We’re not halfway through November yet and we already have a top five battle, with the No. 5 UConn Huskies women’s basketball team (1-0) staying on campus to welcome the No. 3 Texas Longhorns (1-0) to Gampel Pavilion.
The Longhorns won their first matchup of the year against Louisiana in a team effort. They got some nice production off the bench from senior forward Taylor Jones, who posted 21 points and six boards in the opener. In her three years, she’s never averaged more than 13 points and less than 12, so it will be interesting to see if she’s able to break out in what may be her final year in Austin. An important note on Jones’ production is that she got some extra minutes with the absence of star guard Rori Harmon, who looks unlikely to play against the Huskies.
Harmon, who’s just starting her sophomore year, was a fantastic floor general for the Longhorns last year. She averaged five assists per night, which placed her in the top 40 in the country in the category, which is phenomenal for a freshman. She did so on a Texas team that went to the Elite Eight, raising her average to seven in the tournament. Missing Harmon would give the Huskies a massive chance to capitalize and take home a win, as she’s a catalyst to their success.
Another injury concern for the Longhorns is for a familiar face to the Huskies, Sonya Morris. The grad transfer played four years at DePaul, consistently leading them to the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in the Big East behind UConn. She exited the Louisiana game with a back injury, but if she does play, she’s the likely candidate to give the Huskies trouble. In her junior and senior seasons, she posted 18 points per game to go along with four rebounds and three assists on over 35% from deep.
There’s a lot of talent on this Texas squad trying to improve on their Elite Eight run from last year, but their injuries will be the biggest determinant as to how the game will go. If Morris and/or Harmon are active, there’s a good chance this one will be close and exciting. If they’re both out, it could be a long night for the shorthanded Longhorns.
It’s not like Texas is the only team playing with injuries though. UConn will be without two starters in former NPOTY Paige Bueckers (ACL, season) and Caroline Ducharme (neck stiffness, day-to-day), along with freshman Ice Brady (knee, season). For this game, the Huskies are already down to nine scholarship players available.
In their absence, the player expected to step up most is sophomore Azzi Fudd, who’s in line for a monster season. Known as a sharpshooter, Fudd posted 26 points on over 50% shooting from the field with just a single three. Prior to this game, Fudd had only broken double digits in a game where she scored one or less long-ball once. She scored 12 in that matchup. Scoring 26 in such a game to start this year is a really encouraging sign for her versatility and ability to take the lead for this Husky team, not to mention the six steals and four assists she added.
Another name to watch out for is grad transfer Lou Lopez-Senechal. The guard played well in the opener, notching 17 points on 44% shooting from beyond the arc. One of the reasons why she is so intriguing here is because Texas was the team to end her career at Fairfield, beating the Stags by 20 in the first round of the tournament. Lopez-Senechal played well with 17 in that game, but will likely be looking for sweet revenge here in the form of a victory that’ll mean a little more.
Also important to watch out for will be Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhasz, both of whom posted 14 point double-doubles on Friday. Their ability to work against a strong Longhorn frontcourt will be a good indicator of how they’ll be able to compete for the rest of the year.
Before the top-tier matchup, the Huskies are hosting a number-retirement ceremony for Swin Cash, one of the greatest Huskies to ever don the blue and white. Cash, who was recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, is a two-time NCAA champion and the 2002 MOP in the Final Four, before winning three WNBA championships. Her No. 32 will be enshrined in Gampel forever alongside Rebecca Lobo’s 50 and Ray Allen’s 34.
The game will tip at 6:30 p.m. on Monday Nov. 14, and can be watched on FS1.