Get to know UConn’s Conference Championship opponent USF

USF forward Maria Jespersen drives past a Temple defender in the first half of the Bulls' 63-58 win over the Owls on Sunday night in the American semifinals at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. USF will play UConn in the American Conference final on Monday night at 7 p.m.. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

After UConn’s 78-56 win over UCF, the Huskies will look to capture their fourth straight American Athletic Championship tournament when they play the USF Bulls Monday, March 6. This is the third-straight season the two will square off in the finals as UConn won in 2015 by a score of 84-70 and last season by a score of 77-51.

Game info

7 p.m.at Mohegan Sun Arena . The game can be seen on ESPN 2.

Players to watch

Maria Jespersen: Jespersen was recently named the American’s Most Improved Player after raising her scoring average by nearly 10 points this season compared to last year. She finished the regular season as the Bulls’ second leading scorer at 15.2 points per game and the leading rebounder with 8.8 per game. She scored 14 points and added 13 rebounds in USF’s win over Temple in the conference tournament semifinals.

Kitija Laksa: Laksa was recently recognized as a first-team all conference member and is the Bulls’ primary scoring option. A dangerous 3-point shooter, Laksa led the Bullls in scoring with 18 points in the semifinal win over the Owls and added three assists. Despite her scoring prowess, Laksa has struggled against UConn this season, averaging just 11 points per game in two matchups this season.

Snapshot of the season

After going 24-10 and losing to the No. 3 seed UCLA Bruins in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Bulls, win or loss, will find themselves playing in the NCAA tournament after going 24-7. The Bulls finished third in the AAC and were an impressive 8-2 on the road and 6-1 in neutral arenas. They started the season on an eight game winning streak and for most of the season found themselves in and out of the AP top 25.

Road to finals

The Bulls were 11-5 in American regular season play and captured the third seed for the tournament. In the quarterfinals USF was able to defeat No.6 SMU by a score of 66-52. In the game, the Bulls were able to hold off the Mustangs in the second half as they were led by Laska who had a team-high 17 points, marking it her 28th double-figure scoring game of the season. In the semifinals, they downed the No. 2 seed Temple Owls by a score of 63-58. Laska once again led the way with a team-high 18 points in 40 minutes of play.

History vs UConn

All-time the Huskies are a monstrous 22-0 against the Bulls including a 103-37 and 96-68 wins this season. In the former, the Huskies had six players in double-digits as senior Saniya Chong had 20 points and eight assists while junior Gabby Williams had 11 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and three steals in 21 minutes of action. In the last game of the season, the Huskies won by 28 points at South Florida as sophomore Napheesa Collier had a career high 39 points on 15-19 shooting while also grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds.

How they can beat UConn

In order for the Bulls to be the first team not named UConn to win the American Athletic Conference Tournament Championship, USF will need a superstar performance from Laksa. The sophomore will have to get hot from the 3-point line to keep up the Huskies’ efficient offense. Jespersen and American Freshman of the Year Tamara Henshaw will have dominate the glass and keep Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams from getting and converting easy looks inside.


Dan Madigan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.