COLUMBUS, Ohio - If one regular season game is an indicator, there's going to be a new Sixth Man Award winner in the American Athletic Conference come March.
UConn forward Gabby Williams, who shared the honor with Tulsa's Ashley Clark last season, joined the four Huskies who also started the 2015 national championship game for the opening tip of the Huskies' regular season opener against Ohio State Monday.
And the new kid showed that she belongs.
Williams had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while helping set a tone for a dominant defensive performance in her first regular season start Monday as No. 1 UConn pounded seventh-ranked Ohio State 100-56 at Value City Arena.
"It's honestly not much different because either way I'm trying to bring energy," Williams said. "No matter when you're playing you have to have the right mindset."
That mindset was being aggressive. The Sparks, Nevada, native had two of her four steals in the first 90 seconds and chipped in four assists as the Huskies coasted to their 20th straight opening day win.
"She was all over the place," said UConn All-American Breanna Stewart, who had a game high 24 points as the entire starting lineup scored in double figures. "She had a few steals, a layup. She was active."
"Gabby knows that she can make plays," added fellow All-American Moriah Jefferson, who finished with 21 points. "She's out there just playing the game instead of thinking about it. It's great playing with her. We're there on top and getting steals and tips, and it really helps our transition game."
The 5-foot-11 Williams made the transition from McDonald's High School All-American guard to a forward playing mostly in the lane a year ago. As she expands her game back out towards the perimeter as a sophomore, she's a little bit of everything instead of being held to one spot.
"I just let her do what she wants to do and we go from there," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's never been, 'OK, this is what someone in your position does.' It's always, 'This is where you're going to play and do what you want with that.' That's what she's done. She's taken it and run with it. She's inventing her own position in a lot of ways. With Gabby, there's, 'No, you can't do that.' It's about showing us what you can do.
"Remember, Gabby didn't play basketball much her junior and senior years of high school because of her knee. Then she came to UConn without the benefit of working on her game. Last year she was trying to get better. Now that she's had a summer to work on it you see the results. If you're a good basketball player, you're a good basketball player. She's a real good player. There are things that she can't do. But there are things she does well. We try to keep her going in that direction."
Williams was 5-for-9 shooting from the floor. Nine of her 11 rebounds were on the defensive end. She did her damage in just 22 minutes.
"I always thought Gabby had the ability to guard different people," Auriemma said. "We thought tonight that Gabby could guard their center, their wings, and their guards. Because she can. Every time she had a chance, she made a play. I don't think, until you play against her, that you realize how quick she is. She's only going to get better."
The more she shows she can do - she showed marked improvement on her jump shot in the exhibition games - the more opportunities she will receive.
Her guard skills showed up a year ago in that, though she was a freshman playing a different role, she still finished with more assists and turnovers. She had just one turnover Monday to go with her four assists.
And she could and would shoot the 3-pointer back in her days at Reed High.
"It's mostly just getting my confidence back," Williams said. "Playing forward, it was about getting repetitions. I'm hitting mid-range shots now and hopefully that will lead to 3-pointers. It's by being confident. I was OK (shooting threes) way back when years ago."
And about that Sixth Man Award? Clark was in the starting lineup for Tulsa in its season opening loss to Kansas State, which visits the Huskies at the XL Center in Hartford next Monday.