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Samuelson stings Tulane

POSTED January 23, 2017
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

            STORRS – She didn’t score in the first quarter and she didn’t play in the fourth quarter which was probably a blessing for Tulane. Who knows what kind of damage Katie Lou Samuelson would have done with a full game under her belt.

            In between the bookend quarters Samuelson torched the Green Wave for 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting and added a little bit of thievery to her day with a team-high seven steals. All of which was the focal point for UConn’s 93rd straight win, 100-56 at Gampel Pavilion Sunday afternoon.

            Samuelson could always shoot. The 6-foot-3 sophomore arrived at UConn from Mater Dei High School in Huntington Beach, California with a well-deserved reputation of being able to dial it up from a host of different zip codes with a trademark off the shoulder release that zones in on the bottom of the net. But this was a frightening display (if you are in the other uniforms) of the rapid maturation of a game that has you at least dare we say it, thinking of Stewie.

            Okay, maybe a bit unfair comparing anyone Huskie icon Breanna Stewart, maybe the greatest collegiate player ever with her four NCAA titles, four Final Four MVPs and all. But there is the angular build and the outside accuracy. The complete game doesn’t rival Stewart’s yet, but it continues to grow.

            One thing about Stewie was that she could dazzle you from deep but also take you to the hoop and post you up if need be. Samuelson is beginning to resemble that. There are pull-up jumpers now, 15-17 footers off picks and runners to the hoop. It wasn’t fun guarding her before, now it is just diabolical.

            “I definitely have a lot more confidence being able to score in different ways and not just relying on my three-point shot but getting to the basket and doing other things,” said Samuelson. “I know that I need to produce be the person people can count on.

            It’s made it harder for me to be taken out of games now because I try to do more things now. I know if I do just stand on the three-point line they are just going to key on me and I won’t contribute at all. I have been working on expanding my game before the season and now every day doing more things at practice to expand my game keep trying to do better.”

            The expanded arsenal has improved the confidence. Samuelson started the game off missing her first five shots. After the first quarter goose egg the day had kind of that gray look like the outside weather. There wasn’t exactly a hint of 32 points.

            So, you get on the move – in, out, left, right.  Samuelson drive followed by two free throws off another foray to the basket. A long-range bomb followed by a 15-footer. Then another 3-pointer. She wasn’t quite done. Two more times she found and created a lane to the hoop and finished off the period with two more free throws for 18 points.

            So much for the first quarter drought.

            “I kind of just was thinking in the second quarter that I was not really playing hard enough for myself,” said Samuelson. “I wasn’t really concerned about missing just thinking overall I wasn’t contributing to the team and I just wanted to pick it up. Last year it would have freaked me out a lot more than this year. It doesn’t really faze me missing.”

            Diversity has always been part of Samuelson’s game. Last year with Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, the demand wasn’t persistent. There were others who could handle the load and did. This year the demand is there.

            “(Katie Lou) has always aspired to be more. People have labeled her a shooter and she’s always done more when I saw her play in high school and she’s always been capable of doing more,” said coach Geno Auriemma. “We have a couple of things we run for her to get her moving and get her into different spots. A lot of that stuff she just has to beat herself and she’s gotten much better at fighting through a certain kind of defense or situation that they are trying to push her into.

            She’s gotten way better at going to get the shot she wants instead of the one they want her to take. “     

            Helping propel the 18-0 Huskies to a 50-29 lead, Samuelson (21.4) was back at it again in the third quarter.  She scored twice from the post, drained two more 3-pointers, added a couple of foul shots and turned one of those seven steals into another basket for 14 more points.

            “Starting out o-for-5 and finishing 11-for-18 is pretty efficient I would say,” said Auriemma. “She makes it happen so quickly and effortlessly at times and think getting out in transition really helped.  The fact that she got involved in a whole bunch of things is really good for her. That’s a couple of games in a row now where she’s been really aggressive. She’s getting better as a basketball player.”   

            Samuelson got a much-needed break in the fourth quarter. But, much too late for Tulane. In the meantime, she offered up a sumptuous display of a rapidly rising game that has no limit.

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