UConn women’s basketball have another tough non-conference test Monday night with No. 3 Oregon coming into Storrs for a top five contest.
The Ducks are 19-2 on the season, with a loss to Louisville over Thanksgiving and Arizona State on the road at the start of conference play. However, since the loss the Sun Devils, they’ve picked up a big win over Stanford and two over Oregon State.
Oregon has the most prolific offense in country, averaging 122.5 points per 100 possessions and nearly 87 points per game. Not only do the Ducks score at a high volume, but they're also the most efficient in the country scoring 1.2 points per attempt.
That offense is spearheaded by the Duck’s three-headed monster of Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, and Satou Sabally. Ionescu is wildly recognized as the best college player in the country, averaging 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.6 assists this season. She holds the NCAA record for triple doubles (23) with five this season already. Ionescu is efficient, can score in countless ways and has impressive range.
“She’s able to conjure up whatever she needs in any particular possession to help her team, whether it’s a defensive play, whether it’s rebounds, an assist, big three. —ome kind of play that has to be made, she knows when it has to be made and she has the ability,” Auriemma said of Ionescu. “And she has the great player mentality to make that play and inspire her teammates which is what those great players were always good at, making their teammates way better. And her teammates are better to begin with. She makes them even better.”
Auriemma is right, a large part of what makes Ionescu so good is who she’s surrounded by, with Hebard in the post and Sabally on the wing. The three combine for over 50 points per game. In addition to their talent, they’re also experienced — all three are eligible for the 2020 WNBA draft. Should Sabally declare early, her and Ionescu are likely to be lottery picks while Hebard is also expected to go in the first round.
The Huskies will have a tough defensive task on their hands trying to contain the Ducks’ elite trio. One thing that does give UConn a little bit of advantage is its familiarity with Oregon’s players. Both Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa played with Ionescu and Hebard in 3x3 for USA Basketball.
UConn will also need to have a strong night on offense to keep pace with Oregon’s scoring. That task will be more difficult than usual with Williams battling the flu. While she’s expected to play, she likely won’t be at full strength. It will be a test for the Huskies to see who else can step up and score to keep UConn in this one.
Keys to the game for UConn:
Attack the defensive glass: Oregon’s offense is strong, and allowing too many second chance opportunities will be lethal for the Huskies. On the season, the Ducks corral nearly 40 percent of their own misses, which ranks in the top 20 in the country per Her Hoop Stats. UConn needs to hold them below that to have a chance at the win.
Anna Makurat and Aubrey Griffin: The freshmen have been performing better in UConn’s last few games. This game will test their ability to step up against an elite opponent — something the Huskies need them to do as the post season approaches. Specifically, look to see if Makurat can continue to hit some big threes and if Griffin’s quick hands and athleticism can be disruptive on defense.
Containing Oregon on offense: Defending the Ducks is easier said than done and the Huskies will need to a team effort to do so. Olivia Nelson-Ododa needs to stay out of foul trouble to contain Hebard in the paint, and as a whole, the team has to try to keep the ball out of Ionescu’s hands as much as possible.
How to watch:
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT
When: 7 p.m. ET
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network, 97.9 ESPN Hartford