No. 3 UConn handles Tulsa; Auriemma misses game with illness
TULSA, Okla. — UConn played its first game in 22 years without head coach Geno Auriemma.
But the result was awfully familiar.
With Auriemma not making the trip because of an illness and associate head coach Chris Dailey filling in for him, Megan Walker had 21 points and 10 rebounds Sunday to lead the No. 3 Huskies past Tulsa 68-49.
Napheesa Collier added 12 points and 15 rebounds for the Huskies (25-2, 13-0 American Athletic Conference).
“It was a little bit weird, but CD is like that every day in practice,” Collier said. “We listen to her just as much as we listen to Coach, so it wasn’t too weird but it was different not having him here.”
The Huskies learned Saturday morning that Auriemma would miss the Tulsa game, but he hopes to coach Tuesday at Wichita State.
It was the first time that Auriemma, in his 34th season as the Huskies coach, had missed a game since the 1997 Big East Tournament. Auriemma is a 2006 inductee to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a nine-time Coach of the Year and has led UConn to 11 national titles.
Dailey, a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member who has been on the UConn staff since Auriemma became head coach in 1985, is 8-0 when filling in for Auriemma.
UConn was never threatened in the second half, but had trouble building significantly on a 41-27 halftime lead.
“Unfortunately I knew he watched the game so he may be feeling more ill after,” Dailey said. “We just struggled offensively but I thought our defense was really good. For once I think he listened to the doctor’s orders and did the smart thing and is getting some rest. The plan is for him to join us in Wichita.
“It is different being even one seat over making all those decisions. I said this the last time I had to do it, you always have a lot more respect for the person making those decisions all the time when you’ve had to do it.”
Morgan Brady paced Tulsa (11-15, 5-8) with 17 points and was 5 of 8 on 3s. Crystal Polk added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Golden Hurricane.
Brady, who had made only 6 of her previous 23 3-point attempts entering the game, made three in a row to open the game to spark Tulsa to a 9-2 lead.
The Golden Hurricane led 14-7 before the Huskies went on a 15-0 run to end the first quarter. Walker sparked the run and had 11 points in the opening 10 minutes.
“They were on fire at first but we worked through it,” said Walker, a 6-foot-1 sophomore who entered the game averaging 11.9 points.
UConn was ahead 29-25 midway through the second quarter before ending the first half on a 12-2 run for a 41-27 lead and the Hurricane never got any closer during the rest of the game.
For the first time in seven games this month, UConn was outrebounded as Tulsa had a 41-39 advantage.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Tulsa coach Matilda Mossman said. “I thought we battled with them. We held them to 68. They’ve been averaging in the 80s. I think they scored 100 points or more in their last (three) out of five games. I thought we did some really good things when we were in rhythm offensively.
“I thought the main thing was we defended them well. The negative was that we had too many turnovers.”
It was only the second time during the conference season that neither Collier nor Katie Lou Samuelson (who had 10 points) led UConn in scoring. Walker was 8 of 13 from the field. She had 34 against Tulane on Jan. 16.
“I got a lot of touches today and I knocked them in,” Walker said. “We just ran our offense and took whatever shot was open.”
UConn is 99-0 in American Athletic Conference regular-season games and 114-0 overall since joining before the 2013-14 season.
UConn: The Huskies clinched at least a share of a sixth consecutive American Athletic Conference regular-season title with three games remaining.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane have lost three in a row and are 2-8 in their past 10 conference games.
UConn: After the Huskies visit Wichita State on Tuesday, they host Houston on Saturday and end the regular season on March 4 at South Florida.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane will finish the regular season with three games in five days, starting Wednesday at Temple.
MOVING UP THE CHARTS
Collier, a senior, moved into 10th place on the UConn scoring list, passing Rebecca Lobo. Collier has 2,137 points.
UConn improved to 9-0 against Tulsa since joining the conference, but Tulsa is showing improvement against the Huskies. In the first seven games of the series, UConn won each by at least 38 points. Tulsa lost the previous meeting, 78-60 last season.