Print this story

It's March. A warning to the rest of the women's college basketball world.

POSTED March 06, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Uncasville: It’s that time of the year and just like the calendar say’s, it’s March which means the time has come for the University of Connecticut Huskies to fire on all cylinders, as if they have not been during their 30-0 campaign to date.

On Saturday afternoon in their American Athletic Conference quarterfinal game against East Carolina, there was no slow start, which had been an issue of late, there was just a pedal to the medal approach that had them taking care of business in a hurry while moving on in a 92-51 win over the Pirates.

The Huskies take on Tulane in the semi-finals on Sunday at 4:30, in search of their 62 straight win over American Athletic Conference foes. Tulane disposed of Temple by a 70-64 final in the first game on Saturday.

UConn jumped out in a hurry, hijacking the Pirates to the tune of 32-13 after a quarter, one that saw head coach Geno Auriemma not go to his bench for the first ten minutes, something not seen over the past few games.

Tournament time means big players step up well and starting with Morgan Tuck, the Huskies were in late season form in a hurry.

Tuck, who may be leaving for the WNBA after this season is over, scored 16 points, while grabbing five rebounds and handing out five assists in just 22 minutes.

“She played really, really well,” Auriemma said. “The biggest thing about Morgan is for the most part is that for the most part, she is just a very efficient player. She doesn’t need a lot of shots to get a lot of things accomplished. She had been struggling for a while, she just couldn’t get anything to go her way and she’s a very prideful person. So it started to really bother her. She started to come out of it a little bit in the South Florida game and today she looked like her old self. When you have both her and Stewie playing at a pretty high level and the play off each other so well at this time of the year, there’s not a lot of wasted motion between either of those two.”

How important is the effort Tuck bring UConn?

“We’re not going to win the remaining games we want to win unless Morgan plays great like she did today.”

Katie Lou Samuelson, in her first post season contest, added 16 points and showed a toughness her coach appreciated.

“You know, Lou’s a pretty tough kid,” Auriemma said. “She’s pretty competitive and it usually comes out when she’s pushed. The more she’s pushed, the more she responds. When we get Lou the ball in the lane, she’s a lot tougher than she looks. I’m expecting her to play better tomorrow and then play better on Monday.”

Stewart added 15 points and eight boards in just 22 minutes while Kia Nurse followed up a strong South Florida game with a 13-point effort.

….In the second and fourth quarters Saturday afternoon, the UConn faithful got a look at most of those players who will make up the 2016-2017 squad.

Gabby Williams (15 points, nine boards), Katie Lou Samuelson (16 points, four assists), Napheesa Collier (six points) and Kia Nurse (13 points) were on the floor for an extended period of time with one of the big three (Tuck, Breanna Stewart or Moriah Jefferson) with mixed results.

What did the head coach think?

“Well, it’s kind of difficult,” Auriemma said. “Because that group that was in during the second quarter can’t possibly look like the first group. It’s impossible for them to do that. Even at their best, they’re not going to look like that first group. The level of talent that they are replacing is just irreplaceable. So, I thought they did what they could. I’m not crazy about when that group is out there together. I try to have some of our other players in there with that group because that group by themselves for long stretches of time is not good. They’re not good. Individually, they’re not good and together when they don’t together and they don’t communicate and they’re not in sync, they’re not good. But when they are, like yesterday in practice, they were really, really good but today they weren’t so hot. Natalie (Butler) really struggled. I think when Natalie is in the game, I think we all want to pass her the ball, for whatever reason. We put too much emphasis on passing her the ball instead of just letting it happen naturally. I don’t think they wowed anybody. I think the other guys that were watching the game, the other coaches, were hoping this was next year. But next year doesn’t come until next year. Thank God.”

NOTES: The Huskies had beaten the Pirates by 46 (92-46) and 47 (88-41) in their first two meetings.

UConn has now won 114 of their last 115 games, including 61 straight in the AAC.

In their two regular season meetings with the Green Wave, the Huskies won 98-38 on the road and 80-40 at home on Senior Day.

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here