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UConn women's notes. Butler getting into flow while Samuelson and Collier keep improving.

POSTED January 08, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Natalie Butler and the UConn women blew past Tulsa by a 95-35 final at the XL Center to improve to 12-0. Butler and her inside game is not good news for opponents.

HARTFORD: Nothing says stay out of here to opponents better than a 6’5” center who has been itching to play for the better part of two years.

UConn red shirt junior Natalie Butler is finally able to contribute in a way that she has wanted to since transferring from Georgetown.

Butler had made her debut on December 30 at Cincinnati and scored 11 points while grabbing eight boards in 15 minutes of action.

On Wednesday night during her team’s 95-35 rout of Tulsa, Butler showed why she was such a big pickup for the Huskies after being named Big East Freshman of the Year in front of the home faithful at the XL Center.

Butler scored six points, grabbed six boards in 14 minutes but it was very evident that her impact is one that will be big.

Her surgically repaired thumb still may have been in a splint but her game brings an element to the team they have been missing (if you can miss something at 12-0) on the inside since the graduation of Kia Stokes.

During a six-minute stretch during the second quarter, Butler started her night by hitting a cutting Breanna Stewart who was fouled and converted both chances.

Wednesday night marked the first time she played at home and it was what she thought it was going to be.

“It felt really great,” Butler said, “To be out there with the team was terrific. Tonight I was just trying to get back in the flow.”

Her presence underneath forced the Golden Hurricanes into many a change of mind once they saw the wing span of Butler, Stewart and Gabby Williams on the inside.

Butler may have missed a bunny on her first try around the basket but got the rebound and maintained possession.

A key and new weapon in her arsenal, a catch and shoot turn jumper from the free throw line could be ruled clearly unfair to anyone attempting to defend it. Her soft touch makes it an impossible shot to defend.

Butler saw time again third quarter and again made the most of it by connecting on another turn-around jumper from the top of the key. After a miss on a short jumper, Butler made up for it with a suffocating block on the other end.

Her effort was noticed by her head coach, Geno Auriemma.

“It’s going to take time,” Auriemma said, “To get caught up and still dealing with the thumb thing. She’s not 100 percent yet but for the minutes she played, she got a lot done. She was getting a little bit done down on the other end and a little bit done on the defensive end. You put it all together and slowly but surely, we’ll get her back to 100 percent.”

When asked how far back she is in comparison to when she was that standout for the Hoyas, Butler made it clear that being at UConn is like being on a different planet at times in all aspects of the game.

“Being at UConn,” Butler said, “Our practices are sometimes harder than our games and this program alone has helped me tremendously.”

Its clear Butler is enjoying her time back on the court and opposing teams will certainly not.

Driving into the lane may need to be done at your own risk with Butler back on the hardwood.

----Wednesday night also saw freshman Katie Lou Samuelson catch fire from the three-point line, connecting on four of six tries from beyond the arc, finishing with 14 points.

“Katie Lou can score all day,” Auriemma said, “It’s some of the other things she was doing that helped her. She had five assists and four rebounds, meaning the ball was in her hands for something other than shooting.”

Fans saw the two prized first year players, Samuelson and Naphessa Collier, show some chemistry on several good combination passes that led to easy baskets.

Collier added 11 points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes.

----The Huskies hit the road for three straight starting on Friday at Houston followed by trips to USF and Memphis before returning home to play at Gampel on Saturday, January 16. It marks the first time they have played on campus since December 5, 2015 when they beat Notre Dame 91-81.

----Under the go-figure category. After playing UConn step for step at Madison Square Garden a week ago, Maryland gets knocked off by Ohio State, 80-71.

The same Ohio State team that the Huskies beat by a 100-56 final.

Go figure because that makes absolutely no sense.

----Morgan Tuck was honored before the game for scoring her 1000th point in the UConn 83-73 win over Maryland at Madison Garden.

----8515 were on hand on Wednesday night as seasons ticket holders were honored with a pre-game meet and great with Auriemma.

----UConn put five in double figures, led by Morgan Tuck (18). Saniya Chong, starting in place of the injured Moriah Jefferson, connected for 18 points but more importantly, played some defense, something her coaches have been stressing all year.

Breanna Stewart (you know it’s a rout if it takes this long to mention the All-World Stewart) added 12 points.

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