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Samuelson making steady progress. Huskies roll, 88-46 over Nebraska. By Rich Elliott.

POSTED November 29, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

By Rich Elliott

HARTFORD – Katie Lou Samuelson scored 2,244 points and made 297 three-pointers during her All-American career at Mater Dei High. The only player who was more prolific was former UConn star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

Samuelson’s ascension to the collegiate ranks had initially not been met with the same level of success. She was shooting 27.3 percent from the field through her first two games at UConn, and she quickly realized that a change needed to be made.

There needed to be more to her game than simply scoring and making 3-pointers. With prodding from Huskies’ head coach Geno Auriemma and his staff, Samuelson placed more emphasis on other areas. Her worked showed Saturday as she scored all of her 14 points in the second half and added three rebounds, three assists and two steals in an 88-46 victory over Nebraska before 10,113 at the XL Center.

`` (Saturday), especially, I was not really focusing on my shot and I think that’s why everything started to fall in place for me,’’ Samuelson said. ``I think I really focused more on getting inside and doing other things first before just relying on my 3-point shot because the past games it wasn’t falling for me. And I kind of just put myself in a hole and just kept staying out there. But this game I tried to do more things and that just got me going and then I did hit some shots. So it was just really good and I’ve just got to build on it from here.’’

The Huskies (3-0) have won at least 40 straight games for the fourth time in team history. No other team has done so more than once.

Samuelson was averaging 3.5 points on a combined 3-of-11 shooting from the field (1-of-9 3-pointers) in 34 minutes over the first two games. In a season-high 22 minutes against Nebraska, she was 5-of-8 from the field (2-of-4 3-pointers).

``One of the last things I said to Lou (Saturday) was, `Look, be like Stewie today. Rebound. Play defense. Run the floor. Be aggressive. Do the things that good players do. Don’t just wander around looking for your next 3-pointer,’’’ Auriemma said. ``And she did things (Saturday) we haven’t seen her do all year long. I should’ve said that two weeks ago, huh.’’

Samuelson, who injured her finger against Kansas State Monday, made her final six shots and did not commit a turnover. She also drew a charge on Anya Kalenta with 1:44 left in the third quarter.

``Obviously as a player when you come in you want to play great every single game,’’ UConn senior Breanna Stewart said. ``You’re still figuring things out with practices and those areas. I think her seeing herself play like this will help going forward in the next games.

``She knows. Lou knows what she's capable of. You have to keep your confidence up when things aren't going your way and continue to work hard. She’s doing that.’’

Stewart, who recorded her 26th career double-double, finished with 25 points (10-of-11 FG), 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks to lead the Huskies. She made her first nine field goal attempts before missing a 3-pointer with 3:35 left in the third quarter.

Freshman Napheesa Collier added 10 points (5-of-5 FG), two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes. Saniya Chong (three rebounds) also scored 10 points, while Morgan Tuck finished with nine points, four rebounds and five assists

The Huskies received a season-high 40 points from their bench. They received 32 combined in wins over Ohio State and Kansas State.

``We talked about that going into the game,’’ Auriemma said. ``We talked about how tough you’ve got to be to come off the bench because you sit there and you watch and then you come off and you’re not in the swing of things, but that we haven’t been getting a lot of contributions from our bench. And (Saturday) was great. Everybody that came off the bench played really, really well. I think that’s what we’re capable of doing. We’re capable of having players come in and change the complexion of the game a little bit and having to offset Kia (Nurse) getting three fouls or Gabby (Williams) getting early fouls. Those kinds of things are going to happen during the course of the game and knowing that you have players coming off the bench that can add to what you’re doing not only is it great for us to know that but it’s great for them to know that they can do that.’’

Freshman De’Janae Boykin missed her third straight game due to an Achilles injury.

Nebraska (4-1) had held its first four opponents to 44.2 points and 29.5 percent shooting from the field. UConn shot 58.1 percent, including 63.3 in the second half.

Freshman forward Jessica Shepard had scored at least 20 points in the first four games and was averaging 23.3 points on 67.3 percent shooting from the field for the Cornhuskers. She was held to 10 points (5-of-9 FG) Saturday.

``She’s not easy to guard, obviously,’’ Auriemma said. ``Again, that’s where Stewie’s made a lot of progress and that’s where it’s comforting to know we’ve got somebody protecting the basket back there that can make it difficult. (Shepard’s) going to be tough as she gets older. I can’t imagine next year going out there without Stewie. It’s not going to be a lot of fun.’’

NOTES: According to an UConn spokesman, 6-foot-5 center and Georgetown transfer Natalie Butler is expected to make her debut as a member of the Huskies at Chattanooga Monday. She missed the first three games this season after undergoing surgery on her left thumb Oct. 26.

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