In a rematch of last year’s Final Four loss, UConn women’s basketball will face Notre Dame at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.
The Irish look a lot different than they did last season, however. They lost all five of their 2018-19 starters to the WNBA, three of which were first round picks. Combined with injuries to two of their returning players, Abby Prohaska and Mikayla Vaugh, Notre Dame has had a tough start to their schedule.
Notre Dame heads into Sunday’s match up at .500 with five losses under their belt already this season. After having what was arguably the best offense in the country last season, this year’s offense has looked forced and stagnant comparatively. Notre Dame is still figuring out how to use all of their new pieces to finish in the win column.
One of those new pieces to keep an eye on is Sam Brunelle. The No. 6 recruit in the 2019 class, Brunelle is one of the Irish’s best off-season additions. She’s averaging 13.9 points per game despite a relatively cold shooting start to the season. Brunelle is an elite shooter and her 21 percent three-point percentage to start the season is a bit of an anomaly. UConn will need to guard her on the perimeter — leaving Brunelle open from three is playing with fire.
The Irish have excelled on the defensive end so far, holding their opponents to just 36 percent shooting. This could be a challenge for UConn with its own offensive struggles at times this season. However, the Huskies will have Crystal Dangerfield back on the floor to help the offense navigate Notre Dame’s defense.
Keys to the game for the Huskies
Exploiting Notre Dame’s weakness on the glass: The Irish are one of the worst rebounding teams in the country and UConn should look to take advantage of that, especially on the offensive glass. Notre Dame has collected less than 60 percent of their opponents’ misses this season, leaving ample room for UConn to capitalize on second chance opportunities.
Defending inside: Notre Dame has struggled to score from beyond the arc this season. If the Huskies can contain them inside, it will be difficult for the Irish to score enough points to challenge UConn for the win.
Getting the freshman involved: In last year’s regular season game against the Irish, Christyn Williams jumped into the spotlight for the Huskies with a 28-point performance. Aubrey Griffin had a similar performance last game against Seton Hall on Thursday. If UConn can get Griffin and Ana Makurat involved in the offense on Sunday, it should have no problem taking down the Irish.
How to watch:
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT
When: 1 p.m. ET
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network, 97.9 ESPN Hartford