HARTFORD, Conn. -- A moment of silence was held prior to the start of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's game with Temple Sunday to remember the victims of last Wednesday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
UConn All-American Gabby Williams was among those with her head bowed paying tribute. The tragedy hit home for the Sparks, Nevada, native as on Oct. 21, 2013, during her senior year at Reed High, a school shooting at Sparks Middle School left two people, including the 12-year-old perpetrator, dead and two others injured.
"It did happen minutes from my house, obviously not to the same extent, but it is just kind of like enough is enough, and when is something going to change," Williams said following the top-ranked Huskies' 106-45 win. "It hits home because I'm going to have kids who go to school one day and I have little siblings in high school so it definitely hits home."
Williams said she has followed the coverage of the tragedy, including the speech of 17-year-old Emma Gonzalez, a senior at the high school who addressed a gun control rally on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale.
Her emotional pleas also hit home.
"It's admiration, it's respect, it's motivating, and it's definitely a huge glimpse of hope," Williams said. "I think I watched that speech like four different times. I don't know her, but I was proud of her.
"Of course, something can get done," Williams added. "Something can always get done. It starts with the people. We have to vote. We have to call our representatives. We have to let them know how we feel about it. I think the Florida students speaking out is a great start."
UConn All-American Katie Lou Samuelson was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week Monday for the second time this season.
The junior guard averaged 26.5 points on 67.9 percent shooting from the floor, 57.1 shooting from 3-point land, and 100.0 percent shooting from the foul line, along with 3.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in wins over No. 4 Louisville and Temple.
Against the Cardinals a week ago, she played 40 minutes and had 26 points -- including the 1,500th of her career -- in a 69-58 win at Gampel Pavilion. In the 106-45 league win over the Owls at the XL Center Sunday, she had 27 points and five assists in 26 minutes -- sitting out the fourth quarter -- and was 9-for-11 from the floor.
The Huntington Beach, California, native ranks sixth in the AAC in scoring (18.4), ninth in assists (3.8), and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.0) while grabbing a career best 4.2 rebounds. She also ranks in the top 10 in the league in field-goal percentage (seventh, 54.5), 3-point percentage (first in the league and nationally, 48.8), and free-throw percentage (fifth, 81.2). The only other player to be in the top 10 off all three shooting categories is her teammate Kia Nurse.
Named to the weekly honor rill were Central Florida's s Zakiya Saunders, Houston's Angela Harris, Memphis' Brea Elmore, South Florida's Maria Jespersen, and Wichita State's Rangie Bessard. Temple guard Emani Mayo was chosen the AAC Freshman of the Week. After scoring 15 points in a loss at Wichita State Wednesday, she played the entire 40 minutes and had 17 points, including five 3-pointers, in an impressive performance against UConn.
The Huskies can clinch a share of the AAC regular season title with a win at Tulane Wednesday night (SNY, 8 p.m.).
STILL THE 1
UConn maintained its spot as the unanimous No. 1 team in the Associated Poll Mondayfor the 16th consecutive week.
The Huskies (26-0) received 32 first-place votes. Mississippi State (28-0), the nation's only other unbeaten team, was second as the Bulldogs received 29 second-place votes and three third-place votes.
The top six remained the same from a week ago as UConn and Mississippi State were followed by Baylor (25-1), Louisville (27-2), Notre Dame (25-2), and Texas (22-4). The Longhorns entertain the Bears at the Erwin Center Monday. South Carolina (22-5) and Oregon (24-4) moved up one spot to seventh and eighth respectively, while Florida State (22-4) jumped three spots to ninth while UCLA (21-5) dropped three places to 10th. The Bruins visit the Ducks in Eugene Monday night.
LSU (18-7) was the only newcomer to the top 25, checking in at No. 24 as Michigan dropped out. USF (22-5) moved up four spots to No. 18 following a home win over SMU and an overtime victory over UCF in Orlando.
PRACTICE TO MAKE PERFECT
At UConn's practice Saturday, coach Geno Auriemma was asked who among his second unit had made the most progress.
"Do you know Colins on our practice squad?" Auriemma said. "Over the last four years, he has gotten really, really good. He got fouled Friday and he made three free throws. I don't think he made three free throws the first two months of his freshman year. So I'd say of all the guys not in the top seven, he is probably the most improved."
Colins is East Hartford, Connecticut, native Colins Nwafor, and it's not like he came to UConn without some credentials. As a senior at East Hartford High four years ago, he was named to the Central Connecticut Conference North all-star team.
While all the male practice players were honored in a pregame ceremony Sunday and received gifts, Auriemma presented Nwafor a framed jersey (No. 18) for being a four-year practice player similar to the one Williams and Nurse will receive a week from today on their Senior Night.
"He's been amazing," Auriemma said. "But every year we give them something to commemorate their time with us. They get a lot done for us, and we try to treat them as if they are on the team.
"I'll never forget when a couple of them came down to New Orleans for the Final Four, and another year a bunch of them got in a van and drove to Indianapolis for the Final Four. If we said we're having practice at 5 tomorrow morning, there's a better chance that more practice players would show up than guys on my team. That' how dedicated that group is. They are really, really a special group. Generally speaking, we get great, great kids, and you can't recreate what they do. It's just special.
"You ask our players, 'You guys win all the time, how do you stay motivated?' They will tell you that there isn't a day in practice that we don't lose. I don't mean lose a drill. I mean lose the day. It's all because of the way those guys treat it. They're serious about it. They know they're there to help the kids."
WHEN I'M 64
Auriemma's teams improved to 64-0 against teams that have one of his former players or assistant coaches on their staff. That includes 36-0 against head coaches after Temple's Tonya Cardoza fell to 0-11 on Sunday. Cincinnati's Jamelle Elliott is 0-14, while Jennifer Rizzotti was 0-9 while at Hartford and Charlene Curtis 0-2 while at Wake Forest.
What will it take to break that streak?
"I don't know. I mean, it's going to take a lot," Cardoza said. "Maybe the flu? If everyone gets sick maybe that might do it. Me, Jen, Jamelle, who else is out there? I don't know any of us are close to doing it."
Ezi Magbegor, a 6-foot-4 forward from Melbourne, Australia, and a star of Australia's youth national teams, is expected to start an official recruiting this Sunday and attend the Senior Night game with USF ... UConn will fly to New Orleans Tuesday for Wednesday's game at Tulane, then head to Dallas Thursday ahead of Saturday's game at SMU. While in Texas, Auriemma will do one of his podcasts with Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban.