The No. 1 UConn women’s basketball team will take on No. 10 Stanford on Sunday in their first game since falling to Mississippi State in overtime of the Final Four. The Huskies and Cardinal will face off in Ohio as part of the Countdown to Columbus, the site of the 2018 Final Four.
The matchup with Stanford will be the beginning of a brutal stretch for the Huskies to start the season. Seven of UConn’s first nine games are against teams ranked in the top 25 of the AP Preseason Poll, including four straight to begin the season.
Historically, Stanford has been the toughest opponent for head coach Geno Auriemma’s Huskies. Among opponents played at least three times, UConn is 10-7 (.588) against the Cardinal, the lowest winning percentage against any team in the Auriemma era.
The No. 10 Cardinal take on No. 5 Ohio State on Friday night before Sunday’s matchup with the Huskies. Stanford, like UConn, lost in the Final Four last year, finishing with a No. 6 ranking in the AP Poll. The Cardinal are led by senior guard Brittany McPhee, who was named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award watch list for the best shooting guard in the country.
UConn junior Katie Lou Samuelson was also named to the Drysdale Award watch list of 20 players. Sunday’s game might be a bit more personal for Samuelson, whose sisters Bonnie and Karlie, both played for Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. But neither Samuelson sister is on this year’s team, so Katie Lou is focused on the game’s importance to the team.
“It’s a special game for this whole program,” Samuelson said. “UConn hasn’t played Stanford since before I was here, and (Stanford) beat (UConn) back then, so I think everyone is ready to go. I know Gabby (Williams) was talking about… she’d love to get another chance at them.”
The seniors on this year’s team, Williams and Kia Nurse, were the only ones around for the last time the two powerhouse programs faced off. In that 2014 game, No. 6 Stanford defeated No. 1 UConn in overtime, ending the Huskies’ 47-game winning streak.
The Huskies are getting thrown right into the fire with the top-10 matchup in the first game of the season, but Auriemma believes his team is ready.
“It’s gotten to the point, to be honest with you, that if you gave us another month to get ready, it wouldn’t matter,” Auriemma said. “I think there comes a point where players just lose interest in practicing if they’re not going to be playing somebody… I think this week will be just right getting into Sunday’s game.”
The 2017-18 season will tip off on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio. The Huskies hope the season will end in the same place it will begin, with UConn cutting down the nets in Columbus.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.