Once the final buzzer sounds against Oklahoma, UConn women’s basketball will get five days off to give everyone a chance to head home for the holidays. With finals done and Christmas tantalizingly close, acting head coach Chris Dailey is wary of the dreaded ‘trap game.’
“This is a dangerous game because it’s a game right before the holidays,” Dailey said. “Everybody’s going to go home Sunday night or Monday morning. They just finished exams, they want to take a deep breath. This is a dangerous game.”
But blocking out external distractions and keeping the focus on the next game is one of the core tenants of the program, so Dailey is confident the Huskies will stay focused.
“I don’t think in their minds or even in our minds, we’re worried what comes after this because we have five days to relax and enjoy ourselves and then get ready when we come back,” she said. “Hopefully the focus for this team is on this game.”
A Tale of Two Programs
On March 31, 2002, UConn solidified its status as a dynasty, capturing its third national championship with an 82-70 win over Oklahoma. Since that day, the Huskies have risen into the top program in the country, claiming eight more titles and racking up a laundry list of accomplishments beyond the banners.
The Sooners have gone in the opposite direction. They maintained some success over the next handful of years, reaching back-to-back Final Fours in 2009 and 2010. But after that, Oklahoma fell off. The Sooners haven’t advanced beyond the Sweet Sixteen since and have zero Big 12 Conference championships — regular season or tournament — since 2009.
Last year, head coach Sherri Coale missed out on her first NCAA Tournament since 2000, finishing with just an 8-20 record. This season, Oklahoma was picked to finish seventh in the conference.
So what happened to the Sooners? Well, it’s not that complicated: When Oklahoma was at its peak, they had elite players like Courtney Paris and Danielle Robinson, who both earned WBCA First Team All-American honors.
But since those two graduated, only one Sooner has even received All-American honorable mention by either the AP or WBCA. Only seven players have made the All-Conference First Team since 2010.
Building a program into a national championship contender is hard. Keeping it at that level is even harder. Oklahoma’s rise and fall is just one of many examples that shows how incredible UConn’s 25 years of dominance have been.
Scouting the Sooners
Oklahoma enters the game with a 7-4 record that includes a win over then-No. 25 LSU and losses at Missouri State, Houston, Wichita State and Western Kentucky — who have an average Her Hoop Stats rating of just 97.5 (out of 351).
Like UConn’s last opponent, the Sooners are a high-scoring offense, ranking ninth in the nation with 82.9 points per game. Sophomore guard Taylor Robertson is the most dangerous three-point threat in college basketball, hitting 47.4 percent of her shots from three, which makes her the NCAA’s active leader in the category. She also leads the nation in both attempts and makes from beyond the arc this season.
The Huskies’ defense has played well this season — the 13th-best defense in the country per Her Hoop Stats — but they will certainly have their hands full on Sunday.
“We’re playing against an Oklahoma team that’s really good,” Dailey said. “They play hard, they’re well-coached. They gave us all we could handle at their place (last year) so I’m expecting a really tough, physical game. It’s not one of those games that some people schedule right before Christmas where maybe you play a directional school or a lesser opponent. That’s not what we have on Sunday.”
The two schools have met on the court 12 times with UConn taking the victory in every game. Some notable games are the aforementioned 2002 national championship game as well as the meeting two years ago where Geno Auriemma captured the 1,000th win of his career.
The closest game in the series came last year when the Huskies eked out a nine-point victory in Norman, Oklahoma. UConn trailed for 31 of the 40 minutes and were down by as many as 12 points in the second half.
How to Watch
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena
Time: 4 p.m.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network