The Huskies weren’t themselves on the defensive end for the first three games of the tournament, the worse of those performances coming on Saturday against UCLA. That wasn’t an issue against Oregon on Monday night, Connecticut set the tone from the opening tip when they forced a turnover on the Ducks very first possession of the game. The Huskies started the game with a big run and never looked back. Uconn defended and pushed the pace to the tune of a 90-52 victory in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The young Oregon team ran out of magic, it just wasn’t a good match. The Huskies were able to disrupt the Ducks offense with their length and their ability to switch on defense. Their ball pressure with their guards bothered Oregon’s perimeter players, specifically on entry pass attempts. They barely turned the ball over against Maryland, but they were the uncomfortable team in last night’s matchup.
Oregon didn’t have an answer for what Uconn did offensively either. They ran their offense out of the high post, Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams picked the Ducks apart. Collier eclipsed 1,000 career points with a 28 point, 12 rebound performance. She was extremely aggressive and seemed to be genuinely surprised by the amount of space given to her by the Oregon bigs. Williams was her typical explosive self, finishing with 25 points and 6 rebounds.
The Huskies had 21 second chance points, they dominated the paint and had a very efficient offensive night en route to their tenth consecutive Final Four appearance. Oregon will be back, they have a very young team and should only improve over time. As for the Connecticut, the streak lives on as they head to Dallas.
Defense. The Connecticut defense was outstanding, they were on a string from start to finish. Excellent communication played a role in their continuous switching on defense. Their barking could be heard at media row, clearly at that. The Huskies got 32 point off of the 22 turnovers they forced Oregon into. They stole nearly every entry pass and when the Ducks bigs did catch it cleanly, they were quickly surrounded or had potential passing options taken away. It was truly a defensive clinic for the reigning champs.
High Post. That’s where the game was won outside of the defensive end of the floor. The Huskies were able to get hi-lo looks, midrange jumpers, corner three pointers and more out of that initial pass into the high post. It felt that the Ducks were scared, well more worried about Uconn’s snipers in Kia Nurse and Katie-Lou Samuelson hitting from deep versus taking away the high post. Williams and Collier were afforded tons of space and made Oregon pay for it time and time again. Their aggressiveness offensively put Oregon in a tough position and they could never quite figure out how to slow down the Huskies.
Pace. It’s been public knowledge all year that this version of the Huskies is a smaller team, still the pace at which they played against Oregon was surprising. Their goal was to literally run them into the ground and they did. They ran off of makes, misses, and obviously turnovers they forced. The pushing of the pace kept Oregon unsettled and never fully let them get set in on the defensive end. It’ll be something to keep an eye on as they head to Dallas.
KatieLou. Known for her ability to score the ball, she displayed the ability to impact the game in numerous other ways outside of putting the ball in the basket. The sophomore guard finished the game with 8 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 steals. Her height and length played a role in Uconn being able to switch nearly everything, at 6’3 she was just an inch or two shorter than Oregon’s bigs versus Williams and Collier. She did a good job of playing the passing lanes and taking away entry passes. It was a good performance on a night in which she didn’t shoot the ball well.
Geno. He was pushing the right buttons all night long for his team. Calming them down at times and constantly urging them to push the pace. Uconn’s gameplan worked to a tee, on both ends of the floor. While he may not have that dynamic star player on this roster at this time, but they’ve done a great job of dictating the terms regardless of their opponent. They have so many options on the offensive end of the floor by their ability to move the ball, Dangerfield may be the only player on the roster that can truly break down a defense off the bounce on a regular basis. Still, their ability to move the ball and move without it causes so much trouble for opposing teams. They are very close to having a positionless starting lineup.
Oregon. This is a bonus nugget, but they are deserving of it. The Ducks have so much potential going forward as their youngsters will only learn from this. Ruthy Hebard has the potential to be one of the better bigs in the country in the coming years and Sabrina Ionescu is already one of the better point guards. They’re in great hands with Coach Kelly Graves, it’ll be fun to see how they grow in the coming years.