HARTFORD, Conn. -- When Azura Stevens opted to transfer and join the University of Connecticut women's basketball team 18 months ago, it wasn't like the Huskies were adding another top high school star.
Stevens had already made her name as one of the top players in the country, a two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection and an honorable mention All-American.
In her first outing with UConn on Wednesday, a Huskies' uniform looked like a perfect fit. Stevens came off the bench and had 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and four blocked shots in 16 minutes as UConn coasted to an 82-37 exhibition win over Division II Fort Hays State before a crowd of 4,651 at the XL Center.
"I was really excited," Stevens said. "It just felt great to play again. It was a long year sitting out and I enjoyed the aspect of watching the team and seeing how much they were having. To go out and play with them was even more special."
Stevens was 7-for-14 shooting from the floor though she did miss all four of her attempts from 3-point land. Four of her rebounds were on the offensive end and the 6-foot-6 wing blocked four shots.
Though she had 83 rejections in her two years (58 games) at Duke, that part of her game has not shown up in UConn's workouts.
"Four blocks? That's more than she had all preseason," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Don't go, 'Oh, he's exaggerating again.' No. It's true. We have guys on the sidelines visiting and I told them to keep track. Today was her best day by far. She looked good and she'll look better on Sunday."
Kia Nurse paced the Huskies scoring 14 of her game-high 19 points in the second half. Napheesa Collier had 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists, four blocked shots, and three steals. Katie Lou Samuelson chipped in 11 points while Gabby Williams had eight points, nine rebounds, and four blocked shots.
Crystal Dangerfield and not Stevens joined the four returning starters in the first five and the sophomore guard finished with eight points and seven assists in 23 minutes. Starting Dangerfield, Auriemma explained, keeps the returning starters -- three of whom were All-Americans -- in the spots they thrived in a season ago.
"We tried it in Italy and it was uncomfortable," Auriemma said. "That's why sliding Crystal in there is so easy so you don't change the other four from where they're comfortable being. Then when Azura comes in the game that changes the dynamic. People are moved around and that's not a bad thing. We've made some changes offensively that have made us more comfortable. By the end of the season it's going to look really, really good. Just in the beginning it won't be that easy."
The outing was Stevens' first game action since Duke lost to Notre Dame in the 2016 ACC tournament. She also started all 25 games she played for the Blue Devils as a sophomore and 26 of 33 as a freshman.
She entered after Samuelson turned an ankle on an offensive rebound midway through the first quarter and went to the locker room to get it re-taped.
"It doesn't matter who starts the game but it's what you bring once you get into the game," Stevens said. "You can't get caught up in that and it's not an issue for me. I played 40 minutes a game at Duke for two years and I still wasn't happy there. Just being able to play here is fun whether I start or not.
"At the beginning, I was trying to watch what we were doing on screens, what was going on in the game, and who was getting shots early on. I was focused on what was going on and making sure that when I went in I was matching the intensity of my teammates."
UConn never trailed as Collier scored the first two baskets. After Kacey Kennett's second 3-pointer brought Fort Hays State within 13-6, the Huskies broke it open with 19 unanswered points.
Stevens got it started with her first basket and Samuelson followed with a pair of hoops. Collier, Nurse, and Samuelson then scored before Dangerfield's trey ended the first-quarter scoring. Two Stevens baskets to open the second made it 32-6.
It was 44-16 at halftime and the Huskies' biggest lead was 47.
UConn had advantages of 26-2 in points off of turnovers and 17-2 in fast-break points with some of its damage following Stevens' blocks.
"She was just a force back there," Samuelson said. "She really stepped up today and showed us that she is going to be there for us. We can have that trust with her, just like we had my freshman year when Stewie (Breanna Stewart) was there."
Fellow transfer Batouly Camara did not play due to a knee injury. But the Huskies' four freshmen got their chance in front of the hometown crowd.
Megan Walker had two points, two rebounds, and two assists in 13 minutes. Lexi Gordon had a basket in her five minutes. Mikayla Coombs had two rebounds in seven minutes. Andra Espinoza-Hunter had a rebound, assist, and steal in 14 minutes. They seemed more at ease in the second half than the first.
"They were just playing basketball and that's all Coach asks us to do," Stevens said. "Play hard and everything else will work itself out."
UConn will play its second and final exhibition game Sunday against reigning Division II national champion Ashland (Ohio) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Gampel Pavilion. The regular season opener is Nov. 12 versus Stanford at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.