SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Freshman Christyn Williams scored a career-high 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting and No. 2 Connecticut never lost the lead after the 6:36 mark of the first quarter in dominating No. 1 Notre Dame 89-71 on Sunday.
All-American Katie Lou Samuelson, who was held scoreless by the Irish in the first half, had 15 points, including a three-point play that gave Geno Auriemma’s Huskies a 74-64 lead with 6:08 to play. The Huskies’ biggest lead was 19 points late.
Napheesa Collier added 16 points with 15 rebounds. Crystal Dangerfield scored 13 points and Megan Walker had 12 as the Huskies (7-0) ended a 28-game winning streak at home by Muffet McGraw’s Irish, who beat UConn 91-89 in overtime in last season’s NCAA semifinals on way to their second national championship. In its last 100 games at home, Notre Dame is 97-3 — with all the losses coming against the Huskies.
Jackie Young, who scored 32 against the Huskies last March, led the Irish with 18 points. Arike Ogunbowale had 17 points and 10 rebounds, but just five points after halftime. Jessica Shepard scored 13, Marina Mabrey 11 and Brianna Turner 10 for Notre Dame (7-1).
Williams scored 16 points — one off her career high of 17 against Purdue on Nov. 24 — in the first 10 minutes on 7-of-8 shooting as UConn forged a 27-22 lead. Her basket gave UConn an 8-6 lead with 6:36 to go in the quarter, a lead the Huskies would not relinquish.
Turner blocked two shots by Samuelson in the second quarter as the Irish kept the 6-foot-3 senior scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting. But the All-American contributed in other areas with six assists, three rebounds, a block and a steal as the Huskies maintained their halftime advantage.
Notre Dame four times closed within a basket of tying UConn. But a 2:30 span without a field goal allowed the Huskies to pull away to a 43-35 lead on Dangerfield’s fall-away basket with 2:37 to play before McGraw called a timeout.
Mabrey made two free throws to pull the Irish to 44-41 with 1:20 left but she missed a tying 3-point attempt and looked winded, the result of missing the first five games with a quad injury. That’s how the half ended as UConn somehow didn’t get off a shot in the final 17 seconds after a steal.
The Huskies started the third quarter on an 11-5 run to take a nine-point lead on Walker’s 3-pointer. During the run Samuelson scored her first four points, two from the free-throw line and two more on a driving lay-in. But the Irish chipped away and got to 55-53 on Mabrey’s 3 with 4:20 to play. But the Huskies pulled away on a 10-6 run led by Samuelson and Williams for a 65-59 lead heading into the final quarter.
A three-point play by Williams, off a drop pass from Samuelson, gave the Huskies a nine-point lead again with 7:40 left.
Connecticut: Auriemma used just six players in the game. While Samuelson struggled in the first half, the Huskies showed off a new star in the making in 5-foot-11 freshman guard Williams, who had 16 points in the first quarter on 7-of-8 shooting.
Notre Dame: The Irish started four players who started in their 91-89 overtime victory over UConn in the NCAA semifinals but didn’t look like the veteran team except for Ogunbowale, who was the only player in double figures at halftime with 12 points.
Connecticut: Tuesday at Saint Louis.
Notre Dame: Saturday at Toledo.