One of the greatest rivalries in women’s college basketball will be renewed on Sunday afternoon in Hartford, Connecticut. The number three Notre Dame Fighting Irish will travel to the XL Center to take on number one ranked University of Connecticut for the Jimmy V Women’s Classic. Both teams take undefeated records into the matchup on ESPN.
So far this season, Notre Dame has jumped out to a 7-0 record, beating five ranked teams in the process. The biggest win so far this season was over then number 3 ranked South Carolina in the championship game of the Gulf Coast Showcase. The win snapped the Gamecocks’ 17-game winning streak.
In their seven wins, the Irish have outscored their opponents 599-457. Notre Dame is shooting 49.2 percent from the field while holding opponents to just 38.5 percent. The most significant stat for the Irish so far this season is the dismantling of opponents on the boards. They have 325 total rebounds to their opponents 229. Without senior forward Brianna Turner, this was a question mark for Muffet McGraw’s side. Sophomore guard Jackie Young and junior forward Jessica Shepard are carrying the load and are the keys to the rebounding battle.
The injury bug has bitten another Irish player, this time freshman Mikayla Vaughn. Vaughn tore her ACL in practice on Tuesday. The freshman center will miss the remainder of the season, leaving Notre Dame very thin at the five spot.
The UConn Huskies once again find themselves at the top of the rankings, a familiar home for this program. This season, the Huskies have beaten four ranked teams on the path to a 6-0 record. Not only have they picked up key home wins vs. California and Maryland, but also a decisive road win vs. UCLA and an early neutral site win over Stanford.
UConn has outscored their opponents 519-351 over six games. No team has gotten within 15 points of UConn yet this season. So far this season, the Huskies have outscored their opponents 179-119 at home. In seven games away from Purcell Pavilion, the Irish have outscored opponents 478-392.
Good news for the Huskies is that junior guard Katie Lou Samuelson plans to play on Sunday vs. the Irish. Samuelson has missed the last four games due to a foot injury. The junior has been wearing a boot on her left foot since suffering a midfoot sprain against California on Nov. 17.
Matchup to watch
Jackie Young has avoided the sophomore slump and has put on a show for the Irish. In 232 minutes played, she averages 17.9 points per game on 50 percent shooting. The 6’ guard is just two rebounds shy of Jessica Shepard for the team lead in total rebounds. Young’s statistical outburst has taken the load off of junior guards Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale.
Young will be facing fellow sophomore Crystal Dangerfield. Dangerfield has also stepped up as a sophomore, more than doubling her points totals from freshman year. The sophomore guard leads her team in minutes played and assists. Both players will be key to their team’s path to victory.
The Huskies have won nine of the last ten meetings between the two sides. Notre Dame is looking for their first win vs. their number one rivals since moving to the ACC. Tip-off for the matchup is scheduled for 4 p.m. As mentioned before, the game can be found on ESPN as part of the Jimmy V Women’s Classic.