Even without three of greatest players in history, UConn women still near-unbeatable

Connecticut's Katie Lou Samuelson and her teammates celebrate their 72-61 win over Baylor with UConn students at the end an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Connecticut's Katie Lou Samuelson and her teammates celebrate their 72-61 win over Baylor with UConn students at the end an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

(WTNH)–They lost three of the best players in school history—the top three picks in the WNBA Draft, and a three-time consensus National Player of the Year.

But as Baylor and the rest of the women’s college basketball world found out on Thursday, the UConn women are still pretty damn good.

The Huskies used a late run to down the Lady Bears, 72-61, on Thursday night, and in the process welcomed several new fan favorites to the Storrs spotlight.

Connecticut’s Crystal Dangerfield dribbles around Baylor’s Lauren Cox in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Connecticut’s Crystal Dangerfield dribbles around Baylor’s Lauren Cox in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield was incredible, leading the way with 19 points and taking over down the stretch. She’s like a mini-Moriah Jefferson, with similar speed and grit, and an even better jump shot.

Dangerfield knocked down a big three-pointer to cap a 12-1 run midway through the third quarter, then hit an acrobatic layup during a 16-2 Huskies run in the fourth that put the Bears away.

“I won’t disappear in big games,” Dangerfield said. “I want to attack. I want to be in those situations. I feel like I have the experience to do it, so I’ll be there.”

Some Huskies fans might have been surprised with her performance, and they weren’t alone.

“What I saw today was surprising,” said Geno Auriemma, who went on to say that he was struggling with what the expectations should be for this team. Was it fair to expect this group, which has now brought the program’s winning streak to 77, to play up to the standards of last year’s senior-laden squad?

“Then I said to myself, no, why are you selling these guys short?” Auriemma said.

The Huskies still have All-American candidate Kia Nurse, bruising forward Gabby Williams, and sharp-shooting forward Katie Lou Samuelson, who added 16 points on Thursday.

Natalie Butler is a terrific defensive presence inside, though she could use a little work on offense.

Altogether, this team still was too much for Baylor, the No. 2 team in the nation, though the Huskies may occupy that spot (if not No. 1) when the poll comes out next week.

“I think we kind of showed the rest of the country, like OK, it’s not going to be as easy as you think it is to beat UConn this year,” Gabby Williams said.

Apparently, as long as Geno’s there, it’s never going to be easy.

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