COLUMBUS, Ohio - UConn used a balanced offense and a dominant defensive effort to start the season with an easy rout of Stanford.
Crystal Dangerfield scored 24 points and Katie Lou Samuelson added 21 to help the top-ranked Huskies beat the No. 10 Cardinal 78-53 on Sunday in Nationwide Arena, the host site for the 2018 NCAA women’s Final Four.
In her seventh career start Dangerfield ran the offense with a sharpshooter’s mentality. The sophomore knocked down 6-of-7 3-pointers and recorded four steals. She averaged just 6.1 points per game and shot 31 percent from 3 last year.
“When you look at our team, by adding another player of her caliber and the way she plays, that changes the makeup of what we’re trying to do,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “She’s just so much more offensive minded and she creates a lot of stuff for herself and others.”
Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier added 11 and eight points, respectively, for UConn (1-0).
DiJonai Carrington led Stanford with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, despite coming off the bench.
Stanford (0-2) struggled making shots around the rim for a second straight game. The Cardinal made just 5-of-31 shots in the first half and committed 15 turnovers. One positive head coach Tara VanDerveer found in the game was outrebounding UConn 47-40 after being dominated on the glass by Ohio State on Friday.
“I thought we did really well on the glass. Had we rebounded this way against Ohio State, that might’ve been a different outcome,” she said. “This particular time, I think our problem was turnovers and a lack of execution on offense, but I think that will come.”
The Huskies dominated from the opening tip, shooting 51 percent from the field, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half. Tied at four less than two minutes into the game, UConn made its next five shots as a part of a 14-0 run. UConn kept its pace in the second quarter and outscored the Cardinal 23-4, for a 49-14 lead at the half. With 2:50 remaining in the third quarter, Dangerfield hit a 3 to give UConn a 42-point lead, its largest of the game.
A major part of that prolific offense was the defense’s ability to create turnovers. Auriemma said his team’s first-half defense was close to perfect.
“When we’re playing aggressively like that, we don’t even need to set up plays because we can just get out in transition and run and get things off our first and second pass,” Samuelson said. “And that’s when our best offense is because we like to keep the game moving.”
Stanford’s Alanna Smith was one basket shy of a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds. Brittany McPhee followed up her 24-point outing Friday with nine points on 3-of-12 shooting.
The Huskies showed why they are the top-ranked team in the country. It’s obvious Auriemma’s team will be the favorite once again to win its 12th national title.
This is the first time Stanford has started the season 0-2 since 1998 when it lost to Arkansas and Duke. UConn had six runs of at least six unanswered points in the game.
UConn plays No. 20 California at home Friday.