Women’s Basketball: Huskies engage in battle with tough UCF defense on the road

UConn squares up and takes on Cincinnati in basketball on Sunday, Feb. 4. The Huskies took a commanding lead in the tail end of the first half, leading to a 106-65 victory. (Jon Sammis/The Daily Campus)

The UConn women’s basketball team will partake in one of its toughest conference tests of the season Wednesday night when it takes on the UCF Knights on the road in Orlando, Florida.

The No. 1 Huskies (22-0, 10-0 the American) are coming off a blowout win over the Cincinnati Bearcats but struggled early in the game before pulling away on a 21-0 run that put the game out of reach. This time, UConn will look to put together a much more complete performance up to their standards.

“There were a lot of kind of wasted minutes (against Cincinnati), so on Wednesday we’re just looking to put together a full 40,” UConn senior forward Gabby Williams said.

The Knights (16-7, 8-2 the American) sit tied for second with the USF Bulls in the American Athletic Conference standings. UCF boasts the best defense in the conference, ranking ahead of UConn with just 53.7 points allowed per game.

The Knights love to slow the ball down and make opponents play at their pace, so while they also score just 58.5 points per game (second-worst in the conference), UCF’s style of play has led them to success thus far this season.

“What (UCF) have done I think is they’ve established this is our identity, this is our style of play. This is the defense we’re gonna play, and this is what we do on offense,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “And they’re committed to it, and they recruit the kind of players that play to that.”

“That’s basically what you want for a coach. What’s the identity of your team gonna be? How can you kind of summarize a team in just a few words?” Auriemma continued. “They play a great zone defensively, and they’re very patient on offense. And they’re great mid-range shooters.”

The last time these two teams played on Jan. 9, the Huskies came out on top 80-44 but struggled to produce their normal levels of offensive efficiency in the first half as they contended with UCF’s tough and physical defense.

The Knights are especially hard to beat at home, where they are 9-2 for the season. Auriemma said it is crucial to get UCF flustered by making shots early and speeding up the game to a pace they won’t be comfortable with.

“(The Knights) make the game the way they want to make it. It’s hard to get them out of their game,” Auriemma said. “When you go down there, you have to make shots early. And you gotta make a bunch of ‘em, and then when they get down, maybe you can speed them up. But if the game is played at a slow place, then you have a tough time with them.”

UConn point guard Crystal Dangerfield’s availability is a question mark for Wednesday night’s game after missing the Cincinnati game with shin splints that have kept her out of practice.

“I don’t know (about Dangerfield’s ability),” Auriemma said. “I’m inclined to say that the more rest she gets, the quicker we can move on from (the shin splints). Because right now, she hasn’t been practicing…Hopefully all this rest that she’s getting (will help).”

The Huskies and Knights will tip-off at 7 p.m. in tomorrow’s game, which will be broadcast on SNY.


Chris Hanna is the associate sports editor  for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at christopher.hanna@uconn.edu. He tweets @realchrishanna.