UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Napheesa Collier played her freshman season with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team with a torn labrum in her right hip.
But if a crowd of 9,014 at Mohegan Sun Arena needed a reminder of how tough she is, Collier gave them an emphatic one on Sunday.
The sophomore forward had 24 points, eight rebounds, five steals and two blocks before coming out for the first and only time with 55.4 seconds left as the second-ranked Huskies pulled away down the stretch and defeated No. 14 Texas 72-54 in the annual Jimmy V Classic.
"I think it's a will to win," Collier said about where her toughness comes from. "If we're not tough we're not going to win.
"It's important for us to show that because we're not the biggest team, especially compared to Baylor and Texas and those kind of teams. We have to be tough because we're not going to be big."
Its latest effort sets up a big game for UConn (7-0) and its 82-game winning streak as on deck is top-ranked Notre Dame on Wednesday in South Bend. The Irish (8-0) routed Valparaiso 114-54 on Sunday.
If the rankings hold when the Associated Press poll is released Monday, the showdown at Purcell Pavilion will be the 23rd 1-2 game for the Huskies overall and their fifth against Notre Dame. UConn owns a 19-3 mark in 1-2 games with 14 wins in the last 15 such games.
"We're definitely excited for it," UConn guard Katie Lou Samuelson said. "We have a lot to go over these next two days in practice but we'll be ready to go."
Kia Nurse added 15 points and five assists while Samuelson bounced back from a rough first half to score all 12 of her points in the final 20 minutes. Gabby Williams chipped in 11 points, six assists and four steals as the junior -- like Collier -- did not come out until the final minute.
"It's tougher for me and Gabby because we are smaller posts," Collier said. "We really had to help each other so they just couldn't throw it over us."
Battling the likes of 6-foot-5 Kelsey Lang, 6-foot-3 Joyner Holmes, and 6-foot-4 twins Audrey-Ann and Khaleann Caron-Goudreau, UConn was out-rebounded 31-24 by Texas but managed to hold a 14-11 edge in second-chance points.
The Longhorns' physicality never took its toll, though, as the Huskies seemed to get stronger in the final minutes.
"My adrenaline was going," Collier said. "It's always so much fun to play in these big games. I don't ever want to be on the bench."
It's the last place she should be. In wins over Chattanooga, No. 15 DePaul and Texas, the St. Peters, Missouri, native averaged 21.7 points on 79.5 percent shooting from the floor, 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 blocks and three steals per game.
"She did a great job," Nurse said. "It was a tough one today and she took a lot of hits. She finished well, did a lot of things defensively, and it was really exciting to watch."
Guard Brooke McCarty led Texas (2-4) with 15 points while Lang had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Second-leading scorer Ariel Atkins was limited to six minutes after taking a shot to the head in the first quarter.
Thirteen of the Longhorns' 26 turnovers came from post players Lang and Holmes, as they were ineffective passing out of UConn's double teams.
"I'm disappointed, disappointed in that we really competed for three quarters and then it got tough," Texas coach Karen Aston said. "They were a little tougher than we were."
The Longhorns, who were eliminated by the Huskies in the last two NCAA tournaments, dominated early in taking a 17-11 lead.
"After that first five minutes of the game, I pulled out probably my best 30-second time out speech that I save for special occasions," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "When they came over, I said, 'You guys can just take a deep breath. This game is over. You don't have to worry about anything. They just kicked our butts for five minutes, and this is going to keep happening for the next 35 minutes, so don't worry about it.' I thought that was the way it was going to go the whole game, that they were just going to overwhelm us with that size and athletic ability.
"But once we settled in a little bit and go the ball moving a little bit, people stepped up to make some shots. Once they did, Pheesa and Kia especially, we got a little more comfortable. We made some adjustments trying to find what works. It was a scare those first five minutes. Our guys were stunned."
Collier had the first four points and Nurse the last seven of an 11-0 run that put the Huskies in front to stay.
Texas cut a nine-point deficit to two at 51-49 on a McCarty 3-pointer with 3:18 to go in the third quarter. But the Huskies responded by holding the Longhorns scoreless for seven minutes. Collier capped the decisive 12-0 spurt with an offensive rebound and reverse layup that brought the house down.
"We need people to be counted on and it's important to me to be there for our team," Collier said. "That's important for all of us."
And with 55.4 seconds to go and the outcome decided, the crowd roared again as Collier headed to the bench.
"She's been playing awesome and she showed today she's more versatile than she's ever been," Samuelson said. "She stepped up and hit threes today to go with either driving to the basket or posting you up. It's big for our team."
The Huskies are 4-0 against ranked opponents with wins over Florida State, Baylor, DePaul, and Texas. The Longhorns are 0-4 against top 25 teams with losses to Stanford, Mississippi State and UConn on the road and Texas at home.
The win was also UConn's sixth straight over the last six seasons in the Jimmy V Classic. The Huskies are 7-2 overall in the event, which Mohegan Sun Arena hosted for the first time.
UConn is scheduled to face Texas in Austin during the 2017-18 season.