Women's basketball: Saniya Chong steals the show in UConn's 97th straight win
STORRS, Conn. — The first of the season-high 32 assists handed out by UConn on Sunday came courtesy of reliable senior guard Saniya Chong, and just 38 seconds later came Chong's first basket of the game.
However, the true impact that Chong had in Sunday's 96-50 win over Tulsa could not be illustrated by merely taking a look at the box score after the Huskies' NCAA all-division basketball record 97th straight victory before a crowd of 9,347 at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.
When shots weren't falling and there was a lack of energy on both ends of the floor, it was Chong who did her best to step into the passing lane, pull down an offensive rebound or make a pass to a cutting teammate.
While Napheesa Collier took star billing thanks to her 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists, Chong may have impacted the game in as many ways as any other Husky.
Chong's 17 points were three shy of her career high. She added a season-high seven rebounds to go with seven assists, two steals, a blocked shot and no turnovers in a game-high 36 minutes.
"She has already had an incredible year in assist/turnover [ratio] and another one today and looks so comfortable out there, looks in charge of her own emotions, of her game," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "There isn't anything haphazard about it, everything seems to be exactly where she wants it to be on both ends of the floor. It is funny how that happens. This is the longest in her career that she has been in this good place. Toward the end of the game I said to [assistant coaches] Shea [Ralph] and Marisa [Moseley] that if we can keep [Saniya] in this place for the rest of the season, we are going to be really good. She is having the kind of senior year you want to have."
This was the fourth time this season Chong had at least 10 points, five assists and no turnovers, something she did not accomplish once in 110 games in her first three seasons.
"I went out there and played my hardest," said Chong, the NCAA Division I leader in assist/turnover ratio. "Things didn't go too well in the first half, but as long as I am doing what I can do and helping out my teammates in some sort of way ... I am a senior and I know I can't get the past years back, and this year I am trying to work hard and stay consistent."
Chong has 81 assists and 19 turnovers in 20 games, a 4.26 assist/turnover ratio. Moriah Jefferson holds the single-season UConn record with 3.08 assists for every turnover she committed during her junior season.
"She can do that every night," Collier said. "Saniya is a really good player so I am glad she had such a great game. She brings a lot of energy and experience to our team. We are clearly a young team so her being her for four years clearly helps us."
UConn (22-0, 10-0 in the American Athletic Conference) struggled shooting the ball early in the game, missing eight of its first 12 shots with most of them being shots the Huskies typically hit on a regular basis.
The highlight early on was a sweet bounce pass from reserve guard Crystal Dangerfield to Collier for a three-point play. Dangerfield played 27 minutes, the most since a Dec. 19 win over Ohio State. She had six points and six assists in her second game back after recently being sidelined due to a stress reaction in her left foot.
Katie Lou Samuelson had 16 points but was held without a 3-pointer for the first time this season. Kia Nurse had 14 points and Gabby Williams finished with 10 points, six rebounds, six assists and six steals with most of her production coming in the third quarter when the Huskies outscored Tulsa 29-11.
Williams played only seven minutes in the first half.
"I don't even know whether it is physical or mental, but she is not feeling right," Auriemma said of Williams. "It's been like that the last couple of days, a week maybe. She is a little bit out of sorts right now. I could see it in the first half and I thought it would be the best to give her a chance to sit and watch. She played great in the second half, sometimes you just need to be removed from it. She was just frustrated, you could see it all over her. I hate to see guys out on the court like that."
Freshman Shug Dickson led Tulsa (8-15, 4-6) with 12 points after scoring 21 against the Huskies earlier this season. Ebony Parker added 10 points and Kendrian Elliott had eight points and five rebounds.