HOUSTON (AP) — Following the first regular season loss in more than four years, UConn coach Geno Auriemma didn’t know how his team was going to react.
The Huskies came out with energy en route to a convincing win on Sunday.
Katie Lou Samuelson had 19 points, Napheesa Collier added 18 points and the top-ranked UConn Huskies rebounded from a rare regular-season loss with an 81-61 win over Houston.
“I thought we were in a little bit of a hurry sometimes on the offensive end to make things happen quicker than they were happening, but once we settled in, I thought that second quarter, we played some great basketball,” Auriemma said. “We got a couple really good players that understand what needs to be fixed and we got better at some things that we weren’t so good at the other night.”
Megan Walker had 14 points and seven rebounds, Crystal Dangerfield had 13 points and six assists and Christyn Williams had 12 points for UConn (12-1, 1-0 American), which had its streak of 126 consecutive regular-season wins snapped in a 68-57 loss to No. 8 Baylor on Thursday.
“The last time I checked, we didn’t have any players come up and say ‘We want to cancel the rest of the season because we lost the game,'” Auriemma said. “I think they’re pretty realistic. I’ve tried to make them realistic that when you don’t play really well, you generally don’t deserve to win.”
Walker said the vibe in practice has been engaged since the loss.
“We’re locked in,” Walker said. “We don’t want that to happen. The goal here is to win, and things happen, but we have to keep pushing.”
Octavia Barnes had 15 points, Serithia Hawkins added 10 points and Tatyana Hill added nine points for Houston (6-8, 0-1).
“I thought we came out and didn’t play afraid, attacked and tried to do the things to be successful and follow the game plan,” Houston coach Ronald Hughey said. “The second quarter they (UConn) showed who they are.”
UConn started the second quarter on a 13-2 run to open up a 37-23 lead on Samuelson’s layup 3½ minutes into the quarter.
Houston scored the next five points to cut the lead to nine on Hill’s layup with five minutes remaining, but UConn finished the half with a 14-2 run to take a 51-30 halftime lead on Dangerfield’s jumper.
“We had to adjust our game plan and get out on their shooters,” Samuelson said. “Once we kind of locked in and played really together on defense is when we got the transition buckets and everything flowed for us.”
Houston got no closer than 16 in the second half.
UConn: The Huskies shot much better against Houston and were able to find the open shooter with good passing, finishing with 17 assists. UConn controlled the paint, holding a 42-16 advantage and controlled the defensive boards. The Huskies committed 18 turnovers.
“I thought we moved a little bit better on offense,” Auriemma said. “I thought more people touched the ball. I thought we got the ball going inside-outside. I thought we got more transition stuff going today than the other day. The things that we struggled with, we were better at today.”
Houston: The Cougars, who were picked to finish third in the American, went back and forth with UConn for the first quarter, but went cold from there starting in the second quarter, where they shot 4 of 13 from the field and committed six turnovers. The Cougars’ 20-point loss was the closest in the seven games the teams have played.
MOVING UP THE CHARTS
Collier moved into eighth for rebounds with 943 at UConn, passing Peggy Walsh. Collier also moved past Diana Taurasi for ninth in field goals made, with 762.
For Houston, Hawkins surpassed 1,000 points. Jasmyne Harris moved into a tie for third on the Cougars’ three-point field goals list with 161.