Without much trouble at all, save for an evening of bated breath in Baton Rouge last month, South Carolina closes in on a second-straight perfect regular season with just one final ranked road block to steer past: No. 11 UConn. The Huskies and the Gamecocks have now met in every season since 2015, and while UConn has a 9-4 all-time series, South Carolina has taken advantage of the Huskies’ recent mortality with three-straight wins.
The Huskies have lost four games this season — each of these setbacks came against an AP top 15 foe — for just the third time this decade but are currently riding a perfect 12-game start to Big East play. Paige Bueckers has rebounded valiantly from a brutal two-year injury stretch, helping UConn offset the early-season loss of Azzi Fudd, as one of the ten most efficient players in high major basketball while ranked third nationally in win shares. Buekers has been particularly impressive lately, averaging more than 22 points in her last eight games.
Bueckers has formed a lethal 1-2 punch with her front-count partner Aaliyah Edwards, a double-double machine with more than 17 points per game, who will have her hands full Sunday with one of the most lethal front-courts in America. Kamilla Cardoso and Ashlyn Watkins, on nearly 60 percent shooting, combine to average more than 24 points and 5.5 blocks per game, helping anchor both the nation’s most efficient defense and second-most efficient offense.
UConn’s window for victory lies in controlling the pace on Saturday. South Carolina plays at among the faster tempos in America; the Huskies linger closer to the Division I average. And for all the strengths of South Carolina’s defense, the Gamecocks aren’t particularly turnover-minded, so if UConn can deflate the game and operate deliberately on the offensive end, they may have a chance to exploit South Carolina’s poor free-throw shooting in the late game.