UConn and Notre Dame last faced each other eight months ago for the national championship in Nashville, Tenn. What should have been a marquee event turned into another Husky rout and title number nine.
The last time they met in the regular season was in March 2013. It was a nightmarish triple-overtime win for the Irish which gave them the Big East regular season title.
This afternoon, they meet again at the Purcell Pavilion in South Bend. Notre Dame (8-0), ranked second in the AP Poll and first in the coaches poll, hosts the No. 3 Huskies (5-1) in the Jimmy V Women's Classic.
The Huskies have won two straight in the series, while the Fighting Irish have won seven of the last ten meetings. UConn leads the overall series 31-11.
Both coaches can't stand each other.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw complained last year during the NCAA Tournament that Geno Auriemma refused to schedule her team during the regular season. However, McGraw failed to mention that her school left the Big East Conference a year early for the "greener" pastures of the ACC and that UConn had no room on their non-conference schedule.
Her complaints continued during the Final Four, playing into sexist and gender-based politics. Auriemma played along. In doing so, he allowed his team to focus on winning their record-breaking ninth national title.
Both teams have great players.
Jewell Lloyd lead Notre Dame is most categories. The 5-foot-10 guard is averaging 21.1 points a game. She scored 27 points in a win against No. 10 Maryland last Wednesday night, adding eight rebounds and six assists in the 92-72 victory.
The Irish have a talented rookie in 6-foot-3 forward Brianna Turner. Turner is averaging 13.4 points and was the national high school player of the year last season. But Turner may not play today, she injured her right shoulder four minutes into the Maryland game and her status will be a game-time decision.
UConn is, of course, led by Breanna Stewart. Despite defenses being extremely physical against her, Stewart is averaging 16.7 points per game. Four other Husky starters are averaging double-figures in the points column. Kalenna Mosqueda-Lewis is averaging a team-high 18 points, while guards Moriah Jefferson and freshman Kia Nurse are averaging 11.2 and 13.7 points, respectively. Morgan Tuck has started the last two games and is scoring 12.5 points per game.
UConn is an underdog?
The Huskies are coming off some impressive victories in the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament in Florida, defeating the College of Charlestown (85-24), Vanderbilt (91-52) and Green Bay (89-53). Nobody has been able to hold the Huskies under 85 points all season.
Last month, the Huskies went to Stanford and lost 88-86 in overtime. The loss ended a 47 game-winning streak. UConn played very undisciplined basketball in the final five minutes of regulation and it carried into the overtime period as well.
This will be a tough road environment, it will be interesting to see how UConn responds. How much have they grown in the past couple of weeks? There is a feeling that the Huskies, having lost a game already this season, are playing the role of underdog.
Auriemma only used Tuck and Nurse as subs during the Stanford game. Both are now in the starting line-up. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis seems to have found her shooting touch after a cold start. Defensively, the Huskies have not been great, will that be the case today against a more talented team?
Only time will tell.
Until then, this type of game during the regular season is great for women's college basketball. Enjoy!