COLUMBIA, S.C. -- There are times that Kia Nurse makes 3-point shots look like layups.
But how the senior guard looks on layups has UConn coach Geno Auriemma wanting to pull some of his hair out.
"Kia explodes to the basket but the ball comes off her hand like at her palm," Auriemma said Thursday night. "I'm like, 'You're on the (Canadian) Olympic team and that's how you shoot layups?' "
Nurse finished with 23 points Thursday night in the top-ranked Huskies' 83-58 rout of No. 7 South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena, leaving her two short of 1,500 for her career. She could have reached that milestone but missed a layup on a scoop in the first quarter. Then in the third quarter, Crystal Dangerfield and Katie Lou Samuelson missed layups within a minute of each other. A short time later, Nurse finished a 2-on-1 with Gabby Williams though her layup hung on the rim and appeared ready to fall off before finding the net.
Auriemma raised his hands to the heavens as to say thank you.
"He was happy. I was happy, too," Nurse said with a smile. "I gave him a thumbs-up. We were proud of each other."
There was a lot to be proud of as Nurse strengthened her growing All-American candidacy. She also grabbed four rebounds and her two assists gave her 400 for her career. She came out of the game for the first and only time with 1:10 remaining. The nation's leading 3-point shooter was 5-for-10 from behind the arc and was so wide open at times that even she was surprised.
"They can pick you apart when you're not paying attention," South Carolina forward A'ja Wilson said.
Why that was the leading 3-point shooter in the country is another question.
"I'm fortunate to be on a team surrounded by really good players," Nurse said. "When you have to pick your poison and leave someone open and that someone is me, I'll go for it."
It was a good night to be a UConn senior as Nurse's classmate, Williams, had 14 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists. Williams was asked if she would help Nurse with her layups.
"If she teaches me how to shoot a 3," Williams replied.
"I'm down for that," Nurse said. "If Gabby wants to help me out, I'll certainly help her."
SWEET 16 REVEALED
UConn has been on top of the Associated Press poll all season and remained No. 1 as the NCAA women's basketball committee announced its second top-16 reveal Thursdaynight.
The committee rankings do not count Thursday's games. But if the season ended Wednesday, UConn (21-0) would be the overall No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament and be placed in the Albany (New York) Regional. Of course, the Huskies -- if they advance to the Sweet 16 -- would love to play at a regional site they and their fans could drive to. UConn's road to the 2015 national championship took it to Albany where it defeated Texas and Dayton to get to the Final Four.
"I really don't follow it," Auriemma said. "I figure all of that will take care of itself. Whatever happens, happens. We'll worry about that when the time comes."
Mississippi State, the nation's only other unbeaten, was seeded No. 2 overall and would be atop the Kansas City Regional. Louisville was third overall and would play in the Lexington (Kentucky) Regional. Notre Dame would be the final regional No. 1 and would be placed in Spokane (Washington).
The No. 2 regional seeds would be Oregon, Baylor, South Carolina, and Florida State. The No. 3 regional seeds would be Texas, UCLA, Tennessee, and Georgia. The No. 4 regional seeds would be Maryland, Missouri, Michigan, and Texas A&M. The top four seeds in each regional host first- and second-round tournament games.
Of course, the committee already has some adjusting to do as South Carolina, Florida State, Georgia, Missouri, Michigan, and Texas A&M lost Thursday night.
MORE TOP 10 LISTS
UConn redshirt junior Azura Stevens is one of 10 candidates for the inaugural 2018 Lisa Leslie Award, which honors the nation's top center, the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and WBCA announced Friday.
The Raleigh, North Carolina, native is averaging 14.2 points on 59.8 percent shooting from the floor, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.9 blocked shots in 21 games with five starts.
The other finalists are Monique Billings (UCLA), Kalani Brown (Baylor), Marie Gulich (Oregon State), Megan Gustafson (Iowa), Kaylee Jensen (Oklahoma State), Teaira McCowan (Mississippi State), Mercedes Russell (Tennessee), Hallie Thome (Michigan), and A'ja Wilson (South Carolina).
On Thursday, UConn junior Napheesa Collier was announced as one of 10 candidates for the inaugural 2018 Katrina McClain Award, which honors the nation's top power forward.
A resident of St. Charles, Missouri, Collier is averaging 15.0 points on 55.8 percent shooting from the floor, 7.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists with a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ration, 2.0 blocked shots, and 1.8 steals. She was a consensus first-team All-American a season ago.
Other finalists are Bella Alarie (Princeton), Myisha Hines-Allen (Louisville), Kristine Anigwe (California), Lauren Cox (Baylor), Ruthy Hebard (Oregon), Maria Jespersen (South Florida), Stephanie Mavunga (Ohio State), Caliya Robinson (Georgia), and Camille Zimmerman (Columbia).
The Huskies have five players up for national postseason awards with Williams (Cheryl Miller Award, top small forward), Samuelson (Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, top shooting guard), and Nurse (Nancy Lieberman Award, top point guard) joining Collier and Stevens.
The winners will be announced during the NCAA Final Four semifinals on March 30.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Karlie Samuelson always worked with her younger sister, Katie Lou, on her game growing up. Now the 2017 Stanford graduate will get paid to coach as she has been hired as an assistant at NAIA Vanguard University as she pursues her Masters Degree in Coaching and Athletic Administration from Concordia University in Irvine. Vanguard is coached by Samuelson's AAU coach, Russ Davis.
"She's a great coach for me at least," Katie Lou Samuelson said. "She's definitely going to do a great job, and hopefully in the future will get more opportunities."
Karlie Samuelson was an Associated Press honorable mention All-America last year as she helped Stanford reach the NCAA Final Four. She signed a training camp deal with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks as an undrafted free agent and though she went through camp with an injured ankle first suffered in the Final Four semifinals against South Carolina, she was among the Sparks' final cuts.
She spent part of the winter playing overseas in Italy. On Thursday, the Sparks announced she had signed a training camp contract for 2018. Also Thursday, Great Britain Basketball announced that Samuelson was on its 16-player roster as it hopes to qualify for the 2019 FIBA EuroBasket tournament. She has dual citizenship.
"It's awesome and I'm so glad that Karlie is getting that opportunity," Katie Lou Samuelson said. "She's one of the smartest players around. I know that she wants to keep playing for awhile and then get more into coaching. It's just great she is getting this chance."
Auriemma and Nurse did a video for ESPN singing "Fly Eagles Fly" ahead of Super Bowl LII between Philadelphia and the New England Patriots. Auriemma is a long-time Eagles fan while Nurse is the niece of Donovan McNabb, who was the quarterback for the Eagles against the Patriots in the Super Bowl 13 years ago ... UConn is 4-5 when playing the reigning national champion including 1-1 on the road ... South Carolina is 0-15 against the No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll including three losses to UConn the last three seasons. The Gamecocks were No. 1 when they were routed by second-ranked UConn 87-62 at Gampel Pavilion in 2015 ... The Huskies return to American Athletic Conference action Sunday when they face coach Jamelle Elliott and Cincinnati at the XL Center in Hartford (SNY, 1 p.m.