Coming off of an absolute thrashing of Cincinnati on the road, the undefeated UConn Huskies (11-0) are hosting Tulsa tonight at 7 p.m. in the XL Center.
The Cincinnati win came two days after the Huskies' closest game of the season, an 83-73 triumph over then-No. 5 Maryland.
That Maryland team challenged UConn down to the wire, but the Huskies calmly took care of business in the final minutes, with Saniya Chong burying a three-pointer from the corner to seal the win.
Chong will be playing a larger role today as she will be in the starting lineup with Moriah Jefferson sitting due to a hamstring injury. Chong had actually missed the previous three games before getting back on the court against Maryland. The junior guard is averaging 4.4 points and just over 12 minutes per game in nine appearances. Tonight will be her first start of the season.
Jefferson will be ending a streak of 90 consecutive starts after pulling her right hamstring in practice on Friday. She has been putting up great numbers this season, averaging 13.3 points and six assists per game, but brings so much more to this team with her defensive intensity and playmaking ability. For my money, she's also by far the most exciting player on the court every single night out.
Luckily for UConn, the roster is loaded with talent. Breanna Stewart, the best player in the country, appears to have fully recovered from an ankle injury which sidelined her for one game, earning national player of the week honors by averaging 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and six assists over the past two games. Forward Morgan Tuck has been excellent as well, recently becoming the third player on this team, along with Stewart and Jefferson, to pass 1,000 career points. She had a stellar performance in the win over Maryland, posting 17 points to go along with eight rebounds and six assists, continuing a trend of very strong play against the best teams on the schedule.
This team is also not lacking in players who can pick up Jefferson's slack- which is good, because it will take a couple of people to do so.
Starting guards Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier, and Chong will all have an opportunity to step up as will Gabby Williams, who saw a reduction of her role after moving out of the starting lineup. All four of these players need to be ready to answer the call.
Tonight's opponent, Tulsa, was picked to finish sixth in the American Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Golden Hurricane hold a 5-8 record, but have picked up two wins in the conference over SMU and East Carolina. They lost at home to their lone common opponent with UConn, Kansas State, 75-67.
A remarkable eight Huskies scored in double figures in the conference opener against Cincinnati. Tulsa may be a slightly better team than the Bearcats, but expect a similar result tonight. UConn's next game will be at Houston (4-10) on Friday, but after that they will be visiting South Florida on Sunday to face what will be their toughest competition within the American.