Kia Nurse Reaches 1,500 Points In UConn's 106-65 Win Over Cincinnati

A fastbreak, an easy basket was in the offing when Cincinnati’s Antoinette Miller made a steal late in the third quarter.

But, then again, there are no easy baskets — and no meaningless moments — when Kia Nurse is in a position to make them tough, even when UConn is up by 33 with 5:13 left in the third quarter.

Nurse got back on defense, made a steal herself, and then rushed back down the floor and scored on a layup off Gabby Williams’ assist.

“The play that she made,” coach Geno Auriemma said, following UConn’s 106-65 victory before 12,342 at the XL Center on Sunday, “where she ran back on defense, deflected it and got a steal and then she out-ran everybody the other way and got a layup. That pretty much typifies Connecticut basketball right there. I think some of our younger guys would do well to emulate that.

“That was as good a play as I’ve seen in a long, long time and that’s how she’s been since the day she walked on campus.”

It was a special day for Nurse, the senior from Hamilton, Ontario, long before that. Out of a timeout, with the Huskies trailing in the first quarter, she hit a 3-pointer to put them ahead for good — and put herself over the 1,500-point mark for her career. Running the team with point guard Crystal Dangerfield resting with a hip injury, Nurse scored 23 points and did a little of everything — 7-for-12 from the floor, 4-for-9 on 3s, 5-for-7 from the line, three rebounds, four assists, three steals.

“We used her as an example today,” said Williams, who had 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, “just the way she runs the floor, runs hard for layups. Coach says, ‘Everyone’s got to run as hard as she does.’ And you see how successful she’s been, how hard she works, and it inspires the younger guys to want to do that.”

Nurse took her final bow for the afternoon with 7:44 to go. Napheesa Collier stayed in a little longer and finished with 25 points and eight rebounds. Azura Stevens, who took Dangerfield’s starting spot, had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Katie Lou Samuelson had 18 points and seven assists.

The top-ranked Huskies shot 56.5 percent, and had 32 assists on 39 field goals — a thoroughly efficient game coming off the big win at No.7 South Carolina on Thurday. Auriemma gave the following review: “Our response? Ehhh … we had stretches where we played really, really well and we had stretches where we didn’t play well at all. I guess there are times when that has to be expected.”

The Huskies did miss all eight 3-point attempts in the second half, and gave up 10 3s to Cincinnati. Back to the drawing board. But all of UConn’s “and-ohs” continued — 22-0 overall, 10-0 in the American Athletic Conference, 80 since joining the conference, 92 including the postseason tournament, 150 in a row against unranked opponents and 35-0 against former Huskies now coaching, such as the Bearcats’ Jamelle Elliott.

UConn was trailing 11-9 when Nurse became the 24th Husky to reach 1,500 points — her 3-pointer with 5:12 left started UConn’s 21-0 run that pushed another conference game far out of reach before the end of the first quarter.

“Something that you do see a lot before you get here is the tradition,” said Nurse, who began the day with 1,498 points, “the people who came before you and how they played. For me, it was always ‘how can I thank them for allowing me have this opportunity?’ And if I can make plays that make someone who was here before me proud, who helped build this place to what it is, than that makes me proud.

“When I first came here I never would have told you I would have been anything close to a 1,500-point scorer. I’m grateful for the time I’ve had here and the opportunity to grow, the time and effort my teammates and coaches have put in to help me get to this place.”

The Huskies led 52-30 at halftime, going 10-for-20 on 3-point shots, and as the lead approached 40 late in the third quarter, Auriemma started working in subs. Though the bench generated only seven points, Auriemma was happy with Kyla Irwin’s 18 minutes — five points, five rebounds and five assists.

Miller scored 20 points for the Bearcats (13-10, 5-5), hitting 3-pointers late, and Shanice Johnson scored 17, hitting her 3s early.

“I think we’re playing really well together right now,” Collier said, “I think we’ve finally gotten into our groove. That’s the most fun kind of basketball, when you make a pass and somebody scores. It really is so satisfying to kick it out for an open 3.”

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