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Everything You Need To Know About No. 1 UConn At Houston

Hartford Courant 2018-01-13 00:10:00

Site: H&PE Arena

Time: 3 p.m., Saturday

TV: SNY (Eric Frede, Meg Culmo, Justine Ward)

Radio: WTIC 1080-AM, WILI AM-1400 and FM-95.3, WELI 960-AM, WGCH 1490 AM (Bob Joyce, Deb Fiske)

Series history: UConn, 5-0

Last meeting: UConn, 91-42, Jan. 28, 2017, XL Center

Streaks: UConn W14; Houston L1

UConn (14-0, 4-0 AAC)

5 CRYSTAL DANGERFIELD, G, 5-5, So., 12.0 — 15 assists, five turnovers in past three games

11 KIA NURSE, G, 6-0, Sr., 15.0 — 6-for-20 on 3-pointers in conference games

33 KATIE LOU SAMUELSON, F, 6-3, Jr., 18.0 — 30-for-59 on 3-pointers (50.8 percent)

15 GABBY WILLIAMS, F, 5-11, Sr., 11.1 — Team-high 36 steals (2.6 a game)

24 NAPHEESA COLLIER, F, 6-1, Jr., 15.5 — 28 blocks, 23 steals, 17 turnovers in 14 games

Houston (14-4, 3-1)

0 ANGELA HARRIS, G, 5-6, So., 13.4 – Team-high 59 steals

3 DORIAN BRANCH, F, 5-10, So., 11.3 – 37-for-96 on 3-pointers

4 JASMYNE HARRIS, G, 5-8, So., 20.3 – 29 points Wednesday vs. Cincinnati

22 MYYAH WEST, F, 6-0, Jr., 6.2 – 42 offensive rebounds (80 total)

23 SERITHIA HAWKINS, G, 5-11, Jr., 12.3 -- Averages team-high 8.2 rebounds

What To Watch

The Houston response: The Cougars had won six games in a row before being upset by Cincinnati Wednesday at home, their first conference loss. Perhaps Houston was looking ahead to the UConn game, one to be particularly up for, especially if undefeated. Instead, the Cougars enter this game in a second-place tie with South Florida and Central Florida, and UConn is in first place as the AAC’s only undefeated team.

The UConn bench: The Huskies’ freshman reserves didn’t play much Tuesday because they had practiced poorly in advance of the Central Florida game. But they actually played pretty well in limited action, once Geno Auriemma cleared the bench. How much is seen of them against Houston depends, of course, on the late-game situation. But they also were charged with having to prove themselves worthy of minutes during Thursday and Friday practices. Auriemma would love for a dependable and consistent ball-handler to emerge.

Guarding 3-pointers: Houston has made 134 3-pointers, nine more than UConn, and is averaging 22.2 attempts per game. The Cougars are shooting 34.4 percent from beyond the arc, while the Huskies are holding opponents to 24.6 percent.

Forget what’s next: A high-profile game Monday at No. 7 Texas awaits UConn a few hours down the road in Austin. It won’t do them any good to be thinking about that while sharing the court with Houston. If the Huskies are themselves, this game could look ugly. Though Houston is an improved team this season, UConn has won all five games in the series by an average of 49.6 points.

Azura’s offense: The primary focus has been for Stevens to improve defensively. Still, Auriemma sees room for her offensive game to flourish even more – from the outside – so long as she doesn’t force the issue too much. “In my heart, I believe she's a good 3-point shooter,” Auriemma said. “But I did tell her the other day, shooting 3s is her secondary option on offense. After you get bored of scoring inside and say in a timeout, 'Coach, it's too easy in there. Let me go out there and shoot 3s.' I'll say OK. It can't be, 'I'm going to go down there and shoot 3s until I make one at the expense of getting 15 points with my eyes closed just by hanging around the lane and cutting and moving.' That's how you build a player with Z's skills — inside-out, not outside-in.”

MIKE ANTHONY | manthony@courant.com

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