s AAC tournament with the victory, hope Dangerfield will return Saturday when they host Wichita State at the XL Center in Hartford.