This Sunday, the UConn Huskies are set to go to war, as they look to bounce back against the Creighton University Bluejays at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. Three weeks removed from their last game, the Huskies are coming off of an encouraging, but painful showing against the current No. 3 Louisville Cardinals that saw interim-star Caroline Ducharme go off for 24 points and eight rebounds. Ducharme was one of the only bright spots in the game, but ultimately did not get the help she needed to beat a top 10 opponent.
Creighton should not pose quite as stiff a challenge, with the Bluejays currently placing 26th in the NCAA’s NET Rankings. Although they’re no Louisville, Creighton has had a respectable season under twentieth year coach Jim Flanery, holding a 9-3 record. They’ve beaten three teams in the Massey top 100, defeating Arkansas by nine, a squad that UConn only defeated by 15 fully healthy. Their most impressive contest was their five point loss at 13-1 Nebraska, a team that just beat No. 8 Michigan. After that recent win, Nebraska now ranks ahead of UConn in NET, opening up the possibility of a tight game.
The Bluejays are led by sophomore forward Emma Ronsiek, who plays largely as a stretch-four with an inside-out game. Ronsiek averages 13.4 points per game on the year to go along with 4.4 rebounds and just under two assists. The forward is a legitimate threat from beyond the arc, making one per game on just under three attempts, good for 37.5%. Her best game came in Creighton’s loss to South Dakota, where Ronsiek dropped a season-high 23 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists.
Another player to watch out for will be senior point guard Tatum Rembao. The 5-foot-9’ Colorado product hasn’t been a reliable threat to put the ball in the hoop every game, but it will be critical for the Huskies to minimize her role as a distributor. She averages 5.5 assists per game, including her signature performance against Arkansas, where she dished out 11 dimes en route to victory on the road. In contests where Rembao has collected seven or more assists, the Bluejays are 4-0.
For the Huskies, they shouldn’t lose, but the big question is who will look the best and step up. The contest will be a great opportunity for senior guard Christyn Williams to finally put together a complete game. Recently, Williams has not been able to do so, failing to eclipse the 15 point-mark since Bueckers’ departure. If UConn wants a chance to beat teams like South Carolina in their rematch on Jan. 27, a good game from Williams is a must to get the wheels turning again. She needs to figure things out now, or else the team could be in line for a rough few months.
Ducharme is another obvious key player. Paige Bueckers 2.0? No knock on her, but definitely not. Regardless, her ability to put the ball in the hoop and make high-effort, second-chance plays makes Ducharme a viable option to get good looks and hit shots. Besides Evina Westbrook, Ducharme is the best scoring option the Huskies have. Her shooting stroke has not been super efficient on paper, but is better than she has shown thus far.
At the end of the day, the key will be to just look and play like the better team. Even without many of their better players, UConn has everything they need to win. They still have several top 100 recruits on the floor, and are better in almost every computer metric. Hopefully they’re able to get back on track and improve their confidence to salvage what has been a comparatively disappointing year so far.