1 vs 2 showdown As UConn Visits North Carolina
Jan. 18, 2009
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -With the two highest scoring offenses in the country, top-ranked Connecticut and No. 2 North Carolina are ready to put on a show Monday night in a matchup of unbeatens.
"You can't ask for anything better than that, No. 1 vs. No. 2," senior UConn guard Renee Montgomery said. "You don't try to put any extra emphasis on the game, but by default there has to be. You want to play in these types of games. That's why you come to UConn to play in big games like this."
Connecticut (17-0) has run over its opponents this season, winning by an average of almost 35 points and scoring a nation's best 88.6. No one has come within single digits of the Huskies all season. North Carolina (17-0) is right behind UConn in scoring at 87.9 points, but has been tested twice. The Tar Heels beat N.C. State in overtime last weekend and had to rally to beat Oregon State in the Junkanoo Jam.
"Teams that play an uptempo style are fun to watch," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "When two teams play an uptempo style it's really fun to watch."
It's the 42nd matchup between the top two teams in The Associated Press poll. The top-ranked team leads 22-19 in the all-time series. Connecticut is 8-2 in those games, but hasn't played in one since 2003 when then-No. 2 Connecticut beat top-ranked Duke.
"It's fun to play a team like Connecticut," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "They love to get up and down the floor."
The two teams will continue their series for at least three more years.
"It's great for women's basketball," Auriemma said. "We're always both at the top; it's a great rivalry."
The Tar Heels have played in a 1-vs-2 game in three of the last four seasons. The previous two times came against ACC and instate rival Duke in 2006 and 2007.
"I'm excited now that we can talk about it and I'm not looking ahead," said North Carolina forward Rashanda McCants. "I think it's going to be a very competitive game. Everybody's been probably looking forward to this for a while and I just think it's going to be very fun to play."
North Carolina came into the season with less star power than past years. Stars like Ivory Latta, Camille Little and Erlana Larkins are gone, leaving Hatchell with a deep and athletic bunch that is getting contributions from throughout the lineup.
Starting forward Iman McFarland won't play for North Carolina after spraining her ankle last week. Even without McFarland, the Tar Heels are still one of the deepest teams in the country.
UConn will be without starting off guard Caroline Doty, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the first half of Saturday's rout of Syracuse. Doty had 17 points in the first half, hitting five 3-pointers before injuring the same knee she hurt in high school.
The Huskies had been playing head and shoulders above the rest of the country, but with Doty out their lack of depth will be a question for the rest of the season.
"It's not like we can go to the waiver wire," Auriemma said. "We have who we have."
Hatchell had North Carolina alum Lennie Rosenbluth, who was on the 1957 team that beat Wilt Chamberlain and won the national championship, talk to the team in practice last week about communication and passion.
"Someone's going to lose, and it's going to be the point of view of who's going to work harder and put in the extra work," said McCants. "I definitely think we've been working toward this for a long time and motivating ourselves and competing in practice to where we're not going to be that team that doesn't give it its all."
North Carolina lost last season in Connecticut, blowing an 11-point lead in the second half.
"We put it behind us and have learned a lot from it," McCants said. "You can't let your guard down at anytime during the game."
Since the Huskies won their first national championship in 1995, the Tar Heels are the only team with a winning record against Connecticut.
"I'd very much like to win this game and we're going to do everything to win it," Hatchell said, "but it's still early and I don't think it's a must win."
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill, N.C., contributed to this report.