UNCASVILLE, Conn. — All eyes were focused on Katie Lou Samuelson as the sophomore shot her way into the NCAA record books in Monday night's American Athletic Conference tournament championship game. However, Samuelson's 10-for-10 shooting performance from 3-point range obscured another part of the mighty UConn women's basketball team's dominating run to another title.
The Huskies managed a mere two steals and four fast-break points in a slugfest of a first half in the semifinal victory over UCF on Sunday. Facing another Florida school in the title game, it was a completely different story.
By halftime, UConn had more fast-break points than the Bulls had total points. By the end of the third quarter, the numbers might not have been as eye-popping as what Samuelson put up on the other end of the court but they were still rather impressive with a 30-2 advantage in fast-break points, eight steals and six blocked shots.
"Coach [Geno Auriemma] talked about it before the game and I think we kind of took it to heart," said UConn junior forward Gabby Williams, who finished with seven steals and eight blocked shots in the tournament. "Our offense is usually kind of there but defense is what is going to make us a great team. I think all five of us were really locked in, we are all getting into the passing lanes, all talking, communicating and having a lot of energy."
While the coaching staff certainly drove home some points of how the methodical pace of the game in the first half in the semifinal victory was not how the Huskies play when they are at their dominating best, Williams mentioned that there were lessons to be learned with how the regular-season finale against South Florida played out as well.
"Last time we played USF, we kind of let them get away with a lot of things that we talked about in the scout and shootaround that we really didn't do," Williams said. "I think all five guys were locked in. We got into the passing lanes that we kind of missed that the last time and it was just fun. I think the role I have taken is to set the tone defensively like [Moriah Jefferson] would have inspired me last year is what I am trying to do with these guys. It is fun, everybody starts getting blocked shots, everybody starts getting steals and we all are just feeding off of each other.
UConn (32-0) enters the NCAA tournament undefeated for the eighth time including the third time in the last four seasons. The Huskies won't need to leave Connecticut in their quest to advance to a NCAA Division I basketball record 10th straight Final Four. UConn will host the first and second rounds at Gampel Pavilion on either March 17 and 19 or March 18 and 20. The Huskies have been the top seed each time the NCAA selection committee has announced its top 16 seeds and that doesn't figure to have changed so when the tournament bracket is revealed on Monday.
UConn will be placed in the Bridgeport regional, meaning the team will play at Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena on March 25 at either 11:30 a.m. or 7 p.m. ET, and with a win would play on March 27 at 7 p.m. ET in the regional final.
The Final Four will be held in Dallas. The national semifinals are slated for 7:30 and 10 p.m. on March 31 with the title game at 6 p.m. on April 2.
This article is written by Jim Fuller from New Haven Register, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.