STORRS, Conn. - The obvious sign that there was something wrong with Katie Lou Samuelson two weeks ago was her taking herself out of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's game against California.
The Huntington Beach, California native takes herself out of games almost as often as it snows in her hometown.
The Huskies' junior All-American had fallen to the Gampel Pavilion floor awkwardly after being fouled in the second quarter of the Nov. 17 game. After her teammates got her back to her feet, she limped her way towards the UConn sideline and signaled to coach Geno Auriemma she needed to be replaced. By the time she got to the bench, athletic trainer Janelle Francisco was waiting to attend to her.
"I knew that it was something different," Samuelson said on Friday. "I sprain this ankle a lot and usually I get up and walk and after a couple of steps it's fine. Coach knows that and Janelle knows that, so no one was sending in a sub for me.
"It felt different and I felt the best option was to come out and not aggravate it more. And I was thinking about the upcoming trip as well. I figured if I sat out the second half then I had a good chance to play on that but things changed."
Samuelson was diagnosed with a sprain of the left foot. She sat out the remainder of the Cal game, a home game with Maryland, and the three games of the Huskies' west-coast trip that included her scheduled homecoming game at UCLA.
But rehab has gone well and No. 1 UConn is hopeful Samuelson will be ready to return to action when it takes on third-ranked Notre Dame in the annual Jimmy V Classic Sunday at the XL Center in Hartford.
"Lou practiced today and she actually looked pretty good," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She looked rusty. I didn't realize until yesterday that she's played one game and a half. We've got practice Saturday and we'll see how that goes and then we have shoot-around Sunday and see how that goes. She's expecting to play. I'm expecting her to play. So barring anything unforeseen, that's the plan."
Samuelson, the American Athletic Conference's Co-Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American as a sophomore, was off to a strong start to the new season. She had 21 points in the win over Stanford, and had 12 points and three steals in 15 minutes versus the Golden Bears when she was injured.
In her first two seasons she had missed just one contest - the 2016 national championship game against Syracuse after she broke a bone in her left foot two days earlier in the semifinals against Oregon State.
"I was frustrated because I felt I was at a point where I was comfortable on the court in all aspects," Samuelson said. "I felt like I had been contributing in ways that I didn't contribute last year. I felt like I was in a better place. But I'm grateful that it's been a short amount of time and at the beginning of the season. I'll be able to get back to where I was."
The Huskies (6-0) played well without her but obviously having Samuelson back will make them stronger and deeper.
"It depends on tomorrow's practice and getting through a full practice and seeing what the doctor and Janelle say," Samuelson said. "I felt good today. Once you're standing for awhile it gets a little sore. I'll ice it and do more rehab.
"But I'm ready to play. I was telling Chloe (graduate assistant Pavlech) on the bench, 'I'm not feeling it sitting in these sweats anymore.' "
Auriemma said that redshirt sophomore forward Batouly Camara isn't as far along on the comeback trail as Samuelson so it is doubtful that she will make her Huskies' debut Sunday.
ODE TO SAINT JOSEPH'S
When Auriemma gave up his job as an assistant to Jim Foster at Saint Joseph's University to join Phil Martelli at his alma mater Bishop Kenrick High, Foster didn't have to look far for a replacement.
He brought back one of his players with the Hawks - Muffet McGraw. Last September, the veteran Notre Dame coach joined Auriemma (Class of 2006) in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
"It's incredible Jim would have given the beginnings of two pretty good coaches, and have them both as assistant coaches," McGraw said. "It's amazing that we both started in the same place. But Philadelphia has produced a lot of great coaches."
McGraw's presenter at her induction was Ann Meyers-Drysdale.
After graduating from Saint Joseph's, McGraw coached at Archbishop Carroll High before returning to Hawk Hill. She got her first head coaching job at Lehigh in 1982 and then moved to South Bend in 1987. Her overall record is 860-268. She led the Irish to the 2001 national championship and to seven Final Four berths.
"I always had a passion for the game," McGraw said. "Just playing the game was so much fun and I didn't want to give it up. I didn't know what else I could do to stay in it so coaching seemed the obvious first choice. From my first practice at Archbishop Carroll, I knew I had found my passion."
Auriemma's teams are 122-43 against teams that have been coached by members of the Naismith Hall. UConn has won six straight against the Irish for a 35-11 lead in its series with its former Big East rival.
A PERFECT 10
Kia Nurse always wants to be consistent. But the Huskies' senior guard was stumped when asked how she could miss her first eight 3-point shots on UConn's west-coast trip then make her next 10, including an 8-for-8 performance Tuesday night at Nevada.
"I have no idea," Nurse said with a smile. "I'm trying to keep it at 50 percent, apparently.
"When we had the break in Nevada and had a couple of extra practices, I was able to get up some extra shots and figure out why exactly my shot was off."
Nurse connected on a trey with 5:06 to go in the third quarter against Michigan State last Saturday and hit her next try at the third-quarter buzzer. Her effort at Nevada was the second-most makes without a miss in UConn history.
Her 10 consecutive makes also ties a school record shared by Samuelson and Caroline Doty. Samuelson was a NCAA-record 10-for-10 from distance in UConn's win over South Florida in the American Athletic Conference tournament final at Mohegan Sun Arena last March 6. She had missed her final try in the semifinals against Central Florida and missed her first try against Albany in the NCAA first round. In 2008, Doty made her final 3-pointer at Brigham Young, then went 6-for-6 against Oklahoma and 3-for-3 against Holy Cross in games at Gampel Pavilion before missing her first attempt against Penn State in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.
The NCAA record for consecutive made 3-pointers is 14 shared by Deana Lansing of Portland (1996), Lauren Howell of Mount St. Mary's (2008), and Kelsey Jacobson of Florida Gulf Coast (2012).
Nurse had 15 points in the first quarter against the Wolf Pack with four treys and an old-fashioned three-point play. Even with her hot start, she stayed within the Huskies' offense. Her 27 points raised her scoring average to 16.2 points per game.
"It's more, 'OK, you've got it going, you've got confidence in your shot and what you're doing,'" Nurse said. "But you want to continue to take good, open shots, ones I can make consistently."
Nurse's only miss on the night was on a drive with 6:39 left. Her final points came on a 3-pointer with 4:50 to go.