The No. 4 UConn Huskies (5-0, 4-0 Big East) have dominated the competition so far in their first season back in the Big East. Their 38-point win over a solid Villanova Wildcats team the Tuesday before Christmas (Dec. 22) was a particularly impressive addition to their early-season resume.
On Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. ET, the No. 18 DePaul Blue Demons (5-2, 2-0 Big East) will present the Huskies with what will be their toughest conference test of the season until the two teams meet in Chicago on Jan. 31. But even DePaul, the only other Big East team receiving votes in the AP poll, is a huge underdog against UConn.
We’ll see if the Blue Demons can make this game interesting, but they were blown away the last time they played a Top 5 team with the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals cruising past them 116-75 on Dec. 4.
DePaul’s leading scorer in particular, Sonya Morris, struggled in the Louisville game with just seven points and an 0-of-5 outing from 3-point range. However, Morris and the Blue Demons have regrouped and won four-straight games since. Morris scored 23 points and drilled 3-of-4 triples in the team’s signature win over the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats on Dec. 16.
Morris averages 18.7 points per game and is followed by Dee Bekelja who averages 16. The Blue Demons don’t have a single great rebounder, but Bekelja leads them with a solid 6.4 boards per game. Meanwhile, Lexi Held, Jorie Allen, Deja Church and Darrione Rogers all average double-figure scoring for DePaul.
UConn’s freshman phenom Paige Bueckers starred in the team’s opening game and seemed like its best player. But since then, juniors Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams have been right there with her. All three average over 17 points, with Bueckers leading the way at 18.2 per contest. All three women average at least five rebounds per game, while Nelson-Ododa’s rate of 7.6 boards paces the team.
That formidable trio makes UConn one of the scariest teams in the nation and its roster features even more talent with starters Evina Westbrook and Anna Makurat, as well as freshman Aaliyah Edwards, who is averaging 10 points per game off the bench.
The Blue Demons have their work cut out for them in this one.
Highlights: UConn was too much for Villanova to handle
No. 18 DePaul Blue Demons (5-2, 2-0 Big East) vs. No. 4 UConn Huskies (5-0, 4-0 Big East)
When: Tuesday, Dec. 29, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT
How to watch/listen: SNY/Radio: 97-9 ESPN or TuneIn (UConn)
Key to the matchup: 3-point shooting. DePaul is going to need to attempt quality 3-point shots and make a good percentage of them. The Blue Demons average 3.5 more threes per game than the Huskies and are just 1 percent behind the Huskies in 3-point shooting efficiency. Surprisingly based on its record, DePaul allows its opponents to out-shoot it from the field 48.8 percent to 45 percent, and DePaul also has a negative rebounding margin. However, the Blue Demons have a far better turnover margin than UConn, forcing 25 per contest. Expect the Blue Demons to have the advantage in turnovers and the Huskies to do well on the boards and with overall field goal percentage. DePaul’s performance from beyond the arc could be the difference, though.
Reason to watch: UConn has been a fun team to watch this season and Paige Bueckers is not the only reason. Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Evina Westbrook are all worth the price of admission as well. And even though DePaul is a big underdog, it impressed in its win over No. 13 Kentucky and should be ready to put up a fight.