WOMEN’S BASKETBALL GAMEDAY
No. 10 UCONN at OREGON
When: Monday, 5 p.m.
Where: Matthew Knight Arena (Eugene, Ore.)
Records: UConn (9-3, 4-0 Big East), Oregon (9-5, 2-1 Pac-12)
Radio: UConn Sports Network
KEEP AN EYE ON
Reliable Ducharme: The freshman has scored in double figures in six of the last seven games and has developed into UConn’s most consistent player over the span. Without sophomore Paige Bueckers, UConn was in need of a playmaker to not only score but provide defensive sparks.
Ducharme is averaging a team-high 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in Bueckers’ absence. Most recently, she led the Huskies against Xavier (20 points, seven rebounds and four steals) and against Creighton (17 points and three blocks).
“Caroline tries to do everything really really well. She puts a lot of pressure on herself. She takes a lot of pride in her performance, what she looks like, what people think of her performance. She’s one of these kids who’s not afraid to put it out there because she’s gonna give you her best every night,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “There are times when you forget she’s a freshman out there. She looks a little bit more mature than your typical freshman.”
Increased confidence: After three weeks off from games due to the holidays and a COVID-19 shutdown, UConn has won its last three games in comfortable, UConn-like fashion. The Huskies have looked more cohesive on offense and more comfortable with the team’s new identity — one that doesn’t include Bueckers as she continues to rehab.
“Just being in a flow of having games has really helped us,” Ducharme said. “We went through a stretch where we didn’t play for a while so we had a lot of time in practice, a lot of time to fine-tune things and look at specifics on the offensive end and on the defensive end. So being able to actually have games and be able to see it has really helped us.”
Yes, the three games were not against any ranked opponents, and UConn beat each team by an average of 30 points, but they were confidence-building wins that the Huskies needed after ending 2021 with two losses in three games.
“Things are kinda clicking for us now,” senior Olivia Nelson-Ododa said. “On the defensive end and on the offense, things are running a little bit more smoother. We have a better idea of our roles, where people are supposed to be at the right time and what exactly we’re supposed to be doing.”
Recent history: The last time the Huskies faced Oregon was on Feb. 3, 2020, in front of a sellout home crowd at Gampel Pavilion. Oregon, then ranked No. 3, defeated UConn 74-56, for the Huskies’ first home loss in seven years and their worst since 2005.
Both teams look totally different now than they did two years ago. Oregon graduated top-10 WNBA draft picks in Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally. Meanwhile, UConn seniors Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams and junior Aubrey Griffin are the only remaining players (from both teams) that played in the 2020 game.
The Ducks enter Monday’s matchup on the high of upsetting No. 7 Arizona on Saturday, 68-66 in overtime.