On Wednesday night, the UConn women renew their rivalry with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, Indiana. The two teams last met a year ago at Gampel Pavilion, where the Huskies came out with a 91-81 victory.
This year, Notre Dame will be coming in with a chip on its shoulder. While tonight’s game has been billed as a #1 vs #2 matchup, the Fighting Irish lost the top spot in the AP Poll to UConn despite not losing a game.
The leap is not unfounded, with the Huskies defeating no. 15 DePaul and no. 14 Texas, bringing their total of wins over ranked teams to four, while Notre Dame handled Iowa and Valparaiso, both of which are unranked. While it is not unprecedented, a team has not fallen from the no. 1 seed without a loss since 2005.
The Irish are 8-0 on the season with their best win coming over the no. 11 Washington Huskies. They are a deep team, with eight players averaging over 15.0 minutes per game and four players averaging over 10 points per game. Offensively, Notre Dame is led by sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale, who shoots 56% from three while leading the team with 17.5 points-per-game. Point guard Lindsey Allen has been one of the best distributors in the country, currently ranking fifth nationally with 7.5 assists per game. Allen is also a disruptive force on defense with a team-high 23 steals.
In the frontcourt, the Irish don’t have a clear height advantage but they do bring some decent size with six players over six feet. Juniors Kathryn Westbeld and Briana Turner are the strongest rebounders for Notre Dame, averaging 6.5 and 6.3 rebounds-per-game, respectively.
This will be the 56th all-time #1 vs #2 meeting in women’s basketball history and the 23rd time UConn has played in this matchup, holding a 19-3 record. Their last battle with the second-ranked team was a comfortable win last season over South Carolina. The Huskies are on a six-game winning streak in #1 vs #2 games, with their last loss coming in 2011 against the top-ranked Baylor Bears. This will only be the sixth time Notre Dame plays in a #1 vs #2 game, where it has only won once.
UConn holds a 34-11 edge all-time over the Fighting Irish, but the rivalry has been back-and-forth in recent years. The Huskies are riding a five-game winning streak, but Notre Dame had won seven-of-eight before that.
More often than not, the Huskies and Irish are always playing for something. Since 2011, they have met in the Big East Championship or Final Four eight times. The Irish stopped UConn short of the national championship game in back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012. The Huskies got revenge in 2013, beating Notre Dame in the national championship for banners no. 9 and 10 in 2014 and 2015.
There’s no question these are the best two teams in the country right now. While this game may decide who is no. 1 next week, there’s a very good chance these two teams will meet later in the season with a lot more on the line.