STORRS, Conn. -- By the time the NCAA tournament rolls around in March, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team could have three members of the 1,000-point club in its starting lineup.
And while the Huskies have the top-two scorers in the American Athletic Conference in Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier and two more -- Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams -- in the top 25, what they have shown throughout the first two months of the season is that their best offense is good defense.
Top-ranked UConn forced Tulane into 26 turnovers Sunday and turned them into 31 points in its 100-56 rout of the Green Wave in AAC action at Gampel Pavilion.
"When we got out defensively, we put a lot of pressure on them, got a lot of steals, and translated that into offense," Nurse said. "That's an energy giver for everyone on the team. It's something we take a lot of pride in.
"We got a lot of points off turnovers," Nurse continued. "It's been a point of emphasis in our recent practices in some of the defensive drills we've been doing. It was nice to see it translate into the game."
Through 18 games, the Huskies (18-0, 6-0) have scored 418 points (23.2 average) off of 334 turnovers (18.6 average).
Samuelson (7) and Nurse (6) had career days in steals Sunday and UConn's total of 20 was a season-high.
"We've really been working on that in practice, focusing on getting in passing lanes and denying hard," Samuelson said. "It transitioned into the game. It's been working, and I'm sure we're going to keep working on defense. It's good for our transition because that is where we get our offense going."
UConn, which goes for its 94th consecutive win Tuesday night when it visits East Carolina at Minges Coliseum (SNY, 7 p.m.), has also scored twice as many points off of turnovers as it has allowed its opponents to score off its miscues.
That's just one of the reasons the Huskies lead the AAC in scoring offense (84.9) while ranking second to Central Florida in scoring defense (55.2).
"These last four, five days we've tried to harp on it a little more about getting into passing lanes and creating more opportunities defensively," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We're walking a fine line. We want to be aggressive. We want to be able to create transition baskets for ourselves. But at the same time we have to be careful. When you get a game that's called like (Sunday's), all of a sudden you're forced to play differently and we can't afford to be as aggressive as I would like us to be. We get the wrong guys going to the bench with fouls, we're not a very good team."
Collier finished with four fouls and Williams three. After both forwards picked up two in the first seven minutes, freshman Kyla Irwin got into the game to start the second quarter.
This should surprise no one.
Samuelson, who had the first two 30-point games of her career, was named the AAC Player of the Week Monday. The Huntington Beach, California, native averaged 33.0 points on 66.7 percent shooting from the floor, including 57.9 percent from 3-point land, in UConn's wins over Tulsa and Tulane.
She established her career-high of 34 points last Tuesday at Tulsa, going 13-for-18 from the floor. Then against Tulane Sunday at Gampel Pavilion, she missed her first five shots but rallied to make 11 of her next 13. All of her 32 points came in a 17:22 span of the second and third quarters. She also had a career high seven steals against the Green Wave.
Samuelson -- who was also selected as ESPNW's Player of the Week Monday -- became the first UConn player since Tiffany Hayes in January 2012 against Syracuse and South Florida to have consecutive 30-point outings. Her 94 points in a three-game stretch matches the best total for a UConn player. Maya Moore had 94 points in wins over Marquette, Ohio State, and Florida State in December 2010.
In the last three contests, Samuelson has played a total of 4:06 of the fourth quarter -- all against SMU on Jan. 14, when UConn won its record-breaking 91st straight game.
It's a league-leading third time Samuelson has picked up the weekly award. Teammates Collier and Williams and South Florida's Kitija Laksa have won it twice each.
Named to the weekly honor roll were UCF junior guard Aliyah Gregory, Cincinnati junior forward Shanice Johnson, SMU redshirt junior guard McKenzie Adams, Temple junior guard Donnaizha Fountain, and Tulane junior guard Kolby Morgan.
Tulsa guard Shug Dickson, who had 21 points against UConn last Tuesday and followed that up with 22 points in a win over UCF, was the AAC Freshman of the Week.
SHOW OF SUPPORT
Molly Bent had her own fan club among the crowd of 9,873 at Gampel Pavilion Sunday.
The Barnstable (Massachusetts) Recreation Department sponsored two coach buses that made the trip here Sunday to see Bent and the Huskies in action.
"Barnstable Rec has been something that I've been a part of since I was little," Bent said. "That's where I started. I did the after-school thing. The program director, John Gleason, did a great job of recruiting people to come and he got two busloads with families and little kids."
Bent, from Centerville, played three years, starting in eighth grade, for Barnstable High and scored 1,000 points. She then repeated her sophomore year at Tabor Academy and played there for three seasons.
She won't forget where she started.
"It was a lot of fun," Bent said. "I got to play with my friends. We'd finish up our schoolwork and we'd go right over. There are a lot of good memories. My little sister, Sarah, is involved in the program now.
"A lot of what we learned were team-oriented things. The program was split into four teams and you worked on the basics. It was dribbling, passing, shooting, just the basics like that. It was always about having fun and letting us play."
Bent entered Sunday's game for the first time with 3:43 left in the third quarter and went the rest of the way. She had one point, three rebounds, an assist and a steal.
STILL THE ONE
UConn (18-0) was once again the unanimous pick as the No. 1 team in the country in the Associated Press poll released Monday, receiving 33 first-place votes.
The top five stayed the same as the Huskies were followed by Baylor (19-1), Maryland (19-1), Mississippi State (20-0), and South Carolina (16-1). Florida State (19-2) and Washington (19-2) each moved up one spot to sixth and seventh as Notre Dame (18-3) fell two spots to eighth following a loss at Tennessee. The top 10 was again rounded out by Louisville (18-4) and Stanford (17-3).
USF (15-3) remained at No. 23 following its loss to Louisville Sunday. Temple (15-3) moved from two points to 13 points and is tied for third-best in the also receiving votes column with Texas A&M. The Aggies dropped out of the top 25 and were replaced by Green Bay, which entered at No. 24.