STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Geno Auriemma knows he can rely on UConn’s three returning starters to play well this season.
He’s looking for sophomore Megan Walker to bring her game to that level and help the Huskies make a run at a 12th national championship.
Walker scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds Sunday in an 85-53 rout of Ohio State.
“Megan’s talent, if she gets a motor like Pheesa’s (Napheesa Collier) and goes, she can be incredible,” Auriemma said. “It wasn’t there last year and it’s there more often this year.”
The Huskies “Big Three” also came up big. Katie Lou Samuelson scored 19 points, Crystal Dangerfield had 18 points and Collier chipped in 17 as the Huskies opened the season with a win for the 23rd straight year.
Carly Santoro had 20 points for Ohio State (1-2), which had to replace all five starters and its top six scorers from last season’s Big Ten championship team.
It was clear early the Buckeyes were overmatched in this game.
Walker stole the ball and went the length of the court for a layup to open the scoring and the Huskies never trailed, shooting 52 percent from the floor.
“I knew from right then that Meg was going to have a great day,” Collier said. “You can just tell, especially on the defensive end, when someone is locked in and how focused they are. You could tell right from the beginning that she was locked in and going to have a good game.”
UConn forced three of Ohio State’s 21 turnovers in the first 2½ minutes on a 9-3 run.
Dangerfield’s layup to open the second quarter pushed the Huskies’ lead to 32-12 and a pass from Samuelson to Collier gave the Huskies their first 30-point lead in the second quarter.
Walker, who averaged just six points a game as a freshman, had 13 points by intermission and UConn took a 49-19 lead into the break.
“I came here to be the best,” Walker said. “Coach, he transforms the best high school players into college players. I knew it would be tough. I knew it would be hard. We’re making progress. We’re growing.”
UConn: The Huskies have not lost a regular-season game since falling to Stanford during the second game of the 2014-15 season, before any current player was in the program. That’s a streak of 116 consecutive games.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes’ two losses have both come to Top 25 teams. They dropped their opener at home to No. 22 USF, 71-47. Coach Kevin McGuff said it’s been a good measuring stick for his team.
“Rather than playing some teams that maybe wouldn’t challenge us like these are, we’re getting a good picture of ourselves and the areas we have to get better,” he said.
STATS OF THE DAY
UConn outscored Ohio State 29-3 off turnovers, 29-6 on the fast break and 42-29 in the paint. The Huskies made 11 of their 16 shots in the first quarter, when the game was decided.
UConn showed it again belongs near the top of the poll. The Huskies and Notre Dame likely will still be there when they face off in South Bend on December 2.
UConn: The Huskies have an exhibition game in Hartford on Thursday against Southern Connecticut, then face Vanderbilt on Saturday just over 30 miles south of Storrs in Uncasville at the Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes head to the West Coast for a game Friday against Sacramento State and Sunday at Stanford.