GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Gabby Williams came from nowhere to the baseline and did a 2012 United States Olympic Trials-like high jump to save the ball to Kia Nurse. Then Nurse fired a pass over to an open Katie Lou Samuelson behind the arc.
With the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's bench already on its feet with the save and now jumping up and down with arms raised, Samuelson found nothing but net on the 3 and the roar from the sideline was heard throughout Minges Coliseum.
"I guess there was a lot of pressure to make it actually, now that I think about it," Samuelson said with a smile. "It would have been pretty disappointing if I hadn't made it after how good that save Gabby made was."
The play gave the Huskies' a 37-point lead, yet it was the type of play followers of UConn have seen it make for years.
Samuelson finished with 19 points, a career-high matching nine assists, five rebounds, and three steals while Williams added 18 points on 8-for-9 shooting from the floor and seven rebounds as No. 1 UConn stayed perfect on the season and in American Athletic Conference play with a 96-35 rout of East Carolina before an announced crowd of 1,823 on Wednesday.
"I want people to see that we beat people because we make those hustle plays and not just because of talent," said Williams, who has made 18-of-19 shots her last two games. "That's a play that doesn't take any kind of talent to make. It's just hustle."
It also has a trickle-down effect.
With two minutes left, freshman Mikayla Coombs made a steal and could have gone in for the easy layup. Instead she gave the ball up to classmate Lexi Gordon, who netted the first points of her career. Then on the next possession, Coombs converted her first 3-pointer at UConn off a pass from Batouly Camara.
"That's a trademark of a lot of really good teams and it's been a trademark of our best teams over the years," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We are unselfish. We make plays for each other. We make some hustle plays. We get a sense of enjoyment out of making the extra pass. Those examples are just part of it, whether it's Gabby hustling when the game is decided, or Mikayla giving the ball up, Batouly kicking it out instead of shooting it ... Those are things we've come to expect from our team and it's a big reason some of the kids we do get come to Connecticut."
The Huskies (12-0 overall, 2-0 AAC) placed five players in double figures with Napheesa Collier adding 14 points, and Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker each scoring 10 points. Dangerfield also had six assists with no turnovers. Azura Stevens, playing a bit over an hour away from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, had eight points, matched her season high of 16 rebounds and blocked five shots.
UConn had 31 assists on 40 baskets with just seven turnovers.
"We were excited to play today and you could feel it within the team," Samuelson said. "We had a tough practice yesterday but it was a really good practice. You could sense that everyone wanted to have a good, full game, because we've felt like we haven't had that 40-minute game."
Tipoff was moved up by five hours due to snow and a wintry mix that hit the area Wednesday evening. And considering East Carolina (8-7, 0-2) struggled against the weakest non-conference schedule of the 12-team AAC and in its AAC opener against Cincinnati, it would have been easy for the Huskies to not put forth their best effort against the overmatched Pirates.
Instead, they pleased their often hard-to-please coach.
"If you're around this program, or on the inside, you'd know that we needed to have a good game today," Williams said. "There was a lot of pressure on us to not relax and not play it just like we're more talented."
A strong drive by Williams opened the scoring, but when freshman Ariyana Williams hit a trey in the game's first minute, East Carolina had a 3-2 edge.
Why is that significant? In nine meetings between the Pirates and Huskies, it marked the third time East Carolina had a lead. The Pirates -- while they increased their lead time to 43 seconds out of 360 minutes -- have never had a lead and possession against UConn, though, and that continued as Samuelson hit a jumper to put UConn ahead to stay.
Once UConn got started, there was no looking back as far as the outcome. Williams had baskets to start and end a 12-0 run that made it 18-5. Samuelson had five points in a spurt of nine in a row and a Williams hoop made it 33-11 in the first minute of the second quarter.
The Huskies then went over seven minutes without a field goal but still held a 47-21 advantage at the break. A 21-2 burst in the opening 5:46 of the third quarter sent some heading to the exits to beat the snow.
"We always get pretty good shots but sometimes they don't always go in," Auriemma said. "I thought the ball movement and the people movement was better in the third quarter. We scored 47 points in the first half and our starting guards (Dangerfield/Kia Nurse) had like five. We knew it would get better but we needed more activity on offense end."
The 61-point loss for East Carolina was one-point off the school record. Duke beat the Pirates by 62, 108-46, on Nov. 22, 2002, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The schools have not met since. The good news for East Carolina is it will meet UConn just once during the regular season and just once in Connecticut during the 2018-19 regular season.
Alex Frazier and Destiny Campbell had eight points each for the Pirates. Ariyana Williams, their leading scorer coming in, didn't score again after making that first three.
"It was a really tough game, not a lot of positives to take away," East Carolina coach Heather Macy said. "UConn dominated every facet of the game."
The Huskies were scheduled to leave North Carolina Wednesday night to fly to Florida. On deck is a showdown with AAC rival South Florida Saturday at the Sun Dome in Tampa (SNY, 7 p.m.).