South Florida and Connecticut will meet for the third time this season in the AAC Tournament Championship at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2 with Pam Ward and Rebecca Lobo as the announcing team.
In the first meeting between these two teams, at USF, the Bulls played UConn fairly tight through most of the third quarter before a couple of Husky runs sealed the deal. At 16 points, the margin of victory was the smallest in UConn's three years in the American. #FireGeno
In their second meeting, exactly one week ago at Gampel Pavilion, USF opened with more intensity, holding a 19-15 lead after the first quarter and going into the halftime break ahead 25-24. Breanna Stewart and Kia Nurse woke up in the second half to give UConn another comfortable win, but the result gives USF hope going into tonight's title bout.
"Our mindset is that they're beatable," star guard Courtney Williams said. "We beat them in the first half, we let up in the third...I think it showed us that this team is beatable and we have the potential to beat them."
While it is easy to believe that UConn, a team which has hardly been tested all season, will take another convincing win, South Florida is clearly very motivated.
Williams—a senior who leads USF in minutes, points, steals, blocks, and is second in rebounds and assists—would love nothing more than to defeat the mighty Huskies in what is probably her final chance to do so. The team is a bit hampered by injuries, however, so head coach Jose Fernandez may want to keep borderline players rested and healthy for the NCAA Tournament, but tonight's matchup obviously means a lot to him, his players and staff.
"For us having an opportunity to play Connecticut," he said after Saturday night's semifinal win over Temple, "and play for a conference championship, that was our goal.
"We've had two very good games against them...our kids are going to be excited to play them again."
For UConn, the run through the AAC field has been predictable so far, with two blowout wins that were effectively over after the first quarter. The Huskies led East Carolina 32-13 after 10 minutes in the quarterfinals on Friday and 28-5 after the first quarter in Saturday night's semifinal against Tulane.
In a season where UConn has been dominant throughout, this team appears to be playing its best basketball right now- which should be terrifying for the rest of the country. It will be really hard for anyone to contain Breanna Stewart and the crew of proven scorers behind her in Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson, and Gabby Williams with Moriah Jefferson, a capable scorer herself, facilitating.
Morgan Tuck, who is averaging 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games against the Bulls this season, will present a challenging matchup down low. Between her and Stewart, and with the way the guards have been playing, USF will have its hands full defensively. Even though the Bulls may compete early on in this game, the dam will most likely eventually burst and they won't be able to keep up with UConn's pace.
After tonight, UConn will look forward to the NCAA Tournament, of which the brackets and seeding will be announced at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 14 on ESPN.