Without much trouble, save for a breathless night in Baton Rouge last month, South Carolina is closing in on a second straight perfect regular season with just one final ranked hurdle to clear: No. 11 from UConn. The Huskies and Gamecocks have now met every season since 2015, and although UConn has a 9-4 all-time streak, South Carolina has taken advantage of the Huskies’ recent mortality with three straight wins.
The Huskies have lost four games this season – each of those setbacks came against an AP Top 15 opponent – for just the third time this decade, but are currently off to a perfect 12-game start in Big East play. Paige Bueckers valiantly bounced back from a brutal two-year injury, helping UConn make up for the early-season loss of Azzi Fudd as one of major league basketball’s ten most efficient players while ranking third at the national level for victory shares. Buekers has been particularly impressive of late, averaging over 22 points in her last eight games.
Bueckers formed a lethal 1-2 with front-count partner Aaliyah Edwards, a double-double machine with over 17 points per game, who will have her hands full Sunday with one of the deadliest front courts in America. Kamilla Cardoso and Ashlyn Watkins, shooting nearly 60 percent, average more than 24 points and 5.5 blocks per game, helping anchor both the nation’s most efficient defense and second-ranked offense the most effective.
UConn’s window for victory lies in controlling the pace on Saturday. South Carolina plays at one of the fastest tempos in America; the Huskies are close to the Division I average. And for all the strengths of South Carolina’s defense, the Gamecocks aren’t particularly concerned about turnovers, so if UConn can deflate the game and deliberately operate on the offensive end, they might have a chance to exploit South Carolina’s poor free throw shooting. the end of the match.