NEW YORK — It’s only December, but UConn showed it’s the best team in the country with an early-season win over Notre Dame.
The Huskies topped the Irish 89-71 on Sunday in the women’s Jimmy V Classic behind a stellar effort by freshman Christyn Williams, who had 28 points — six points off the school record for a freshman held by Tina Charles.
All-American Katie Lou Samuelson, who was held scoreless by the Irish in the first half, had 15 points, including a 3-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.
“We found a way to answer everything,” Auriemma said. “There wasn’t anything that went down that we didn’t have an answer for. There were a couple times where we looked a little bit disheveled out there, but I thought for the most part we knew we were going to get our buckets and people took turns. Everybody made a play here and there, and that’s what we are. I don’t think we’re a team of superstars. We don’t have that Maya Moore, (Breanna Stewart, Diana (Taurasi) type player on our team, so we’ve got a really, really good team that relies on each other and they learned a lot about themselves today.”
While the Huskies found out a lot about themselves on Sunday, Notre Dame was left with questions.
“I thought a lot of the problems we’ve been having all year long really surfaced again,” McGraw said. “This time, the team we played was good enough to take advantage of it. Our transition defense was poor. Our half-court defense was poor. Offensively, I thought our execution was poor. And then we lost our poise. That was unexpected. I was really disappointed to see the veterans we have not rise to the occasion.”