ALBANY, N.Y. -- Katie Lou Samuelson was coming off one of the best sophomores seasons for any University of Connecticut women's basketball player and set her expectations even higher for her junior year.
But in the second quarter of the second game of the season on Nov. 17, against California at Gampel Pavilion, Samuelson fell awkwardly after collision with the Bears' Mikayla Cowling and eventually limped off the court. She would miss four games with a left foot sprain. In January she would get a black left eye against Texas and injure her left ankle versus Tulsa, which cost her another game, and led her to joke that everything happened on her left side.
As the Huntington Beach, California, native heads into Monday night's NCAA tournament Albany Regional final against South Carolina, she and the top-seeded Huskies are all right.
Samuelson was named to the Associated Press All-America first team for the second consecutive season on Monday. Joining her on the first team were South Carolina senior A'ja Wilson, Mississippi State senior Victoria Vivians, Louisville junior Asia Durr, and Oregon sophomore Sabrina Ionescu. Wilson was the only unanimous selection (160 points). Samuelson received 156 points and was followed by Ionescu (134), Durr (124), and Vivians (123).
"It's really exciting and it makes me feel good that I've had the opportunity to get in that position," Samuelson said.
UConn senior Gabby Williams was chosen to the second team for the second consecutive season while junior forward Napheesa Collier -- a first-team pick a year ago -- was voted on to the third team. Senior guard Kia Nurse also received votes and was an honorable mention pick.
Samuelson is averaging 17.5 points -- shooting 53.2 percent from the floor, 46.8 percent from 3-point land, and 82.9 percent from the foul line, along with career highs of 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.9. She had her season high of 33 points against Duquesne on Dec. 22 and recorded her first career double-double with 18 points and 10 assists in UConn's NCAA first-round win over Saint Francis of Pennsylvania.
"It's been different than what I expected going into my junior year," Samuelson said. "I missed a few games in the beginning but I was able to come back and, I think, contribute in every game. I think I've grown up a lot this year mentally and overall knowing I'm able to fight through any adversity that comes my way or our way and still be able to contribute."
She was named the American Athletic Confrence Player of the Year for the second straight season (having shared the honor with Collier in 2017) and was a unanimous first-team pick. She is a finalist for the Naismith Trophy and the Wade Trophy as the national Player of the Year, and is a finalist for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award as the nation's top shooting guard.
Williams is averaging 10.8 points on 60.5 percent shooting from the floor, 7.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.5 steals heading into Monday night's action. She needs eight rebounds to become the seventh member of UConn's 1,000/1,000 club.
The Sparks, Nevada, native was an all-AAC first-team selection and is a finalist for the Naismith Trophy and for the Cheryl Miller Award as the nation's top small forward. She has played with a left hip issue much of the season and missed UConn's AAC tournament semifinal with Cincinnati after aggravating the injury a day earlier. She had played in 141 consecutive games.
"My season's been up and down and filled with a lot of adversity," Williams said. "Overall I've been able to do what I've needed to do to get us here (to the Elite Eight) and I'm proud of it.
"I can be proud of it even if it's not perfect. I can be proud that I got through stuff even when things weren't going well for me. I do wish I had been more consistent, having the same approach for every practice and every game."
Joining Williams on the second team were Baylor's Kalani Brown, Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell, Iowa's Megan Gustafson, and Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale.
Collier is averaging 15.9 points on 57.8 percent shooting, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocked shots in 35 games. The St. Charles, Missouri, native was an all-AAC first-team choice and is a finalist for the Katrina McClain Award as the nation's top power forward.
"Gabby's had an amazing year. She's really led us and has been one we can always count on," Samuelson said. "Phee, I guess you could say she struggled a little bit in the beginning of the season based on the numbers that she had last year. But she's been playing her best ever the second half of the year and has been another one we can always count on."
Joining Collier on the third team were Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan, UCLA's Jordin Canada, Duke's Lexie Brown, and Louisville's Myisha Hines-Allen.
UConn had five players -- Samuelson, Williams, Collier, Nurse, and Azura Stevens -- named to the WBCA Region 3 team and they are finalists for the 10-player WBCA All-America team, which will be announced this Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. Selection to the WBCA squad is required for induction into the Huskies of Honor program. Samuelson, Williams, and Collier were 2017 picks. Williams' name and No. 15 was placed on the Gampel Pavilion wall last month, with Samuelson and Collier to be similarly honored on their Senior Day in 2019.