Notre Dame not only has one undefeated basketball team, but they actually have two. The women’s team is off to an 8-0 start and is ranked No.2 in the AP Poll, and No.1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Lady Irish will have their toughest test of the season on Wednesday night when they take on archrival Connecticut. These two teams don’t like each other. Expect a sold out Purcell Pavilion to be rocking on Wednesday night.
RIVALRY RENEWED.— NOTRE DAME WBB (@ndwbb) December 7, 2016
#2/1 ND • #1/2 UConn
7pm | ESPN2
SOLD OUT pic.twitter.com/PSreYwQDGI
The Huskies recently moved ahead of ND in the AP Poll to the No.1 ranking. They come into the game on a 83-game winning streak, unbelievably thats not even the best in the Geno Auriemma era. UConn won 90 in row from 2008-10. UConn is also the winner of the last four National Titles and are the giant of the sport. They come into the game off two convincing wins over #15 DePaul and #14 Texas.
The Huskies did lose their best player from the last four seasons in Brianna Stewart. Auriemma and the Huskies have just reloaded though and are still one of, if not the best team in the country.
Connecticut is led by two dynamic sophomores in Napheesa Collier and and Katie Lou Samuelson. Collier, a 6’1” forward, is the team’s leading scorer at 19.1 points per game. She’s shooting 49% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Samuelson is a tick behind Collier in scoring as she averaging 19.0 points per game. She’s the team’s leading rebounder with 7.1 rebound per contest. Samuelson also has the teams best field goal percentage at 69%.
Head coach Muffet McGraw brings back another talented and balanced squad this season. Her team boasts four players who average double figures in scoring. The Irish play an unselfish brand a basketball. They’re averaging exactly 20 assists per game as a team.
Arike Ogunbowale leads the team with 17.5 points per contest and shoots better than 55% from three-point land. Junior forward Brianna Turner is also one of the leaders of this team. At 6’3 she provides the Irish with an inside presence. She pulls down a team leading 6.3 rebounds per game and also is averaging a block per game.
Two others to keep your eye on are sophomore guard Marina Mabrey and freshman guard Jackie Young. Mabrey is the team’s second leading scorer at 13.8 points per game. Her 3PT% has taken a dip this season, but last year she shot 45% from the outside. She’s definitely capable of knocking down some big shots. Young was Notre Dame’s most coveted recruits this season. She was Miss Basketball in the state of Indiana for 2016 and is already making an impact. Young is averaging 10.0 points per game.
The Irish have been one of the best programs in the sport over the last 15-20 years, and have elevated into elite status over the last 5+ seasons. One could argue that if it wasn’t for Connecticut, Muffet McGraw probably would have more than just one national championship. The Huskies have been Notre Dame’s achilles heel. For example, over the last two years the Irish are 114-2, but against UConn they’re 0-4. That 0-4 record includes a 10-point loss in the 2015 National Championship game.
It’s only December and both teams will certainly make runs in March, but a win over the Huskies would do wonders for the Irish’s confidence going forward.