COLUMBIA, S.C. - Gabby Williams had a quiet confidence about her as the UConn womenâ€™s basketball team made its way south to face the reigning national champions.
Having played here two years ago, the senior All-American felt sure she and her fellow upperclassmen could handle anything South Carolina and 18,000 Gamecocks fans could throw at them Thursday.
At the final buzzer the only thing quiet was the crowd, and many of them had headed to the exits long before.
The four players who took the court for the Huskies here in 2016 - Williams, senior Kia Nurse, and junior All-Americans Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier - combined for 76 points as No. 1 UConn routed seventh-ranked South Carolina 83-58 at Colonial Life Arena. It was not as close as the final score says.
â€śI think we really showed maturity tonight,â€ť Williams said. â€śTheir fans are not easy. But we know how to play in this atmosphere. We know how to play against teams like this. We did a good job of leading and showing the younger guys so in two years when theyâ€™re playing here again theyâ€™ll know how to handle it.
â€śWe were having a lot of fun out there. After I would make a play, or Lou would make a play, or Kia would make a play ... It wasnâ€™t just one person, one thing, that set us off. It was a combination and everyone contributed. Thatâ€™s fun.â€ť
Nurse led the way with 23 points and hit her first four 3-pointers when the game was being decided. Samuelson added 20 points and eight rebounds. Collier contributed 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, five blocked shots, and two steals. And Williams was Williams for the second straight year against the Gamecocks, finishing with 14 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists in 28 minutes while forcing South Carolina star Aâ€™ja Wilson into a 4-for-18 shooting night.
â€śThe guys I expected to play great, played great,â€ť UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. â€śThe guys I expected to shoot the ball well, shot the ball well. Thatâ€™s kind of who we are right now. It doesnâ€™t mean anything in March but tonight it meant a lot. It was fun to watch. I enjoyed it.â€ť
When Nurse hit consecutive threes to make it 51-23 with 1:51 left in the half, Gamecocksâ€™ coach Dawn Staley, who will be coaching the United States national team in the 2018 FIBA world championships and 2020 Olympics, finally called her first timeout.
The silence in the crowd - UConn fans could be heard, though - was deafening.
â€śAs fun as it is playing in Gampel, thereâ€™s something about playing against the crowd,â€ť Samuelson said.
The Huskiesâ€™ lead reached 33 before South Carolina showed its only sign of life with a 12-0 run.
Thursday nightâ€™s contest was the second of a four-game deal between UConn and South Carolina. The Gamecocks will visit Connecticut next year with the Huskies returning to Colonial Life Arena in the 2019-20 season.