Due to cancellations and postponements, it has been a challenge for the undefeated No. 3 UConn Huskies (10-0) to build their case for the No. 1 ranking.
The Huskies have only two wins over ranked teams, a late December victory over the then-No. 18 DePaul Blue Demons, 75-52, in Storrs and last Thursday’s escape against the then-No. 25 Tennessee Lady Volunteers, 67-61, in Knoxville.
On Thursday at 5 p.m. ET (ESPN2), UConn has an opportunity to bolster its resume against the No. 19 Arkansas Razorbacks (11-6) in Fayetteville.
In contrast to the Huskies, the Hogs have faced a stacked schedule, with seven games against teams that have been ranked in the top 25. All six of their losses have come against ranked teams, including their most recent back-to-back losses to the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks, 104-82 in Columbia, and the No. 22 Georgia Lady Bulldogs, 75-73 in Athens.
In order to hang with the Huskies, the Hogs will need an outstanding offensive performance from more than just Chelsea Dungee. The senior guard has been superb, scoring 21.4 points per game. Of late, her senior backcourt mate Amber Ramirez has failed to show off her scoring pop, managing only 10 points against South Carolina and two points against Georgia.
Arkansas needs to put lots of points on the board from the perimeter positions because of their interior weakness, especially on the defensive end. South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston feasted inside, as did Georgia’s Jenna Staiti.
Look for UConn junior Olivia Nelson-Ododa to have another big game. In UConn’s Saturday win over Georgetown, 72-41, Nelson-Ododa posted 19 points and nine rebounds.
Freshman phenom Paige Bueckers and steady sophomore Anna Makurat both missed the Georgetown game with injuries. Bueckers, who rolled her ankle in her Big East Freshman of the Week-winning performance against Tennessee, is listed as probable for the Arkansas game. Makurat is out indefinitely with a right leg injury.
Paige Bueckers (ankle) is probable for tonight’s game at Arkansas.— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) January 28, 2021
Even if Bueckers is not back, the Huskies have enough offensive firepower from the perimeter with Christyn Williams and Evina Westbrook. While still not the most efficient scorer, Williams finds ways to fill it up, scoring 20 points at Tennessee and 17 points over Georgetown. Westbrook, in contrast, has offered efficient offensive contributions, shooting 55.3 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three-point range as she has scored 11.2 points per game.
Evina Westbrook ➡️ Christyn Williams pic.twitter.com/pSeRLiDA2J— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) January 23, 2021
No. 19 Arkansas Razorbacks (11-6, 2-5 SEC) vs. No. 3 UConn Huskies (10-0, 8-0 Big East)
When: Thursday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR
How to watch/listen: ESPN2/Radio: 97-9 ESPN or TuneIn (UConn)
What to watch for: As noted above, UConn should be able to exploit Arkansas inside. In addition to Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Husky freshman forward Aaliyah Edwards, with her Mamba-inspired purple and gold locks, should have the opportunity to turn in an impactful performance. To strengthen the Hogs’ interior scoring, head coach Mike Neighbors might want to give more time to redshirt sophomore forward Erynn Barnum, who had 13 points in 15 minutes of action against South Carolina and 15 points in 20 minutes against Georgia.