For the ninth year in a row, UConn has made an appearance as the No. 1 team in the country, according to the AP’s latest poll. With that spot comes a little added pressure, with teams eager to take down the nation’s best team, but in head coach Geno Auriemma’s 36th season, he may finally be ready to celebrate the feat. At least a little bit.
“This is one of those times when we should compliment ourselves a little bit,” Auriemma said just before the announcement was made. “There wouldn’t be anything wrong with that … But we’re not going to put up a banner.”
Like Auriemma alluded to though, the time for celebration is officially over. After a four-day stretch with no games — the team’s longest since mid-January when they got 10 days off due to a COVID-19 cancellation — the Huskies (16-1, 13-0 Big East) are headed to New York for their second matchup against St. John’s.
In the first meeting between UConn and the Red Storm (6-11, 3-8 Big East), the Huskies came out on top 94-62, riding the hot hands of freshmen Paige Bueckers and Aaliyah Edwards, who combined for 55 points in the win.
Bueckers is coming off back-to-back Big East player and freshman of the week honors — the first in conference history to sweep the awards in multiple weeks — and will look to build off her 32-point, seven-assist showing last time out against the Red Storm.
Christyn Williams did not play in the first matchup due to an ankle injury, but is coming off a 19-point, seven-rebound performance in the Huskies’ most recent win against Georgetown. Having struggled with her confidence recently, this game offers a great opportunity for the junior to carry the momentum she currently has going into her first meeting with the Red Storm.
On the defensive end, all of UConn’s attention should be on sophomore Leilani Correa. Not only is Correa far and away St. John’s leading scorer — she’s averaging 20.9 points per game while the next closest active player is averaging 10.4 — but she also lit up the Huskies for 33 points on 52% shooting in the teams’ first meeting. Correa is coming off her second-lowest point total of the season that saw the team score a season-low 47 points, so if UConn can zero in on the sophomore, their offense should be able to take care of the rest.
Luckily for the Huskies, they’ve hit their stride on the defensive end with the ever-improving play of freshmen Bueckers, Edwards and Nika Muhl, and have all the tools to keep Correa and co. locked up.
Over their last four games, UConn has held opponents to 51.5 points per game — highlighted by holding then-No. 1 South Carolina to 59 points in an overtime win — and just 36% shooting. Adding a pesky defender like Williams back into the mix for the rematch will only aid the Huskies in shutting down St. John’s in what should be another comfortable game for UConn.
Tip-off for this one is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday Feb. 17 and can be watched on SNY.