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March 2, 2013

Women's basketball looks for an upset

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The USF Bulls women's basketball team (19-8, 8-6) take on No. 3 Connecticut today in a matinee matchup at the Sun Dome, marking USF's final home game of the season and its third game against a ranked opponent in a little over a week's time.

USF is looking to bounce back from a tough road loss against Rutgers, which knocked the Bulls' NCAA Tournament hopes back a bit. The team is currently in the sixth slot in the Big East standings, trailing the conference's four Top 25 teams and St. John's (16-10, 10-4).

UConn (26-2, 13-1) is undefeated on the road this season, and has won 14 of its last 15 contests. The Huskies are second in the Big East, trailing only No. 2 Notre Dame who is undefeated in conference play.

This is the only time these two squads will meet this season.

Three Keys to the Game

  • 1. Play a complete game on both sides of the ball. Going up against the team that has both the top ranked scoring offense (82.6 points per game) and scoring defense (46.9 points per game) in the country means that USF has little room for mistakes, and each one it makes could cost the team dearly.

  • 2.Capitalize on the few weak spots the Huskies have. Though UConn is ranked in the top 50 in nearly every statistical category, there is one glaring weakness: three-point defense. The Huskies are only 102nd in the country in defending from the three-point line, and the Bulls will need Inga Orekhova (the team's leader in three-pointers) to take advantage of that.

  • 3.Improve shooting. USF could not beat a mediocre Rutgers offense when shooting 29 percent from the field, and the Bulls will hardly be able to keep themselves in the game if they continue that trend in this contest.

    The Matchup

    UConn is arguably USF's toughest opponent this season. Though the Bulls did take on No. 2 Notre Dame earlier this season and lost in overtime, the Huskies are the complete package in every sense of the term. As noted earlier, they have the top scoring offense and top scoring defense in the country, but that is hardly all UConn has to offer: this team is number two in assists per game (21 per game), number three in rebound margin (11.7), number three in three-point field goals (8.8 per game), and number seven in blocked shots (5.8 per game). The Huskies' two losses this season came against the top two teams in the country, No. 1 Baylor and now-No. 2 (then No. 5) Notre Dame. With an RPI of two, this UConn team is the one to beat.

    The Bulls are becoming a team that is increasingly difficult to figure out. After winning back-to-back games against teams that many did not have them beating (Louisville and Syracuse, who were No. 12 and No. 21 at the time respectively), USF fell to a struggling Rutgers squad in a contest that many felt would be an easy win for the Bulls. Now that they seem to be confined to the bubble position in terms of being selected for the tourney, there should be a renewed desperation for this USF squad. Beating the No. 3 team in the country with the No. 2 RPI would undoubtedly seal an NCAA tournament berth, but the possibility of a win is entirely dependent on which Bulls squad shows up this afternoon.

    Players to Watch

    Each of USF's starters struggled in the last outing against Rutgers, where only senior guard Andrea Smith was able to reach double digits in points despite shooting at just 23 percent. However, freshman Courtney Williams had an impressive game coming off of the bench, scoring a team-high 15 points and getting a team-high five rebounds against the Scarlet Knights. Williams has only started in three of the 27 games that she's played in, but certainly has an impact for the Bulls on the scoreboard (William's is fourth on the team in points scored with an average of 7.3 per game) as she continues to earn more minutes.

    With the number one offense in the country, it is hardly a surprise that UConn also has the best field-goal shooter and the best three-point shooter in the country. Stefanie Dolson, a sophomore center, leads the nation in field-goal shooting at 60 percent; Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, a sophomore forward, leads the nation in three-point shooting at 50.3 percent. Together these two players form an offensive dynamic that is difficult to be stopped, leading their UConn team to the best scoring margin in the country with an average of 35.7 more points than its opponents in any game.

    The game can be heard on 1010 AM as well as on BullsCast on GoUSFBulls.com



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