STORRS - Katie Lou Samuelson came down with a defensive rebound with 1:59 left in the first quarter Sunday night and got crunched by a pair of Buffalo players.
After the foul call, the UConn women’s basketball team’s senior - playing her second game in three nights after missing three weeks and the previous four games with a back issue - reached for her back and moved slowly down court. She never looked at the Huskies’ bench, not wanting to give anyone a chance to think that something might be wrong.
“I got kind of sandwiched and hit and it was in kind of the same area,” Samuelson said. “For me to know I can go through that and take a hit like that is a good feeling.”
Samuelson was feeling sore and tired after No. 2 UConn advanced to the NCAA Tournament Albany (New York) Regional semifinals with an 84-72 win over 10th-seeded Buffalo at Gampel Pavilion, and for a very good reason.
The All-American played 40 minutes Sunday night. She contributed 17 points, nine rebounds, and four assists to the cause.
“I felt good. A lot of it was adrenaline,” Samuelson said with a smile.
“It was hard, though, at the end so I’m glad that I got that opportunity to go through that here instead of waiting for a later game to sort of figure it out. But I’ll get back in shape these next two days of practice and everything will be good by then.”
UConn will play either No. 3 Maryland or sixth-seeded UCLA Friday at the Times Union Center in Albany.
She said she’ll be ready to go.
“It’s just making sure it doesn’t get worse at this point,” Samuelson said. “I want to keep making progress every day. Clearly after games I’ll be sore. It’s nothing too concerning for me.”
Her coach was not concerned. Geno Auriemma used only one substitute - Olivia Nelson-Ododa - who came in when Christyn Williams picked up her second foul in the second quarter and when Crystal Dangerfield was called for her fourth foul in the third quarter.
It was the first time Samuelson had played 40 minutes since doing it back-to-back on UConn’s trip to Louisville and Cincinnati. She played about 22 minutes in her return Friday against Towson.
“There was never any doubt that she was going to play,” Auriemma said. “How much she was going to play, I was going to play it by ear. Tonight I said she was going to play as long as she had to play. I never had any intention of taking her out tonight. But just in case she came over during one free throw and stood next to me and said, ‘Just so you know, I’m good. I’m not coming out.’”
Dangerfield hits 1,000
Dangerfield became the 46th UConn player to reach the 1,000-point plateau when she hit a 3 from the corner with 5:27 left in the third quarter Sunday night.
Did it mean anything to the junior guard?
“Nah, not as much as a win,” she said. “Getting the win was what was important.”
Dangerfield finished 11 points to put her total at 1,003. But it was far from her best game and she knew it. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native had four assists and three turnovers and also spent the final 4:10 of the third quarter on the bench with four fouls.
“That was my fault, something that can’t happen,” Dangerfield said.
Dangerfield also ended up with a small cut near her left after taking an accidental hit from Buffalo’s Cierra Dillard. She didn’t miss any time as a media timeout followed the call but the 93.1 percent free-throw shooter did miss her first from the line.
“I got cut, but it’s fine,” she said. “Missing that foul shot was the worst part of it.”
Dangerfield did make her final two from the stripe to close out the game’s scoring.
As the Huskies ran off the court to their locker room following the win, the thought hit Samuelson. She and classmate Napheesa Collier had played their last game for UConn at Gampel Pavilion.
“There was something going on that kept me occupied,” Samuelson said. “I didn’t think of it until coming off now. It’s crazy. It’s been a long ride. It’s been amazing playing here.”
Samuelson and Collier are the third straight senior class to go unbeaten at home in their four years here, finishing 35-0 on campus and 24-0 at the XL Center in Hartford.
“That is really cool,” Collier said. “Playing in this environment with the fans and this team and everything that goes with it, it has been an amazing ride.”
A crowd of 6,390 - bolstered by free tickets for students - attended Sunday night.
“It’s sad we’re never going to play back on this court again,” Samuelson said. “We’re excited to move on with our lives, but it is pretty crazy.”
UConn will take a 93-game home winning streak into next season. The Huskies already own the NCAA record of 99.
Forty-five fouls were called by referees Felicia Ginter, Pualini Spurlock, and Mark Resch, 21 on UConn. Megan Walker had three fouls while the other four Huskies’ starters at four each … UConn has given up 46 offensive rebounds in its two NCAA games. Buffalo had 28 second-chance points … The Huskies are 27-2 in second-round games with the losses to Clemson (1990) and Vanderbilt (1992).