By: Matt Zampini, Sports Editor
When asked about the competition in the American Athletic Conference, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said there is not much he can do about the lack of contest the No. 2 Huskies has had against conference opponents.
UConn (19-1, 9-0), which has won 18 straight games since losing to Stanford Nov. 17, are winning its games by an average of 40.8 points, and the conference games have been worse than that.
“It is what it is,” Auriemma said after Wednesday’s 83-52 win over East Carolina. “There’s no point in going anywhere with it because there is nothing I can do about it. When March comes we’ll be ready. That’s the best thing that I can say about our team.”
March is still a few months away, and the Huskies still have nine conference games to go before the regular season closes. Next up on the list of conference foes to try to conquer UConn is the Temple Owls (10-11, 6-2). Led by a 24-point performance by redshirt sophomore Morgan Tuck, UConn defeated Temple 92-58 back on Jan. 14.
Based on numbers, Temple has played UConn the best this season in conference games. The Owls 34-point loss a few weeks back was the narrowest margin of victory for the Huskies against a conference opponent this season.
Temple was outscored by 30 points in the first half, but held the Huskies to just 37 points in the second half, compared to the Owls’ 33.
The Owls had four players score in double figures. Sophomore Feyonda Fitzgerald led Temple with 16 points, and freshman Alliya Butts was not far behind with 14.
The task will be just as daunting for the Owls, if not greater than it was Jan. 14, as the Huskies are continuing to get better as a team with every game played. The chemistry that is developing between the starters is showing, and the bench has improved since the beginning of the year. As dominant as the Huskies have been, Auriemma said his team can always improve.
“There’s always something,” Auriemma said after Wednesday’s game. “We were watching film today and when you watch it with the team there is so many things that you see that you want to improve on. Some of it’s individuals and some of it’s team wide. And I think the minute you sit there and say, ‘We’ve got everything covered, we’re good,’ I think that’s when the problems arise.”
Junior Breanna Stewart leads the Huskies in scoring with 16.8 points per game, and every UConn starter is scoring in double digits.
The Huskies are leading the American in team scoring (89.9) points per game and rebounding margin (plus-12.2). Temple, who gives up 65.6 points per game this season, will have to do a better job against a taller UConn team.
With a win over Temple, Auriemma will notch his 899th career victory and he would have a chance to reach 900 wins when UConn takes on Cincinnati next Tuesday.
“He’s had a lot of success with his team through 30 seasons and it’s something you want to be a part of,” Stewart said after Wednesday’s game.
Sunday’s game against Temple will tip off at 2 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.