Women's Hoops Preview: No. 12 Ohio State Looks to End No. 1 Connecticut's 84-Game Win Streak

By Kevin Harrish on December 19, 2016 at 12:15 pm
Geno Auriemma hasn't missed the Sweet 16 since 1994.

Ohio State has a tall task ahead of it in the Buckeyes' first true road test of the 2016-17 season. It travels to Hartford, Connecticut, to take on top-ranked and four-time defending national champion UConn.

The Buckeyes look to end the Huskies' 84-game winning streak, which stretches back to the second game of the 2014-15 season. UConn has not lost a game in over two calendar years.

Last Time

Ohio State played No. 1 Connecticut in the 2015 home opener and it wasn't exactly pretty for the Buckeyes. The Huskies dominated Ohio State in every aspect of the game and cruised to a 100-56 win.

The Huskies were clearly the better team, but the Buckeyes were not helped by Kelsey Mitchell's foul trouble. The prolific scorer picked up two fouls early in the first quarter, forcing her to the bench for most of the first half. She never got going offensively and finished the game with a career-low eight points – the only time in her career she's been held to a single-digit scoring performance.

Seniors Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson shone, combining for 55 points, which equaled Ohio State's team output.

Scouting Connecticut

This is not the same Huskies team the Buckeyes faced last season.

For starters, Connecticut graduated perhaps the greatest college basketball player ever. Breanna Stewart was a four-year starter at UConn where she was the consensus national player of the year three times and the Final Four's most outstanding player a record four times. She was taken first overall in the WNBA Draft and was the league's rookie of the year this season.

The Huskies also lost star guard Moriah Jefferson. She left Connecticut as the school's assists leader, finished second in steals, and was a two-time winner of the Nancy Lieberman Award as the top point guard in the nation. She was the second overall pick in the WNBA Draft, picked right after her teammate, Stewart.

Connecticut lost the two best players in the nation, but it did not lose Geno Auriemma or its ridiculously deep bench. There was little doubt UConn would reload, and it did.

Four Huskies are averaging double figures, led by Katie Lou Samuelson (19.8 ppg) and Napheesa Collier (19.4 ppg). Kia Nurse, who averages 13.1 points per game, plays a team-high 34.1 minutes per game while Gabby Williams leads the team in assists and rebounding.

Behind their contributions, UConn is a perfect 9-0 on the season with five of those wins coming against top-15 teams, including double-digit wins over the nation's No. 2 and No. 3 teams. The Huskies have outscored their opponents by an average of over 21 points a game.

Still, they haven't looked like the juggernaut they've been in previous years. Connecticut narrowly pulled out a 78-76 win over No. 7 Florida State and trailed much of the game against No. 2 Notre Dame.

The Huskies are great, but this is far from the best team they've had.

Scouting Ohio State

The Buckeyes are also a much different team from last season, but they've gotten much better – at least on paper. Ohio State added six players to its lineup this year, all of which were former McDonald's All-Americans.

Still, despite the influx of new talent, the Buckeyes have struggled a bit, going 1-3 against ranked teams on the season. Size and defense have been the issue, like previous years, but Ohio State hopes Linnae Harper and Stephanie Mavunga will help ease those concerns.

Harper and Mavunga are recent additions of sorts. Mavunga has been sidelined for much of the past few weeks with knee soreness, but returned to action Friday and will be full-go against Connecticut. Harper made her Buckeye debut Friday after sitting the fall semester in accordance with NCAA transfer guidelines.

Ohio State also has one of the nation's top players in Kelsey Mitchell. This season, the junior became the fastest player in NCAA history to 2,000 career points, reaching the mark in just 79 games. Mitchell is already fifth in OSU history with 2,034 points. She was the nation's leading scorer as a freshman and the third leading scorer as a sophomore. 

The Buckeyes have the talent to pull out what would be probably the biggest regular season win in program history, but they'll need to be at their absolute best.

How to Watch

The game will be nationally televised on the CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. ET.

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