American Athletic Conference Semifinal: UConn dominates early, rolls over Tulane 82-35
— American WBB (@American_WBB) March 6, 2016
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – For most teams, having their All-Americans, the players expected to go one-two in the WNBA draft in April, combine for eleven points, means it is going to be a long day. Using the rest of the abundance of riches at his disposal, Geno Auriemma and UConn still jumped out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back, beating Tulane 82-35 in the first American Athletic Conference semifinal of the day.
Kia Nurse and Katie Lou Samuleson scored the first ten points of the game, as the Huskies defense repeatedly stopped Tulane, and the Huskies eventually led after one quarter 28-5. Samuelson paced all scorers in the game with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting, and Nurse added twelve.
Of the “Big Three” for UConn of Stewart, Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck, only Tuck scored in double figures. She had her second outstanding all-around game in the tournament, finishing with 15 points, five rebounds and two assists. Stewart scored nine, pulled down six rebounds and dished four assists. Jefferson only scored two points, pulled down four rebounds and dished five assists, including a memorable between the legs pass for a Nurse layup.
A notorious short bench using coach, Auriemma liberally substituted for the second straight day, knowing his team plays three games in three days. He received nice contributions from Gabby Williams (eight points, five rebounds) and Natalie Butler (seven points, nine rebounds), in particular.
“I think we make a big deal over how many minutes we play with three games in three days,” Auriemma said, “I bet you emotionally its’ more taxing than physically. The fact that we can rest some guys is great. I like that they are in the flow. That’s more important.”
After having early success last week in a regular season game at Gampel Pavilion, Tulane struggled, shooting 30 percent from the floor, and UConn outrebounded the Green Wave by a large 41-17 margin. Courtney Latham led Tulane with eleven, and sophomore guard Kolby Morgan, so effective in the quarterfinals, struggled to 1-for-9 shooting on her way to only three points.
“I don’t feel like we came out with the same aggressiveness that we did against them a week ago,” coach Lisa Stockton said, “but their intensity was tremendously high. UConn is a team you can’t make a lot of mistakes against. They can overwhelm you with their length and their intensity.”
UConn will play for the conference championship tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. ET against the winner of the South Florida and Temple in the second game.
Tulane will wait for a possible invitation to the WNIT that Stockton thinks is possible.
“I feel like we are in pretty good position,” she said. “We played a really good schedule and our RPI is good. I’ve coached a lot of years, and I think we have an opportunity. We want to take that and see how much better we can get. We should be thankful that maybe we won’t have to sit on this loss all year.”