ORLANDO, Fla. -- Katie Lou Samuelson passes up 80-degree weather about as often as she passes up an open 3-point shot.
But the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's junior All-American and resident California girl was content to trade a warm winter night here for a wintry day in New England if it meant not getting on another plane for almost two weeks.
The top-ranked Huskies wrapped up another trip Wednesday night as Samuelson had 19 points, six rebounds, and five assists in a 55-37 American Athletic Conference win over Central Florida before an announced pro-UConn crowd of 6,155 at CFE Arena. They then headed home where winter and the first three-game homestand of the season awaits.
"It was nice being super-warm here, it felt just like Huntington Beach," Samuelson said. "But I'm excited to be home for a couple of weeks. It's felt like we've been on the road all year this season. So it will be nice to be on campus and not worry about missing classes and the other stuff when we're traveling.
"It will give a chance to consistently do what we need to get done practice wise. We'll be able to get into a rhythm and clean up some things that need to get done. It's hard to do that when you're on the road because you're always on a bus or a plane."
The Huskies (23-0 overall, 11-0 AAC) won't wear their road blues again until Feb. 21 when they visit Tulane. Their upcoming homestand starts Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford against AAC newcomer Wichita State, continues Monday at Gampel Pavilion when No. 4 Louisville comes to Storrs, and concludes with a league game against Temple back at the XL Center on Feb. 17.
Not only is it the first time UConn will play three straight games at home this season, the only time it's played two in a row at home was Nov. 17 and 19 against California and Maryland.
"There's nothing you can do about it because it comes with playing," said UConn All-American Napheesa Collier, who recorded a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds Wednesday night. "So we really don't think about it too much. You travel, and you can't use it as an excuse because it's something that everyone does. You get used to it."
Coach Geno Auriemma felt his team looked a little tired in the second half against UCF (16-8, 8-3). The Knights outscored the Huskies 13-2 over the final six minutes to cut the final margin from a high of 29.
While UConn has to play more non-league road games now than in its days of the Big East when it could pay visiting teams (mid-majors) guarantees to play in Connecticut because of the weakness of the AAC, Auriemma is among several who have had concerned about scheduling in the 12-team, spread out league.
For example, the Huskies played at South Florida on Jan. 6. Their next game was against UCF, but it was played at Gampel Pavilion and not here. Would having travel partners -- like the Ivy League or the Pac-12 Conference have -- be part of the solution?
"I don't know what the answer is," Auriemma said. "I think they've always said that because of TV and because of availability of buildings ... But I do know there should be a better way to schedule road games, especially for us and for Temple and for Wichita State and Tulsa. The travel is just, just crazy. It is absolutely crazy. And as much as they try to figure it out, we should play Central Florida and South Florida on the same trip. You should play SMU and Houston on the same trip. You should play Tulsa and Wichita State on the same trip.
"I know that anything that they could do would be better than what it is now. They always say that it can't be done and I don't know why."
Another potential solution could be to split into two six-team divisions. Division A would have UConn, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Temple, UCF, and USF. Division B would have Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, and Wichita State. Teams would play home-and-home against teams in their own division and crossover to play the six non-division schools once apiece to add up to the current 16-game league schedule.
Auriemma said that discussion has been had.
"We actually talked about staying in your own time zone and playing teams in your own time zone twice," Auriemma said. "We'd play the five other teams in the East -- Temple, Cincinnati, East Carolina, UCF, and USF -- twice and the six in the Central once. The only problem is that with the makeup of some of the schools it's unfair that they would have to play us twice. It creates a competitive advantage for some teams. I know that some schools want it, but they're the ones that wouldn't have to play us twice."
With UConn 92-0 against league opponents since 2013-14, no one could blame some other less competitive schools in the AAC for feeling that way.
The last time the Huskies did not get on a plane for a true road game was Jan. 19, 2014, when they took a bus to Rutgers.
"Travel is a lot and it takes something out of you," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "But the thing is, you know what's coming up and you know what's next. So you make sure that you get your schoolwork and everything that you need to do to get ready done. You make sure you take care of your body, eat right, and get rest when you can.
"Yeah, the travel takes a lot out of you but it's going to be nice to be home for awhile."
UConn, which has won a NCAA record 49 consecutive true road games, took a 9-0 lead in the opening 2:27 Wednesday night. A Samuelson three made it 21-4 after one quarter. The lead was 13 when the Huskies closed the first half on a 14-2 run. Samuelson had seven points in the spurt, including a layup off a pass from Gabby Williams right before the buzzer to make it 37-12 at the break.
About the only excitement of the second half involved Williams. The senior All-American was whistled for her first career technical foul in the third quarter, then hit a shot from beyond midcourt as the third-quarter buzzer went off. But the basket was waved off by the officials and the call was confirmed by replay.
Azura Stevens, starting for the injured Crystal Dangerfield, had 12 points. Auriemma said he was hopeful Dangerfield, who also sat out last Sunday's game with Cincinnati as she deals with shin splints in her left leg, will be available Saturday for the Wichita State game. Zakiya Saunders had 13 points for UCF, which was without injured starting guard Aliyah Gregory.
And though it was still 75 degrees here as they headed to the bus to take them to the airport, the Huskies did so with anticipation that there's really no place like home.
"We have no choice," Nurse said. "But I like the warmth, the warm weather, even if it was just for a day."