HARTFORD, Conn. — UConn coach Geno Auriemma was happy to see Gabby Williams back to her All-American form Sunday.
The Huskies senior forward scored 20 points, hit all 10 of her shots, dished out seven assists and had four steals as UConn routed Memphis 97-49 in the conference opener for both teams.
Kia Nurse had 16 points and Napheesa Collier added 14 for the Huskies (11-0) who have never lost in 83 American Athletic Conference games, winning every regular season and conference tournament title.
Six players scored in double figures and UConn coach Geno Auriemma said it was a perfect opportunity to help build the confidence of Williams, who had scored a total of 28 points over her previous four games.
“Hopefully, we can put together two or three weeks of this,” he said. “We got Gabby going in a good direction.”
Brea Elmore had 20 points for Memphis (5-9), which came into the game on a four-game winning streak, but falls to 0-8 all-time against the Huskies. Jasmine James chipped in with 13 points for the Tigers.
Williams hit a layup to open the game and the Huskies never trailed. Memphis shot 50 percent from the floor in the first quarter (6 of 12), but was behind 29-15 after UConn hit 14 of its 21 shots.
Elmore tried to keep the Tigers close. She scored 15 points in the first half. But Williams and Collier had 12 points each and the Huskies led 54-29 at the break, with a 30-point advantage in the lane.
A 3-pointer by Kia Nurse from the left baseline gave the Huskies their first 20-point lead at 38-18. Another gave the Huskies their first 30-point lead at 67-36 in the third quarter.
UConn scored 24 points off 18 Memphis turnovers and outscored the Tigers 62-18 in the paint.
“A lot of it was offensive rebounding, we had a lot in transition,” Williams said. “That’s something that we’ve been emphasizing because we haven’t been looking for it as much. So, I’m glad we got some penetration today.”
Memphis: The loss snaps a four-game winning streak for the Tigers, who opened the year 1-8. Memphis falls to 0-3 against ranked teams, with losses to Ohio State and DePaul.
UConn: The 71st straight regular-season conference win moves the Huskies into third place on the all-time list, passing Stanford, which won 70 straight Pac-12 games between January, 2009 and September, 2013. … The win also was the Huskies 70th straight at home, giving them the third longest winning streak in Division I history, behind an 82 game streak from Stanford and their own 99 game home winning streak, which ran between 2007-2012.
Auriemma acknowledged that there remains a large gap between his program and the rest of the league, but said the other teams are getting better. Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin said she believes there are a couple of programs that can give UConn a game.
“I think at this point in time it’s either Temple or USF right now that are really going to challenge them,” she said. “I think UConn probably has a different mindset when they go against those two teams, they know they are capable of playing them close. Although Tulane has probably played them the closest of anybody. How long is it going to take? I don’t know.”
UConn freshman Andra Espinoza-Hunter was not with the team, an absence that coincides with the end of her first academic semester. Auriemma said she went home to deal with some personal issues. “Until she can handle those things, it’s going to be hard for her to play,” Auriemma said. “We might have more of an update in a couple of days.”
Memphis: The Tigers have five days off before a home game next Saturday against East Carolina.
UConn: The Huskies will also face ECU in their next game, which will come Wednesday on the road.