Rivals set to clash as 7th-ranked Notre Dame women host No. 3 UConn Sunday afternoon

Scott Davidson
South Bend Tribune
Dec 5, 2021; Storrs, Connecticut, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dara Mabrey (1) drives the ball against UConn Huskies guard Paige Bueckers (5) in the second half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It seems only fitting that one of the true classic matchups in women's college basketball history is part of the Jimmy V Women's Classic.

Such is the case as No. 7 Notre Dame welcomes in old-time rival and No. 3 UConn Sunday afternoon.

The pair of women's powers are set to clash at 3 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion as one of the games this week in honor of Jim Valvano, the legendary North Carolina State men's basketball coach best known for his courageous battle versus cancer. ABC will have the telecast Sunday.

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The Irish and the Huskies have a long and storied history dating back to their days as rivals in the Big East Conference. UConn leads the all-time series 39-13, including a 73-54 win last season in Storrs. The Huskies have won 11 of the last 13 meetings in the rivalry with the two Notre Dame wins coming in the 2018 and 2019 semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame saw its unbeaten start come to an end Thursday night with a 74-72 loss at home to No. 20 Maryland. Terps star Diamond Miller hit a pullup jumper at the final horn to hand the Irish its first loss in seven games. Miller finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Terps.

The Irish, who sit at 6-1, entered the Maryland matchup with a winning margin of 27.5 points per game.

UConn moved its early season mark to 6-0 with a 98-53 home win over Providence in its Big East opener Friday night. Aubrey Griffin and Lou Lopez Senechal each scored 18 points to lead the Huskies in the victory. The Huskies have three wins this season over Top 10 teams, beating then No. 3 Texas (83-76), No. 7 North Carolina State (91-69) and No. 8 Iowa (86-79).

The matchup Sunday features two of the top offenses in the country. The Irish averaged 90 ppg. in its first six contests, while the Huskies are at 89 ppg. in their unbeaten start.

The contest also features two of the premier guards in the country. Irish sophomore star Olivia Miles has been a stat sheet stuffer at 15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game. Miles was the top scorer at 13.7 points per game for last year's 24-9 team.

UConn's Azzi Fudd, also a sophomore backcourt ace, averages 24 points a game. She scored 24 points last Sunday as the Huskies beat No. 9 Iowa 86-79 in the title game of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament in Portland.

Both Miles and Fudd were named earlier this week as two of the 16 players on the Wade Trophy Watch List.

The Irish have also relied on sophomore guard Sonia Citron (16.6, 8.0) and grad guard Dara Mabrey (12.4) and grad center Lauren Ebo (10.3). Ebo, a transfer from Texas, had a big showing last weekend as Notre Dame won two games in the Goombay Classic in the Bahamas. Citron poured in 24 points and had 10 rebounds Thursday night in the loss to Maryland.

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UConn, which has five players averaging in double figures, also boasts Aaliyah Edwards. The 6-3 junior averages 16 points and 11 rebounds per outing and was named tourney MVP as the Phil Knight event. Senechal is averaging 16.8 ppg.

The Huskies finished 30-6 last season, losing 64-49 to No. 1 South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament championship game.

UConn has not missed a beat this season despite the absence of Paige Bueckers. The 5-11 junior guard tore her ACL in August and it out for the season. Bueckers, who was injured in the win over Notre Dame last season and missed almost three months of the season, averaged 14.6 points a year ago. She had 22 points in the win over the Irish before hurting her knee. Bueckers announced that she plans to return to UConn next season.

This visit to South Bend will be the first for UConn since 2018. The Huskies have won their last three games on the Irish homecourt. Notre Dame's last home win over UConn was a triple overtime victory back in 2013.