This Thursday, Jan 23, the #23 Tennessee Lady Vols (15-3, 5-1 SEC) travel to Hartford, Conn. to take on the #3/5 UConn Huskies (16-1, 7-0 AAC) in a national showpiece game. Here are some things to know before the game.
This game, the first in the currently scheduled two-game series, will be the 23rd time these two storied programs have met. They are scheduled to play next season in Knoxville, and both games of the current contract will benefit the Pat Summitt Foundation and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Between the two programs, they have won a combined 19 NCAA national championships and have won 2538 games through the years. UConn currently leads the series 13-9, but Tennessee has won the past three matches, including a 70-64 win in their most recent meeting in 2007.
Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper talked about what the rivalry meant to her when she was at Tennessee.
“I think everyone wanted to win that one,” Harper said “and I think there was a healthy respect for the opponent. Again, it was a premier game nationwide, so you were on the big stage. You know, it was a big deal. I think also there were some really big games played against each other that were not just a regular season game. These games had a lot of meaning to them; an elite eight game, a semifinal, a national championship …”
Lady Vols season to date
Tennessee sits at second in the SEC after a four-game winning streak after their lone loss of conference, where they fell to Kentucky on the road. The Lady Vols are surely riding high after beating rival Alabama on a last-second three-pointer.
Going further back, Tennessee has won seven of their past eight games. This will be the fourth game against ranked opponents for the Lady Vols. In the first three ranked matchups, Tennessee is 1-2, winning against then #15/14 Notre Dame and losing to then #1 Stanford and then #13 Kentucky.
Huskies to date
UConn currently lead the AAC standing with a perfect 7-0 record. The Huskies similarly are riding a four-game win streak, following their lone blemish of the season. During the streak, UConn have tallied two 40-point wins, including their most recent game, a 58-point win over Tulsa.
This game will be the Huskies’ third ranked opponent. They have split their first two games against ranked opponents, winning over #16 Depaul and falling to #6 Baylor.
The Lady Vols have the slight size advantage, as the entire starting lineup stands above six feet tall. UConn’s three frontcourt players are all above six feet tall, but both their starting backcourt players are 5’11“ or under. On the bench, the Huskies range in height from 5’9” to 6’2”. Also, for the Lady Vols, there is only one player under six feet tall on the entire roster.
Harper talked about the keys for success for her team.
“I think we have to be more focused,” Harper said “We have to be locked-in to our assignment, both offensively and defensively. I think we all have to buy into what our system is, and trust that system. You can’t take a play off. I think this is one of those games where if you want to get a win you have to play 40 minutes, not 30, not 39 and a half, it’s got to be 40.”
The game will be broadcasted by ESPN and their top women’s basketball crew of Adam Amin, Rebecca Lowe and Holly Rowe. Joining them are special guests Maria Taylor, Tennessee alum Tamika Catchings and UConn alum Sue Bird. The game will also be available via the Lady Vol Network. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.