Katie Lou Samuelson's 3-pointer late in the third quarter Saturday brought out the traditional high 10s from the players on the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's sideline.
But when the freshman guard drew a charging foul on Nebraska's Anya Kalenta on the next possession, that had the Huskies' bench up and applauding with coach Geno Auriemma and his staff leading the cheers.
"I'm sure all the coaches were extremely excited when I took that charge. I know everyone on the court was," Samuelson said.
And it's not a coincidence that once Samuelson picked up her defense, competed hard on the boards, and delivered a pair of crisp passes for assists, the part of her game she's known best for -- her shooting -- came around.
Samuelson will try to build on the best performance of her young college career Monday when No. 1 UConn starts a quick two-game road trip in Tennessee with a visit to Chattanooga and a non-league matchup at McKenzie Arena (SNY, 6:30 p.m.)
"I have expectations for myself and I want to do well," Samuelson said. "If I'm not playing in a way that's going to help the team then there is no point for me to be in. I know I have to play as hard as I can every day.
"It's not all about scoring. It's not all about hitting threes. I have to do so many little things that will get me in the game. Our team is obviously super talented, and there is not one person who is just going to be given something. We all have to work hard and take it day by day. Coach has really been pushing me to do that and I think that I'm getting there. It will all start to come easy to me. With the more little things I do, then other things will fall into place."
Samuelson played 22 minutes against Nebraska and had 14 points, three rebounds, three assists to no turnovers, and two steals. Her effort helped the Huskies (3-0) turn their game with the Cornhuskers into a rout.
The Huntington Beach, California, native had seven points, six rebounds, and two assists in UConn's wins over Ohio State and Kansas State.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to do well and I want to contribute," Samuelson said. "But I also know I'm a freshman that's coming in to the best team in the country so I have to work my way up. Nothing will be given to me. If I keep working hard and play the way that I know I'm capable of playing, I'll get there and things will fall into place."
But coming in as the nation's No. 1 recruit and the consensus high school Player of the Year brings expectations, mostly from impatient fans and media who wouldn't know who she was if she had walked past them six months ago.
Fortunately, Auriemma and the Huskies have been through this before.
"There's a lot that goes into being pretty good when you're a freshman around here and sometimes it happens quickly and sometimes it doesn't," Auriemma said. "Lou was struggling a little bit and then got her finger cracked pretty good last week and that's just another thing that she had to figure out. But Saturday was different because she just looked like she was more engaged and more aggressive.
"I think we're trying to take the onus off of, 'I'm a shooter. I'm the next great shooting star at Connecticut.' There's just so much more to it than that."
Samuelson was just 1-for-9 shooting from 3-point land in her first two games. This is the same player who went a USA Basketball-record 8 for 8 from behind the arc in the 2013 FIBA U-16 Americas Championship gold medal game vs. Canada, made six treys in the first quarter of Team USA's semifinal game against Hungary at the 2014 FIBA U-17 world championships, and is one of the top scholastic scorers in California history.
If an off-week is defining, remember that Diana Taurasi (at the 2001 Final Four against Notre Dame) and Bria Hartley (at Maryland early in her All-American senior season) had 0-for-11 shooting games from long range. How did their UConn careers turn out? Or does anyone need to be reminded of Breanna Stewart's struggles -- no points, no rebounds, no assists -- against Baylor her freshman year?
"She knows. Lou knows what she's capable of," Stewart said. "You have to keep your confidence up when things aren't going your way and continue to work hard. She's doing that."
And that's why her coaches and teammates remain confident in her.
"One of the last things I said to Lou," Auriemma said, "was, 'Look, be like Stewie today. Rebound. Play defense. Run the floor. Be aggressive. Do the things that good players do. Don't just wander around looking for your next 3-pointer. And she did things we haven't seen her do all year long. I should've said that two weeks ago."
But now is a good time for Samuelson and her fellow reserves to pick up the pace. Chattanooga was in the top 25 earlier this season and DePaul -- whom the Huskies visit Wednesday -- is lurking just outside the rankings. Third-ranked Notre Dame comes to sold out Gampel Pavilion this Saturday for the Jimmy V Classic, and UConn faces No. 14 Florida State at Mohegan Sun Arena on Dec. 11. On Dec. 28, No. 6 Maryland meets the Huskies in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Chattanooga is coached by Jim Foster, who gave Auriemma his first college coaching job at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia almost 40 years ago. DePaul is led by Doug Bruno, Auriemma's assistant with the United States national team since 2009.
"It's Reunion Week," Auriemma said with a smile. "You know how they have 'Rivalry Week?' It's Reunion Week for the Huskies, getting caught up with close friends."
Auriemma has a 3-3 record against his mentor Foster, though this is the first meeting between UConn and Chattanooga (5-2). The Mocs have won 17 straight and 57 of their last 58 games at McKenzie Arena. They beat Tennessee and Stanford -- the same Cardinal team that beat UConn -- at home a season ago.
"We generally don't play a lot of games against each other," Auriemma said. "But it was Jim's idea. I never force these guys, I never put pressure on these guys to play us. He wants us to come down there. He had Tennessee and Stanford there last year. He's trying to get a lot of good teams in and I'm looking forward to it. I've had a long 40-year relationship with him and his family. And I'm looking forward to playing them in their arena. I've heard great things about it."
UConn could see the long-awaited debut of redshirt sophomore center Natalie Butler on Monday. The 2014 Big East Freshman of the Year at Georgetown, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and the first three games this season after having surgery to repair torn ligaments in her left thumb Oct. 26, is expected to see limited action.
Chattanooga will play at UConn in a return game next year.