After two-straight games of scoring over 100 points on American Athletic Conference opponents, No. 4 UConn women’s basketball will take a break from conference play on Monday and head to downtown Hartford for a top-15 match up against No. 11 South Carolina at the XL Center.
South Carolina enters the contest at 17-5, a record which really isn’t indicative of their current level of play. The Gamecocks got off to a slow start this season, dropping a few games early on as they figured out life after A’ja Wilson. Since the start of December, however, they have lost to just Baylor and Mississippi State.
“So much of what they were doing was built around A’ja Wilson and her inside game, and I think it’s evolved now where they have more guards on the floor and their guards are really skilled,” Auriemma said of South Carolina’s improvement as the season has gone on. “They put a lot of pressure on you with their offense. Because there’s more people putting shots up, they’re a little more difficult to defend than they were in the last two to three years”.
The Gamecocks present a very balanced offense, with four of their starters hovering in the 10 to 12 points per game range. Te’a Cooper leads the team at 12.7 points per game, while Tyasha Harris averages a team-high 4.7 assists per game and Alexis Jennings leads the effort on the glass with six rebounds per game.
With a variety of offensive weapons on the floor, the Huskies will need to defend well as a team to create contested shots. Perhaps even more importantly, they will need to finish their defensive possessions with a rebound. While South Carolina is not an exceptionally great shooting team, shooting just 43 percent from the floor on the season, they are excellent on the offensive glass. In order to slow down the Gamecocks’ offense, UConn will need to limit second chance opportunities.
On the other end of the court, the Huskies will look to carry the momentum from their last two performances into the game. After struggling offensively against both Baylor and Louisville, where UConn posted its two lowest field goal percentages of the season, this game presents one last opportunity for the Huskies to perform well offensively against a top opponent before March.
“We want to come out and play really well against a top team. It’s been a while since we kind of played well together against a top team. We want to put our best foot forward,” said Katie Lou Samuelson said. “We want to make sure we are executing and doing everything right, no matter what the outcome is.”
Keys to the game for UConn
Attacking the glass: South Carolina’s offensive game relies heavily on second chance opportunities. They compensate for their lower field goal percentage, by grabbing the rebound on 39 percent of their own misses. The Huskies will need to dominate on the glass to limit these opportunities.
Running their offense: UConn has been putting on an offensive clinic in their past two games. They scored over 100 points in back-to-back games, and shared the ball exceptionally well with over 30 assists in each. The Huskies will look to translate this into a great offensive performance against a top opponent - an area which they have been lacking in since the Notre Dame game.
Getting everyone involved: Getting a win in this one is important, but perhaps even more important is that the Huskies play well as a team. We know that Samuelson, Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield are all capable of having a terrific game, but getting the underclassmen and the bench involved is key. If Megan Walker and Christyn Williams can play well against another top opponent, it should give the Huskies some more confidence as they head into March.
How to watch:
Where: XL Center, Hartford, CT
When: 7 p.m.
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network