After missing two games with an ankle injury, freshman Breanna Stewart returned to the court Saturday to drop 20 points against Syracuse. UConn cruised to an 87-62 win and on Monday they'll host the last unbeaten team in the country: fourth-ranked Duke.
The last time an undefeated Blue Devils team came to Gampel the outcome was … well, forgettable.
In the 2010-11 season, the then-20-0 Blue Devils were destroyed, 87-51. Of course, that was Maya Moore's senior year and not only was she the best player in the country that year, she was the best player in the country from almost any year.
“I don’t know, maybe that’s what happens when you don’t see a lot of each other,” Geno Auriemma said via the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. “I was really shocked by that game (87-51). I never expected that. And then it happened again in the Eastern regional in Trenton (UConn won that game, 75-40). You just don’t expect that. But Maya had that impact on many teams.”
Altavilla notes that the Blue Devils are on a four-game losing streak to the Huskies and the games haven't been close. The margins of those losses: 33, 36, 35 and 16. And the two losses on Duke's home floor, Cameron Indoor Stadium, were by an average of 25 points.
So despite the undefeated record and the lofty expectations, Duke also heads to Storrs with that thought in the back of their minds that not only can they play with UConn, they can't even keep it close.
“We aspire to be at a place where it is all about Duke, more about what we do than the opponent,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “But we are not there yet. ...
“We’re just kind of in our world, trying to get better, recognizing that there’s a lot of great teams out there,” McCallie said last week, via Altavilla. “It hasn’t been anything that anyone’s really thought about. To me, that kind of stuff is banquet material, end-of-year stuff, not during-year stuff.”
So is the year they get over the hump? We'll find out Monday night but this much is certain: Auriemma won't overlook the Blue Devils.
“They are undefeated and you can point to Elizabeth Williams as one of the reason,” Auriemma said. “But Chelsea Gray is really, really good in the open court. She can make a lot of plays for her teammates. And Tricia Liston has become more of a go-to offensive player. She is so solid, kind of like their Kelly [Faris]. She does the little things they need and she makes shots when she is open. They are pretty well-balanced team.”