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UConn Hosts Nemesis, Notre Dame

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UConn Hosts Nemesis, Notre Dame

NBC Connecticut

Geno Auriemma and his team will share the Big East regular season title with Notre Dame with a win over the Fighting Irish Monday night.

It is, as they say, go time. The Huskies whipped up on Marquette over the weekend, 85-45, to run their record to 26-3 (13-2 in the Big East). Monday night at 9 p.m., UConn hosts Notre Dame, if not for all the marbles, a lot of them.

As it stands, the Fighting Irish are atop the conference and a win in Hartford locks up the No. 1 seed heading into the Big East Tournament. But the Huskies aren't accustomed to rolling over for opponents. In fact, it's usually just the opposite.

Geno Auriemma's team has typically steamrolled their way to the No. 1 seeds in both the conference and NCAA tournaments and everyone has been playing for second. Still, even with UConn now looking up at Notre Dame. Auriemma isn't panicked. It's not in his nature.

"Unless you are the No. 1 seed, there is no difference between being the second or third seed," he said over the weekend according to the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. "You still need to play the same teams [along the way]. It doesn't matter to me. You play who you are supposed to play.

"When next week comes, depending on what we do, and what other teams do over the next two games, the conference will line us up from 1 to 16 and tell us who is playing who. And then you go out and play the games.

"It doesn't matter to me, one way or the other. You can finish first and have a tough matchup or finish third and have it easier, judging by how our league looks right now. … I'm really not that concerned about any of that. We've been through the tournament enough times. We know what needs to be done."

It may not even get to that point; if UConn wins Monday night they'll share the regular-season title with the Fighting Irish, who lost to West Virginia on February 12.

As for how the Huskies plan to attack Notre Dame, a team that knocked UConn out of the Final Four a year ago, it's pretty simple. In theory, anyway.

"We need to limit the turnovers," freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said via the Courant. "We had 27 of them. Coach is always harping on turnovers as missed opportunities to get shots and points. He's right."

"The turnovers were a big part of that loss," junior Kelly Faris added. "And we just need to execute the offense better."

One option, something Auriemma's been toying with in practice, is the five-guard offense.

"We work on the five-guard offense a lot at practice. We spend a lot of time going over it because I'd like to think there will be many opportunities when we'll have to use it or want to use it," he said. The five guards change the look of our team. And those two guys [Kiah Stokes and Stefanie Dolson] need to get a lot better."

It's not the first time Auriemma has publicly called out his big men. We suspect he'll continue to do it until something changes.

"I don't know if we can beat Notre Dame, Baylor and Stanford with five guards," he continued, "but it won't be because we're not used to playing that way. The question also is, are we easier to beat or harder to beat with five guards. I don't know, but the important thing is that we get good at playing both ways."

We'll know one way or the other by the end of the day.

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