No .1 UConn will look to advance to the Sweet 16 for the 23rd straight season when they host the No. 9 seed Duquesne Dukes in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Duquesne, which is making its first NCAA tournament appearance in program history, is coming off a 97-76 victory over Seton Hall in their opening-round matchup. Facing an upset-minded team, the Huskies have put an emphasis on getting off to a good start.
“Especially in the NCAA tournament you see, more so on the men’s side, the upsets,” Stewart said. “We want to make sure that we knock them out right from the start. Then they have no thoughts that they can be in this game.”
In their first round 101-49 victory over 16-seeded Robert Morris, the Huskies delivered an early knockout with their best quarter of the season. The Huskies opened the game with a 41-point quarter.
UConn will be matched up with another high scoring team. Duquesne led the Atlantic 10 conference with 71.7 points per game, they outscored their opponents by an average of 11 points, another conference best. Duquesne has four players that are averaging double digits in scoring.
Duquesne has shown that they are dangerous from behind the three-point line. They are averaging 7.5 made three pointers per game, which is only slightly behind a UConn team that averages 7.6 made three pointers.
Duquesne’s Amadea Szamosi is their most lethal option from behind the arc. Szamosi is shooting 41 percent from three-point range.
If there is a weak spot in the UConn defense, it would be how they defend three-point shots. UConn is ranked 121st in the nation when it comes to defending threes. Opponents are shooting 30.1 percent from three-point range against the Huskies, an area that UConn has worked to improve all season.
“In practice obviously it has become an emphasis and we understood when you looked at the beginning of the year you saw the three pointers that we were giving up,” Kia Nurse said. “We want to make sure that we are close enough that they don’t have the opportunity to get the shot off or at least we contest it.”
UConn has a deadly three-point shooter of its own however. Katie Lou Samuelson has been peaking at the right time for the Huskies. Samuelson is coming off a career high 22-point effort in the win over Robert Morris.
This matchup in Gampel Pavilion will also be the final time that UConn seniors Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson will play in Storrs.
“It will be a mixture of emotions,” Breanna Stewart said. “It’s the NCAA tournament so it is exciting, but also the fact that I am not going to suit up in a UConn uniform on that court again.”
The game will be played at 9 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2. The winner will advance to the Bridgeport regional semifinal on Saturday.
Spencer Mayfield is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.