Before Wednesday night’s game against the No. 23 Temple Owls (21-5, 11-2 The American) is looked at, it is vital to look back on when the upstart Tulane Green Wave almost knocked off the No. 1-ranked UConn Huskies (26-0, 13-0 The American) on the road last Saturday. The Huskies were able to win at Tulane by a score of 63-60, but the Green Wave hung around and had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, and the 3-point heave didn’t go in.
“Usually we shoot the ball well enough to mask any deficiencies that are there to hide whatever issues we had,” head coach Geno Auriemma said on the close win. “Saturday those same things popped up but we didn’t shoot the ball well enough.”
Tulane looked hungry against the Huskies, as they played with heart and gave the four time defending champions everything they could muster. They held UConn to a season-low 28 first half points and had three players, led by Kolby Morgan with 19, in double-figures. Even in their defeat, Tulane earned two votes in both the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll.
The Green Wave held UConn to 38 percent from the field and 30 percent from behind the arc, as Tulane had four more field goals and two more made 3-pointers than the Huskies. Tulane also forced six more turnovers, but they shot 22 less free throws and were outrebounded 44-31. The Huskies were able to score 13 more points from the line, as Tulane committed 22 personal fouls compared to UConn’s 13.
Tulane was able to show once again that if teams can get sophomore Napheesa Collier into foul trouble, the UConn offense lacks an inside presence. Even with the foul trouble, Collier was the reason why the Huskies were able to hang on. She had 26 points, shooting 7-of-9 from the floor and 11-of-12 from the free throw line. She also grabbed 12 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the year.
Tulane caught UConn on an off-night for junior Gabby Williams and sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson while junior Kia Nurse remained on the sideline. Nurse re-injured her right ankle in the opening minutes of the South Carolina game and will be out for at least another few weeks.
“Now you take her out of the lineup and her out of the backcourt, it makes you go hmm. What happens during the course of the season is that you have to make adjustments. No one had to tell us what she means to us offensively and defensively,” Auriemma said about Nurse’s absence.
After putting in remarkable performance after remarkable performance, including a career high 26-point night against South Carolina, Williams was able to grab 14 rebounds for the second straight game but shot 4-of-10 from the field for nine points, and had five turnovers.
Samuelson has been struggling from the field the last few games. Despite scoring 17 points, she shot 35.7 percent from the field. The sophomore has been in a shooting slump, going 10-of-39 from behind the arc in her last six games. After leading in scoring for much of January, the sophomore needs to find her stroke again as she is still shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from behind the arc.
The good news for UConn is that they have not had back-to-back single-digit games since the 2005-06 season, when the Huskies beat Georgia in the Sweet 16 before losing in overtime in the Elite Eight against Duke. The game against Temple will tip-off Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the XL Center, as the Temple Owls come into this game second in the conference and on a five-game winning streak, which includes a win over then nationally ranked USF.
The Owls last loss came against the Huskies in Philadelphia on Feb. 1 by a score of 97-69. The key player for Temple will be senior Feyonda Fitzgerald who is averaging a team-high 16.9 points and 7.3 assists per game. In the previous matchup against UConn, Fitzgerald was held to seven points, shooting 3-of-16 from the field and 1-of-6 from behind the arc.
“They may have the quickest, toughest guards to guard one on one out of anyone in the league,” Auriemma said of Temple. “They are as good as any guard in the country in terms of getting their own shots.”
For the Temple game, fans are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item prior to Wednesday’s 7 p.m. matchup, with the food donations benefiting Hands On Hartford.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.