After missing multiple practices because of the flu, Megan Walker was out of sorts.
The UConn freshman was unable to play in two games while she recovered. She was weak from the flu, for sure, but she also struggled to regain her endurance.On Sunday, coach Geno Auriemma approached her at halftime to ask if she was prepared to play. Walker didn't hesitate.
"She said, 'I'm good to go,'" Auriemma said after UConn's 97-49 win over Memphis.
Walker converted 5 of 6 shots for 12 points in 13 minutes. She also had four rebounds and was active around the basket, scoring in the paint.
Women's basketball rankings: Stanford back in latest AP poll; UConn still No. 1 | Poll
"Obviously, she's really talented," Auriemma said. "Everybody knows that. This is the perfect game. Hopefully, this week we can get her in some kind of rhythm where she feels like, this is what I do -- I rebound, I try to become a better defender, and I try to get myself involved offensively in a lot of different ways."
Happy New Year, Husky fans! Ring in the new year by checking out the top 5 plays from yesterdays win vs Memphis! pic.twitter.com/BEcQTTwW7J— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) January 1, 2018
Walker began her scoring with a 3-pointer from the corner. That's her favorite spot on the floor, and it seems to provide a spark when she makes the shot.
Sure enough, she began making more shots. There was a layup, a mid-range jumper and, later, another 3-pointer from the corner.
Most encouraging, she played with energy.
"She's been sluggish in practice trying to get her legs back," Auriemma said.
Walker said the time away from practice set her back.
"When you're out for week in college basketball, you're not up to speed," Walker said. "Just getting my wind back, really ... just a feel for the game."
Mikayla Coombs was the first freshman off the bench, entering the game in the first half. But Coombs was 0-for-3, including two missed 3-point attempts, and had a turnover.
Walker seems poised to regain her spot in the rotation after her performance Sunday.
"I definitely feel like I'm finding my role," Walker said. "I'm more comfortable on the court, and I just feel like that came, game to game."
UConn's victory over Memphis raised the program's record to 83-0 in the American Athletic Conference. UConn has won every game in the regular season and conference tournament, and most have been lopsided.
First @American_WBB win of the season! #UConn produces six double-figure scorers as they take down @MemphisWBB at the XL Center. Gabby finishes the tilt with 20 points on 10-10 shooting while Katie Lou sets a new career high in boards (9).#UConnNation // #DemandMore pic.twitter.com/7OtHYMI16i— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) December 31, 2017
What does Auriemma try to get out of these games?
"We're trying to get, obviously, a win every time we play," Auriemma said. "That's obviously the goal. ... The more we can get not only a win but get people playing with a sense of confidence and getting back to what they do."
As for the conference, Auriemma sees improvement in many programs. There is more competition among the non-UConn teams, although the Huskies dominate the standings year after year.
"The fact that we're in the league kind of changes it," Auriemma said. "I think the conference race will be pretty tight. I think there might be four or five teams, it will be hard to separate them. The way it's been, there's been a big gap between us and everyone else. But among everyone else, it's gotten a little bit better."
UConn's 71 consecutive regular season conference wins is the third longest in NCAA Division I history. Texas won 124 Southwest Conference games in a row 1981-90 and Old Dominion won 96 consecutive Colonial Athletic Association games 1995-2001.
This article is written by Paul Doyle from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.