Christyn Williams was nearly unstoppable in the inaugural game of the women’s Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
Williams scored a career-high 31 points on 12-for-14 shooting, and No. 2 UConn beat Minnesota 88-58 on Saturday.
“Over a four-year period when she’s good, she’s really, really good,” coach Geno Auriemma said. “We’re trying to get her to be consistent enough to be like that more often. If we can get Christyn to be like that that most nights we’ll be a really tough team to play against.”
Evina Westbrook added 16 points for the Huskies (2-0), who led 31-30 midway through the second quarter before closing the half on a 16-5 run. Williams scored the first nine points of that burst. The Huskies kept the spurt going in the third, scoring the first 16 points of the quarter.
The Huskies held Minnesota (3-2) scoreless for nearly the first six minutes of the second half.
The tournament is being played in a converted ballroom at the Atlantis resort. It was originally scheduled to be played for the first time last year, but it was scuttled by the coronavirus. Hundreds of UConn fans made the trip down to the Bahamas to watch their team play. The men’s tournament will be playing at the resort for the 10th year next week.
UConn jumped out to a 12-0 lead and looked poised to run away with the game before Minnesota got going behind Sara Scalia. The junior guard started connecting from deep, hitting five of her six 3-point attempts in the first half, including a few step-back shots.
“She gets a hot hand and at a certain point you just let her go,” Minnesota coach Lindsay Whalen said. “She was tremendous. We cut it to one and were right back in it but Christyn Williams hits a huge 3 after that and they go on a run to end the half.”
Scalia finished with 17 points for Minnesota.
Minnesota: The Gophers were competitive at times when they were hitting from outside. Minnesota made 9 of 15 from behind the arc in the first half.
UConn: Except for a small hiccup in the second quarter, the Huskies looked like one of the best teams in the country on a day that sophomore sensation Paige Bueckers had an off game. Bueckers finished with eight points, eight assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.
Bueckers hails from Minnesota. While UConn was her dream school, she did support the Gophers.
“Obviously being from my home state, my hometown, I went to games growing up,” Bueckers said. “I’m just a huge supporter from where I’m from.”
Whalen played on the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic teams under Auriemma and credits him for helping her reach the next level as a player.
“Geno gave me a real opportunity in my career,” Whalen said. “First of all, to give me the opportunity to make the national team in 2010. … From that point, the trajectory from my playing career was a lot different. I owe him a lot. I have a lot of respect for him and what he’s done for our game and what he’s done for me personally in my career.”
Whalen played against Auriemma’s UConn team in 2004 when she helped Minnesota reached its lone Final Four. The Huskies came away with the win.
Minnesota faces Syracuse on Sunday.
UConn faces No. 23 South-Florida on Sunday. The two schools are very familiar with each other from their time in both the Big East and American conferences.