AUSTIN (AP) — The evidence of the dogfight top-ranked UConn found itself in was the purplish bruise that had halfway closed Katie Lou Samuelson’s left eye.
The shiner was courtesy of a tough Texas elbow shortly after tipoff that served notice that unlike most of this season, the Huskies weren’t going to get anything easy from the No. 9 Longhorns.
Samuelson shook off the early pop to the face to score 19 points, and Crystal Dangerfield made two free throws with 8 seconds left as the Huskies survived an upset bit to earn a 75-71 win Monday night and stay unbeaten.
UConn (16-0) was challenged like it seldom has been this season and trailed early in the fourth quarter before scrapping back for the win. Azura Stevens scored eight of her 16 points in the fourth quarter.
“I got this right within the first few minutes,” Samuelson said of her swollen eye . “We knew it was going to be a tough game, really physical.”
UConn’s 102nd consecutive regular-season victory was in question when Samuelson missed two free throws with 15 seconds left. Dangerfield put the game away from the line seconds later. UConn had made all 15 free throws before Samuelson’s surprising miss. After the victory, she joked that her swollen eye made it hard to see the basket.
“I’m just going to blame it on that,” Samuelson said.
Dangerfield saw the rim perfectly, calmly swishing both of her shots. Earlier, she had made a key assist on a basket by Stevens.
“I’ve done it so many times (in practice),” Dangerfield said. “I remembered what it felt like and saw it through the basket.”
Jatarie White scored 18 points for Texas (14-3). Brooke McCarty and Ariel Atkins each scored 14 for the Longhorns.
The Longhorns squandered late chances when Atkins missed two free throws that would have given the Longhorns the lead with 2:42 left, and Lashann Higgs missed an open 5-footer that would have pulled Texas within one in the final minute.
“We talked before we went out on the floor today about this was an opportunity to measure and see who we are and who we can be,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “As a coach, you hope that this group of girls decides that this is who they are all the time. And we have a really good thing if that’s what they decide.
UConn: The Huskies used only six players and struggled to handle both Texas’ strength and size near the basket and the speed in the backcourt. UConn had won its previous eight games by an average of 46 points but got outrebounded 36-30 and was often chasing the ball in transition.
“We found out about how much tougher we have to be,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “We aren’t going to get a lot bigger as the season goes on. This is who we’ve got.”
Texas: The upset was there for the taking and the Longhorns will rue letting this one get away. Texas threatened to blow the game open twice in the first half, only to watch UConn sneak back for the lead at halftime. Texas saw UConn ended the first three quarters on runs of 9-2 in the first, 10-1 in the second and 16-5 in the third.
The Texas crowd of 11,877 was the biggest at the Frank Erwin Center in more than a decade. The school gave out thousands of free T-shirts and balloons to charge up the atmosphere as the Longhorns sought their first win over a No. 1 opponent since beating Tennessee in Austin in 2004.
But each time Texas made a run, UConn reeled the Longhorns back in. Texas fell to 5-24 all-time against No. 1 opponents.
“The way Texas shot the ball early on, got the crowd going, that’s what supposed to happen. I wish we had 15 of these, two of these a week,” Auriemma said.
Texas got the crowd going with four 3-pointers in the first quarter from Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty, but made just one more the rest of the game. Auriemma said that was because of holes in his defense.
“They were having so much success putting the ball on the floor and going to basket. They were going to get 3s the old-fashioned way,” Auriemma said.
UConn hosts Tulsa on Thursday in a return to the AAC.
Texas plays at Texas Tech on Saturday in the Big 12.
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