HARTFORD, Conn. — UConn continued its run of blowing out ranked opponents, despite having its best shooter on the bench Sunday with a foot injury.
Kia Nurse scored 21 points to lead six UConn players in double figures as the top-ranked Huskies beat No. 15 Maryland 97-72.
UConn improved to 3-0, with every win coming by at least 25 points against Top 25 competition.
Gabby Williams had an unusual triple-double for Connecticut: The senior had 15 points, 11 rebounds, but committed 10 turnovers. She also had five steals.
Two other Huskies had double-doubles. Duke transfer Azura Stevens had 18 points and 12 rebounds. The 6-foot-6 forward made her first start for UConn in place of All-American Katie Lou Samuelson, who sprained her left foot in Friday night’s game against Cal.
“It’s definitely fun feeling back in the groove,” said Stevens, who had 24 double-doubles in her two seasons as a Blue Devil. “I definitely feel more comfortable with each game that is played.”
Napheesa Collier chipped in with 13 points and 11 boards.
Maryland’s Kaila Charles led all scorers. She had 29 points and 12 rebounds. Ieshia Small had 12 points and Brianna Fraser added 11 for the Terrapins (2-2), who lost last week to defending national champion South Carolina.
“I thought we grew as a team,” said coach Brenda Frese. “With a very inexperienced freshman-sophomore backcourt, to be able to force UConn into 25 turnovers I thought was extremely positive for our group. To be able to get 72 points up against the defense that they play, force 16 steals, some very positive things for our young team to be able to build off of.”
The Huskies took control of the game very early on, breaking a 7-7 tie by going on a 19-2 first-quarter run.
Nurse scored 14 points in the first half, going 4 of 5 from 3-point range as the Huskies built a 46-21 halftime lead. She finished 5 of 8 from behind the arc.
“When we have someone go down with the ability to shoot the ball like Lou does, it’s a matter of everyone stepping up in a little bit in their own way,” she said. “I think one of the things that I can do and have gotten better at since I’ve gotten to UConn is my 3-point shot. So I’m going to try and use that as much as I can.”
UConn also dominated underneath, outrebounding Maryland 57-35 and outscoring the Terps in the paint 52-36.
The Huskies say Samuelson will be evaluated week to week after coming down awkwardly and spraining her left foot Friday in the second quarter of UConn’s win over Cal. That is the same foot Samuelson broke in the 2016 national semifinals. Coach Geno Auriemma says he’s not expecting her to be available for at least the next three games.
The Terrapins fall to 0-7 against Connecticut. They lost last year’s matchup by just six points and were one of four teams that UConn didn’t beat by double digits (Florida State, Tulane and Mississippi State were the others). Charles’ double-double was her second this season and the fourth of her career. Her point total was two shy of the 31 she put up against South Carolina.
“That’s who she is,” said Frese. “She wants the responsibility. She accepts it. You can see she’s the only player who played all 40 minutes.”
UConn point guard Crystal Dangerfield had three turnovers, all in the second half. She opened the season by going more than 105 minutes without giving the ball to the other team.
“We go into practice and (Auriemma) is yelling at me He’s like, I’m the point guard, you can’t have turnovers from that position,” she said. “So that’s my focus. Today was frustrating for me from that point of view.”
The victory came as UConn’s field hockey team was completing an undefeated season by beating Maryland and winning the program’s fifth national championship. Williams said it is special to be part of a university that values women’s sports as much as UConn, creating a sisterhood among all the female athletes.
“We’re a field hockey school,” Auriemma said. “We’re just trying to keep up with our field hockey team.”
The Huskies head west to play No. 8 UCLA on Tuesday, a game that was supposed to be a homecoming for Samuelson, who is from Huntington Beach.
The Terps head home to play Howard on Tuesday night.
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