South Bend, IN — The rematch women’s basketball fans have been waiting for was played Sunday as No. 1 ranked Notre Dame took on No. 2 ranked Connecticut (UConn). After falling short by two points in overtime to the Irish during their last meeting, the Huskies took the top spot back beating Notre Dame 89-71.
“I thought our transition defense was poor. I thought our half-court defense was poor. Offensively, our half-court execution was poor,” exclaimed Head Coach Muffet McGraw as she responded to why Notre Dame lost today. “I was disappointed to see the veterans we have not to rise to the occasion.”
On the Huskies bench, it was the underclassmen that stepped into the limelight and performed at the big show. Huskie freshman guard Christyn Williams ended the game with 28 points, going 11-for-16 from the field. She scored 16 of her points in the first quarter!
“She brings a really great dimension to our team… she’s fearless. I was upset we didn’t give it to her more,” said UConn head coach Geno Auriemma about Williams.
Coach McGraw said that it was Williams presence that, “was the difference in the game” and complimented her on a phenomenal performance. Huskie senior Napheesa Collier contributed to the win in a big way with 16 points and 15 rebounds of her own. Katie Lou Samuelson, although starting slow on the first half, ended as the third leading scorer for UConn with 15 points.
“There is still a lot I don’t like about what we did,” exclaimed coach Auriemma. “I thought we were bad for really long stretches at a time, but what I liked is that we found an answer to everything.”
The Irish battled hard, but they just couldn’t quite contain the new weaponry Connecticut was bringing to this war. Arike Ogunbowale, who hit the game winning shot for the Fighting Irish in the last match up to win the national title, ended with a double-double; 17 points and 10 rebounds. Jackie Young led Notre Dame with 18 points, and starting forwards Brianna Turner (10 points) and Jessica Shepard (13 points) reached double digits as well.
Notre Dame is the only team of the season to score 70 or more points on Connecticut. It just seemed like the Huskies couldn’t miss down the stretch, though. The Fighting Irish did rise the aggressiveness of their defense in the second half but, UConn hit the tough shots which stretched their lead in the second half.
In the end, it wasn’t the familiar names for UConn who delivered in a big way, but a new face. Samuelson was impressed, but not surprised by, her rookie guard Williams having a big game.
“I actually told Rebecca (Lobo) before the game that I knew she was going to have a good game, and I knew it with just how she’s been approaching everything,” Samuelson stated in her post-game interview regarding Williams.
Even with such a great performance by Williams, she felt that having a big game such as this came from simply doing what was asked.
“I wasn’t nervous. Not at all,” said Williams. “I just listened to my coach and my team and did what they asked me to do.”