The UConn women’s basketball team are traveling to unknown territory – Wichita. The Huskies played the Shockers only once before, but that was at the XL Center last year.
“We’ve never been to Wichita so that will be kind of neat,” associate head coach Chris Dailey said. “We always look at these longer trips as just an opportunity, just like you would in the NCAA tournament, you have a quick turnaround. You don’t know the area. You might not know the team as well because we’ve only played Wichita State one time.”
That one time was an absolute dismantling of Wichita State to the tune of a 124-43 score. I guess you can say the Huskies shocked the Shockers. The Huskies of last year shot 71 percent, dished 32 assists and robbed 21 passes.
No. 2 UConn (25-2, 13-0 The American) are a little different this year. They actually have lost a game in the regular season, two to be exact, with both of those coming on the road. As Dailey alluded to after practice on Friday, this is a good opportunity for UConn to be thrust into an NCAA Tournament style of scheduling. They played Tulsa Sunday afternoon and will play Wichita State Tuesday night. The competition is not what the Huskies will see in the tournament, but playing on the road should help their mental toughness.
UConn could be without head coach Geno Auriemma for the second-straight game as the Hall of Fame coach is dealing with an illness. According to the university, Auriemma hopes to join the team in Wichita. If he can’t make it, Dailey will act as head coach.
Sophomore Megan Walker is coming off a phenomenal game against Tulsa, which she recorded her fourth career double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. But it is not all about the stats for Walker, she has been extremely efficient. After all, it is not Katie Lou Samuelson who leads the team in 3-point percentage, it is Walker, who is shooting nearly 44 percent from beyond the arc.
“(Walker has) always been a good shooter. She loves to shoot and she owns the corner 3,” Dailey said. “She is really good in the mid-range game. Those are things that she’s always been able to do, but I think now she feels more comfortable making those shots when she’s tired, making those shots at the end of a quarter versus at the beginning. I think she’s worked really hard at being able to play both ends of the floor, play up and down like we like to play and still be able to make her shots.”
Dailey said that Walker has been able to get her confidence level higher which has enabled her to play at the level she is capable of playing.
“I think (Walker’s) effort level has definitely improved and I think her confidence has improved and that comes part with how hard you go,” Dailey said. “The harder you practice and the more intense you are in practice, it allows you to build confidence and have success in games.”
Wichita State (11-15, 4-9 The American) does not have a single player who averages double digit points. Carla Bremaud comes the closest, averaging 9.7 points per game. As a team, the Shockers are outscored by opponents, on average 57-61.
For all intents and purposes, this should not be too close of a game, so this could be another opportunity for UConn’s bench to get ample playing time. The player that the Huskies need to continue to improve down the stretch is Olivia Nelson-Ododa. The freshman has proven at times that she can hang tough and provide the team with tough defense in the paint.
Auriemma has said that Nelson-Ododa shifted the momentum during the team’s win against South Carolina by blocking shots and playing solid defense. Nelson-Ododa has the second most blocks (30) on the team, just 10 behind Napheesa Collier, who has 40.
The Huskies will be going for their 100th regular season win in The American Conference at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on SNY and ESPN 3. The game will also be on 97.9 ESPN Radio.
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.