Los Angeles – A much-anticipated showdown between No. 1 Connecticut and No. 5 UCLA turned into a one-sided affair Tuesday, as the Huskies routed the Bruins, 78-60.
Napheesa Collier led four UConn players in double figures with 23 points, while Crystal Dangerfield added 17 points. It was the first loss of the season for UCLA, as they played in front of 9,263 fans – the largest crowd in program history and the third-largest ever at Pauley Pavilion.
Only six Huskies saw playing time, but they wasted no time disrupting their host’s game plan. The Bruins had no offensive rebounds in the first quarter and no fast break points in the game, while UConn successfully kept them out of the paint. UCLA shot 34 percent on the night and were 23 percent from the three-point line. The visitors, by contrast, shot 54 percent in each stat column.
Husky coach Geno Auriemma said that despite their preparations, they thought the game would be closer.
“I thought we did a pretty good job taking care of the ball, and the fact we gave up no transition points was probably why they only got 60 (points),” he said. “We thought there were two key things going in: transition and offensive rebounds. We took care of both of those things, and we certainly didn’t want to foul them.”
“The way the game played out was the way we wanted it to go, but I didn’t expect it to be that margin, that’s for sure.”
Jordin Canada and Monique Billings each scored 15 points for the Bruins, while Kennedy Burke had 14.
UCLA trailed by 10 points after one quarter and 11 points at halftime. But UConn went on a 22-9 run in the third period that included holding their opponents scoreless over the final five minutes. The onslaught continues in the fourth quarter, as the Huskies inflated their lead to as much as 29 points.
“We’re a good basketball team but there’s no margin for error against a great basketball team,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “They executed their game plan the entire time, and we couldn’t respond.”
The win marked a break out of sorts for Collier, who has had a slow start to the season, and freshman and No. 1 recruit Megan Walker, who scored a career-high 13 points on night. Auriemma was pleased with both team and individual performance.
“We tried to keep it very, very simple,” he said. “We tried to switch defenses a little more. And I could tell we had them thinking a little bit because they slowed down……you could see they weren’t in any kind of flow. They were struggling to see where their offense was going to come from. I thought our guys were great defensively, just great.”
The Huskies also survived without galvanizing starter Katie Lou Samuelson, who sat out her second straight game with a foot injury.
“The biggest thing that came out of this thing was we got Pheesa going the way she can go, and without Lou,” Auriemma said. “Tonight was a big night for us – really, really big.”
Close said her team learned from the game.
“We expected to come in and win,” she said “We fell short, we had some errors, but we will let this game teach us.”
UConn has now won 39 straight road games. The Bruins saw their home 32-win streak snapped; they had the second-longest run after the Huskies.
Both teams now head to Thanksgiving weekend tournaments – UConn, to the PK80 Invitational in Eugene, and UCLA to the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas.