After knocking off No. 5 seed North Carolina State and No. 4 seed Nebraska to earn a trip to the sweet 16, the BYU Cougars travel to Lincoln, Neb., to take on the dominant team in women's college basketball today in the defending national champion and No. 1 seed Connecticut Huskies.
The Cougars will try to do something no other team has been able to do this season — beat the Huskies. UConn enters the game with a 36-0 record. No team has even been able to keep a game within double digits against the Huskies.
UConn's 36 wins have come by an average score of 83-47 which is more than a little remarkable considering hey faced seven teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the matchup. The Huskies have been successful this season because they get it done on both ends of the floor.
On offense, they shoot 50.8 percent from the floor, 37.7 percent from behind the arc and 76.1 percent from the free-throw line. They also hand out 21.6 assists per game while only turning the ball over 11.9 times a night.
On defense, UConn holds its opponents to 30.4 percent shooting and 26.2 percent from behind the 3-point line. Add in 9.6 steals and 8.1 blocks per game and you can see why the Huskies are very difficult to score against.
The first two tournament games were blowouts for UConn as it pounded Prairie View A&M and Saint Joseph's by a combined 82 points.
It has made the Final Four in the past six seasons and hasn't been eliminated in the Sweet 16 since 2005. That season, UConn was a No. 3 seed and fell 76-59 to No. 2 seed Stanford. Only one time since Geno Auriemma has been the head coach has Connecticut lost to a double-digit seed. That came in 1993 when it lost to No. 11 seed Louisville 74-71 as a No. 6 seed in the first round. Since then, the Huskies haven't lost a tournament game to a team ranked lower than a No. 4 seed.
The Huskies roster is filled with high school All-Americans. Eight current players were McDonald's All-Americans with a ninth receiving All-American honors from Parade Magazine. Its clear these women have also found plenty of success in the college ranks. This season, three starters were named ESPN All-Americans led by sophomore forward Breanna Stewart, who made the first-team, while seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley received second-team honors.
Here is a look at what the Cougars are up against position by position.
Note: All BYU stats come from BYUCougars.com. All Connecticut stats come from UConnHuskies.com.
The Cougars' start three guards in Lexi Eaton, Kim Beeston and Kylie Maeda. Eaton is second on the team in scoring averaging 17.1 points and 4.6 rebounds. Beeston averages 11.2 points and 3.9 rebounds while leading BYU in assists (142) and steals (36). Maeda has the best shooting percentage of the three from the field (43.6), but doesn't look to score very often. She averages 4.9 points and 2.2 rebounds and is second on the team in assists (108).
The Huskies start two McDonald's All-Americans in Bria Hartley and Moriah Jefferson. Hartley is averaging 16.5 points on 48.7 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 3.6 rebounds. She is also second on the team in assists (157) and steals (62). Jefferson is a dead-eye shooter when left open and leads the Huskies in assists (176) and steals (94). She averages 10.2 points on 58.3 percent shooting from the floor and 43.1 percent shooting from behind the arc.
BYU has two very impressive players in the post in Morgan Bailey and Jennifer Hamson. Bailey averages 10.6 points on 47.1 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds. Hamson is the X-factor for the Cougars. She averages 18 points on 56.7 percent shooting as well as 11.5 rebounds a game to lead the team. She also leads the nation in blocks (141).
The Huskies' starting front line consists of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart and Stefanie Dolson. Mosqueda-Lewis averages 12.7 points on 43.1 percent shooting from distance and five rebounds a game. Stewart is the Huskies' go-to player. She averages a team-leading 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. Stewart is also a good shot blocker with 101 on the season and a solid passer. Dolson is the fourth leading scorer at 12.4 points, but leads the team with nine rebounds a game. She is also third on the team in blocks (77) and assists (122).
Jeff Judkins only gives three players meaningful time off the bench — Ashley Garfield, Xojian Harry and Stephanie Rovetti. Garfield averages 4.1 points and 6.4 rebounds while Harry and Rovetti combine to score a little more than five points a night. Both played huge in the BYU win over Nebraska. Harry shot 3-of-5 from 3-point range on her way to 11 points while Rovetti knocked down two shots from distance to finish with six points.
Like the Cougars, the Huskies' only use three players off the bench — Brianna Banks, Saniya Chong and Kiah Stokes. Banks and Chong combine to score a little more than nine points a game while Stokes is known for her rebounding and defense. In 18.8 minutes a game, Stokes averages 7.3 rebounds and blocking 85 shots on the season. She also averages 4.5 points on 58.9 percent shooting.
Jeff Judkins has led BYU to eight 20-win seasons and six trips to the NCAA tournament in his 13 years as the head coach. The Cougars have also made four trips to the WNIT under Judkins. He has a record of 282-132.
The Huskies are coached by Geno Auriemma who has an .863 winning percentage in 28 seasons at the helm. Auriemma has led the Huskies to eight National Championships, including seven since 2000. For his efforts, Auriemma was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
BYU has had a great run to the Sweet 16, but it would be an absolute shock if it knocked off the undefeated Huskies. UConn doesn't lose to teams like the Cougars, especially in the tournament. Miracles happen everyday and that's exactly what it would take for BYU to advance to the Elite Eight.