Women’s Basketball: No. 1 UConn prepares for nationally televised matchup at No. 9 Texas

 Connecticut forward Azura Stevens (23) pulls in a rebound in front of Houston forward Octavia Barnes (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Houston, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Connecticut forward Azura Stevens (23) pulls in a rebound in front of Houston forward Octavia Barnes (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Houston, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

The UConn women’s basketball team has been on cruise control since conference play began on Dec. 31. The No. 1 Huskies have dominated their five games against American Athletic Conference opponents, winning by an average of 51.2 points per game on their way to a 5-0 start in the American.

UConn (15-0, 5-0 the American) will face a much more difficult task Monday against No. 9 Texas. The Huskies remain in the Lone Star State after defeating Houston 95-35 on Saturday, but the matchup with the Longhorns will be a bigger challenge.

The Huskies have played six top 25 teams this season and have won each of those games by nine points or more. After Monday’s contest against Texas, UConn will have just two non-conference games remaining on its schedule – at defending champion and No. 10 South Carolina and home against No. 2 Louisville.

Katie Lou Samuelson leads the Huskies in scoring, averaging 17.9 points per game behind a 49.2 3-point percentage ranking third in Division I. Napheesa Collier and Kia Nurse are tied for second on the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game each.

Since the start of conference play, junior transfer Azurá Stevens has averaged a double-double with 13.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Perhaps the best sixth-man in the country, Stevens has been a key addition for the Huskies on the offensive end and seems to be finding her role.

Texas (14-2, 5-1 Big 12) fell two spots in the AP Poll this week after suffering its first loss in Big 12 play. The Longhorns fell to TCU after missing a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Despite the recent loss, Texas comes into Monday’s battle having won eight of its last nine games.

The Longhorns are one of the best in the country at offensive rebounding, ranking seventh in Division I with 17 offensive boards per game. Junior center Jatarie White leads the charge on the glass with a team-leading 6.1 rebounds per game, including 2.6 offensive rebounds.

Offensively, Texas relies on a trio of upperclassmen guards for much of its scoring. Seniors Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty join junior Lashann Higgs as the main scoring threats on the team. Each of the three averages at least 13 points per game, led by 15.1 points for Higgs.

UConn is 7-0 against Texas in the all-time series. In their matchup last season, the Huskies defeated the Longhorns 72-54 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Texas is looking to break its regular-season attendance record of 14,413 Monday night for the nationally televised high-profile matchup. The Longhorns have not had a home crowd reach 8,000 this season and have not seen attendance hit 10,000 since 2007.

The atmosphere and competition in Texas will likely simulate that of a big NCAA Tournament game for the Huskies, as will this weekend’s schedule. UConn played a Saturday-Monday duo of games, similar to what is in store come March.

The Huskies and Longhorns will tip off at 7 p.m. in their non-conference showdown. The game will be aired on ESPN2.


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.