When you think of the USF Bulls women’s basketball team, senior-standout Kitija Laksa and Laura Ferreira come to mind. After all, Laksa was named the American Conference Freshman of the Year, All-Championship team and a couple of AAC First team honors. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said that he wishes the Bulls were at full strength, but they will not take them lightly.
“We always had some great games with (USF), regardless of the fact that we won them all,” Auriemma said. “There is always an element of competitiveness. You always want to be playing teams at their best.”
With Laksa out for the season with a torn ACL, the team at least had Ferreira, who leads them in scoring per game (15.8), while shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. But she missed the team’s previous game against UCF and will miss the game against UConn due to an illness.
USF (10-6,1-1) will now rely on sophomore Enna Pehadzic and freshman guard Sydni Harvey. Pehadzic recorded a double-double against UCF in the team’s last game with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, Harvey finished with 12 points and two assists in the 62-49 defeat at home against a conference-foe.
“You really can’t try to make adjustments or figure out ‘what do we have to do today to beat this team.’” Auriemma said of the team’s matchup against USF. “I mean that’s part of it, don’t get me wrong. But the general focus has always been for us, ‘what do we need to get ready for March’ and that hasn’t changed, that won’t change.”
As for the Huskies, junior point guard Crystal Dangerfield has really emerged as the leader on the court. While her stats do not necessarily leap off the stat sheet, her intangibles during the games, during practice, do. She is the quarterback for this team, calling out plays and directing movement. Senior Katie Lou Samuelson said Dangerfield has done what she needs to do.
“We need (Dangerfield) to do that, she is the one who has control of us on the court,” Samuelson said. “She has the ball in her hand, she kind of has no choice and she has done a good job of stepping into that and embracing that role of kinda getting us together and figuring out what we need to run.”
No. 3 UConn (13-1, 2-0) played their first home game at Gampel Pavilion since its season-opener on Nov. 11. Now, they are playing back-to-back games at Gampel and for Samuelson and co., it is hard to believe.
“When you get on the road, you spend a lot of time together as a team,” Samuelson said. “Having to go from the bus and to the room and to dinner, so you can tell that everyone kind of needed there space right after when we got home.”
Well, they got there space and came back to obliterate the Cincinnati Bearcats 82-38. After the loss to Baylor, it seems that everything is back to normal in Husky land, but the team is honing in on consistency. They are not interested in the stat sheet, but they are focusing on the feel of the game, the ball movement.
“We’ve played some really good games, but when we are not at our best, we are not nearly as good as we need to be,” Auriemma said. “That’s the part that I think has to get fixed. There is somewhere in between, we need to close that gap.”
Dangerfield said part of finding consistency is to not take consecutive steps backward. She said the team must continue to take steps forward in practice and in games, while constantly working on getting better.
“After taking that loss (against Baylor), we can’t really worry about what’s going to happen, what the other team does, who they have, who they don’t have,” Dangerfield said. “We have to focus on what we’re going to do each time out on the floor.”
Samuelson is closing in on an impressive milestone for the Huskies, 2,000 points, which would be good for 10th all-time. However, Samuelson said she is grateful to be in the impressive company, but will not think about it until the season is over. Right now, it is all about doing whatever she needs to help the team win.
So far, she has become a much more versatile player for the Huskies this season. She has five double-doubles this season, including during the team’s last game against the Bearcats, with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
The game will be televised on ESPN at 1 p.m. and on 97.9 ESPN radio. Eric Frede and former UConn-great Rebecca Lobo will be the commentators at Gampel Pavilion.
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.