It’s hard to imagine that either the No. 8 UConn women’s basketball team or No. 20 Maryland’s respective opening weekends played out as they hoped. The Huskies entered their game as 9.5-point favorites against now-No. 14 NC State and exited Reynolds Coliseum as 11-point losers. The Terrapins went to then-No. 6 (now top ranked) South Carolina and lost by 38. No ranked team should lose any game by that many points. Both teams desperately need to right the ship, and Thursday’s game is a perfect opportunity to do so.
The Terps started their year out as expected against Harvard, a team that is typically a top Ivy League squad. They won by 23 points after an impressive 31-11 first quarter, spearheaded by the efforts of Shyanne Sellers. The junior has steadily increased her scoring output since her freshman season, now taking over as Maryland’s go-to option. She notched 25 points against the Crimson, also playing a big distribution role with seven assists.
Sellers’ scoring did take a four-point dip against the Gamecocks, but it mattered little for the outcome of the game. Though the Terrapins led at the under-five timeout of the second quarter, the wheels completely fell off from there. In the final 24 minutes of play, the team was outscored by 41 points. The offense stayed stable with 36 points in the first half versus 40 in the second, but surrendering 66 second half points was the killer.
A name that UConn fans will likely recognize on Maryland is Jakia Brown-Turner. The graduate student transferred from NC State this past summer and is the third leading scorer on the team so far. In the 2022 Elite Eight, Brown-Turner famously nailed a corner-three to force double overtime against the Huskies. Connecticut went on to win the game, so it’s likely that Brown-Turner will be looking for revenge after not only that loss, but also the 22-point beating UConn gave her last year in Hartford, Connecticut.
If Maryland doesn’t win this game, they could be out of the AP Top 25 come Monday. Though losing to the No. 8 team nationally doesn’t tend to warrant a drop in the rankings, holding a 2-2 or 1-3 record (depending on how they do against Syracuse) likely wouldn’t entice voters to include them.
For Connecticut, this matchup is just as dire. Largely expected to cruise through much of their season, few predicted a loss to unranked NC State as their initial undoing. But again, they performed as a team that struggled to provide enough support for former national POTY Paige Bueckers. The redshirt junior notched 27 points against the Pack, while Aaliyah Edwards and Qadence Samuels scored 21 and 14, respectively. The lack of contributions from the rest of the squad and the absence of a frontcourt was too much to overcome.
The height problem on the Huskies’ roster has been a known issue since 6-foot-5 freshman Jana El Alfy suffered a preseason injury, but that shouldn’t be a major concern against Maryland. The Terps have one 6-foot-7 player in freshman Hawa Doumbouya, but she’s played two minutes so far. Nobody in the rotation is taller than 6-foot-2, which will make UConn’s life on Thursday much easier.
As for the verterans’ production, there are many players who need to step it up more. At the forefront of the list is Azzi Fudd, who managed just nine points against NC State. She was 1–7 from downtown, a much lower rate than she often converts at. Just think, if she had made three more, Sunday would have been a completely different game.
Caroline Ducharme also needs to do more. She played great as a freshman, but failed to stay healthy last year. This year, she hasn’t gotten off to a much better start, averaging six points on 36% shooting from the field. She scored just two against the Pack, which is far from what the team needs from her. She’d benefit from a bounceback game as much as anyone in the country. Her last 15-point outing was in December of 2022, and she needs to be having more games like that.
Looking at the teams in general, Connecticut does match up well. They play better when the opposition isn’t bigger than them, something that will be a theme this year. It seems that everything went wrong against NC State, so if they can string together a complete game from more contributors, they should be able to take care of business in front of a rowdy Gampel Pavilion crowd.
The matchup will tip off at 6:30 p.m. EST and can be viewed on FS1.