STORRS, Conn. — Geno Auriemma remembers when 20 wins was considered the benchmark for a great season at UConn.
That was a long time ago.
Katie Lou Samuelson scored 15 of her 19 points in the first half to lead top-ranked UConn to a 98-45 rout of Tulane on Saturday and a 20-0 start to the season for the 11th time in program history.
“It goes to show you where we are as a program,” Auriemma said. “Things we used to celebrate, things we used to think highly of, that we used to strive for, now we just pass by them like, ho-hum.”
Kia Nurse scored 14 for the Huskies (9-0 American Athletic Conference) and tied a career high with seven rebounds. Napheesa Collier hit all six of her shots for 13 points. Gabby Williams added 13 points and nine assists.
UConn had six players in double figures for the sixth time this season.
The Huskies shot 72 percent from the floor and outscored Tulane 50-18 in the paint and 15-0 on the fast break.
Kayla Manuirirangi led Tulane (11-10, 3-5 American) with 13 points.
A year ago, Tulane came within three points of a major shocker in New Orleans, with a chance to tie UConn on a 3-point shot at the buzzer.
“That’s always something that’s going to motivate us,” Samuelson said. “We knew what we did the other game too, and we wanted to make sure we came out and made a statement as a defensive team overall.”
The Huskies put this one away early.
UConn never trailed, opening the game on an 11-3 run. The Huskies forced six turnovers in the first five minutes of the game and led 29-11 after the first quarter.
They scored the first 13 points of the second quarter to put the game away. It was 59-19 a minute into the second half. They made 13 of their 14 shots in the third quarter.
“I think it’s a new focus,” Williams said. “It’s almost February, we’re at that time in the season where we can’t have any more wasted days. We’re not getting any more athletic. We’re not getting bigger, faster stronger at this time of the year, so it comes down to being focused and being smarter.”
UConn now has 25 straight 20-win seasons and won at least 20 games in 29 seasons, all under coach Auriemma.
“That’s a lot of wins for any coach, anytime, anywhere, any program,” Auriemma said. “To be able to do it as many times as we’ve done it, I hope it’s part of our culture that we’ve created here.”
Tulane: Kolby Morgan set a Tulane record, starting for the 120th time in her career. The AAC’s second-leading scorer, who had been averaging more than 21 points, was held to just two points on 1 of 10 shooting.
“She’s been amazing in our program,” said coach Lisa Stockton. “She’s a competitor. These games are really hard and she tried to take the team on her shoulders and that probably hurts a little bit.”
UConn: Seven of the UConn teams that have started 20-0 have gone on to win national championships. The Huskies are undefeated in the history of the American Athletic Conference and have won 91 straight conference games, 79 in the regular season and 12 in the conference tournaments.
Auriemma said he’s not been given details of the NCAA investigation into UConn’s men’s program, which was revealed on Friday. He was asked how it might affect the UConn brand.
“Like everybody else, probably, hoping that everything takes care of itself, that everything works out,” he said. “The interesting thing is 10,000 people came to the game today and I bet you not one of them cared what was going on. So, I think if we continue to put a good product on the floor, on the field, whatever, I think we’ll be OK. I think people will respond more so to how we play than to what’s going on until actually we have something concrete to deal with.”
The game was the 200th home sellout in program history. Auriemma said schedulers need to realize that this will happen when games are played early in the afternoon on the weekend.
“Actually, there should never be a Saturday night game ever again,” he said. “Every game should be Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon.”
Tulane: The Green Wave travel to Houston to take on the Cougars on Wednesday night.
UConn: The Huskies travel to South Carolina to take on the defending national champions on Thursday night.