Storrs, Conn. – Any competitive basketball player has to enter each game believing that a win is possible. Albany’s Cassandra Edwards said as much entering their first round contest against Connecticut, when she agreed that her approach was “Why not us?”
Everyone, of course, knew that was not going to happen. But for a short time on Saturday, Albany hung with the Huskies, in large part because UConn came out looking rusty and sloppy. They committed four early turnovers and missed several defensive rotations that gave the Great Danes four early open threes, but they made just one of them.
Nonetheless, the Huskies’ talent was too much, and Albany had no answer for their inside game.
The Danes are a talented team. When UConn gave them an open shot opportunity, they capitalized, shooting a very creditable 44 percent in the first quarter. Albany’s eight fouls were the major difference, as the hosts tallied 11 from the line and led 37-18 after ten minutes. The Huskies shot 66 percent from the field in the quarter.
Albany continued to run their system, which was organized and generally well-executed. Their problem was defending the Huskies, who shot 58 percent for the half, including 15 of 18 free throws to go to the locker room with a 58-32 lead.
There was nothing slow or sloppy about UConn’s start to the second half. In just a minute and ten seconds Kia Nurse hit a three, the Huskies scored on two fast-break layups off Albany misses, and Katie Lou Samuelson stole an inbounds pass and scored. Nine points in a flash, forcing a timeout by Albany Coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. They regrouped and continued to play a possession at the time.
Down 36, Imani Tate blocked a Napheesa Collier attempt and chest-bumped her teammates. That reaction typified the Albany team approach: whatever the score, they are going to play hard, and enjoy their successes. Tate finished with 19 points, though it required 24 shot attempts (.250). Jessica Fequiere finished with a much more efficient 16 (6-11, .550).
UConn continued to be UConn. The team shot 86 percent in the fourth quarter, with the starters sitting for the final five minutes. Crystal Dangerfield hit four of five threes in the second half, a great sign going into more competitive games. Connecticut hit 17-20 free throws, continuing a pattern that ranked them seventh in the nation,
The final score: 116-55. The Huskies 116 points tied a NCAA first round record. UConn shot 62.3 percent, 50 percent (13-26) from three-point range. Five Huskies scored in double figures. Three scored twenty or more (Collier 24, Nurse 24, Williams 20).