This is a rematch of last year’s national championship game when the No. 1 seed UConn Huskies won their fourth straight National Championship against the No. 4 seed Syracuse Orange. This year, a trip to the Sweet 16 and Bridgeport is on the line but the Orange is a No.8 seed while the Huskies are once again the No. 1 overall seed.
Time and Place: 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Gampel Pavilion, Storrs CT.
Where to Watch: ESPN2, channel 42.2 on Storrs TV listings
Last Meeting: The Huskies were victorious in last season’s national championship game, beating the Orange by a score of 82-51. All-time, the Huskies hold a 38-12 record, as they have not lost to Syracuse since Jan. 2, 1996 at the Carrier Dome.
UConn’s Last Time Out: The Huskies blew past the No. 16 Albany Great Danes by a score of 116-55. This tied the school record for most points in an NCAA tournament game for the Huskies as sophomore Napheesa Collier and junior Kia Nurse both had 24 points in the win.
Syracuse’s Last Time Out: The Orange defeated the No. 9 seed Iowa State by a score of 85-65, as freshman guard Gabby Cooper hit a school-record eight 3 pointers, including five in the first seven minutes of the game. As a team, Syracuse shot 51.7 percent from behind the arc and knocked down 15 3-pointers.
Projected Starting Lineups:
UConn (33-0) vs. Syracuse (22-10)
G: Saniya Chong vs. Alexis Peterson
In the last ten games, Chong has been leading the team in minutes played, averaging 35.3 per game, she is second on the team for the season averaging 30.3 per game. Against Albany in the first round, the senior had six points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals in 31 minutes of action. Peterson earned ESPNw All-American Honorable Mention as she is averaging 23.3 points per game and 7.1 assists in 35.5 minutes. This season she set a program record with a 45 point outburst against NC State on Jan. 12, as she is second all-time in school history with 1,953 career points.
G: Kia Nurse vs. Gabby Cooper
In the first round against Albany, Nurse tied her career-high with six 3-pointers, as she exploded for a game-high 24 points on 8-10 shooting from the field. On the year the junior is averaging 12.6 points, as this is her first time scoring 20 or more points since Dec. 21 against Nebraska and her most points since she scored 33 against DePaul on Dec. 1. In her freshman year, Cooper has been lighting it up from behind the arc as she is second on the team with 78 3-point field goals made, setting a Syracuse freshman single-season record. On the season she is averaging 9.3 points, as she has started and played in 31 games, averaging 29.5 minutes per contest.
W: Katie Lou Samuelson vs. Isabella Slim
Following up her career-high 40 point night, Samuelson struggled to find her shot against Albany, shooting 6-13 for 15 points but she finished with a game and career-high nine assists. Samuelson leads the team in scoring with 20.8 points per game, three point percentage at 43.2 percent and minutes per game with 31.3. Slim, the six foot senior forward, has started in all 135 games in her collegiate career, which is good for second in program history. This season she is averaging 4.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, as her best game and first career double-double came on Nov. 14 against Siena when she scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
G: Gabby Williams vs. Brittney Sykes
Williams set her career-high in free throws made against Albany as she was 10-11 from the free throw line, and 5-9 from the field for 20 points. She also grabbed 10 rebounds, as she recorded her 11th double-double of the season. This year, she is averaging 13.4 points per game, 8.5 rebounds and a team-high 5.3 assists per game. Sykes is coming off a game-high 28 point performance against ISU as she was 8-19 from the field and a perfect 8-8 from the line. This season she is averaging 19.3 points and eight rebounds per game, as she also ranks first in program history, starting 136 games in her career.
F: Napheesa Collier vs. Briana Day
Collier in the last five games has led the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 23.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game on an absurd 73 percent shooting from the field. The sophomore finalist for the Naismith Women’s College Player of the Year Award ranks second in the nation in field goal percentage shooting 68.8 percent and has recorded a team-high 14 double-doubles this season. The six foot four senior, Day, is averaging 12.9 points and 9.5 rebounds this year for the Orange, as she is also third in program history with 236 career blocks and is the school’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,118 in her career.
Geno’s thoughts on the Orange: “I think we are a pretty good three point shooting team. We have shot 670 three pointers; they have shot like 900 or so. Obviously a big part of their offense is how many threes they can get up. I don’t think they worry about how many go in but they worry about how many they are going to take.”
Nurse on Syracuse backcourt: “Their guards are very good players, they can knock down the three, they are quick and they are smart. It is going to be a big team defense emphasis tomorrow, making sure that we maintain, keep them in front and try to limit as many shots as we can.”
Chong on her last game at Gampel: “It is very bittersweet, I am just happy with the group of girls this year we have. It is pretty sad, it’s my final game, it’s sad but I am going to enjoy it.”
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.