Coach Geno Auriemma does not hesitate in pointing out the key to UConn’s success at South Florida Saturday and at No. 2 Notre Dame Monday in the final two games of the regular season. The Huskies need two wins to capture at least a share of their 20th Bug East regular season championship and the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament.
It will be the play of UConn’s guards that will have significant impact on the outcome of both games.
“I still think it’s going to come down to our guards, how good our guards play,’’ Auriemma said. “Whether or not we can handle South Florida’s guards and take away all their 3-point attempts. And then Monday the same thing. Notre Dame’s strength is their three perimeter players. So I think this Saturday and this Monday is going to come down a lot to our guard play and how good it is.
“We’ve had our moments where we’ve been really good in the backcourt and we’ve had our moments where we’ve struggled in the backcourt. But in the end that’s kind of been the story certainly the last couple of years because guards have the ball in their hands so much they have to make so many decisions that one possession or two possessions or three possessions in a 40-minute game end up determining the game. And that’s what we’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks.’’
South Florida starting guards Andrea Smith (16.8), Andrell Smith (13.8) and junior Inga Orekhova (12.4) are averaging a combined 43 points and accounting for 60.3 percent of the team’s scoring this season. Andrea Smith, who missed last season after tearing the ACL in her knee during final regular season game of 2010-11, has scored at least 20 points in seven games and has scored at least 33 points three times. Andrell Smith has scored at least 20 points in five games. Orekhova has scored at least 20 points in four games.
The trio has also made a combined 161 3-pointers (6.0) on 447 attempts (16.6) this season. The rest of the Bulls are a combined 16-of-70 from 3-point range.
In UConn’s 73-72 loss to Notre Dame Jan. 5 at Gampel Pavilion, Irish starting guards Kayla McBride (21), Skylar Diggins (19) and Jewell Loyd (10) combined for 50 points. Caroline Doty (0), Bria Hartley (9) and Kelly Faris (13) combined for 22 for UConn.