After a Sweet Sixteen battle with UCLA, UConn women’s basketball is headed to the Elite Eight behind a fourth quarter scoring run, winning 69-61. The Huskies are set to play Louisville in the Albany Regional final, in a rematch of their 78-69 loss earlier this season at the Yum! Center.
As the Huskies look to avenge the earlier season loss and head to their 12th straight Final Four, it will be important for them to avoid some of the same issues we saw in the January matchup. Luckily for UConn, the Huskies have already solved one with Olivia Nelson-Ododa emerging as a impactful player off the bench. While her line on the box score may not always look impressive, her presence in the lane instantly impacts the offense of UConn’s opponents.
Auriemma had good things to say about the freshman’s performance against UCLA.
“She was a big, big factor in tonight’s game, even without having to score a lot of points or do anything spectacular on the stat sheet,” Auriemma said after the UCLA game. “Just having her out there I think was — and she looked like she belonged out there.”
The larger problem from the earlier season loss is one the Huskies have been struggling with all season long — when they can’t get out in transition or their shots don’t fall the offense goes stagnant. With Louisville playing at the top of their game defensively (the Cardinals held Oregon State to just 30 percent shooting, and 44 points which tied their season low on Friday), offense may not come easily to UConn in this one.
The good news for UConn is that they should have an easier time on the glass than they did against UCLA. The Huskies were out-rebounded in the Sweet 16 by just three boards, so against a smaller Louisville team, they are capable of owning the advantage. Additionally, Louisville ranks in the bottom half of the nation in defensive rebound rate, leaving an opportunity for UConn to secure offensive boards and get a second look when shots don’t fall.
On the other end of the floor, it will be essential that the Huskies contain Louisville’s biggest offensive threats. That, of course, starts with Asia Durr, who had 24 points in the January game, even after a scoreless first quarter. While credit is due to Durr for making a lot of tough contested shots in that game, the Huskies need to do a better job of running her off the three-point line and trying to keep the ball out of her hands to get the win.
The defensive effort cannot just focus on Durr though, as the Cardinals demonstrated against Oregon State in the regional semifinals. Sam Fuehring is also a strong offensive threat — both from beyond the arc and inside with her size. If UConn loses track of her, they will be in trouble.
If the Huskies want to earn a trip to Tampa, they will need to bring their A game on Sunday.
Keys to the Game for UConn
Keeping everyone involved: The first three quarters against UCLA were the Napheesa Collier and Christyn Williams show, before Crystal Dangerfield emerged in the fourth quarter. While the freshman stepping up is essential to UConn’s success in the tournament, they need to have the whole lineup involved to get the win over Louisville.
Getting the offense going: UConn offense’s in the fourth quarter against the Bruins was a work of art. The Huskies were 8-12 from the floor, hit big shots, excelled on the offensive glass, and turned over the ball only two times. That’s the kind of offense UConn needs to bring against the Cardinals. Whether it’s Collier in the post, Dangerfield hitting big shots or someone else stepping up to the plate, the Huskies have to find a way to make sure the offense flows and the shots go down.
Forcing Louisville into contested shots: With the exception of boxing UCLA out on the glass, UConn did an excellent job defending the Bruins and held them to just 31 percent shooting. That same defensive effort is needed in Sunday’s game, but it should look a little different. The Cardinals don’t turn the ball over often, so the Huskies need to force them to take tough shots by both running them off the three-point line and forcing them to make tough baskets inside.
How to Watch
Where: Times Union Center, Albany, New York
When: Noon ET
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network