Ir­ish and Huskies ready for lat­est chap­ter of ri­valry

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Basketball -

There’s been no bet­ter and more en­ter­tain­ing ri­valry in women’s col­lege bas­ket­ball over the past decade than Notre Dame vs. UConn.

From Bre­anna Ste­wart’s dom­i­nance of the Ir­ish in the Fi­nal Four while UConn won four straight na­tional cham­pi­onships to Arike Ogun­bowale’s last­sec­ond shot in over­time of the na­tional semi­fi­nals last season, th­ese sto­ried pro­grams have gone toeto-toe on the game’s big­gest stage.

This meet­ing has a dif­fer­ent feel: The Ir­ish are the clear fa­vorites.

The top-ranked na­tional cham­pi­ons and No. 2 Huskies play Sun­day in South Bend, Ind., in the Jimmy V Clas­sic. They’ve played evenly over the past eight sea­sons, split­ting 16 games.

“When you play each other in De­cem­ber it’s more of a, ‘We’re go­ing all the way over there and they are go­ing all the way over here and we hap­pen to be pass­ing each other on the street cor­ner,’ ” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Wed­nes­day. “We know they’re out there and they know we’re out there and then it just be­comes for a cou­ple days, big. Then af­ter that it goes away.”

Sun­day’s game, the 58th meet­ing be­tween the top two teams in the AP poll, has long been sold out. The 57th in­volved the same teams and lo­ca­tion in 2016, when the Huskies won by 11 points.

“I’m ex­cited that it’s a sell­out,” Ir­ish coach Muf­fet McGraw said. “I think na­tion­ally it’s one of the best ri­val­ries in women’s bas­ket­ball, so I think peo­ple will be tun­ing in to see what hap­pens here.”

The Ir­ish re­turn nearly the en­tire team from last season that won the school’s sec­ond ti­tle. They also have Bri­anna Turner back af­ter she sat out last season with an ACL in­jury.

“This is a great op­por­tu­nity for women’s col­lege bas­ket­ball,” Turner said. “I think a lot of peo­ple are go­ing to tune in.”

The Huskies lost three ma­jor com­po­nents from last season’s team that was un­de­feated un­til los­ing to the Ir­ish in the semis. It was the third time in the last eight years that Notre Dame ended UConn’s season in the Fi­nal Four.

High­lights

No. 9 Ore­gon State 100, La Salle 46: Kat Tu­dor had a season-high 24 points and nine re­bounds, and the Beavers (6-1) eas­ily dis­patched the winless Ex­plor­ers (0-7) in Cor­val­lis, Ore. – lead­ing by as many as 55 points in the sec­ond half. The Beavers are 63-7 at Gill Coli­seum since the start of the 2014-15 season. No. 19 Ari­zona State 80, Louisiana Tech 44: Kianna Ibis led a bal­anced at­tack with 13 points, and 13 play­ers scored for the Sun Devils (4-2) in a rout of the Bull­dogs (4-3) at Tempe, Ariz. Louisiana Tech scored the first bas­ket; Ari­zona State re­sponded with a 26-4 run.

JES­SICA HILL AP

Coach Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies and Muf­fet McGraw’s Notre Dame Ir­ish have played mem­o­rable games over the years.

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