UConn women’s basketball continues conference play against the USF Bulls on Sunday. The Bulls, a top 25 team in the past few seasons, typically prove to be the toughest games for the Huskies in AAC play.
“We’ve always had some great games with them, regardless of the fact that we’ve won them all. There’s always an element of competitiveness. You always want to be playing teams that are at their best,” head coach Geno Auriemma said of USF.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the Bulls won’t be heading to Storrs at full strength. Injuries and illnesses have plagued multiple of their key players, leading to a disappointing 10-6 start for what looked like a strong USF team in the preseason.
The Bulls’ star senior Kitija Laksa tore her ACL in the third game of the year, sidelining her for the rest of the season. Laksa who returned for her senior year fresh off a FIBA Word Cup appearance for her home country of Latvia, was South Florida’s leading scorer and an All-American candidate.
The new year has not been kind to the Bulls either, as they have already lost two more players in 2019. Freshman Beatriz Jordao, who was averaging 11.2 points per game, suffered a season ending leg injury. Then, just before their last game, South Florida announced that starting wing Laura Ferreira will be out indefinitely with an illness.
“They were starting to figure out what life after Kitija was going to be like, and getting a handle on it,” said Auriemma. “And then, it just piles on. I think the latest one, that probably really hurt.”
The loss of Ferreira is certainly a big blow to the Bulls, as she was leading the team with 15.8 points and 4.0 assists per game. Her illness leaves USF extremely short handed, as they will have just nine players available against UConn. If the Huskies show up and play their game, they should have no trouble moving to 3-0 in conference play.
Keys to the game for UConn
Rebounding: Though short handed, South Florida is still a great rebounding team. Their defensive rebounding rate ranks among the top ten teams in the country, and their offensive rebounding rate is among the top 20. Both those ranks are well above UConn’s. Look for the Huskies to take care of business on the glass against a stronger rebounding team.
Bench production: With the Bulls being expected to be less of a threat than usual, there should be plenty of opportunity for the bench to get minutes. Even with their injuries the Bulls are still one of the stronger teams in the conference. Hopefully, someone off the bench can find a way to give the Huskies some quality minutes against them.
How to watch:
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT
When: 1 p.m.
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network