Irish Look to Upend Huskies
Storrs, Conn. — Stefanie Dolson came to Connecticut to play for national championships, but hasn’t been able to do that yet, after losing to Notre Dame in the national semifinals in each of her first two seasons.
In fact, after winning 12 straight games in the series, the top-ranked Huskies have lost four of their last five meetings with the Fighting Irish heading into today’s first meeting between the programs this season in Storrs.
“There is a not a day you don’t think about the same thing happening two years in a row in the Final Four against Notre Dame,” Dolson said yesterday. “That is something that is just going to fuel our fire.”
The rivalry, which UConn leads 29-8, has grown into one of the biggest in women’s college basketball, with the Irish replacing Tennessee on many UConn fans’ most-hated list.
“I think the history of the two programs . you don’t even have to tell the freshmen about it,” Notre Dame senior Skylar Diggins said. “They already know, coming into the rivalry, what it’s become, especially they last couple of years.”
This will be UConn’s second game in a week against a top-five opponent. UConn stunned then top-ranked Stanford 61-35 in California last Saturday.
The Huskies have won five games this year over ranked opponents by an average of more than 24 points a game. They also have won 13 of their last 17 against those ranked in the top five, by an average of almost 15 points a game.
But Notre Dame has had the Huskies’ number. The Irish won both regular-season meetings last year, before being blown out in the Big East championship game. They won the decisive meeting in the Final Four, 83-75, in overtime.
But UConn coach Geno Auriemma said this game is not about revenge.
“More than anything, you want to be able to play anywhere, anytime against anybody and feel like you can accomplish what you set out to accomplish,” he said. “And if you are 1-0 (in the Big East) after tomorrow, than that’s even better.”
Notre Dame comes into the game at 11-1, its lone defeat coming at home to No. 2 Baylor, 73-61, on Dec. 5.
Coach Muffet McGraw said this will be her team’s first true road test of the season, and she is looking to find out how it will respond in a hostile environment.
This will be the Huskies’ first sellout of the season.
“They’re playing at home for the first time since being ranked No. 1, so I think they’ll be more hyped than usual,” McGraw said. “This game will be similar to Baylor. We have to defend, but we also have to make shots. We have to be able to make the open shot. Stanford couldn’t make the open shots.”
The two teams meet again in South Bend on March 4, in the final game of the regular season.