Walker, Griffin lead unbeaten UConn women over Seton Hall
Aubrey Griffin took a look around Walsh Gym on the campus of Seton Hall, knowing she would recognize a few names.
“I wanted to see where my mom and my dad went to school,” said Griffin, the talented UConn freshman forward who was playing in the gym for the first time. “I was coming into the same gym that he played in. It was pretty cool to be here.”
Griffin, whose father, Adrian, was a standout player for Seton Hall in the 1990s, had the best game of her young career, scoring 25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, leading the undefeated No. 4 ranked Huskies to a high-paced 92-78 victory over the Pirates on Thursday night.
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma applauded the way Griffin played.
“She made a lot of unbelievable plays,” Auriemma said. “She’s a unique player. She’s different than what we’ve had in a long time. I don’t know if we’ll get 25 and 12 every night, but this is what we liked in her.”
Griffin, who came off the bench Thursday, had a previous high of nine points and eight rebounds against Temple on Nov. 17.
“I’m at fault, because I couldn’t keep the daughter of one of the best Seton Hall players ever here,” Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella said. “I started recruiting Aubrey when she was in ninth grade. She had a tremendous game tonight.”
So did junior forward Megan Walker, who scored a game- and season-high 29 points to pace the Huskies, now 7-0.
“I look at tonight and say to her that this is what could be every night,” Auriemma said. “I said that this is how you score a lot of points, getting offensive rebounds. She has played like an All-American since the season started.”
Walker came into the game averaging 20.3 points. She said she had to pick up the slack since senior Crystal Dangerfield sat out her second straight game with back spasms. She intends to be back in the Huskies’ lineup when they face rival Notre Dame on Sunday.
“Having Crystal out, everything kind of just falls on my shoulders,” Walker said. “I was the next guy up.”
“She’s going to be itching to go,” Auriemma said of Dangerfield. “She wants to play real bad. I liked what happened in her absence.”
The Huskies trailed 28-19 after a fast-paced first quarter. They bounced back to beat the Pirates (5-4) for the 31st straight time, dating to 1995.
UConn also got 12 points from Christyn Williams and 10 from Molly Bent.
Mya Jackson had 21 and Desiree Elmore 16 for the Pirates. Shadeen Samuels added 14.
Elmore scored 10 points and Seton Hall shot 59%, including five 3-pointers, in the first quarter.
“That’s what they tried to do,” Auriemma said. “They wanted to get us winded a little by playing that way. It didn’t surprise me how quickly they were scoring. When they shoot the ball well, they’re a very good team. They got a lot of confidence.
Walker had 10 points in the second quarter as the Huskies took a 47-43 lead at the break. She added five points early in the third period to help Connecticut make it 61-51.
Walker’s layup capped a 7-0 run to begin the fourth quarter for a 77-64 lead.
Since 1994, UConn has a 286-25 record against nonconference opponents. The Huskies will face the Pirates once again next season when UConn returns to the Big East.
Auriemma said that he liked returning to Walsh Gym.
“I have good memories of this gym,” Auriemma said. “I love this building. I love this atmosphere.”
Auriemma said that the first time he was in Walsh Gym was in 1983, when he was an assistant coach at Virginia and recruited Tammy Hammond of Irvington, New Jersey. Hammond’s teammate and close friend was Dana Owens, who went on to become music and film star Queen Latifah.
“When we won the national championship in 1995, she sent me some Dom Perignon,” Auriemma said of Latifah.
UConn faces Notre Dame at home on Saturday.
Seton Hall is at Iona on Saturday.