Time and Place: 11 a.m. Saturday at Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT.
Where to Watch: ESPN2, channel 42.2 on Storrs TV listings
Last Meeting: Albany has faced UConn once in program history when they lost 78-44 on Dec. 29, 2005 in Hartford, CT. Former Husky Barbara Turner led the way with a game-high 18 points, while three Great Danes were tied with eight points.
UConn’s Last Time Out: UConn won their fourth straight American Athletic Conference Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena on March 6 over the University of South Florida by a score of 100-44. Sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson led all scorers with 40 points on 10-10 shooting from behind the arc in only 28 minutes of play.
Albany’s Last Time Out: The Great Danes won their sixth straight American East tournament defeating the No.4-seed Maine by a score of 66-50. In the final, senior Imani Tate led all scorers with 21 points, as she also collected five rebounds, five assists and a game-high four steals.
Projected Starting Lineups: UConn (32-0) vs. Albany (21-11)
G: Saniya Chong vs. Khepera Stokes
The senior guard comes into her 19th NCAA tournament averaging 3.63 assists per turnover which is good for third in the nation. Chong has quietly been having one of her best seasons at UConn as she averaged 8.2 points per game on an efficient 46.6 percent from the field. Stokes is not known for her scoring, averaging three points per game but is third on the team in total assists, with 94, and second on the team in steals with 51. The freshman has appeared in all 32 games of the season, starting in 18, as she is averaging 20.4 minutes per game.
G: Kia Nurse vs. Imani Tate
After missing the last four games of the regular season, Nurse was able to play in all three American tournament games as she had 20 points in 58 minutes of action. The junior guard averaged 12.2 points and 3.9 assists per game, and her best performance came against DePaul in January where she dropped a career-high 33 points on 12-16 shooting from the field. The senior guard Imani Tate is the heart of the Great Danes squad as she is first on the team with 19.1 points, first with 109 total assists and second in rebounding with 4.9 per game. Tate, the Most Outstanding Performer for the America East tournament, scored 28 points in the Great Danes’ upset of the No. 5 seed Florida in last year’s NCAA first round as she also had eight rebounds and five steals.
W: Katie Lou Samuelson vs. Bailey Hixson
Samuelson, the American Co-Player of the Year, is coming off her best game of her career, as she blew the doors off of USF scoring 40 points and making all 10 of her three-pointers. This season, she is first on the team in scoring with 21 points per game, first in made three-pointers with 110 and third in field goal percentage shooting 49.4 percent from the field. After only appearing in 11 games during the 2015-2016 season, Hixson has appeared in 31 games this season and started in 27 games as she is averaging 8.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. She is first on the team with a 37.6 percent three point percentage as she has made a team-high 53 on the season.
G: Gabby Williams vs. Jessica Féquière
The American Defensive Player of the year and first-team member, junior Gabby Williams has been a jack of all trades for UConn this season, as she is averaging 13.2 points per game, 8.4 rebounds and a team-high 5.25 assists per game. Williams has played in 12 NCAA tournament games, with her one start coming in the National Championship victory over Syracuse last season, as she had nine points, eight rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes of play. Féquière sat out with an injury last season and has bounced back this season. Whe is second on the team with 12.4 points per game and first with 7.2 rebounds per contest.
F: Napheesa Collier vs. Heather Forster
UConn’s leading rebounder with 8.9 per game and second on the team in scoring with 20.2 points per game, Collier has had a breakout year for the Huskies as she was also named the American Co-Player of the Year. The sophomore is second in the nation in field goal percentage shooting 68.9 percent while she is also shooting a respectable 41.5 percent from behind the arc and 83.8 percent from the line. Forester joins Tate, as a member of the team who upset Florida last season as Forester was 1-1 from the field for three points in 19 minutes of action.
Samuelson’s thoughts on NCAA tournament: “We are all really excited to get it started and play tomorrow. We know we have to take each game one day at a time and really focus on what we have tomorrow rather than looking ahead at the big picture.”
Quest for Five: The Huskies are looking to win their fifth straight National Championship, but will first have to win against Albany, as UConn is an all-time 24-2 in the first round and 91-9 all-time when ranked a No. 1 seed.
Auriemma on the Madness: “I know at this time of the year what your record is or what you did the past five months is not really significant. It really is about being able to play six nights in a row; we’ve been able to play great a lot of nights this year.”
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.