On an afternoon in which the NCAA unveiled the logo for the 2015 Women’s Basketball Final 4 that will be held at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the favorite for the 2014 Women’s Championship, the UConn Huskies Women’s Basketball team played with a championship focus as they soundly defeated the University of South Florida Bulls Women’s Basketball team 63-38 in front of a surprisingly pro-UConn crowd of 6,615 at the Sun Dome.
While the Bulls did hold the No. 1 Huskies to their lowest scoring output of the season, they also found it hard to score as they were held to season low 26% shooting from the field. For the game they had 12 offensive rebounds, but weren’t able to capitalize on the multiple shot opportunities as they only had seven second-chance points.
The Bulls two top scorers, Courtney Williams (3-of-18) and Alisia Jenkins (0-of-7) were stifled the entire game with a lot of the defensive credit going to UConn guard Moriah Jefferson.
“She’s (Jefferson) taken a huge step forward, taken some pride, taken that role and decided that I want to be someone coach can count on to guard good players,” said UConn Head Coach Geno Auriemma when asked about Jefferson’s defensive play. But not only did Jefferson hold Williams to one of her worst shooting days on the season, she also contributed 12 points and 8 rebounds.
And while they weren’t as efficient as in the last match-up in Hartford, the Huskies were once again led by forward Breanna Stewart and guard Bria Hartley. Stewart, a 6’4 sophomore, finished the game with 15 points and eight rebounds and is 2 points shy of scoring 1000 points in her brief Huskies career. Not to be outdone Hartley, who scored 18 points and had four rebounds along with four assists, is now only 3 rebounds away from joining the elite 1500 points 500 rebounds 500 assist club. Only two other women in UConn history have achieved that feat — Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore.
While the accomplishments are nice, its something that both players admit that they wont be able to appreciate until their collegiate careers are over — until then they realize they still have a lot of work to do if they want to win another championship.
Part of that work could include defending the three-point line better. For the game the Bulls made 5-of-18 from deep and were led by Inga Orekhova’s four makes. Orekhova finished the game with 17 points and was the only Bulls player that was able to find any shooting rhythm.
By the Huskies taking away Williams and Jenkins, that allowed Orekhova more opportunities offensively and she had some success when she didn’t try to press the issue. The Bulls are going to need more consistent outputs from players like her and Ariadna Puljo if they plan on securing the No. 4 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.
The quest in getting that conference spot continued on Wednesday with a victory over Cincinnati 62-43. They now head to Philadelphia to face Temple on Saturday February 22nd — their next home game will be Tuesday February 25th at 7:00pm against the Memphis Tigers