UConn set for tough matchup against Iowa on verge of the Elite 8

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Mar 23, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; UConn Huskies forward Aubrey Griffin (44) shoots over Syracuse Orange guard Emily Engstler (21) in the second half at the Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday, March 27, the No. 1 seed UConn Huskies will face off against the No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes with a chance to punch their tickets to the Elite 8. The two best freshman in the country, UConn’s Paige Bueckers and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, will be on full display, and it should be a show.  

While UConn and Iowa are both elite scoring teams, the advantage lies with the Huskies on the defensive end. UConn has scored an average of 82.8 points-per-game this season and 92.5 through the first two games of the tournament while Iowa is scoring 86.6 points-per-game this season with 86.5 in the tournament. However, UConn is allowing only 50.7 points-per-game this season while Iowa has allowed 80.5 throughout the season. Iowa has allowed 72 points against in each of their previous games while UConn held both of their opponents to below 60 points.  

Head coach Geno Auriemma, who has returned to the team after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in the month, said he expects Saturday’s contest to be a high-scoring affair that his team might have to win “90-89.” He also added that acting head coach Chris Daily did an excellent job in his absence. “I hope I don’t screw anything up. They’ve been really good without me … I just hope I can add something positive,” he said.  

The matchup to watch is between the two freshmen stars leading their teams: Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark. Bueckers, The Big East Player of the Year, led the team in both points (19.9) and assists (6) per-game. She has 44 points and 10 assists through two games in the tournament. Likewise, Clark leads the Hawkeyes in points (26.7) and assists (7.1) per-game. Junior Christyn Williams will be given the key assignment of limiting Clark’s production.  

Though Bueckers and Clark are the proverbial talk of the town, Auriemma says a victory will require a full-team effort. “It’s like a big football game where they say it’s Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers and it couldn’t be further from the truth … Like it always is in these games, they’re just a part of it,” he said.  

Freshman guard Nika Muhl, who was injured in the second quarter of UConn’s win over High Point in the first round, is still uncertain to play, but Auriemma said she’s come a long way from where she was. Aaliyah Edwards, the Big East Sixth Woman of the Year who has scored 36 points in two tournament games, will likely stay in the starting lineup in the absence of Muhl. 

The game will tip off at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.  

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