His team had built an eight-point lead in the second quarter against Notre Dame, and University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma decided to give Kia Nurse a break.
It turned into a break for the Irish. By the time Nurse returned 2:15 later, the game was tied. Then when the senior guard went back to the bench after 51 seconds with her second foul, Notre Dame continued its run that gave it a double-digit lead.
But once the second half started, Nurse was on the floor to stay. And at the finish, she and her teammates were at their best. Nurse and teammate Azura Stevens sparked a game-closing 22-3 run as No. 1 UConn downed third-ranked Notre Dame 80-71 last Sunday in the Jimmy V Classic at XL Center.
"I'm not surprised she was out of the game when they went on their run," Auriemma said. "She is a really, really, really good defender and she plays harder than anybody on our team and competes harder than anybody on our team. She just has this knack for making a big play or making a play when it needs to be made.
"I love her intensity level, and it has been like that from the first day she walked into the gym. And she is probably having the best year she has ever had since she has been here, and she is going to get better as the season goes along."
Nurse and the Huskies (7-0) will try to keep the momentum from their win over their biggest rival going Friday when they take on former Big East foe DePaul at Wintrust Arena in Chicago in their last game before a 10-day break that will include fall semester final exams. The opening tip is scheduled for shortly after 7 p.m.
The Hamilton, Ontario, native is averaging 15.7 points on 59.4 percent shooting from the floor and 60.6 percent shooting from 3-point land (all career bests). She had 13 points Sunday and hit her first two 3-pointers to set a school record for consecutive 3-pointers made at 12. She was named to the American Athletic Conference weekly honor roll on Monday.
Her third trey, which followed her only miss, started the final burst that erased a 10-point deficit.
"It's like every time Kia shoots a 3 now, everyone expects it to go in," Auriemma said. "I'm not surprised she made a big one."
Nurse also scored on a drive with 3:50 left that gave the Huskies the lead for good and added her final hoop on the following possession when Stevens tipped an offensive rebound to her for a layup. And she limited Notre Dame leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale to 1-for-6 shooting and three points in the fourth quarter.
During the comeback, UConn played without All-Americans Gabby Williams (migraines) and Katie Lou Samuelson (ankle), two players UConn hopes return on Friday. But Nurse helped set a pace that made the younger Huskies comfortable and allowed them to raise their game.
It's what seniors are supposed to do.
"For me as a leader, one of the big things that I took from Morgan Tuck was that if you want to ask somebody to do something for you or you want to get on somebody about something, you have to do it every day yourself," Nurse said. "If I want to ask some of the younger kids to slow down, I have to slow down more often than not.
"I have a better of understanding of what I would do to kind of pull back a little bit. Maybe it's not a feeling that I have to knock in the next shot, maybe I have to find the open pass. Then you go to the next play, you get an open shot and you don't even think about it and you knock it in."
UConn had trailed for a total of 1:21 in its first six games, but was behind for 25:19 Sunday. It was also its biggest second-half comeback since rallying from 17 down to edge DePaul on March 1, 2008.
The current Blue Demons play a similar style to that team of a decade ago. DePaul (6-2) leads the nation in 3-pointers per game (13.6), is third in scoring offense (92.0), 3-point attempts (37.4) and assists per game (22.8), and ranks fifth in assist-turnover ratio (1.69). Almost half of its shots are from 3-point land.
"They have the ability to shoot the three, and they shoot a lot of them," Nurse said. "When you can stretch a defense out that far, threes can keep you in a game or they can take you out of a game. They have the ability to pull out your defense and then attack at the same time so it makes it a tough matchup.
"They also try to dictate pace in terms of their defensive pressure. Sometimes they wreak havoc in moments you wouldn't expect them to with traps in places that you are just not ready for. I think for us it is a matter of maintaining our composure, finding the open man and then getting up the floor in the most quick, calm, intelligent way possible."
UConn made quick work of DePaul a year ago as Nurse scored 19 of her career-high 33 points in a decisive first quarter. The Huskies led by 31 after 10 minutes and coasted to a 91-46 win, their 14th straight over DePaul since 2006.
The games in Chicago have been more competitive. It will also be UConn's first trip to the new Wintrust Arena after playing the Blue Demons on campus at McGrath Arena.
"We have to make sure we go out and manage the game the way that we want it to be played," Auriemma said. "We've been out there when we took care of it easily. We've been out there when we struggled with it. We've taken care of it easily at home like last year but some years not. They are going to play the way they are going to play, and all you can do is not get caught up in the craziness of it."
The game reunites Auriemma -- who will be seeking career win No. 999 at UConn -- with his United States national team assistant and long-time friend Doug Bruno of DePaul. Former UConn graduate assistant coach Jasmine Lister is in her first season as an assistant to Bruno. Auriemma's teams are 58-0 against opponents that have one of his former players or assistant coaches on their staff.