COLUMBUS, OHIO— The Countdown to Columbus, where the 2018 Women’s Final Four will take place, is officially on.
No. 1 UConn and No. 10 Stanford faced off at Ohio State University on Sunday afternoon, with UConn dominating from start to finish for a 78-53 win.
In the first quarter, The Huskies went on a quick 17-4 run. Crystal Dangerfield was the star of the opening frame, and had such highlights as nailing a three to put the Huskies up 15-4, going down to the other end of the court to record a steal and sprinting to the other end of the floor to get a layup.
“By adding another player of her caliber and the way she plays, that changes the makeup of what we’re trying to do,” head coach Geno Auriemma said of his sophomore point guard.
“She’s just so much more offensive minded and she creates stuff for herself and for others and today was a perfect example of how Crystal’s been practicing almost everyday since school started, so I’m not surprised with what she did today.”
By the end of the first 10 minutes, the Huskies new starting point guard had 13 points. To put that into perspective, last season as a freshman, she averaged 6.1 points per game.
The Huskies did not take their foot off the gas in the second quarter for even a moment. The end result was them outscoring Stanford 23-4 to head to the locker room with a 49-14 lead. It was at this point that Katie Lou Samuelson came to life, scoring 15 points in the 10 minutes.
In the first half overall, however, UConn was able to gain an advantage with their defense and speed. The Huskies did a great job of getting into passing lanes and altering the Cardinals’ shots, which led to Stanford shooting just 16 percent from the field.
In the process, UConn caused 15 first-half turnovers, (11 of which came as a result of steals) which led to 24 of their 49 points.
“I thought our defense in the first half was really, really good,” Auriemma said. “I don’t know that we could have played that much better defensively. I thought the effort and the execution was really really good and led to a lot of stuff on the other end. That’s kind of who we are. Try to create stuff with our defense and go from there.”
Stanford showed some signs of life in the third quarter, putting up 19 points thanks in large part to DiJonai Carrington, who had seven. It was also their best defensive quarter of the game, as they held UConn to just 18 points and did a much better job in their transition defense and in taking care of the basketball.
The Cardinals continued to use some of that grit in the fourth quarter, and went on a 13-7 run to begin the final stanza; however, UConn’s first half lead proved insurmountable with each passing minute.
UConn ended the game having caused 22 Stanford turnovers, while coughing the ball up just seven times themselves. They also scored 32 points off of those turnovers. While Stanford shot much better in the second half, the Huskies still held them to 33 percent shooting from the field.
Dangerfield led all UConn scorers in her first game as starting point guard with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting.
In even one game, it’s clear how much Dangerfield has improved. Auriemma said he didn’t think last year that she was “ready for college basketball, mentally or physically.” But now, he says her mindset is completely different.
Dangerfield said for the most part that her understanding of the college game has changed from last season to this one.
“Most of the things (Auriemma) says now, I understand what he means by it,” Dangerfield said of her offseason improvements. “And then the pace, I’ve figured out the pace and what he wants, especially on the defensive end. Just getting my hands on the ball, tipping it away, keeping it out of the paint, like what he wanted today. Just figuring out what’s going to put our team in a successful position.”
Samuelson had 21 points while Gabby Williams rounded out UConn scorers in double-digits with 11.
The leading scorer for the Cardinals was Carrington with 21 points.
All in all, Sunday provided a good learning experience for a Cardinal team that returned just two starters from the 2016-17 season. For UConn, Sunday was the chance to prove they are still a force to be reckoned with after a devastating Final Four loss.
If all goes according to plan, the last game of UConn’s season will go a lot like this first one went— only this time there will be confetti falling and a trophy heading back to Storrs.
#Live with Dallas Wings head coach Fred Williams talking UConn vs. Stanford and OSU vs. LouisvillePosted by Swish Appeal on Sunday, November 12, 2017