HARTFORD - The long rebound of the Memphis miss was loose and turned into a race for the ball between UConn teammates Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson.
Samuelson veered off to allow Collier to get the ball and filled a lane on the fast break. It didn’t cost the top-ranked Huskies as their domination of the boards was a key in their 97-49 American Athletic Conference rout of the Tigers at the XL Center Sunday. It did cost Samuelson, however, her first double-double as she finished with a career high nine rebounds to go with her 12 points.
“I don’t remember that particular play, but it doesn’t concern me,” Samuelson said. “I’m just trying to play and as long as someone on our team gets the ball, that’s all that matters.”
UConn (11-0 overall, 1-0 AAC) took advantage of short-handed and shorter Memphis as it won the battle of the boards 46-16 and turned 16 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points.
The plus-30 margin was the Huskies’ largest of the season, topping the plus-26 they had against DePaul on Dec. 8. The 18 second-chance points was the third-most following Maryand (26) and DePaul (22).
While UConn is No. 1 in the AAC in defensive rebounds at 31.4 and second in rebound margin behind South Florida at plus-10.3, it is 10th in the league in offensive rebounds (11.2). Part of that, certainly, is the Huskies lead the nation in field-goal percentage at 53.4.
“For us, that’s always a sticking point. We feel like we need to offensive rebound better in general,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Sunday they came from a lot of different people. We generally don’t do a good job in that department. We shoot and run back because we think it’s going in all the time. So it’s been a little bit of an emphasis in practice. I’m glad it showed.”
Heading into Wednesday’s road game at East Carolina, the Huskies have three of top 10 rebounders in the AAC in Azura Stevens (8.2), Collier (8.1), and Gabby Williams (7.9). Collier and Samuelson shared game honors on Sunday.
It was the only the third time in 81 career games the 6-foot-3 All-American guard from Huntington Beach, California, had led or tied the team lead in rebounds as she raised her season’s average to a career-best 4.9.
“I have been trying to rebound more in practice and stuff so it has been happening more in games,” Samuelson said. “I guess the balls have bounced toward me more. There are also days when I don’t need to get the rebounds because Z or someone else is getting them. Whoever is there is going to rebound for us. That’s the good thing about having so many people that do rebound is that we can just feed off other people.”
While calendar year 2018 got underway at midnight, UConn can already look ahead a bit to next year. The Huskies’ tentative 2018-19 non-league schedule has fallen into place.
Many games are continuations of series and were already known. The latest addition, though, will be the first home-and-home with Vanderbilt. The Huskies and Commodores have played six times - three times in NCAA Tournament play and three times in in-season tournament action including the 2001 Preseason WNIT final at Gampel Pavilion - with UConn leading 4-2.
The Huskies will host the Southeastern Conference club in 2018-19 and will travel to Nashville during the 2019-20 campaign with that game serving as a homecoming for UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield, who grew up about 35 miles away in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It will also be UConn’s first time in Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium since March 21, 1992. The Commodores defeated the Huskies 75-47 to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 and the contest marks UConn’s only true road game of its 131-game NCAA Tournament history.
The 14-game non-league schedule for 2018-19 will have UConn hosting DePaul, Ohio State, Seton Hall, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, and visiting Baylor, California, Louisville, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Saint Louis. The Huskies will play three games at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
UConn (11-0) remained the unanimous top team in the Associated Press poll released Monday. The Huskies received all 32 first-place votes for the ninth consecutive week (Poll on Scoreboard, Page 36).
The top five stayed the same as UConn was followed by Notre Dame, Louisville, South Carolina, and Mississippi State.
Stanford, which saw its streak of 312 consecutive appearances in the Top 25 end last week, re-entered at No. 24 following wins over then-No. 11 UCLA and Southern California. Arizona State also entered at No. 25.
South Florida, which was No. 25 a week ago and hosts UConn Saturday at the Sun Dome in Tampa, dropped out even though the Bulls (11-3) won their only game of the week 75-46 over Tulane on Sunday and received 26 more points than it did a week ago (65-39). The Sun Devils edged out USF by two points for the 25th spot.
Green Bay also fell out of the Top 25 following a loss to Northern Kentucky.
Top 2019 recruit Samantha Brunelle (6-foot-2 forward, Ruckersville, Virginia) took an unofficial visit to UConn this weekend and was at Sunday’s game against Memphis. Also at the game was 2021 recruit Saylor Poffenbarger, a 6-1 forward at Middletown High in Maryland ... The Huskies’ win was their 70th straight at home and gave them sole possession of the third-longest home winning streak in NCAA history. UConn also won 69 in a row from 2000-04. The Huskies broke the 69-game home winning streaks of Tennessee (1996) and Baylor (2014). UConn has the top home winning streak of 99, with Stanford second at 82. The Cardinal’s streak was broken by UConn in 2012 ... Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey were given framed UConn uniforms with the number 1,000 by athletic director David Benedict in honor of reaching that milestone on Dec. 19.