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Preview: Will it be a Saturday night classic between No. 8 UConn and No. 15 Notre Dame?

It’s a top-15 Saturday night showdown! The No. 8 UConn Huskies host the No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 8 p.m. ET in Gampel Pavilion.

Connecticut v Georgetown
Aaliyah Edwards and No. 8 UConn look to charge to a 14th-straight win on Saturday night.
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The next chapter in the UConn-Notre Dame rivalry will be written on Saturday night in Storrs. With UConn’s 2003, 2004, 2013 and 2014 national champion teams to be honored before the game, history will weigh heavy when the No. 8 Huskies (17-3, 9-0) and No. 15 Fighting Irish (14-4, 5-3) take the court at 8 p.m. ET (FOX).

Both teams entered the season with intentions of raising a banner, with UConn ranked No. 2 and Notre Dame ranked No. 10 in preseason. However, injuries caused issues for both teams’ ambitions.

After UConn lost junior guard Azzi Fudd to an ACL injury in late November, the Huskies’ season threatened to go off the rails, with three losses by early December representing a near crisis for the program. Despite since losing fifth-year forward Aubrey Griffin and junior guard Caroline Ducharme for the season due to injuries, the Huskies have stabilized—and then some. UConn enters Saturday night on a 13-game winning streak, with all victories coming by double digits. Along with the brilliance of redshirt junior guard Paige Bueckers and the steady presence of seniors Aaliyah Edwards and Nika Mühl, a trio of freshmen guards—KK Arnold, Ashlynn Shade and Qadence Samuels—deserve credit for UConn’s resurgence.

The Irish have not had junior guard Olivia Miles all season, while fellow junior guard Sonia Citron has played in just half of the team’s games. The absences of those expected contributors have prevented Notre Dame from sustaining winning momentum, evidenced by Thursday’s loss to Syracuse. But through the ups and downs, the Irish also have relied on a freshman, with Hannah Hidalgo carrying a heavy load on both ends of the floor.

The matchup between Hidalgo and Arnold, ranked as the fifth and sixth best players in the class of 2023 according to ESPN’s HoopGurlz, certainly intrigues. Hidalgo has the starrier stats, averaging 23.9 points per game as she also leads the nation with 5.4 seals per game. Yet, Arnold possesses a similar skill set, eager to push the pace on offense and get after it on defense. She leads the Huskies with 2.4 steals per game, while scoring almost 10 points per game on efficient shooting.

Yet, it might be the more experienced shooting guards who determine how the game unfolds. While UConn’s Bueckers earns much attention, don’t sleep on Citron and her sweet stroke. Shooting better than 41 percent from 3 this season, she can ignite from downtown, in addition to draining shots from midrange and driving all the way to the hoop. The Irish need an aggressive Citron to hang with the Huskies. In her best game of the season, she scored 28 points on Virginia, earning 12 free throws and swishing all of them.

On the interior, Edwards outclasses Notre Dame’s bigs; she’s just better than senior forwards Maddie Westbeld, Kylee Watson and Nat Marshall. But, UConn’s big depth is otherwise shaky. If Edwards encounters foul trouble, expect the Huskies to try to outgun the Irish with a small-ball attack. If that happens, can Notre Dame punish UConn inside?

Based on the teams’ current forms, in combination with the history that will be present in Gampel Pavilion, it’s hard to imagine Notre Dame pulling off the upset. The Irish, however, will make the Huskies work for the victory.

Game information

No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-4, 5-3) vs. No. 8 UConn Huskies (17-3, 9-0)

When: Saturday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT

How to watch: FOX