Women’s Basketball: Huskies head to Bridgeport for Sweet 16 battle against Indiana 

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The UConn women’s basketball team put on a dominate display in the first round NCAA March Madness matchup against the Mercer Bears, capturing a 83-38 victory on March 19, 2022 at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT. This win advanced the Huskies to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk / The Daily Campus.

The road continues to get tougher for the No. 2 seeded UConn women’s basketball team, as they make the in-state trek to Bridgeport for the Sweet 16. If they win, the Elite Eight. Even though they are the No. 2 in the region, they will essentially play host to North Carolina State, Notre Dame and Indiana, all of whom are further than an eight-hour drive from Total Mortgage Arena (formerly known as Webster Bank Arena). With the tough competition they will face, the home crowd will be critical as UConn continues to move through its journey to a 14th consecutive Final Four. 

The No. 3 seeded Hoosiers have had an up-and-down season, but are strong thanks to the challenges they faced both in and out of conference. After beginning the season 4-0, Indiana hit a tough three-game skid, where it played two teams that ended up being No. 1 seeds, Stanford and NC State, losing both of those games by a combined 11 points. The resilience they developed from this stretch allowed the Hoosiers to win 13 of their next 14 games, which included a win over then-No. 6 Maryland, and the only loss to Michigan, who was also No. 6 at the time.  

This streak helped Indiana to their best ranking in program history at No. 5, but they almost immediately fell apart thanks to another brutal stretch filled with 12 games in just 29 days. During a five-game portion of that span, the Hoosiers lost four of five games, with two coming against Iowa, which ended up becoming a No. 2 seed. Entering the Big Ten tournament trending in the wrong direction, things were looking bleak. However, Indiana was able to turn things around in a big way, winning three games, two of which were against top 15 opponents, before running into Iowa in the championship game. In a valiant effort, they lost to the Hawkeyes for the third time this year. 

So far in the tournament, the Hoosiers have gotten the easiest route they could have hoped for as a No. 3 seed. They blew past No. 14 seed Charlotte in a 34-point romp, and then ran into No. 11 seed Princeton, a squad ranked in the top 25 and proved they were much better than their seed suggested. With less than 10 seconds to go down by two, Tigers guard Kaitlyn Chen drove to the basket in hopes of forcing overtime, but passed the ball away and turned it over instead, sealing the Indiana win. The Hoosiers were one decision away from potentially being bounced in the first weekend, demonstrating that they are very beatable. 

On the subject of lucky teams, one could also point to UConn’s fortune in its contest against No. 7 seed UCF. The Huskies won by five, but the Knights’ 10 missed free throws were perhaps the deciding factor. The important thing to remember is that neither team is unbeatable, which will make it a very compelling game to watch. 

The UConn women’s basketball team put on a dominate display in the first round NCAA March Madness matchup against the Mercer Bears, capturing a 83-38 victory on March 19, 2022 at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT. This win advanced the Huskies to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk / The Daily Campus.

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Grace Berger: Berger is an easy choice for a player to watch on the Hoosiers’ side, as she leads the team in both scoring and passing, averaging 16.3 points and 4.8 assists, which are 106th and 48th in the nation, respectively. The do-it-all senior guard has been great all season for Indiana, scoring double digits in 29 of their 32 games. Prior to Chen’s turnover in the Princeton game, Berger was the one who hit the game-winner, effectively sending the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16. If the Huskies’ defense can effectively lock Berger up, then it will be extremely tough for the Hoosiers to generate much offense.  

Nika Muhl: In the defensive battle against UCF where Muhl played just six minutes, all in the first half, Coach Geno Auriemma noted, “we needed somebody who is a scorer. We didn’t need anybody to help us play better defense tonight.” Against an Indiana team that is much more imposing offensively than UCF, it will be interesting to see what type of role Muhl plays. Muhl had started 19 of the Huskies’ 29 games, so she is clearly valued. The impact she has in this game could be massive in determining who goes to the Elite Eight.  

The contest will be broadcast on ESPN at 2 p.m. Saturday.  

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