The UConn women’s basketball team will head north of the border Friday to take on the Duquesne Dukes at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, Ontario.
The No. 1 Huskies (9-0) scheduled the matchup with the Dukes (10-2) at a neutral site in Toronto as a homecoming game for senior guard Kia Nurse, who hails from nearby Hamilton, Ontario. Nurse said she was extremely excited to go back home where she first developed her game.
“When I go back home, I always get such a warm welcome, and Hamilton is essentially a hotbed for basketball within Ontario,” Nurse said. “For me, I mean so many people had a hand in how I got here today…So everybody kind of knows everybody. And to go home and to be able to see everyone again, to be able to be back in a place where there’s Tim Horton’s, I’m beyond excited for that.”
The Huskies lead the all-time series with Duquesne 2-0, having won 88-60 at home on Dec. 10, 1995 in their first showdown. Most recently, UConn defeated the Dukes 97-51 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 21, 2016.
The Dukes have two junior guards the Huskies will be weary of: Julijana Vojinovic and Chassidy Omogrosso. Both guards average over 30 minutes a game and score 17.4 and 16.9 points per game, respectively.
Vojinovic, who hails from Cacak, Serbia and has played for the Serbian national team since 2011, is a prolific 3-point shooter. She makes 45.8 percent of her shots from beyond the arc, and 42.2 of all shots from the field. Omogrosso is a solid shooter herself, shooting 40.7 percent from downtown and 41.3 percent from the field.
The upcoming matchup with the Dukes is particularly significant because it will be UConn’s first ever game played in Canada, and Nurse expects her hometown crowd to inject some energy and welcome the Huskies into the arena.
“I think (the crowd) is gonna be absolutely incredible,” Nurse said. “And Canadians, they bring some real fire in the atmosphere, I’ll tell you that. But, I mean, for me personally, I’m just beyond excited and beyond fortunate for the coaches to have gone out of their way to make sure this opportunity happened.”
Nurse has been a critical part of the Huskies’ rotation from the very beginning of her career in Storrs. She cracked the starting lineup early on, starting all but three games her freshman year, and has seen increased minutes each season.
Although Nurse’s shooting percentages dipped a bit her sophomore campaign, she shot the lights out her junior year and has seen her 3-point percentage skyrocket to 54.3 percent in nine games this season. Nurse’s game has improved both physically and mentally over the years and she credits her growth as a player and a person to her time at UConn.
“(I’m) a lot better than what I was (coming out of high school), absolutely,” Nurse said. “My national team coaches tell me every summer, ‘Well, this is like night and day almost,’ and I’m like, ‘easy.’ But definitely, I’ve grown so much here as a player and a person. And I’m going home a very different Kia (than the one) that played in high school.”
Nurse will get that opportunity to re-connect with her hometown fans and show off her improved game Friday night as the Huskies and Dukes tip-off at 7 p.m.