UConn's Katie Lou Samuelson recognized early on that LSU was exhibiting little respect for her long-range shooting. So the 6-foot-3 sophomore made the Lady Tigers pay with the most prolific game yet in her very promising career.
"She lit us up from the 3-point line," LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. "I didn't feel like we had the awareness that we needed to play somebody of her caliber as far as shooting the 3."
Samuelson hit seven 3-pointers en route to a career-high 28 points, Kia Nurse added a season-best 15 points along with eight assists, and No. 3 UConn handed LSU its first loss of the season, 76-53 on Sunday night.
"I was shooting well and my teammates were getting me the ball, so I was going to keep shooting the 3s," Samuelson said. "I'm pleased with how I shot today and I just hope that'll carry on to the next game."
Crystal Dangerfield added 10 points and Gabby Williams grabbed 10 rebounds for UConn (3-0), which extended college basketball's longest active winning streak to 78 games. Yet Huskies coach Geno Auriemma didn't sound too pleased about how his team looked in its most lopsided victory of the young season. He cringed at UConn's 20 turnovers, 17 personal fouls, and six-minute stint without a field goal in the third quarter.
"Today was a struggle," Auriemma said. "The ball was flying all over the place."
Samuelson, who was widely seen as one of the nation's best freshmen last season, hit seven of her eight made shots from 3-point range and also sank all five of her free throws.
Nurse called it a "huge luxury" to know she could look for Samuelson anywhere on the offensive end and be confident she would hit open shots.
Raigyne Moncrief scored 15 points for LSU (3-1), which trailed by 21 at halftime and struggled to get much closer than that for much of the second half. Alexis Hyder added 11 points for the Lady Tigers.
UConn began to pull way on consecutive 3's by Nurse and Samuelson, which opened a 10-0 run that pushed the Huskies' lead to 31-16.
Later in the period, Samuelson hit a 3 from the right wing while being fouled by Hyder, completing a four-point play which made it 40-23. Samuelson added a couple free throws to give her 14 points in the first half, and Dangerfield's jumper made it 46-25 at halftime.
UConn: UConn's winning streak is the third longest in college basketball history, behind only its own program record of 90 straight from 2008-10 and the UCLA men's record of 88 consecutive victories from 1971-74. ... UConn has now beaten 110 straight unranked opponents since losing by a point to then-unranked St. John's on Feb. 18, 2012.
LSU: The Lady Tigers were off to their best start since their 9-0 beginning to the 2009-10 season and their struggles against a juggernaut like UConn doesn't mean this season's LSU squad won't be competitive in most games. "I thought we did some good things defensively," Fargas said, noting that her team played UConn tight for all but the second quarter. "We did some things for three quarters that really allowed us to show the potential of this team." ... Senior guard Rina Hill made her season debut after missing the first three games because of a hip injury. She played 15 minutes and had a rebound and an assist.
The Huskies have now won five straight against LSU and improved to 8-1 all-time in the series, with the lone loss coming in the 2007 NCAA tournament regional finals to a Lady Tigers squad led by current WNBA and U.S. national team player Sylvia Fowles. After the game, Auriemma ran into another former LSU great, Seimone Augustus, outside the UConn locker room, and they chatted about the state of the Lady Tigers compared to about a decade ago.
"The talent level is just completely different. It's not even night and day," Auriemma said. "So from where it was, to where it is today, it's not even the same program. You can't even put it in the same category from back then. I don't know all the reasons why, but when that happens it takes a while to get it back."
UConn defeated second-ranked Baylor on Thursday, and by winning convincingly at LSU, the Huskies did nothing to dissuade voters from moving them up at least one spot.