Women's Basketball: Huskies head to Houston, take on Cougars

South Florida forward Maria Jespersen blocks the lane as Connecticut forward Napheesa Collier (24) tries to go to the basket during the third quarter of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. UConn won 100-49. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

South Florida forward Maria Jespersen blocks the lane as Connecticut forward Napheesa Collier (24) tries to go to the basket during the third quarter of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. UConn won 100-49. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Before a non-conference road matchup with No. 7 Texas, the UConn women’s basketball team will face off against Houston in a conference game Saturday afternoon. The Huskies will need to focus on the game against a breakout Cougars team before they set their sights on the upcoming top-ten matchup.

No. 1 UConn (14-0, 4-0 the American) has coasted through American Athletic Conference play so far this season, beating its four opponents by an average of 49 points. The Huskies have won 43 consecutive road games, 143 consecutive games against unranked opponents and won their 100th straight regular season game last time out.

Leading UConn in conference play is junior Napheesa Collier, who has averaged 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game against the American. Redshirt junior transfer Azurá Stevens has averaged a double-double against conference opponents despite coming off the bench in each of the Huskies’ four games.

Houston (14-4, 3-1 the American) is off to a hot start this season despite being predicted to finish 11th in the conference in the American Preseason Coaches’ Poll. After a 4-12 record in conference play last season, Houston has nearly reached its win total four games into the 2017 campaign. The Cougars were undefeated in conference and tied for first place with the Huskies until a loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday ended Houston’s six-game winning streak.

The Cougars are third in the conference in scoring with 77.3 points per game, just behind USF and a wide margin ahead of the rest of the American. The problem for Houston is defense, as the Cougars need that high-powered offense to overcome a league-worst defense which gives up 70.3 points per game.

However, Houston’s defense does manage to force turnovers, leading the conference with 12.4 steals per game and 23.1 turnovers per game.

Offensively, the Cougars are powered by sophomore Jasmyne Harris and her 20.3 points per game. Harris was named the espnW national player of the week last week for her 34 point, 11 rebound and eight assist performance in a comeback win over Tulane. Houston trailed by 21 points early in the second half, but Harris scored 27 points in the final 23 minutes to eventually win in overtime.

UConn is 5-0 in the all-time series against Houston, including a 49-point home win over the Cougars last season. The sixth game between the American foes will tip off at 3 p.m. in Houston on Saturday and will be aired on SNY.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.