Print this story

Gabby Williams continues to grow. Huskies win 54th in row with 106-51 win over UCF.

POSTED January 22, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

HARTFORD: Gabby Williams may have tweaked her ankle a bit during practice on Tuesday, but it didn’t seem to matter much most of the night at the XL Center.

Williams and her University of Connecticut Huskies rolled to their 54th straight win with a blowout, 106-51 win over UCF on Wednesday night before 8,523 fans.

In the process, the sophomore forward scored a career high 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds just for good measure.

The Huskies are now a win away from owning all three of the longest winning streaks ever in women’s college basketball and can earn that mark on Saturday when they visit SMU.

Louisiana Tech won 54 straight before the Huskies started the trend with a pair of monster 90 and 70 game winning streaks.

Williams started on Wednesday, but has been equally effective no matter how she participates. The sophomore is averaging 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals in 19.4 minutes in eight starts this year. She’s averaging 9.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 20.1 minutes in nine games off the bench.

With Morgan Tuck out of the lineup for the next two weeks to rest an ailing knee, it gave other players a chance to make their presence known.

“It was an opportunity for some individuals and our team to get a little better and to grow up a little bit,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “Gabby was great. Gabby was as good as she’s been in practice all week. She’s just been really, really good.”

Williams scored nine first quarter points to match teammate Breanna Stewart and doesn’t it say something about this team when we don’t mention perhaps the best player in the entire country, until now.

For the second year player who spent some time in the Huskies doghouse a year ago, this season has been about growth and understanding, something she has done so much better in her second time around.

“I think she started off the season so easily,” Auriemma said. “I don’t think she really knew how or why she just kind of played on instincts and I think each week that goes by I think she gets a little more comfortable knowing when do I shoot it, when do I pass it. Defensively, when do I take this chance, when do I take that chance and she’s finishing around the basket more.”

Her athleticism got her by a year ago, that ability to jump out of the gym against taller players at will. It’s different this year.

“She’s starting to understand what’s out there, what’s available,” Auriemma said. “Early in the season she would get it and go to the basket without any understanding of why or when, and teams start to catch up on that after a while.”

“I was really happy,” Williams said. “Mostly because these last few practices have been really tough and today was really rewarding because everything from practice transferred over.”

When an opponent comes to play UConn, the amount of weapons they have to prepare for seems endless, add Williams to the mix and you can understand their head coach's dismay.

Asked about Williams, Knights head coach Joi Williams was impressed.

“Outstanding. I thought she was very good,” Williams said. “She can a dominant player for them. She’s aggressive to the ball, she rebounds well and can take you off the dribble. I was really impressed with her."

Her play has also gotten the attention of her teammates, especially one who has been real happy to be back on the court contributing.

“She’s really intense,” Natalie Butler said. “She’s really working hard in practice every day, she’s giving it her all and she had a great game. You can just tell her intensity and her approach to the game when she’s looking to get the rebound on every shot.”

Butler played her first game without a splint on her surgically repaired thumb and scored 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting in just 19 minutes.

Her comfort level continues to go up by the day and having a 6’5” center coming off the bench can’t be good news for the rest of the country.

The machine that is the Huskies rolls on with the regular season down to just a dozen games, each one to be used to mold this team into one that will be prepared to go for their fourth straight National Championship come April.

NOTES: Six Huskies scored in double figure on Wednesday. Katie Lou Samuelson, who also started, scored 10 points and added seven assists as she gets more comfortable in her shoes.

Stewart led all scorers with 21 points, while Naphessa Collier added 14 and Moriah Jefferson 10.

UConn heads back on the road for games at SMU on Saturday and Tulsa on Wednesday before returning home to host Memphis at the XL Center on Saturday, January 30 at noon.

The Huskies shot 60 percent while holding UCF to just 41.5 percent. UCF managed just 27 points over the first three quarters.

UConn had 29 assists on 45 baskets. Stewart, Williams and Butler combined to go 26-of-33 from the floor.

Their 32 first quarter points match a season high accomplished in their last game at Gampel on Saturday, a 104-49 win.

UConn has eclipsed the century mark four times this season.

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here