Women’s Basketball: Huskies head West to take on a depleted Creighton team

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Xavier guard Aaliyah Dunham (3) drives the ball around Connecticut guard Paige Bueckers (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Cincinnati. The Huskies are headed to Omaha to play the away portion of their series against the Creighton Blue Jays beginning Thursday, Feb. 25. Photo by Gary Landers/AP Photo.

For the fourth consecutive game, the Huskies are back on the road. This time, however, they are headed to Omaha for the away-portion of their series against the Creighton Blue Jays. UConn (18-1, 15-0 Big East) won the first meeting against the Blue Jays 80-47, but with both teams looking a bit different compared to their opening matchup, nothing is guaranteed. 

Last time out against this Creighton team, it was Olivia Nelson-Ododa who got whatever she wanted on the night. In her most dominant game of the year, the junior captain shot a perfect 9-9 from the field including her first career 3-pointer en route to a 24-point outburst to go along with two boards, two assists and two blocks.  

Nelson-Ododa’s style of play has changed a bit since the team’s first meeting, though, transitioning to more of a facilitator role, with the ball often running through her in the high post. It will be interesting to see if she takes over this game in the scoring column as she did earlier this season or maintains her newly established role as a passer. 

One player that didn’t see the floor in the first meeting was Nika Muhl, who missed out on a few games early in the season due to a left foot injury. Since then, the freshman has entrenched herself as a key part of the Huskies rotation, starting the team’s last seven games and putting up averages of 5.3 points, 4.5 assists and 2.7 steals in that span. Head coach Geno Auriemma often calls her the leader of his defense, so adding her into the mix will only make it tougher for the Blue Jays to score, especially with their absences. 

Few teams have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Big East than Creighton (7-9, 6-6 Big East). The Blue Jays have seen 12 of their games this season postponed or canceled and, due to a myriad of injuries and illnesses, have been forced to use over 10 different starting lineups in their 15 games played. Lucky for Creighton, though, is that two of their stars in Temi Carda and Emma Ronsiek have stayed as healthy as they could. 

Carda paces the team in the points (13.9) and assists (3.7) department and is the only Blue Jays that has played and started all 15 of their games. The senior has reached double figures in eight of her last 10 games including an impressive 18-point, eight-assist performance against a ranked DePaul team, and could cause problems for the Huskies if her first couple shots drop. 

Alongside Carda is Ronsiek who, despite being a freshman, ranks second on the team in points (11.7) and rebounds (4.8) while leading the team by shooting 49 percent from the field. The forward led Creighton with 11 points in their first match up against UConn and will be the name to keep an eye on for Auriemma’s squad. 

Expect the Huskies’ offense to run freely against a Blue Jays team that allows 64 points per game, as well as some lockdown defense with Muhl getting her first crack at Creighton and the rest of their team hitting their stride on the defensive end. 

Tip-off for this rematch is set for 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25 and can be viewed on SNY. 

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