Huskies roll past Stan­ford in sea­son opener

Guard scores ca­reer-high 24 points in win against 10th-ranked Car­di­nal

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jim Fuller

COLUM­BUS, Ohio — It was al­most as if the col­lec­tive groan from the rest of the women’s col­lege bas­ket­ball world could be heard inside the site of the 2018 Fi­nal Four.

Top-ranked UConn came into the sea­son with an em­barass­ment of riches. Not only are the Huskies the only women’s col­lege bas­ket­ball to re­turn three first-team All-Amer­i­cans, but Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma can also call upon game-tested Cana­dian Olympian Kia Nurse. OK, how about the fifth starter?

Sopho­more guard Crys­tal Danger­field was a highly-touted re­cruit out of Murfrees­boro, Ten­nessee, but was com­ing off an up and down fresh­man sea­son. The last thing the other pow­er­house pro­grams needed to see was a supremely-con­fi­dent Danger­field drain­ing six 3point­ers to lead UConn to a 78-53 win over No. 10 Stan­ford on Sun­day in the first game of the Count­down to Colum­bus dou­ble­header at Na­tion­wide Arena.

Danger­field had 13 of her ca­reer-high 24 points in the first quar­ter. She also had a ca­reer best four steals as the Huskies led by as many as 42 points in the em­phatic vic­tory.

“When you have a point guard that can do that, it changes your game com­pletely,” Auriemma said. “She is pretty sharp when it comes to when to (shoot) and when not to, the pa­tience that she shows with the ball, she is rarely rushed.”

It took all of 75 sec­onds for Danger­field to hit her first shot. By the mid­way point of the first quar­ter, the player who scored in dou­ble fig­ures only six times in 31 games dur­ing her fresh­man year al­ready had 10 points as the

Huskies jumped out to the early 17-4 lead.

“It feels good,” Danger­field said, “I am go­ing to go back home and try to build on that. With the other four (starters), I am go­ing to learn from them as well, I am try­ing to fig­ure out what was go­ing to work.”

Plenty was work­ing for Danger­field against the Car­di­nal. She was 6 of 7 from 3-point range, some seem­ingly taken when Danger­field was al­most as close to half court as she was the 3-point line. More of­ten than not, she made the right pass and was a dis­trup­tive force on de­fense.

“I wasn’t sur­prised at all with what she did today,” UConn se­nior for­ward Gabby Wil­liams said. “We all saw how com­fort­able she looked, she helped me get my en­ergy up. It was fun to play with her, it is fun hav­ing an­other kind of speed de­mon to be a pest on de­fense. Of­fen­sively, how she was lead­ing, the con­fi­dence that she was shoot­ing with, it just showed how much more ma­ture she is.”

Danger­field and Wil­liams turned up the de­fen­sive pres­sure af­ter a run of the mill start to the game. UConn would have six steals by the end of the first quar­ter and 11 by half­time.

“We were trad­ing bas­kets with them and I didn’t want it to turn into that kind of game,” Wil­liams said. “I felt like we were play­ing their game, I didn’t feel like they were play­ing ours. I didn’t want to trade bas­kets with them. I just wanted to find a way where we could get a stop and score rather than a score and score.”

UConn led 49-14 at half­time as Stan­ford missed its fi­nal 12 shots and were just 5 of 31 from the field in the open­ing 20 min­utes.

“Our de­fense was re­ally good (in the first half),” Auriemma said. “I don’t know if we could have played much bet­ter. I thought the ef­fort and ex­e­cu­tion was re­ally good and it led to a lot of stuff at the other end. That is kind of who we are, we cre­ate stuff off our de­fense and go from there. I thought the sec­ond half was not worth men­tion­ing.”

UConn’s in­ten­sity dipped a bit af­ter half­time, but the Car­di­nal were down by too many points to se­ri­ously threaten the Huskies. UConn won its sea­son opener for the 22nd straight time and have not lost back-to­back games since the start of the 1993-94 sea­son.

Katie Lou Sa­muel­son had 21 points, while Wil­liams fin­ished with 11 points, seven re­bounds, four as­sists and three steals. Duke trans­fer Azurá Stevens had eight points, eight re­bounds and three blocked shots in her UConn de­but.

Di’ Jonai Car­ring­ton came off the bench to score 21 points for the Car­di­nal (0-2).

David Der­mer / As­so­ci­ated Press

UConn’s Crys­tal Danger­field drives on Stan­ford's Marta Sniezek dur­ing the first quar­ter Sun­day in Colum­bus, Ohio.

David Der­mer / As­so­ci­ated Press

Stan­ford's Kaylee John­son, left, is pres­sured by UConn’s Napheesa Col­lier dur­ing Sun­day’s game in Colum­bus, Ohio.

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