The top-ranked Stanford Cardinal hosts the second-ranked UConn Huskies at Maples Pavilion on Dec. 29. The Cardinal (11-0) and the Huskies (10-0) are one of seven Division-I women’s programs still undefeated. The game will be televised on ESPNU at 4 p.m. EST.
Stanford is off to an 11-0 start for the third time in program history and has been ranked number one in the Associated Press’s Top-25 for the past six weeks, which is a program record. Stanford, which is also ranked number one in the USA Today Coaches Poll, received 24-of-40 first place votes (982 total points) from the Associated Press and 26-of-31 first place votes (769 total points) from the USA Today Coaches Poll. Stanford is 3-0 at Maples Pavilion this season and is riding an 82-game home winning streak.
Connecticut is ranked number two in both polls. The Huskies, who have been ranked second all season, received two fewer first place and three less total votes from the Associated Press and two fewer first place votes and two less total votes than the previous week. UConn received 14 first place votes (964 total points) from the Associated Press and four first place votes (744 total points) from the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Huskies are 5-0 away their home gyms in Storrs and Hartford but just 2-0 in true road games this season.
Stanford and UConn are meeting for the third time in four years and 14th time in the series. The Huskies lead the all-time series 7-6. UConn is 0-3 in three trips to Maples Pavilion.
UConn ranks among the top-10 in the nation in several offensive and defensive categories. The Huskies are ranked in the top-10 nationally in scoring (88.1 points a game), scoring defense (43 points a game), assist/turnover ratio (1.4), assists per game (22), field goal percentage (54 percent), three-point percentage (40.7 percent), field goal percentage defense (29.1) percent, fouls per game (11.9 per game), scoring margin (45.1 points a game) and turnover margin (plus 9.00).
UConn has four players scoring in double figures and seven players scoring at least eight points a game. The Huskies go 10 deep but they will be without 6-3 sophomore center Kiah Stokes [stress reaction] and possibly 6-2 freshman Morgan Tuck [listed as questionable; bruised knee]. Tuck is averaging 8.0 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.
Leading the way for the Huskies is 6-4 freshman forward Breanna Stewart (16.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and 6-0 sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (16.4 ppg, 5 rpg). Other key players include 6-5 junior center Stefanie Dolson (11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.1 apg), 5-7 junior guard Bria Hartley (10.1 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.0 rpg), 5-9 sophomore Brianna Banks (9.9, 2.1 rpg, 2.6 spg) and 5-11 senior guard Kelly Faris (9.4 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.5 rpg, 2.6 spg).
UConn is 4-0 against ranked teams this year. The Huskies are 13-3 in games involving the top two ranked teams. They have scored over 100 points three times and have held their opponents to under 40 points three times.
What to watch for
1. Geno Auriemma vs. Tara VanDerveer
Tara VanDerveer and Geno Auriemma are two of the best women’s basketball coaches of all-time and both are Naismith Hall-of-Famers. VanDerveer, in her 34th season, is fifth on the all-time wins list with 872 career victories in 1072 games. She has led the Cardinal to two national championships and 18 conference titles. VanDerveer has been named the National Coach of the Year three times.
Auriemma, in his 28th season, is seventh on the all-time wins list with 814 victories in 943 games. He has led the Huskies to seven national titles and 13 Final Four appearances. Auriemma has been named the Naismith Coach of the Year six times.
2. Stefanie Dolson/Breanna Stewart vs. Chiney Ogwumike/Joslyn Tinkle
Ogwumike, the leading candidate for National Player of the Year, has posted a double-double in eight straight games and has scored 20 or more points in five consecutive contests. She is shooting 61.9 percent from the floor and has grabbed 4.7 offensive boards a game. Tinkle, who blocked a career-high seven shots versus South Carolina on Dec. 19, is averaging 2.4 blocks a game and shooting 53.7percent from the field. Tinkle can also step outside and knockdown shots as she has made 10 three –pointers (28.5 percent) this season.
Stewart and Dolson give the Huskies the same dynamic as Ogwumike and Tinkle give the Cardinal offense. Dolson, who doesn’t step outside too much, is shooting 57.5 percent from the floor and is averaging 3.1 assists a game. She is also averaging 2.1 block shots a game. Stewart, 2012 the National High School Player of the Year, is having a terrific season. She is shooting 59.8 percent from the field and 38.5 percent (10-26) from beyond the three-point arc. Stewart is also averaging 2.6 offensive rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game.
3. Amber Orrange vs. Caroline Doty/Kelly Faris
Key to the game
1. Turnovers: Neither teams commits a lot of turnovers. The main difference is that Stanford only forces 10.6 turnovers a game while UConn forces 23.8 turnovers a game.
2. Rebounding: While neither team is outstanding on the offensive glass, the key will be limiting the other team’s second chance opportunities. Both teams are good defensive rebounding squads though Stanford has been slightly better this year.
3. Three-point shooting: UConn, which takes around 33 percent of their shots beyond the arc, has six players with at least nine made three pointers this season. Mosqueda-Lewis (54.2 percent), Banks (48.1 percent) Faris (44 percent) and Doty (39.3 percent) are the Huskies top long-range bombers.
Sharpshooters Taylor Greenfield (17-of-36 3-pters) and Bonnie Samuelson (10-of-26 3-pters) are Stanford’s only real long-range threats.
UConn doesn’t defend the three-point line exceptionally well as their opponents are shooting 32.5 percent from beyond the arc. In the meanwhile, Stanford does an excellent job defending the three-point line as they permit their opponents to shoot just 25.5 percent from beyond the arc.
4. Bench production
Even without Stokes and Tuck, UConn has a significant edge in bench production.