HARTFORD — One piece of unwanted history was hanging over the head of the top-ranked UConn women’s basketball team heading into Sunday’s matinee against No. 15 Maryland.

In the previous 20 seasons, the Huskies never began a season by being outrebounded in its first two games. Yet, UConn was on the wrong end of the final rebounding tallies in victories over Stanford and California. The extra rebounding drills the Huskies did in the last couple of practice paid immediate dividends.

Facing a Terrapins’ program that perennially is among the top rebounding teams in the country, UConn pulled down the the most rebounds it has had in a game in more than 35 months en route to a 97-72 victory before a crowd of 10,126 at the XL Center.

Azurá Stevens, starting for the injured Katie Lou Samuelson, had 12 of UConn’s 57 rebounds — the most for the Huskies since they pulled down 58 against Temple on Jan. 14, 2015.

“Building those habits that when we are shooting in practice and nobody is guarding us we should be crashing, because in a game it would just be natural instincts,” said Stevens, who also scored 18 points. “We have been trying to focus on that, crashing the boards.”

This was the first game the Huskies played without Samuelson, the team’s best 3-point shooter. The good news is that x-rays showed no fractures, but UConn coach Geno Auriemma said she would not play on the upcoming three-game road trip. That includes Tuesday’s game at UCLA, located only about an hour from Samuelson’s hometown of Huntington Beach, California.

“I never believe anything the doctors say because I always assume the worst, so if they say it is going to be a week to two weeks, I go, ‘it is going to be a month,’” Auriemma said. “I am a pessimist. I want to be happily surprised when she comes back earlier. They are saying now it could be two weeks, could be less, could be more, but I just know she is not playing this week and who knows. I am not counting on her today and the next three games for sure.

“No fractures or anything like that, there’s a lot of swelling but the x-rays looks good.”

Kia Nurse picked up the slack in the 3-pointer department hitting four in the first quarter as the Huskies raced out to a 32-11 lead. Nurse led UConn (3-0) with 21 points.

Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier also had double-doubles. Williams finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds to go with five steals, but she also had 10 turnovers. Collier had 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Freshman Megan Walker contributed 12 points and seven rebounds as UConn outrebounded Maryland 57-35.

“I know that is an area that was a concern for me going into season when you talk about losing Brionna Jones (drafted in the first round by the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun),” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “It was something we spent a lot of time with. It is not surprising just given the size that they have and the athleticism.”

The 6-foot-6 Stevens will be in the starting lineup until Samuelson returns, giving the Huskies height in the middle. Auriemma expects that the rebounding number will improve with Stevens getting more minutes.

UConn had 20 offensive rebounds against Maryland, more than it had in its previous two games combined.

“Collectively, we all attacked the boards more and emphasized that more today,” Williams said. “We have a guy who usually makes all of her shots who wasn’t in there so we had to go and get some more rebounds.”

Crystal Dangerfield finished with 10 points, four rebounds and six assists for UConn (3-0).

Kaila Charles had 29 points and 12 rebounds to lead Maryland (2-2). A total of her 15 points came in the fourth quarter when UConn’s starters combined to play a total of nine minutes with the Huskies up 75-41 after three quarters.

james.fuller

@hearstmediact.com; @NHRJim Fuller on Twitter

UCONN 97, MARYLAND 72

MARYLAND (2-2)

Jones 2-3 0-0 4, Charles 13-22 1-3 29, Confroy 0-5 0-0 0, Myers 0-4 0-0 0, Watson 3-10 1-2 7, Fraser 2-5 7-9 11, Lewis 3-8 0-2 9, Small 5-15 2-2 12, Totals 28-72 11-18 72.

UCONN (3-0)

Collier 6-14 0-0 13, Stevens 7-13 3-4 18, Williams 6-9 3-3 15, Dangerfield 4-12 2-5 10, Nurse 7-15 2-2 21, Irwin 0-1 0-0 0, Bent 1-2 0-0 2, Coombs 0-0 0-0 0, Espinoza-Hunter 2-3 0-0 6, Gordon 0-0 0-0 0, Walker 5-9 2-3 12, Totals 38-78 12-17 97.

Maryland

11

10

20

31

72

UConn

32

14

29

22

97

3-Point Goals—Maryland 5-19 (Charles 2-3, Confroy 0-3, Myers 0-1, Watson 0-4, Lewis 3-7, Small 0-1), UConn 9-26 (Collier 1-2, Stevens 1-4, Williams 0-1, Dangerfield 0-5, Nurse 5-8, Irwin 0-1, Espinoza-Hunter 2-3, Walker 0-2). Assists—Maryland 9 (Charles 2), UConn 20 (Dangerfield 6). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Maryland 35 (Charles 12), UConn 57 (Stevens 12). Total Fouls—Maryland 17, UConn 15. A—10,126.