By: Marvin Chambers:| 4.0 Sports Media
XL Center–These UConn Huskies do things a little differently they provide a lot of excitement and nerve ending finishes like the 63-60 win over Tulane at the Avron B. Fogelman Arena. But one thing for certain these Huskies find a way to get the job done.
The Temple Owls (21-5) overall with an 11-2 in the American Athletic Conference play had a five game winning streak coming in tonight. #1 UConn enters the game 25-0, 13-0 in the American Conference. The Huskies are still looking for a true identity for their team for this season.
The first period UConn sprinted out to 23-11 lead by the hot shooting of Napheesa Collier 12 points (6-7) from the floor and Gabby Williams 6 points (3-3) adding a few rebounds that kept the Owls at bay.
The 90-45 win had the Owls looking for answers, it was over by the second period. The win was the 102nd-straight for the Huskies, as they move to 27-0, 14-0 in the American Conference, while Temple falls to 21-6, 11-3 in conference play.
After a 6-0 start for UConn, Temple climbed back to within four, 12-8, on a three-point play from Tanaya Atkinson. From there, The Huskies ran off an 11-0 run to take an lead 23-8, before Khadijah Berger three pointer from the left elbow close the gap to 23-11 after the first period. UConn shot 57.9% from the field (11-19) in the first, while Temple shot 25% (4-16).
“We know not every game we are going to get a stellar performance from everyone. We believe in each other and we do know that one of us we will step it up and get it done. No one in the country practice and prepare for a game like we do.” Said UConn Napheesa Collier.
Temple’s senior Feyonda Fitzgerald finished with 12 points, five rebounds, and three assists, while junior Donnaizha Fountain had 12 points. Junior Alliya Butts ended the game with 10 points and two steals, while teammate Khadijah Berger had six points and six boards.
The real story of the game was Napheesa Collier scoring a career-high 31 points, jumpstarting UConn’s offense early giving the Huskies an 18 points lead in the first half. Collier had 13 rebounds, converted 13 of 14 shots, including two three-pointers, and added four assists and three solid blocks.
Collier got some much needed help from her fellow Huskies. Katie Lou Samuelson had 19 points, seven assists and six steals. Samuelson has been struggling with her perimeter game of late but she made 3-of-6 three-pointers after missing her first few jumpers.
Gabby Williams had 15 points and seven rebounds. The junior forward scored the 1,000th point of her career, becoming the 43rd players in Connecticut history to reach that milestone.
Temple ‘s Butts opened the second quarter scoring with a three pointer that cut the Huskies lead to nine points, 23-14. Connecticut made another run this one 10-0 eight by Samuelson, pushed the UConn advantage to 33-14. Donnaizha Fountain nailed a crucial jumper to halt the run, and a Khadijah Berger three pointer made it 38-19 before Katie-Lou Samuelson struck again, giving the score to 41-19 going into the halftime break.
Khadijah Berger led the Temple with six points and five rebounds in the first, while Alliya Butts had five points. Tanaya Atkinson also pulled down five rebounds in the first 20 minutes, while Feyonda Fitzgerald chipped in three points, three boards and two assists. UConn forward Napheesa Collier had 12 points and Samuelson added 12 at the half.
“Since Kia injury I really had to be more of a floor general out there. When I make a mistake she always assures me that I can do it. She is my voice of reasoning. My game is starting to evolve now because my teammates believe that I can really do it so I just stay focus and play basketball.” Said UConn Crystal Dangerfield.
Connecticut is now 58-10 against teams ranked in the top 10 since the start of the 2008-09 season. The Huskies had won 16 games in a row against teams ranked in the AP top 10 until the 79-59 loss at Stanford on December 30, 2010.
“We couldn’t be playing a worse team for us in our league than playing Temple in that they may have the quickest, toughest guards to guard 1 on 1 than anybody in the league and they are as good as any guards in the country at getting their own shots. They have a lot of freedom to get shots. Being down a guard and being down our best defensive guard is not exactly the ideal way to go into it. We have to figure out a way to compensate for that, play to our strengths and see what happens.” Said UConn Geno Auriemma.
UConn outscored Temple 42-4 in the paint and 21-4 on the fast break. The one thing that remains consistent with Connecticut is their help and weak-side defenses. UConn doesn’t have a true shot blocker in the paint but what they do have is a lot grit, tenacity, length, and athlectism to battle you.
UConn plays its final regular season home game Saturday against Memphis at Gampel Pavilion (SNY, 4 p.m.) and will honor its seniors Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor. Then there’s a quick trip to Tampa for a matchup with South Florida at the Sun Dome Monday. The Huskies’ postseason run begins Saturday, March 4, with an AAC tournament quarterfinal game at Mohegan Sun Arena.