Why the UConn-Tennessee ladies’s school basketball sequence nonetheless issues

UConn and Tennessee will meet for the twenty fourth time on Thursday (ESPN/ESPN App, 7 p.m. ET), because the Huskies go to Knoxville for the primary time in 15 years. The Girl Vols received that matchup 89-80 on Jan. 7, 2006, with 24,653 in attendance — the most important crowd at Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Area for a ladies’s basketball recreation.

We do not know when these packages will face off once more after this week. No announcement has been made as as to whether the sequence, which resumed final 12 months (a 60-45 UConn win in Hartford) after it led to 2007, will proceed. There’s at all times the chance they may meet within the NCAA match, though that hasn’t occurred for the reason that 2004 nationwide championship recreation.

Let’s deal with this assembly, and the highest 5 issues we’re wanting ahead to from UConn-Tennessee 2021.

The ten-year anniversary of “We Again Pat”

Legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt introduced her analysis of early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s sort, in August 2011. That 2011-12 season, her final as head coach, marked the beginning of “We Again Pat” week. Held yearly in ladies’s school basketball, the week raises funds for The Pat Summitt Basis, which battles Alzheimer’s illness by rewarding grants for analysis, for schooling and consciousness and for help for sufferers, households and caregivers.

The trigger is what introduced the UConn-Tennessee sequence again for video games this 12 months and final. Irrespective of how bitter this rivalry bought, Huskies coach Geno Auriemma has at all times spoken with admiration about Summitt’s combat towards the lethal illness, and he and spouse, Kathy, have been beneficiant contributors to the inspiration.

Among the many progress made prior to now decade is the Pat Summitt Clinic, which opened in 2016 on the College of Tennessee Medical Heart and focuses on affected person care and analysis.

“It is a large deal for me, it is a large deal for our program,” stated Tennessee coach Kellie Harper, who performed for Summitt from 1995-99 and received three NCAA titles. “We proceed to honor her legacy. What she means to ladies’s basketball, to me, to this program and this college … it is actually heavy generally when you consider it.”

Paige Bueckers on a nationwide stage

Auriemma has been a bit much less possible in recent times to say issues that rile up folks. Nevertheless it nonetheless occurs, resembling earlier this season when he said that if different coaches stated they might slightly have their freshmen than UConn guard Paige Bueckers, “I might let you know they’re solely saying that to be good to their very own gamers.”

All coaches advocate for his or her gamers, however Auriemma can do it in ways in which get underneath others’ pores and skin. In fact, he’s fairly assured that gamers to whom he provides that form of reward are going to show him proper.

This season, nevertheless, there are standout freshmen elsewhere, and unbeaten UConn (7-0) has performed only one ranked crew (DePaul). Marquee nonconference video games towards Louisville and Baylor have been canceled for COVID-19 causes.

Some followers suppose the 5-foot-11 Bueckers, who leads the Huskies in scoring (18.9 PPG), assists (5.1 APG) and steals (2.7 SPG), hasn’t been examined sufficient but to get as a lot acclaim as she has. Then again, what number of superstars over what number of a long time has Auriemma coached? Are folks actually doubting if he is aware of for positive whether or not a participant has the products?

The nice factor is that these things at all times will get settled on courtroom. We’ll see how Bueckers performs towards a crew that has performed 4 ranked opponents.

It is an opportunity for each groups to show one thing

That is at all times the case when these two have performed one another. However this is what it means this 12 months: Each groups have inquiries to reply. As talked about, UConn has misplaced different marquee video games to COVID-19. And thus far, the Huskies have dominated Large East competitors of their first 12 months again in that league after by no means dropping a recreation in seven years within the American Athletic Convention.

How good are the No. 4 Huskies? Past Bueckers, how impactful is their expansive freshman class, which now contains 2021 recruit Saylor Poffenbarger, who joined this system early? Juniors Christyn Williams (14.6 PPG, 3.4 APG) and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (16.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG) joined Bueckers final week in ESPN’s up to date rankings of the top 25 players within the nation. Have been they too low or too excessive? Will they supply management in what must be the Huskies’ hardest highway problem so far?

Tennessee’s upper-class standouts, senior Rennia Davis (14.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG) and junior Rae Burrell (16.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG), are key to every part the Girl Vols do. What’s going to we see from sophomore threats resembling Jordan Horston (9.5 PPG, 4.0 APG) and Tamari Key (7.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG)? Tennessee additionally has a freshman starter who has performed an enormous function in Marta Suárez (6.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG).

Tennessee moved into the Related Press ballot at No. 23 final week after beating Arkansas, however then misplaced at dwelling Thursday to Georgia 67-66. The Girl Vols answered that Sunday with a decisive 82-56 victory at Alabama to maneuver to 9-2 general and 3-1 within the SEC.

Auriemma stated the Girl Vols proceed to play with among the identical logos of Summitt’s groups.

“[Kellie has] introduced her personal type,” he stated, “however there’s nonetheless the scale, and the emphasis on getting the ball within the lane and rebounding. A number of the identical issues Pat used to emphasize.”

Although UConn received final 12 months’s assembly by 15 factors, the Girl Vols led 31-28 at halftime. After the break, Tennessee scored simply 14 factors.

“We have to play onerous,” Harper stated of Thursday’s recreation. “We’ve to execute, and executing is not only operating a play. It is seeing the ground to know a mismatch, understanding angles, executing your defensive recreation plan.”

There’s nonetheless warmth to this rivalry

Summitt’s passing meant this matchup would by no means be the identical, and it appears unlikely we’ll see Auriemma and Harper verbally jousting. However there are literally thousands of followers who’ve been invested on this rivalry from the start, they usually do not very like one another.

Add in that Auriemma is visiting the Home That Pat Helped Construct probably after he has handed Summitt for second on the all-time victory listing. They’re tied at 1,098, and UConn hosts Butler on Tuesday.

And there is Evina Westbrook’s return to Tennessee. The guard — she’s averaging 10.0 PPG and 4.0 APG — spent her first two seasons with the Girl Vols, then transferred to UConn. She sought a direct switch waiver final season, and Auriemma was livid with the NCAA when she did not get it. Within the strategy of criticizing the NCAA, he alluded to what he stated was a adverse expertise for Westbrook at Tennessee. Holly Warlick — not Harper — was the Girl Vols coach throughout Westbrook’s time in Knoxville, but it surely’s only one thing more so as to add to the Girl Vols followers’ antipathy.

Auriemma insists the rivalry, simply “is not an enormous deal” anymore as a result of issues have modified a lot. However on Monday, he stated one factor stays the identical.

“I nonetheless suppose going there may be an extremely troublesome place to play,” Auriemma stated, “and an much more troublesome place to win. I do not suppose that is modified in all this time.”

The three largest crowd for the Girl Vols at dwelling have been for UConn video games in 2006, 2002 and 1998. All have been over 24,000 followers, as was the No. 8 largest crowd, which was additionally towards UConn.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, attendance this season for Tennessee dwelling video games is capped at 4,000 per recreation, which is about 18 p.c of Thompson-Boling’s capability. However you might be positive the followers current will attempt to give the Girl Vols as a lot of a homecourt benefit as doable.

Who provides their identify to UConn-Tennessee lore?

While you suppose again on all the good gamers inside each packages — we ranked the top 10 players in the rivalry final 12 months — among the signature moments of their careers got here on this matchup. Suppose Sue Bird’s 25 points in her first UConn-Tennessee game in 2000. Diana Taurasi main the Huskies over the Girl Vols within the 2003 and ’04 nationwide championship video games. Candace Parker serving to Tennessee beat the Huskies in 2006 and ’07, together with a dunk within the latter recreation.

In that final recreation in Knoxville in 2006, Sidney Spencer had 21 factors to steer the Girl Vols. Parker, who had missed her first 12 months (2004-05) at Tennessee with a knee damage, had 13 factors. Alexis Hornbuckle practically had a triple-double with 10 factors, 14 rebounds and 9 assists. Ann Strother led UConn with 25 factors.

Two gamers in that 2006 recreation, Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks and UConn’s Renee Montgomery of the Atlanta Dream, are nonetheless within the WNBA (though Montgomery opted to not play this previous season).

We anticipate which gamers may make their marks this recreation, however we additionally may see some surprises.

Weekly superlatives

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Frida Formann knocks down the go-ahead 3-pointer, and Peanut Tuitele seals the cope with a block as time expires in additional time to beat No. 1 Stanford.

Participant of the week: Mya Hollingshed, Colorado

Hollingshed had a career-high 32 factors, plus 10 rebounds and 5 steals, within the Buffaloes’ 77-72 additional time victory towards No. 1 Stanford on Sunday. Coach Tara VanDerveer stated the 6-foot-3 senior ahead was an excessive amount of for the Cardinal’s protection to cease. She was 12 of 24 from the sphere and 4 of 4 from the road, and performed 44 minutes.

Hollingshed bought some revenge for final February’s 69-66 loss to Stanford in Boulder, Colorado, the place her turnover led to Kiana Williams’ 40-foot, game-winning 3-pointer on the buzzer.

Hollingshed, who’s averaging 16.5 factors and eight.7 rebounds this season, additionally had 14 factors and 10 rebounds in a loss to USC on Monday, and 18 and 9 in a victory over California on Friday.

“I consider in my recreation,” Hollingshed stated. “I do not suppose I am taking part in my greatest; I believe I am truly simply getting began.”

Shout-outs additionally go to Iowa State’s Ashley Joens, who had a mixed 57 factors and 27 rebounds in victories over Oklahoma State and No. 6 Baylor, and Florida’s Lavender Briggs, who had 41 factors in a loss to Arkansas and 18 in a victory over Auburn.

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0:40

Iowa State’s Ashley Joens takes over within the fourth quarter towards No. 6 Baylor, scoring 14 of her 27 factors, because the Cyclones knock off the Bears 75-71.

Staff of the week: Iowa State

It was an enormous week individually for Joens, and likewise for her crew. First, the Cyclones handed Oklahoma State its first Large 12 loss this season, 90-80 on Wednesday. Then Saturday, Iowa State received for simply the second time in program historical past at Baylor — the primary was in 1997 — with a 75-71 victory.

“We got here down right here able to compete,” Iowa State coach Invoice Fennelly stated Saturday. “We have introduced a number of actually good groups down right here and have not achieved that. We did tonight. Ashley Joens on the largest stage tonight was superb.”

Iowa State is 9-4 general and 5-1 within the Large 12, and we’ll see if it is sufficient to return the Cyclones to the rankings. They began the season at No. 15 within the AP ballot. They have no dangerous losses, falling on the highway at South Dakota State, Iowa and Texas, and dropping at dwelling to South Carolina.

Fennelly thought the 74-59 loss to the Longhorns on Jan. 3 was a great wake-up name for his crew. The Cyclones’ rematches with Texas (Jan. 23) and Baylor (Jan. 31) are at Iowa State.

Coach of the week: Adia Barnes, Arizona

The Wildcats noticed a 16-point lead within the third quarter get away on Jan. 10 once they misplaced in additional time at Washington State. So how did Barnes and her crew reply to that disappointment?

They put the clamps on No. 10 Oregon on Thursday in a 57-41 victory that Geese coach Kelly Graves stated was one of many worst offensive performances he has seen from one among his groups. A whole lot of credit score for that goes to the Wildcats’ continuous strain protection. Barnes bought them to decide to that, and it paid off.

No. 11 Arizona adopted that with a 67-51 victory over Oregon State on Sunday in one other robust defensive efficiency. The Wildcats held Oregon to 32.6 p.c capturing from the sphere and compelled 23 turnovers, whereas limiting Oregon State to 36.7 p.c with 19 turnovers.

Win of the week: Colorado

The Buffaloes’ victory over Stanford on Sunday marked the second 12 months in a row that the Cardinal misplaced to an unranked crew whereas being No. 1. In December 2019, then-No. 1 Stanford fell at Texas; the Longhorns have been 6-4 at the moment and on the best way to a 19-11 document.

Colorado got here into this recreation 5-6. The Buffs had not overwhelmed Stanford for the reason that 2002 NCAA match, and had been to the Large Dance solely as soon as (2013) since 2004. That stated, the Buffs performed the Cardinal shut sufficient final season — an eight-point additional time loss at Stanford and a three-point loss at Colorado — that they actually did suppose that they had an opportunity Sunday.

They have been proper: They shook up the ladies’s basketball world, taking the Cardinal from the undefeated ranks.

“It means lots for all of us,” Buffs coach JR Payne stated. “Particularly look to somebody like Mya Hollingshed, who has been right here 4 years, they usually have not been the best years. I am simply blissful for our complete ball membership.”

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