Women's Basketball Capsule: UConn takes on Mississippi State in Final Four matchup

UConn sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson lines up a jump shot during the Huskies’ practice Thursday March 30, 2017 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus) 

UConn sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson lines up a jump shot during the Huskies’ practice Thursday March 30, 2017 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus) 

Time and Place:  10 p.m. eastern time Friday, March 31 at the American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas.

Where to Watch: ESPN2, channel 42.2 on Storrs channel listing. Follow @dcsportsdept for Final Four coverage throughout the week.

Last Meeting: UConn is 2-0 in the all-time series, with the most recent winning coming in last season’s Sweet 16. The Huskies demolished the Bulldogs 98-38 setting the then NCAA record for margin of victory in the regional rounds and beyond.

UConn’s Last Time Out:  The Huskies crushed the cinderella No. 10 seed Oregon Ducks behind sophomore Napheesa Collier’s 28 points and 12 rebounds. UConn won 90-52, and with the win moved into their 10th straight Final Four.

Bulldogs Last Time Out: Mississippi State won an overtime thriller against the No. 1 Baylor Bears 94-85. Guard Morgan William led the upset with an NCAA school record 41 points helping the Bulldogs advance to the school's first-ever Final Four.

Projected Starting Lineups: No. 1 UConn (36-0) vs. No. 2 Mississippi State (23-13)

G: Saniya Chong vs. Victoria Vivians

Chong has provided another scoring option for the Huskies in back to back games, scoring a combined 27 points. The senior earned a spot on the All-Bridgeport Regional team, as she was 6-10 from 3-point land and dished out seven assists in the two games. Vivians is the elite scorer for the Bulldogs averaging 16.3 points per game, but the issue is her shooting percentage which is 37.6 percent from the field and 28.3 percent from behind the arc. In the upset against Baylor she had 24 points but was 9-23 from the field as she will have to shoot more efficiently if Mississippi State is to advance.

G: Kia Nurse vs. Morgan William

Averaging 18.3 points and shooting an unheard of 75.8 percent from the field, Nurse has been on fire this NCAA tournament knocking down 20 3-pointers in four games. The junior tied the NCAA single-game tournament record by connecting on nine straight 3-pointers against Syracuse in the second round and she is tied for the most made in the tournament with Betsy Harris, Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. William is coming off of the game of her career scoring 41 points on 59 percent shooting from the field. On the year, the junior is second on the team scoring 10.9 points per game on an efficient 47.3 percent. She is also the team leader in assist by a wide margin as she has 171 on the year, with the closest player having 98.

W: Katie Lou Samuelson vs. Breanna Richardson

Samuelson is coming off only her second single-digit game of the season, scoring eight points on 4-13 shooting against the Ducks. Since going 10-10 from behind the arc in the American Conference Finals against USF, the sophomore is shooting 24 percent from 3-point land but she is still shooting an impressive 42 percent from three and 48.6 percent from the field this season. In 39 minutes of play Richardson had eight points and five rebounds against Baylor. She is averaging 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 22.2 minutes per game.

F: Gabby Williams vs. Chinwe Okorie

During the year Williams averaged 14.1 points per game, as she has come alive on the offensive end this tournament averaging a team second best 21.3 points per game. Williams leads the team in assists with 188 and steals with 98 as she is on track to finish her junior season with over 500 points, 300 rebounds, 200 assists, 100 steals and 50 blocks, which would be career bests across the board. Okorie is second on the team in shooting percentage hitting 55.8 percent from the floor, leading to her averaging 7.8 points per game. The senior did not have a big impact against the Bears, as she was held to four points on 1-3 shooting in 17 minutes.

F: Napheesa Collier vs. Teaira McCowan

Throughout this year’s NCAA tournament, Collier has been seemingly unstoppable as she has been averaging 24 points, 10.8 rebounds and three blocks in just 31.5 minutes of play. In the last game against Oregon, Collier scored her 1000th career point with her final basket, joining Nurse, Samuelson and Williams who each joined the club this season. McCowan is the x-factor for the Bulldogs as she is a six-foot-seven sophomore. She leads the team in field goal percentage shooting 57.5 percent from the field, blocks with 56 and rebounds with seven per game.

Talking Points

Chong on Mississippi State: “They are a tough team and it’s definitely going to be a challenge tomorrow, and we are all excited. Each team is always different. They have athletic guards and some really good post players.”

Records in the Final Four: UConn in the Final Four is 11-6, with their semifinal loss coming 83-75 in overtime against Notre Dame. Since that loss, the Huskies have won 28 straight tournament games since that defeat. In comparison, this is the Bulldogs first Final Four in program history.

Miss. St head coach Vic Schaefer on last meeting with UConn: “But, you know, there wasn't a whole lot of great things to show. I mean, when you get beat 60, it's embarrassing. I think the big thing we learned that day was the speed of the game. They were Speedy González fast. They were really fast.


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.